Most writers understand the experience of becoming strongly attached to something they’ve written: a scene, a paragraph, a metaphor and yes, a story.
Writers soon learn that attachment signals, “This needs to be removed.”
In a classic book on the art of writing, Natalie Goldberg wrote about the time an editor insisted on removing a scene from her novel. It was something about a chicken and she really, really loved that scene.
“Maybe I’ll use it somewhere else,” she thought. But of course, over time, she added the chicken story to a long list of discarded ideas.
In the same vein, clients often come to me with a story they love. For example (a composite of 3 clients):
Tom, a relationship coach, had a story he really wanted to tell. He got into the business because he’d gone through a bitter divorce and struggled to get back into the dating scene. “Maybe I should give up and enter a monastery,” he thought at one point. He wanted to share how much pain he’d experienced.
But after we talked, he looked more closely.
Prospects need to relate to the hero of your story, whether it’s you or someone else. Most of Tom’s clients weren’t divorced, or at least not recently or bitterly. They were professionals who were too busy for a social life and they’d had bad luck with the dating apps. They had trouble making social conversation that didn’t sound like a business meeting.
Most important, it wasn’t clear how Tom’s story would motivate prospective clients to sign up. They were more interested in the question, “Will you be able to help? Can you relate to my problem?”
Business owners like Tom face a special challenge. When it comes to marketing, they have to detach themselves from their story. They have to consider their story as a business tool and ask tough questions.
It’s not easy to do. It’s personal. It’s harder than making decisions like, “Should I attend this networking meeting?” Or, “How should I structure my sales letter?”
In fact, that’s a major reason business owners will work with me on the Strategic Intensive. It’s easier with an objective outsider.
When you really, really want to tell your story, you may be onto something profitable….or not. Questions to ask:
1 – What’s the purpose of telling a story? Do you want to communicate, “These are the kinds of problems I solve?” Do you want to explain a unique process?
2 – If you want to show clients you understand and empathize, do they need to believe you’ve walked in their shoes?
Sometimes you can’t make that claim. You may never have walked in your clients’ shoes. I like to say, “Most cardiologists never had a heart attack.”
Let’s say you got hired to work with a famous name in your field. That connection catapulted you to success. Most of your audience won’t be able to do that.
3 – Is this story cringeworthy? Did your lawyer, therapist, or BFF beg you not to share? Did that little voice inside say, “Nope…don’t do this.”
Bottom line: If the story is particularly hard to let go of, it may be the first story to add to your “Do Not Tell” list.
Resources to help:
The Strategic Intensive will help you find the best story to meet your goal…and often help you refine the goal, too.
Find your personal brand by telling stories helps you get comfortable with personal branding (even if you hate to write about yourself).
My course “From Story-telling to Story-selling: Use coupon code PERSUADE50 to reduce the price.