The truth about sharing stories in your business

When I shifted my business from part-time to full-time, I quickly noticed at networking events that some people hustled for decades without getting very far ahead while others quickly made leaps and bounds. What was the determining factor? charisma? working harder/longer hours? or did some business owners have a secret? While hustle is a factor for some, others take off and soar without the never-ending hustle. Their secret? Excellent marketing.

What is a key factor in excellent marketing? A skill available to business owners on any budget: the ability to share great stories and understand their importance to their target audience.

When someone suggests you share your story in business, what instantly comes to mind? Do you feel nervous or uncomfortable? like it’s a talent you don’t have? a waste of time?

As a fellow business owner who spent a year studying storytelling, let me peel back the curtain and highlight a few nuggets I’ve learned and hopefully answer some of your questions about it.

Why people don’t share their stories
- It sounds like a lot of work to craft them well and their plate is already full.
- Getting personal with strangers or people they barely know makes them uncomfortable.
- They simply don’t see the value. After all, doesn’t their audience just want the facts?

Why you need to share stories
First, it quickly builds the know/like/trust factor with your audience. After working at one of the biggest law firms with some of the best lawyers in the world, I can tell you that when they were competing for business against other top-tier firms, personality sells. If two people can do a similar job and achieve similar results, it’s human nature to go with the one you like the most.

Second, your audience will see themselves in your stories. Think about it. When you see or hear a great story, do you begin to relate to one of the characters? That’s common. Maybe it’s the personality, background, or struggles. When your audience relates to you, they form a bond with you, and often, they want to do business with you before you ever ask for it. They may say that they can’t explain it but they just seem to connect to you.

Third, your audience will see that you have a soul and a story. You give them more than a name; you give them a narrative. Name recognition is great but adding a story deepens their memory of you. So, they are more likely to remember you when they need your services.

Each of these (quickly liking you, relating to you, and remembering you clearly) will give you an edge on your competition.

How to tell your story
Open with an attention-grabbing sentence or headline that is important to your audience. Dive right in to a struggle that you either overcame or at least learned how to alleviate. Don’t worry about coming across as perfect to your audience. In fact, you’ll be more appealing if you don’t.

Your number one focus in sharing the RIGHT stories is always thinking about what your audience needs, what will drive your point home, and why your audience cares about it. If you can’t come up with a good reason, neither can they. Sorry to be blunt, but I don’t want you wasting time running in circles expecting better results that don’t come. Shift your perspective. Share only what they care about, in a way that’s clear, and articulate what they should do next.

How much should you reveal
Let me put it this way, if someone has no clue who you are, you may not want to completely shock them. Go beyond the vanilla, getting-to-know-you chit chat but don’t share your innermost secret or the worst thing you’ve ever done right out of the gate. You are building a relationship. If you were at a cocktail party and a stranger bared their soul to you, would it draw you in or make you think it’s time to refresh your drink? There are no specific guidelines here but consider what would make for interesting conversation versus a cathartic tell-all.

How to improve your storytelling
Include words that involve the senses. You’re creating a mental movie in their heads. Help them follow along by sprinkling in details and descriptors that give them a crystal clear picture to make it as easy as possible to follow along, connect and relate, and want you and what you offer.

Practice. Make storytelling systematic in your business. Sprinkle it throughout the messaging on your website, social media, email marketing, articles, presentations, networking events, and prospect meetings. You get the picture.

Spend a few minutes at the end of the day reflecting on what happened: bumping into someone at Starbucks who spilled coffee all over you, hearing your daughter talk about her first crush, or receiving an opportunity to pitch your dream client. Don’t discount the day-to-day. There are golden nuggets that reveal your humanity to an audience who longs for connection. Why else do people love reality tv and social media so much? It gives them more reasons to want to connect with you often and continue working with you. You make it fun and interesting!

When should you include a story
- when you introduce yourself to a new audience and need to kick-start the know/like/trust factor to quickly bond with them and draw them to you
- when you want to deepen an existing relationship
- when you want to drive a point home naturally and memorably
- when you want to sell something comfortably and naturally