If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re facing the question, “What’s your story?”
Maybe you’re hearing the question at networking events. Maybe your clients seem to want to know more about you. Maybe you’re being interviewed on podcasts.
It’s definitely a fun question. At the same time, it gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself and share more of who you are and what you bring to others. Not every story you share can support your business and implement your strategy.
I have seen many business owners try to follow false guidance to find the perfect story. They feel they need to tell a story that reveals who they are, but they ignore the importance of telling a story that will help, not hurt, their business. To avoid sharing stories that backfire, you should look for the following three things.
Your story differentiates you from others in a meaningful way.
The first time I heard a well-known marketer talk about his former life, sleeping on a lumpy mattress in a cold church basement, I was impressed.
But then I heard another business owner tell a similar story…and another…and another. The stories and the people all blended together in my mind.
Even when you bring a truly unique background to your business, you need to show how this experience makes you better at delivering value. So you were a Navy Seal…does that make you a better business coach? Probably yes, but you have to connect the dots. It’s the connection that makes the story, not the Navy Seal part.
“I’ve learned how to stay focused when my world is spinning…” Good start.
“I’ve developed techniques that help you stay focused even when you’re not climbing down a rope from a helicopter to a ship, in the middle of a cold dark night…but you feel scared and helpless anyway.”
Your story enters the world of your clients.
A lot of stories – especially origin stories – focus on the storyteller’s world.
“We decided to experiment with a new process…”
“First we did this and then we did that…”
Compared to these stories, business owners who find it easy to get inside their client’s world can find themselves building strong relationships fairly quickly. They address the frustrations of trying to fix a problem when you’re way beyond your comfort zone.
“My client came to me after she’d spent six months trying to define her brand…and she’d only gotten as far as choosing a particular shade of green and most likely a serif style font.”
Your story simplifies something that seems complex and confusing.
My favorite type of story is one that introduces a new way of looking at a concept. For instance, suppose you’re giving a talk to a group of finance professionals. You want to encourage them to hire support staff to leverage their time more effectively.
You tell this story:
Ed is going to his daughter’s ballet recital •He spots a man selling flowers •He says, “Lots of people want flowers! How come you only have a few?”
The flower seller says, “If I have too many flowers, the police will ask me to leave. So I have to stop every so often and go get more.”
Ed says, “Why don’t you get your friends to act as runners from your warehouse? That way you’ll always have enough.”
That story creates an aha moment. It’s totally down-to-earth and relatable. Even if you don’t have a family of your own, you know people who do…and you can imagine the father’s pride in his young daughter’s ballet recital.
Do you have a story to share? Have you come across a cringeworthy story…one that seemed to be doing the storyteller more harm than good? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
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