Last week I got a call from Sandra. She’s offering a unique format of a small product used by hospitals and university medical centers.
She wanted a story. The product wasn’t selling well, and she thought a story would differentiate her product and melt resistance.
We got on the phone.
Me: “Who’s your target market?”
Sandra: “I’m not sure…everybody? Lots of people need this. Hospitals for sure.”
Me: “What’s their buying process?”
Sandra: “What do you mean?”
Me: “Some organizations are so tightly wired, you can’t build a relationship. They’ll look at your specs and your price. Sometimes they require a bidding process. If that’s how your market buys, you won’t need a story.”
Sandra: “All these marketing people tell me that every business needs a story. They tell me to be a Purple Cow. And you’re telling me I probably don’t need a story?”
At this point, Sandra needed a strategy. Once she understood her strategy – her target market, position, and promise – she’d know what kind of story to tell and where to use it.
Before you look for a story, ask yourself, “Why do I need one?”
You might need a story to tell your customers.
- If I’m working with a life coach or business coach, then I absolutely want to know their story. I want answers to questions that are best answered by stories, like, “How do you work with clients? How are you special?”
- If I’m hiring a lawyer or finance professional?, I’m interested in their responsiveness, understanding of my situation, and the ability to deliver outcomes. I need stories that demonstrate these qualities.
- If I’m just comparing numbers, a story won’t help and it may hurt. If someone wants to see numbers, they won’t trust you if you supply a story instead.
Or you might need a story for yourself, your staff, and your joint venture partners: a story to remember why you’re doing this and sharing your values.
But you still have to relate your “why” to your audience. Your business is going to change someone’s life in large or small ways — even if it’s something as simple as making it easier to get dinner on the table. Whose life will that be?
So how do you get a story?
(1) Before looking for your story, look for your market.
You’ll need to know their backstory before you find your story. Why do they hire you? What brings them to the point of needing support? What are they concerned about?
And then you can add, “How do they buy?” Do they go to your website and try to find out more about you? Do they just call and ask for a quote? How important is a relationship to them? That way you’ll know when to introduce your story and what kind of story to tell.
A web designer refused to give me a price range unless we talked on the phone. He wanted me to hear his story. But until I knew the scope of his services and the price, I wouldn’t be listening to the story. I’d be waiting for the big reveal of his samples and his pricing schedule. If he’d given me the information upfront, I might be very interested in his stories about working with clients like me.
(2) You can be a Purple Cow based on what you offer – a combination of quality, pricing, and process.
When you tell stories, you differentiate your business from the competition. You’re branding. You’re sending a message. But sometimes, you don’t need a story to differentiate yourself – especially if clients can easily compare you and your offers with the competition.
By way of analogy, I’m getting everything delivered during this lockdown. Recently I compared produce delivery services. One small company offered excellent quality produce, reasonable prices, local sourcing, a wide variety, and very fast response time.
What is their story? I have no idea. I don’t care. They’re a purple cow as far as I’m concerned: standing out as unique in an increasingly competitive market.
They could easily tell a story. But they don’t have to.
(3) A good story will work brilliantly if you’ve got a hungry market and a strong promise.
Prospects will be eager to hear your story when they believe you can help. Let’s say you’re a money coach who’s got a program to bring clients out of debt and help them buy their first home. And you’ve done your research: you know this promise will appeal to many people. Now it’s time to hone your business story.
A good story can’t compensate for a promise the market doesn’t care about. A money coach might promise to help clients keep better records. She needs to find a market where record-keeping is highly valued for its own sake … or show how this skill helps her clients achieve their financial goals.
Ultimately, storytelling is a tool, like copywriting. Copywriters will tell you it’s easy to write high-converting copy for businesses who understand their markets and who genuinely help their clients. When clients aren’t so sure how you help them, or the market doesn’t respond, the copywriter’s job becomes difficult, if not impossible. And so does the storyteller’s job.
If you’d like my help in deciding whether you need a story – and what’s the best story for you, we can start with a laser consulting call. That’s not the same as a get-acquainted call, where we’d talk about how we might work together and set up logistics. It’s not as comprehensive as a Power Hour, and there’s no pre-work or followup. A laser call helps you answer one or two very specific questions relating to branding, storytelling, or messaging. We can review a small piece of copy And sometimes, that’s all you need to overcome what’s holding you back and move on.
Learn more about the ways a copywriter can help you! Click here for a free download.