The number one thing I hear from people – hands down – is that they don’t have a good story.
It’s a line that has been dropped from the mouths of 7-figure entrepreneurs, Hall of Fame athletes, and humans who actually do have some of the most incredible stories on the planet alike.
When you’re inside your life, living it from moment to moment, it’s hard to see the 3,000 ft view of how incredible it is. You don’t see the arc of the whole thing, of the many storylines being written simultaneously, or even the small moments of great brilliance that are stories in and of themselves.
Everyone – and I mean everyone – has a good story to tell, in business and in life.
For most people, they think they don’t have a good story to tell because the act of pulling a story out of thin air is a really difficult one – even for master storytellers. It’s a skill that takes a dedicated practice to the art of storytelling.
There are often so many storylines in action at once, and we’re so close to them all, that we can’t see the singular, simple, ones that are right in front of our eyes.
But sometimes you just need the context or trigger to set you off down the storytelling rabbit hole.
Within your marketing, there are typically four buckets that stories fall into, and often just knowing the context helps the story unravel.
Here are the four kinds of stories every entrepreneur and business tells:
1. Personal Stories:
Bottom line: people want to know you.
Before anyone can ever convert to a paying client they must feel like they know you, they have to like you, and the absolutely must feel that they can trust you.
The only way for this to happen is for you to talk about yourself!
Yep – that’s right – I’m telling you to talk about yourself.
There’s this huge misconception that no one should talk about themselves in their business unless they’re talking about how it relates to a client…
I call B.S.
Effective personal stories reveal lessons you’ve learned through your life (pro tip: this simultaneously builds authority), they help others decide if your beliefs line up with theirs, it reduces the wrong clients working with you, and increases the likelihood that dream clients will flood to you!
Some personal stories you might share:
- The moment you decided to start your business.
- Why your business exists the way that it does.
- An epic failure (or a series of failures).
- A personal success that helped you believe you could achieve what you wanted.
At the end of the day, people invest in YOU. So show them who you are!
The Purpose Story is the story behind how your business got to be where it is today, what it stands for, and why it exists the way it does.
2. Purpose Stories:
Help people understand what you stand for and enroll them in your beliefs.
Your business should have a number of pillars it represents (or “branches”, as I call them,) that are the backbone of your brand. It’s important to know these and to only have a few so your content doesn’t get muddled and confusing.
Within these branches of belief, will be the intentional stories you tell to enroll your audience in your belief system. In doing this, the gap between consumer and customer closes.
Sometimes you will be the character in these stories, sometimes a previous client will the character, and sometimes the audience becomes the character. That depends – again – on the intention of the story.
Either way, each pillar can be broken down like this:
- What is the lesson I need my audience to learn?
- Where did I learn this lesson?
- What is the single moment of transformation?
- What was life like before and after the moment of transformation?
- What is the Absolute Truth here – the only thing at the core of this story that every human can understand?
The key with the pillar stories is to find multiple stories and many ways to talk about the same core concepts (that’s when you reach Ninja level storytelling).
The beauty in doing this is that you cover the bases of all the people in your audience, regardless of where they are in their customer journey, knowing something will land with each of them.
Too many pillars, too many customer journeys, too many ideas, and you will only create a confused buyer…which means a buyer who won’t buy.
Often times, the hardest part about storytelling is getting down to one tiny lesson, one tiny Moment of Transformation, and one deeply moving Absolute Truth.
3. Customer Stories:
The transformations you provide, told from the customer’s point of view.
Customer stories are the most powerful way to communicate your value and build authority at the same time.
And the most underutilized!
Instead of just using case studies or data, tell the story of the transformation of a customer:
- Use their words, their language, and their experience to build the story.
- What was life like for them before you?
- What changed in their life because of you?
- What was the single moment that changed the game? (Could be the moment they signed on with you, or at some point in the process.)
- What does life look like after you?
These stories are exponentially more impactful than typical testimonials.
4. Stories that Sell.
Warning: these stories are beasts. Approach carefully.
Stories that are designed specifically to sell have the unique challenge of taking someone through a transformation in real time.
You’re taking your audience from where they are right now to where they could be with your help.
In order for these stories to be effective they must be just the right mix of:
- Your audience’s language, main objections, deepest dreams, fears and motivators.
- Credibility building, possibility painting, and value sharing.
- The current state of your audience.
- The after state of your audience.
- The transformation.
- The product positioned in just the right way.
And on top of all of that, sometimes this has to happen in thousands of words and sometimes this has to happens in just one sentence.
Telling stories to sell is very different from the art of storytelling. Being more analytical and tactical it’s more of a science, but done well it can make the sales experience effortless and ethical.
Stories to sell require an understanding and balance of human psychology, storytelling, and marketing knowledge.
All Stories are not Created Equally
It’s only a matter of time before you will hear me say that all stories are not created equally, because stories fall into different categories with different purposes.
So, instead of trying to pull stories out of thin air, start by deciding what bucket you want to pull from, what kind of story you want to write, and the intention of that single story, before you sit down to work through the framework and the art of it.