If you’re a business owner, you probably know you need to go outside your comfort zone to achieve the results you desire.
- You have to speak to audiences when you’re really an introvert.
- You have to write content when you still hold memories of your scary tenth grade English teacher.
- You have to reach out to prospects and sell them on your expertise when you’ve got a really bad case of impostor syndrome.
When you need to take action, “go outside your comfort zone” can be good advice. But it’s usually bad advice for content creation.
Good copywriting will reach your audience at the emotional level.
So you might be advised to, “Tell a story about why you started your business. Show how you struggled. Share your mistakes and be vulnerable.”
For some entrepreneurs, that’s good advice. For others, it’s deadly poison.
You can usually tell when people are forcing themselves to share content that doesn’t feel comfortable to them.
Just the other day I got an email where someone, desperate to relate to a news story, actually wrote, “One way or another, death is often a profound experience.”
Often? The person who wrote that sentence is probably in cringe mode right now.
When you write about yourself, your audience can sense whether you’re comfortable sharing your story. If you feel awkward, they’ll squirm right along with you.
Once I got an email from someone about missing a word on a third-grade spelling test. I can’t remember what the point was … but I do remember feeling embarrassed for the person who wrote about it.
Your clients want to learn how you can help them. They want to believe you’re an expert. When your name comes up, they don’t want their first thought to be, “Oh yeah…she’s the one who failed that third-grade spelling test.”
Stories are powerful because people remember them. They’re hard to forget, even if you try.
So when you tell a story that works against you, that’s what your audience remembers. Your story becomes your brand. So it’s important to control the story.
“The life coach who lived on the streets because her home was so abusive…”
“The keynote speaker who had to max out his credit cards to get started…”
“The editor who flunked out of college…”
These stories will be especially damaging when you’re new. After you’re firmly branded in your audience’s mind, you can show a different side of your experience.
“But I need to show empathy!”
True. But empathy doesn’t mean, “I’ve walked in your shoes.” It means communicating, “I treat my clients with respect. I don’t keep them waiting. I listen to what they’re telling me.”
To understand where to add empathy, look at the backstories of your clients — the stories they bring when they call you or make their first appointment.
Your clients come with baggage.
“The last time I hired a lawyer, she seemed competent. But she made a sarcastic comment about how I was stupid to have this problem, never returned my calls, and sent me a big bill.”
“I was scared to call a financial planner. My portfolio isn’t that big. He’ll think I’m a loser.”
“My career coach was warm and friendly. But she made suggestions that were more appropriate to an entry-level person right out of school. I felt that she didn’t see me as a whole person.”
When you address these concerns, you don’t need to dig up your own past. You don’t need to get uncomfortable. You simply present, with complete professionalism, the story of how you provide service.
Don’t let anyone tell you to be vulnerable or share a painful story.
You can connect with clients and demonstrate empathy by focusing on your business. Sometimes it’s appropriate to share a story, especially when you deliver services on particularly sensitive topics.
When you force yourself to share uncomfortable stories, you actually lose your client’s trust.
Clients can tell when you’re not being authentic and not comfortable in your own business persona. They’ll push back because they want you to experience you as someone they can trust — not someone needy.
If you’d like to learn more about storytelling, I created this free report: 3 Story Mistakes Most Businesses Make (and the one key to fixing them). Click here for immediate free download.
To learn more about relating to clients, check out Storytelling for Personal Branding: Your Clients Want You To Brag. Click here for details and purchase.
Originally published at https://cathygoodwin.com on June 28, 2020.