Often when I’m having my first conversations with potential clients, I hear a lot of the same undercurrents of resistance. They are passionate about the work they do, but that doesn’t translate into the ability to articulate their story well and with confidence. There’s this underlying idea that you should be selling your product/course/service at every turn and expecting people to buy your lofty promises without the backstory that proves you can deliver on those promises.
When I hear clients start to walk down that path with their content, I try to turn the train around real quick. What I want them, and all creatives and small business owners, to see is the power that lies in the backstory. Your story. You have to stop telling yourself your story doesn’t matter. Move away from the fear that nobody will care and step into the knowledge that your story is the main reason they will want to care. That’s how you move from slogging through sales to selling with ease and purpose.
How can you tell if you’re convincing yourself that your story doesn’t matter? There are a few key signs I’ve noticed that really hold people back from sinking into their story.
#1: YOU GLOSS OVER THE DETAILS
Let me preface this by saying there is still very much a time and space for the elevator pitch. You still have a limited window of opportunity to capture people’s attention. So you should have those statements that briefly describe what you’re all about without going into the blood, sweat, and tears of it prepped and at the ready. But a lot of the time people aren’t ready to dive deeper than the elevator pitch and the carefully crafted summary statements. So once you have your audience's interest piqued - then what? The elevator pitch serves as a way to reel in your potential customers, clients and creative partners. If that’s the purpose, you need to have the rest of the story ready to tell. It’s not enough to pull someone closer and have nowhere to go once they’re hooked.
Your story is made up of details, and it's the details that will differentiate you. There are a million copywriters out there. There are a fewer number of copywriters who have video production experience. There’s an even smaller slice of copywriters out there who have video production experience and focus on emotionally compelling content and heart-driven messaging. And when it comes to copywriters who have a passion for small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, have video production experience, focus on emotionally compelling content, heart-driven messaging, AND have formal training in and a life-long love affair with fiction writing? Well, that might be just me. Because of these details, I approach storytelling and content marketing from a much different angle than any other copywriter out there. If I identified myself strictly as a copywriter, you’d have no reason to choose me from the other 999,999 copywriters out there.
The details are the juicy bits. The stuff your ideal customer really needs to know to have that all-important moment when they realize you just GET them. And then they click “buy now.”
#2: YOU WON'T TRUST THE EMOTION IN IT
We’ve already discussed the fact that I much prefer heart-driven messaging and passionate, emotionally engaging storytelling, so this should come as no surprise to you, but emotion is a key element to really great storytelling.
I’ve talked about it in the past in relation to why losing David Bowie and Alan Rickman was so difficult (and why I’m still reeling from the loss of Robin Williams some days). People who come to be revered by society, elevated to celebrity status, and considered irreplaceable legends when they’re gone, are phenomenal emotional storytellers. Emotion is, at its simplest definition, the building block of human nature to which we can all relate.
A lot of business owners don’t want to share the more emotional parts of their journey because they are afraid it will make them seem weak. This is complete crap. I’ll never condone moping excessively or lingering on your worst days in an attempt to elicit pity purchases (because come ON, you’re so much better than that), but stop acting like your path was paved with sunshine and butterflies. It does you no service to appear as though you had an easy journey when you didn’t. After all, why should they trust you if you never had to work to earn where you are?
Share your struggles. That way your customers know you’re not some soulless, heartless robot with no consideration for the people you are selling to. If you trust your tribe with the struggles you have, they are much more likely to turn around and share with you their struggles and ask for your help. And isn’t that why you started your business in the first place? To help others instead of being a big, cold machine?
#3: YOU DON'T ACCEPT IT'S POWER
The other thing I notice when clients are telling themselves their story doesn’t matter is that they refuse to accept its power. They may be aware of their story, they may have even considered telling it a time or two, but they always stop short of pressing “post” or getting real in Facebook groups. They always come up just shy of true authenticity.
The reasons for this fear are often as individual as the person facing them, but I’ve come to notice a lot of it boils down to a fear of being an outcast. It’s vulnerable to open up about the bad stuff as well as the good. It’s scary to be completely honest about who you are, how you got here, and why you’re doing this thing, here, now.
It’s more comfortable to follow the formulas you see every day. It’s more comfortable to stay surface level with your storytelling, because everyone else seems to be doing it, and why would you want to be the weirdo? Here’s the thing, though. The power lies with the weirdos of the world. Success is only there to take for the people willing to work for it without losing themselves in the process. The only way to not lose yourself as you build your business is to tell your story. Tell it often. Tell it every damn day if you have to. Tell it to anyone who will listen and tell it for the people in earshot pretending not to listen (they’re totally listening).
When you know your story, and understand the power it can have, and then you TELL that story over and over and over again like the most beautiful broken record in existence, the story starts to stick. People associate you with that story, and anytime that story resonates with someone, they will come a-lookin for you, my friend. When they need the designer who traveled the world for 2 years and wound up completely broke but full of memories, they will chose you. When they are looking for the bookkeeper who studied hard in school and landed an amazing internship at one of the top companies in your industry and promptly realized that someone else's rules weren't for you, they will head to your website. So yes, a "resume" is important and you better damn well have some walk to back up your talk, but don't forget that your story creates a place where people decide to trust you. And that’s the kind of business you want.
Stop telling yourself your story doesn’t matter. It’s the only thing that really does.