My Dad had a dream. He wanted to build a house around his extensive library. So at the age of 75 he did just that; he built a house in his back garden and sold the other one. He also added another degree to his collection at the age of 65. To top that, he’s kind, funny and always puts other people first. But he’s totally unassuming (which makes him even more adorable) and people are surprised when they accidentally hear the story about what he’s achieved.

Many small businesses are like that. They fail to show what sets them apart. They forget to talk about that interesting journey they’ve had that makes them so human and appealing; the struggles, disappointments and mistakes they’ve made on the way, how they have pushed through to go that extra mile for customers, because they love them and want to help them. How they have gone out on a limb, burning the midnight oil night after night to solve the problems which keep their customers awake. They forget to tell their business story.

Growing up, surrounded by my Dad’s books, I could not fail to be obsessed with storytelling. I am now a business storyteller, leaving the Corporate world where I was known as ‘The StoryMaster’ to help smaller companies bring their unique personal story into all of their marketing. No-one else has had a journey like they’ve had. No-one else puts as much love and care into helping their clients the way they do.

So here are my top 7 tips for telling a dream story which leaves your clients wanting to make it part of theirs.

  1. Get to grips with the whole of your business story. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability. None of it should be wasted. My Dad had many dark days planning a huge project for which he had limited experience. This made him even more resolved to achieve what he had always aspired towards. He wanted to live a life less ordinary putting his dreams, his books and ideas right in the centre of it. Map out your journey you have taken to get here; the people you have taken on board, lean years, growth years, the detours you have taken to keep your dreams alive. It probably did not go to plan and this is what customers love to hear; a very human story of struggle, tenacity and keeping on going.
  2. Consider why your journey is different from someone else’s. Consider the twists and turns, the skills, the insights. This is your intent; the values hardwired into you, which set you apart and show why you established in the first place; your purpose, cause or belief. You might be passionate about challenging the status quo or making the world a better place for people who need what you have. People don’t buy what you do but why you do it, what you believe in that resonates with them.  Simon Sinek’s YouTube video explains this very powerfully at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sioZd3AxmnE
  3. Make your customers’ dilemma a key part of your story. What crossroads are they at on their own journey? Where they have come from, what do they find painful and what holds them back from being successful? Marry up your two stories. They have a problem. You have a solution. Because you have lived the story and come out the other side. This is the story your customers want to hear.
  4. Introduce your product subtly. Focus on its emotional appeal to your customer and the unique difference it will make to them to nail that sale. People are not buying your products and services but the person behind them, because they know, like and trust you. It’s a fact that 90% of client decisions are made on an emotional rather than logical level (without the personal touch, your offering is just a bunch of products and services no different from anyone else’s).
  5. Choose your hero. This has got to be your customer base because your brand is nothing without them. They are the leading character and you are the supporting act. By doing that, they become part of your story and with the right level of customer care, will become your best promoter of your great services you’ve have ever had.
  6. Choose your plot carefully. What’s interesting to you is not fun to read. Bring it to life with one of the 7 types of stories according to Christopher Booker in his 2004 book ‘The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories’. The right one of course will give your client centre stage.
  7. Keep it simple. A problem resolved and a straightforward call to action (let me help you) will relate to almost anyone. Observe the rule of threes and don’t overcomplicate your story. This means you can get it across in a minute or less to anyone, anywhere, at the coffee machine, networking meeting. Research suggests that people will only spend 7 seconds scanning copy for something of interest before going away to look elsewhere.

My amazing Dad’s story is still unfolding. He’s almost 90 and working on a bucket list of adventures he still wants to achieve. When I told the Manager of Waterstones bookshop about how he’d built a house around his books, she said she had already fallen in love with him and wanted to meet him. This is the magic of storytelling. Just reading or hearing about you, your customers will feel they already know you. Get your story right and you will reach them anywhere with a  consistent cohesive message which fits neatly into any of your marketing materials. As Bob Dylan said “I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours”. Share your heart with your dream customer  and they will share theirs with you. Tell that story. Do that story. Be that story. It’s what your customers want to hear and experience. It’s all about them.

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