When I talk to clients about the “Stand Out With Your Story” method, they often respond with a serious objection: “My story is just too dull. There’s no way I can hold anyone’s interest.”
To which I respond, “Nonsense!” (My conversations with clients are almost always G-rated.) Anything can become a fascinating story, once you delve into the details.
Let’s take parking lots, for example. What could be more boring? You’ve got concrete floors and not much else.
But the WSJ published an article about parking lots several years ago. The writer opened with the story of Dave, who earned the right to park his midnight-blue Porsche 911 right next to the entrance. He is Number One in sales. Now we readers are making an emotional connection to Dave, even though we’ve never met him.
Why did we connect? Word pictures! Dave, Porsche, blue, sales. We even learn the model number of Dave’s Porsche.
We’re also getting a sense of Dave’s backstory. Readers of this feature will often be familiar with what it takes to get ahead in sales: long nights, difficult conversations, fickle clients and tons of rejections. They’ll understand (and maybe wince at) the games big companies play.
So just a few words will give them a sense of Dave’s back story.
Even the Porsche provides an important detail. People who own Porsches have a special relationship with their cars. A personal trainer at my gym owned a motorcycle and a lovingly restored Porsche. They were parts of his identity.
All too often, business owners create content from 30,000 feet instead of getting into the trenches. They look at the parking lots instead of the blue Porsches and their drivers. As a result, they’re telling — not showing — and readers just don’t get involved.
When you’re searching for your standout story, think of these 2 ingredients of story connection:
Place your reader at the scene. Use details and paint word pictures.
Include the protagonist’s back story. Why are they here? What are some of their past experiences?
Incorporate these details into your pull questions and bullet points.
Find your client’s backstory by asking, “What is the story behind this client’s arrival on my appointment calendar?” When you ask this question, you automatically focus on the symptom — not the problem. People get help for symptoms, not problems. “I can’t pay my bills” versus “I’ve got cash flow problems.” Or “My knee hurts when I run” versus, “I’ve got a health problem.”
Let’s say you’re a relationship coach who specializes in women who are recently divorced and feeling alone. You can summarize some client backstories into these “pull questions:”
“Are you turning down invitations to go out because you don’t want to be the only uncoupled person over 25?”
“Do your friends keep sending you potential mates with not-so-subtle hints (‘ok, he does have some baggage, but he’s very loyal…’)”
“Have your friends been advising you to sign up for more dating services and buy a new wardrobe (and so far you’ve had a month of bad dates and a dozen sweaters you’ll never wear again)?
The easiest way to identify backstories is to notice what people say when they call you for a first appointment. I encourage my own clients to keep a file of these requests and turn to them when they get ready to develop their marketing campaigns. You can also notice questions that appear in forums and in the Q&A of other professionals who offer similar services.
I’m Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., a copywriter, storyteller and small business branding strategist. I would love to connect with you. If you are a service-based business seeking to differentiate yourself in the marketplace, check out my comprehensive workbook “From Story To Standout Brand: Your 3-Step Blueprint.” Discover how your personal brand helps you create compelling copy, strengthen your message and establishes your consistent, memorable presence online.
*** “Everything’s easier when you do it with stories.”***
Originally published at http://cathygoodwin.com on May 28, 2019.