Stories are how we connect with & understand one another.
“The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can."
- Neil Gaiman, Make Good Art
If you can uncover your own brand story and tell it compellingly, you'll stand out from the crowd (and amongst many other benefits, you'll never have to compete on price again). And if you infuse your web copy and newsletters and social media updates with stories, your writing will automatically be much more engaging and memorable.
Most importantly though, once you have uncovered the story that's at the heart of your business, you'll be able to express what you stand for with a clarity and conviction that draws your perfect-fit clients towards you.
This is about much more than just sprinkling some amusing or engaging anecdotes into your copy. As Bernadette Jiwa warns,
"We mistakenly assume that marketing is about adapting our story according to what most people want to hear. We go off in search of an angle that will attract the most attention today. As a result, we don't devote enough time and resources to reflecting on how we can resonate with the right people - just as we are. We fail to harness the true potential of our narrative."
I work with clients to make sure that they do harness the true potential of their narrative - so that they can own and express their story fully and ensure that their message gets heard by those who need it most.
As a result, they feel more certainty about the direction of your business, and more empowered to speak up and start being the change they want to see in the world.
But one of the hardest things to do well as a creative entrepreneur is to tell our own story.
In my work as a business coach, I see so many small business websites where the copy is flat, generic and just not that engaging.
One former workshop participant was an artist who, in person, was quirky (to the point of eccentric), stylish and passionate about her art. However, in her web copy she was trying so hard to come across as professional that she ironed out everything that was sparky, memorable and unique about herself and her business.
Another former client, a coach, was a highly proficient writer who had previously been a lecturer, and who found it incredibly hard not to keep slipping into formal academic language in her website. Every time she cited studies and referenced journal articles, she felt like she was communicating her expert status, but actually she was stifling her audience's connection with her subject matter.
People want to understand what your business would actually do for them - and stories are a
fantastic way to flesh that out and make your results seem real, concrete and something they could experience too.
Stories make people feel something - which helps them to understand why they might want what you do.
One of my Mastermind clients is an osteopath. I've never been treated by an osteopath, and I was struggling to understand exactly how she worked with her clients, until she told me a story about working on a man with quite a high-powered city job - and how, as her hands were working on his body, she felt a sense of deep, intense stillness within him. Even though everything she knew about his life and job was at odds with this stillness, she asked him, "have you been thinking of becoming a monk?". As the words left her mouth, she wondered if he would think she was crazy, but instead he looked astonished and asked, "how did you know?"
This story made me go from not being able to picture what she does for her clients to wishing I could have a session with her, and wondering what her hands would discover about me.
Stories have a visceral effect on us - they're not real, but they feel real.
When people have an MRI scan while they read a short story, the areas of the brain that light up when they read about an activity are identical to those that light up when they actually experience it. That's the power you can tap into by using stories when you talk about your business.
Even if an entrepreneur has beautiful visual branding and a stunning site, their message will fall flat without using the power of storytelling to draw people in and make them eager to know what happens next.
These days I'm a hybrid of business mentor and brand voice strategist, working with web designers, e-course creators and coaches - but in my former working life I spent twenty years working as a writer and editor. I know how stories work from the inside out.
I've taken everything I learned as a publisher, book festival director, short story prize manager; all the lessons I gleaned from working with writers like Margaret Atwood, Ian Rankin, Irvine Welsh and Ali Smith; and everything I know from my years helping novice authors improve their first novels - and I've applied it to the world of online business writing.
Online businesses are built on words...
From your web copy to your Facebook status updates to your ads to your sales conversations, your business functions through words and stories. Understanding how to make your story work to your advantage is infinitely more powerful than hiring a copywriter to write a particular sales page for you - this is a core business skill that you can use every day.
If you'd like to start working on honing this skill, find out more about my mentorships here.