As an entrepreneur, you’ve been advised to tell stories. Specifically, your stories. The idea is to build ties with your audience by sharing common values, interests, or experiences.
A lot of those stories end up like those old Norman Rockwell paintings…evoking warm, fuzzy feelings associated with happy memories.
These stories are told to reach an audience, so they reinforce our beliefs about “what everyone does.” Thanksgiving in the US? The family’s gathered around a table, and someone’s serving a beautifully browned turkey.
We see these stories when the business owner follows the common advice to “start with a story.” The stories become a metaphor for lessons that apply to business.
For instance, a story of weeding a garden leads to advice to prune unnecessary commitments from their business.
But I know a lot of people who don’t have those stories.
They have the kind of families you don’t post about on Facebook. Their families get them out of jury duty.
They don’t have gardens. Some of them kill every plant that comes near them.
They celebrate holidays in unconventional ways. They listen to music or study subjects that appeal to a tightly-niched audience.
They skip Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because they don’t have kids (and secretly prefer dogs).
I don’t identify with all those examples. However, I’ve gotten into trouble when I casually mentioned taking a bus to attend an event. I live in a city and have never enjoyed driving. My readers thought I was too poor to own a car.
That’s one reason I got into storytelling as a copywriting tool (although if you’ve been following me, you know I steer away from origin stories unless you want to show your passion). I wanted to bring the power of storytelling to people who thought they didn’t have a story.
I often work with clients who thought they couldn’t use storytelling because they didn’t have warm-and-fuzzy stories. And I’ve worked with some who really wanted to share their story…but couldn’t explain how it would help their marketing.
“But people like to hear about people who are different,” you could say.
True, but a story that’s extreme can distract from your message.
And it IS true that your story may be perfect for a niche market.
If you’re a prison consultant, your own prison experience will be extremely relevant, if not essential. If you’re targeting clients with a particular health challenge, your own experience could drive your content creation.
But you may be targeting an audience that’s quite different from you.
When that happens, you can ignore all the advice to share your story. You probably won’t open your emails with an anecdote about you and your life.
Instead you can use stories to support your strategy, very specifically.
You can talk about concept stories – stories that explain what you do – and stories about your clients. I talk about these stories in my book, Grow Your Business One Story At a Time.
If you want to work with me on ways to add storytelling to your marketing mix, let’s start with the Strategic Intensive. Often when we find the best story for you to share, you’ll get a stronger message and a lot of clarity on branding..
But in the meantime, forget about following generic advice on using stories. In particular, ignore those who suggest you write up all your stories and then look for ways to apply them.
Strategic storytelling is not one-size-fits-all.
Start with, “What do I want my story to do?”
And you’ll come up with something that’s not just a good story, but a surprising and valuable support for your marketing goals.