In a world of instant publishing and on-the-spot blogging, everyone’s a storyteller. The trouble is, not everyone can tell a story.
You might wonder why this is relevant if you’re a business owner. After all, if you’re a fitness trainer, or an accountant or dog groomer, you don’t need to tell stories, right?
Well, these days, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it’s your stories that are going to set you apart from your competitors.
Whether you are writing a 140-character Tweet, a two-page brochure or an 800-word blog post, your words have the power to motivate, inspire or sell. If you don’t craft them properly, they can also turn off prospective customers.
So what can you do to ensure that your words are working for you?
Numbers are not enough
Don’t hide behind numbers. It can be easy to rely on numbers to make yourself sound more credible or to validate what you’re doing. Do any of these messages sound familiar?
“I belong to an association of business coaches with over 5,000 members around the world.”
“Our five friendly staff will be happy to look after you.”
“We offer more than 70 products in our range.”
While these numbers may convey facts, they don’t tell a story. This affliction has been made worse by the number orgies – graphs, data and statistics – we regularly see in Powerpoint presentations.
Sure, numbers are important, but it’s typically people and personalities that will move human beings into action – not pretty pie charts.
Remember, it’s the stories around your numbers and figures that are going to make this data resonate with people.
This bring us to the most important story of all – yours. Why did you start the business? What makes you get out of bed every day in order to help your customers? Think about the answers to these questions and tell THAT story to your customers and prospects when they ask you what you do.
This is more powerful than a spiel like: “We’re part of the biggest network of dog groomers in Australia.” Who cares? As a customer, I don’t give a toss if you’re part of a massive network of dog groomers. I want to know that you’re going to care for my dog.
Most customers would respond better to a story like this: “I started the business because I simply love dogs. And I love helping their owners look after them. I take a photo of every dog I groom and feature them on our Facebook page.”
It pays to get personal when it comes to your business story. Be authentic and don’t be afraid to tell people why you are in business.
The other story that some business owners ignore is about the impact they make on the lives of their customers. This is also a powerful story that can get prospects over the line. It was one of these stories that “sold” me on my accountant.
I had known her for years and often bumped into her at various networking functions. I knew she helped people with tax planning, accounting, and other financial advice. But those facts weren’t exactly inspiring. As far as I was concerned, every accountant offered those services.
It wasn’t until she told me about how she helped another client – a small suburban butcher – transform his business from a corner shop operation into a multi-million dollar enterprise that I could hear the passion in her voice. Through that story, I came to understand the impact she had on the lives of her clients. It was THAT story that got me over the line – I signed her on as my accountant the next day.
When you’re explaining what you do to prospects, don’t just reel off a list of the services you offer, think about what difference you make to the lives of your clients.
Make your story theirs
You know you’ve told a story well when people start nodding. They smile and say: “Ohhhh. I see.” They’ve “got it”. Something you’ve said or written about has resonated with them and they can relate.
Ultimately, you want the people to whom you’re telling your stories to feel informed, entertained and, hopefully, inspired to act. So while you might be the storyteller, always make sure your prospects, employees and stakeholders understand what’s it in for them.
In the book Tell to Win, author Peter Guber talks about the hidden power of story. He says that whether you like it or not, you’re in the “emotional transportation” business.
If you doubt you can master this, Guber reminds us that we are pre-wired to tell stories. Throughout history, myths and legends have been passed through generations thanks to the simple act of storytelling. We started telling them gathered around campfires and now continue to tell them through blogs, status updates and emails. But now, our reach is so much wider.
The stories you tell in your business have the potential for real power. So just ensure that you make every word count.