Story-telling has become a buzzword in recent times, as more companies recognize the power of story to attract and engage.
Story-telling in business is about weaving personal anecdotes, insights, observations and experiences into business communication.
This is especially important for service professionals selling the intangible – knowledge, expertise and experience.
It is your unique story that will differentiate you from the sea of sameness.
Sorry to burst your bubble but...
Few businesses are truly special. As a professional service provider, coach or consultant, you probably offer similar services to many others in your industry.
If potential clients cannot see anything of unique value in your offering, they are likely to choose another provider based on price.
What separates you from the pack? Your story - the who (your personality and brand or your target audience), the why (your mission and motivation) and the how (your method, process, business model or service niche).
Your credentials aren’t enough
Many firms tend to use their websites and promotional materials as avenues to flout their credentials. But this is ineffective because clients take your qualifications for granted.
If you are a nutritionist or IT consultant for example, potential clients assume you have the requisite training and qualifications to do the job. That’s not enough to convince them to hire you or to choose you over a competitor.
To win their business, you need to form a connection and a great way to do that is to share your story. Be authentic and don’t be shy about promoting a defined point of view – that’s how you get the audience to lean in.
Software company founder Mike Kappel wrote about the importance of authenticity in this piece in Forbes: “Your business’s story doesn’t need to be elaborate. In fact, if your business doesn’t have an earth-shattering history, your story shouldn’t try to create one. A genuine narrative is more likely to connect with consumers than one without a shred of truth.”
Start by Listening
Powerful storytelling comes from listening to your audience – in person, on social media, in email, in online chat rooms.
Listen to their complaints, desires, wants and needs, then reflect those in the stories you tell and in the service you provide.
Choose the Right Channel
Think of all the different audiences with whom you engage – customers, employees, competitors, stakeholders, regulators maybe. They do not all hang out in the same place or consume content in the same way. Therefore, you cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach to reach them.
Identify where each audience consumes the bulk of its information and then craft content that both speaks to that audience and leverages that channel.
Every Good Story Has A Moral
Effective content has a purpose. Don’t just flood your website or social media with content that has no strategy behind it. What is the driving force behind the stories you want to tell? What is the intended take-away for the audience?
The moral of your story should be something that gives your clients a new perspective, teaches a new concept or helps them solve a specific problem.
Give Them Something They Can Feel
Even if your industry is considered the driest of the dry, your marketing content should be anything but. Businesses are run by people and businesses sell to people. So, emotions always matter. Your audience will not relate to your content if they simply don’t care.
Also bear in mind that you need to speak to the pain points and desires of both the business and the individual decision-maker.
What are those issues that touch them personally as well as professionally? For example, a payroll processing consultant should explain not only how the service will reduce payroll errors and therefore positively impact the bottom line (corporate benefit), but also how automating payroll will free the HR team to take on more strategic and personally fulfilling roles (individual benefit).
Tap into those underlying emotions that bubble under the surface of every major buying decision. Then you can build stories that hit your clients where it hurts, calm their worries, cajole, seduce and delight.
There is neuroscience behind this. As academic and author Paul Zak lays out here, storytelling is so powerful because it actually stimulates your brain to produce more oxytocin (the hormone that produces feelings of love, bonding and empathy).
5 Ways to Share Your Story
All this content builds a narrative of your brand, your thought-leadership, your values and the service you deliver.
Crafting your story is critical work. Deep work.
Not in an airy-fairy, wishy-washy way, but in a tangible, affects-your-bottom-line, win-more-customers way.
Stories breathe life into numbers, data and analysis. They share what you do, why you do it and most importantly, how you will move your customer from where they are to where they want to be.
You need stories that answer your clients’ questions, address their concerns and engage their interest.
Don’t lose out on business because you’re not using the power of story to your best advantage.