expressed opinion entrepreneur Contributors are themselves.
I run a digital marketing agency. If we can track a client’s revenue and tie it to the ads we run (e.g. e-commerce clients), we can tell them – down to the cent – how much they’re earning for every dollar they spend on ads income. If this sounds like a numbers game…it is. But when I sell to clients, I don’t lead by numbers.
When I pitch a client, I don’t tell them we generate $34.12 for every $1.00 they spend on advertising. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the reason for the deal. Don’t get me wrong, numbers are important and I share numbers at every pitch, but they are not the most important. More important than numbers or any other detail I can share is whether I can tell a good story.
Frankly, numbers bore customers. They are just a box to be checked. If I start talking too much about numbers, the client’s eyes glaze over and I can see what they’re trying to say to me is, “Yeah, yeah, numbers are good enough, I get it, tick the box, move right , tell me a story now!” Not that they’re just looking for any story, they want a story they can identify with. They wanted a story that my agency had worked with someone like them before and we had great results. But that’s not all they want. Here are three elements your story should contain to convince your customers they want to work with you:
Related: Harness the Power of Storytelling to Make Your Business Better
Storytelling Element #1: The Hero
In his book, Hero with a Thousand Faces, author Joseph Campbell articulated what we now call the “hero’s journey.” In short, the protagonist is comfortable at home when suddenly there is a call to adventure. He leaves home, faces challenges, overcomes obstacles, and returns home a different person.This story has been told over and over in books and movies, from Hobbit to star wars to harry potter.
However, while every story needs a hero, the mistake many entrepreneurs make is assuming they or their company is the hero.As Donald Miller explains in his book Build a story brand“When we position our clients as heroes and ourselves as guides, we are seen as a trusted resource to help them overcome their challenges.”
Your customer is Bilbo Baggins and you are Gandalf. You are Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker. You are Dumbledore and your customer is Harry Potter.
The technique has helped at least one entrepreneur raise more than $8 billion for their clients. “Most companies in our industry go into meetings with the perfect pitch, it’s me, me, me,” said Stacy Havener, CEO of Havener Capital Partners, which helps boutique investment firms set up, launch and grow funds. “We flip the script. When we help clients raise money, we tell them to make their prospect a hero.” In one case, the strategy led to a $10 million commitment after just one initial meeting, explains Havener .
Related: 8 Tips to Help You Tell Your Story
Storytelling Element #2: The Challenge
There is no more boring story than “We wanted to do XYZ, so we went to work, and we did it.” Where does this come from? !
Entrepreneurs are tempted to tell this kind of story because we don’t want to admit that we ever faced any challenges. We want our clients to believe that if they work with us, everything will be perfect and nothing will go wrong. However, when we exclude this important element from our story, not only are we hiding the truth, but we shoot ourselves in the foot because we miss a great opportunity to show our clients something important about ourselves – We know how to overcome challenges.
Juliana Garcia has helped business coaches generate millions using a trademark technique she calls “Elegant Vulnerability®” to share their challenges. “You don’t have to have the perfect story or hide parts of the story that you feel ashamed to share,” she says. “Your clients don’t need you to be perfect. When you share your challenges, you come across as a relatable authority. This helps clients gain a deeper sense of trust and they are willing to pay more for you cost.”
According to Garcia, there is an ideal ratio when it comes to sharing challenges. “Balance 50% personal story to resonate and 50% business training to show that you are a true expert. High paying clients will come to you when they resonate with you and feel like you will get something out of it. “
This is the future of online storytelling. A reasonable client expects challenges, but they want to know that when you face them, you will solve them quickly. There’s no better way to show clients that you’ll take care of them no matter what than by telling them your story of overcoming a major challenge.
Related: 5 Ways to Share Stories of Struggles
Storytelling Element #3: A Lesson
What’s the third ingredient in crafting a successful startup story? “Victory, of course!” Sorry, no. It can be helpful to tell how you faced the challenge and beat it, but it’s not nearly as important as talking about the lessons you learned from the challenge.
I’ve heard someone ask, “What’s the moral of this story?” Aesop, who was known for including lessons in his stories, was a Greek slave born around 620 BC. Aesop’s Fables, including The Fox and the Grapes, The Hare and the Tortoise, and The Goose and the Golden Egg. In each fable, Aesop includes a lesson—something practical that listeners can easily learn and apply in their own lives.
Including a lesson in your story isn’t about giving your client a lesson they can apply, it’s about showing them that if something goes wrong while they’re working with you, you’re smart enough to not only fix it, but Make sure it never happens again. Ironically, by sharing your past challenges or mistakes, you build your client’s confidence in you.
My business is very personal as I sell services to clients. You may sell a product, but never know your customer. Regardless, storytelling is critical to driving your growth because whether you’re working with customers or customers, or selling services or products, people do business with businesses they know, like and trust. I’ve found that nothing makes people feel like they know you, come to like you, and build trust in you like telling a story about your customers as heroes, exciting challenges, and lessons learned from them. Try incorporating this kind of storytelling into your marketing and sales strategies, and watch how your customers flock to you.