A few years ago, I fell into conversation with an off-duty Emergency Room physician. We were both walking our rescue dogs.
“How did you choose ER as a specialty?” I asked.
“I like working with my hands,” he said. “In the ER you get to stitch up people a lot.”
Not the most exciting story in the world. Luckily, he doesn’t need to do marketing.
But the truth is, many — perhaps most — business owners have pretty straightforward origin stories, when they’re telling the truth. Some people call them “Borigin stories.”
Even worse, a lot of well-meaning advice comes in the form of, “You must explain how you got into this business.” I recently heard a podcast guest proclaim, “You need a story of who you are, going back to your childhood.”
It’s a good idea to be prepared for the ‘“How did you start” question. It’s all too easy to revive memories and provide an answer that doesn’t serve you.
Instead, the secret is to be strategic. Prepare a story that will help you stand out and differentiate your services.
Share a story that demonstrates your authority and/or a story that demonstrates your passion for helping clients.
An authority story shows that others respect your knowledge, validating your expertise. For example:
“I was working as a fitness trainer. That’s a very competitive career in my city. My slots were always filled, even on summers and holidays.
“My fellow trainers started asking me for help. I helped some of them fill their calendars with clients in their specialty. When trainers from another club asked for help, I started charging them.
“And now I rarely train myself. I have a business helping fitness trainers build up a solid income. One guy almost cried when he realized he could finally take his family to Fiji on vacation without losing clients while he was away.”
A passion story shows your prospects that you really care for your clients. You go the extra mile. They will be more than just a number to you.
This kind of story will be particularly helpful if your clients need to believe you’ll help them with enthusiasm. For example:
“My family had a lot of rental properties. When tenants didn’t pay on time, we had trouble putting food on the table.
“So when I finished law school, I decided to help good people collect the money they’d honestly earned.”
Keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules for the type of story you need.
Some successful business owners have passion stories, some have authority stories, some have both…and — heresy! — some do just fine with no story at all.
When storytelling works, your marketing gets 10X more productive — and a whole lot more fun. But forcing yourself to tell a certain type of story will defeat the purpose.
Start with your strategic action, such as branding, planning, web development, or launching a new program. Almost always a story will help, but you have to tell the right story.
Most business owners make marketing a lot harder than it has to be. That’s because they haven’t claimed their marketing advantage — not just telling a story but telling the right story for your unique services and offers. Your marketing will become 10X more productive when your story responds to your client’s backstory.
Dr. Cathy Goodwin helps service-based businesses create a polished, professional online presence that attracts clients their ideal clients. A former marketing professor, Cathy has lived all over North America (including Alaska and Canada), now happily settled in Philadelphia with two adopted cats who refuse to share their stories.
Stories do much more than entertain and captivate. Download this free guide for 17 ways to use storytelling to grow your business — immediate access.