How storytelling can take your business from tragedy to fairy tale

My business is stories. Women’s stories.

Every day I get to hear the empowering tales of women; their lives, their businesses, their successes, their tragedies and their failures. As I listen, their heart-felt words envelop me. I cry when they cry, I laugh when they laugh and gasp with them as they take me on their life’s journey. Though we may have only met minutes before, suddenly we’ve moved closer to friends than strangers.

Stories open up something inside of us; a willingness to connect and exchange. They create excitement, compassion and empathy, they allow us to dream; and as they’ve done around campfires since times now distant and forgotten, they bring us together. People have even been willing to die for a cause that was based on a good story told.

And this is why stories can have a powerful impact on our businesses.

A study called ‘The Importance of Stories’* suggest that people accept ideas more readily when their minds are in story mode as opposed to when they are in an analytical mind-set. Stories also make people want to take action in a way that all the PowerPoint presentations and statistics never will; and finally, they create a sense of loyalty to the person (or business) who tells them.

Since starting my own business, I’ve experimented with telling my story as part of my brand. I’ve also been fascinated by the stories that other businesses tell with their brands, and I’ve discovered a few things about storytelling and business:

  1. It attracts people who are more likely to buy from you – this means you’re not wasting time trying to sell to people who were never the right fit for your business. It also means less time spent on refunds or unhappy customers.
  2. It removes the need to compete with other businesses
    – because your story will connect to your ideal customer in a way that your competitors can’t. If you tell your story and a potential client goes to your competitor instead, wish them well, either they weren’t the right fit for your business or they weren’t ready for you yet.
  3. It removes the need to have icky, sweat-inducing sales conversations
    – because by the time you’re in the position to have a sales conversation, your potential client already wants to work with you. Then the conversation is simply about how to make that happen.

So, how do you incorporate your story into your business?

Tell your honest to goodness, real, heart-felt story

Your story is your deepest desire of why you started your business, why it means so much to you, how it changed your life and how it can do that for others. Your story is totally unique (another thing that instantly sets you apart from your competitors without even trying!).

To get started, simply write your story down, don’t think too much about it, just get it out of your head and onto paper. Then (the important bit)… leave it for a day or two. When you go back to it, read it again and ask yourself if every word is 100% true and heartfelt. When we’re in business mode, without even knowing it, we can be tempted to tell the story we think will make the most sales or make us look more successful… It comes out in the form of clichés and uninspired words that could’ve come from a thousand other businesses that do what you do.

Sometimes it can be scary telling our truth. We fear judgement, we fear people not liking us, we fear failing, we fear the vulnerability that honesty brings. That’s totally normal, and the truth is that some people will hate it and others will love it… polarising opinions are the sign of a good story. What you don’t want is a story where EVERYONE who reads it simply thinks ‘meh’ and moves on to someone else.

You were born exactly the way you need to be to connect with the people you need to connect with. Trust it. Now, go back to it and write your story again, and be totally honest.

Tell it with YOUR voice/style/medium

If you’re an artist, there’s no point telling your story as if a corporate lawyer wrote it just because you want to look like you want to be taken seriously as a business. In the same sense, if you’re a dentist, you probably don’t want to tell your story through interpretive dance. The style or ‘voice’ that feels the most natural to you is usually the right one.

Tell it in all your communication, repeatedly.

When you think you’ve told your story everywhere, look again. Write a list of every interaction your customers could have with your business, and then make sure a part of your story is included every interaction. You can’t just copy and paste it though, you need to weave it through to take your customers on a journey, so at each step, there’s a glorious new insight or surprise waiting for them. This applies to your website, marketing collateral, social media, professional associations, emails, email signatures, business cards, and, you guessed it… YOU in the way you look, dress and speak.

Make it easy for people to consume

This is something I learned the hard way. It doesn’t matter if you tell your story if you don’t have the business systems to back it up. The two have to work hand-in-hand. When I first started my business, I thought if I told my story, they would come. And they did. But I didn’t make it easy for them to buy. Invest some time into learning about business systems that will make it as easy as possible for people to work with you. Things like easy to use payment and scheduling systems, follow up emails, troubleshooting guides and FAQ pages. Even if you tell a great story, it’s still easy to lose people if they can’t easily flow through to, and use your actual buying and consuming systems.

In the words of Annette Simmons, “People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith–faith in you, your goals, your success, and in the story you tell.”

Go one storytellers… get out there, weave a little of your own personal fairy tale magic into your business and watch your fairy tale unfold.

Sources: *Boundless. “The Importance of Stories” Boundless Communications. 21 July 2015.

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March 7, 2017

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