The Art of Building Trust by Going First

Going first builds trust. And in today’s crazy economy. . .it’s time to go first citizens!! Because going first means you get more people’s attention and hold it longer. You know what I’m talking about.  When someone you are unfamiliar with “goes first,” revealing something about themselves or their company, you very naturally become more comfortable with them.  Wanting to learn more. It’s hard to put exact words to it, but you know it when you see it: When I was in seventh grade I had a college scholarship athlete offer to coach me in his event, the shot put; an event I had been competing in for a couple years.  But I was tall and skinny; not the optimum body type for pushing an iron ball for distance.  He told me when he was my age he was too skinny too, and less of an athlete than I was.  He told me he dedicated himself to work on form and “out-technique” the other guys.  His story released the fear I had, so I worked with him. A skinny Hamilton Wallace placed 2nd in state that year in the shot put, to gasps of amazement (including his own!). Or it could be something as simple as: When I first hung my shingle as an attorney I specialized in anything that walked in the door. Or: When Roger and I started the business we paid ourselves last, which some months meant not paying ourselves at all. Or: When I was a kid I stuttered, which made me hyper aware of every word I used.  Good training, it turned out, for a Story Shepherd. . . When you...

Stories Demand Participation

And isn’t that what we all want?  Participation with our brand?  So each person and who we are become more like each other.  At least in the eyes of that person.  Their perception.  The impression, understanding or feeling they created from the story we told them. That’s HARD to do; to connect with people in a way that demands their participation.  Think about your life.  What really great relationships have you formed with things you’ve bought? Do you absolutely love your car or gym or an author or church or blender (really!) or phone or restaurant? Chances are they or it didn’t push themselves down your throat.  They were remarkable in some way.  They captured your attention.  Something just felt right. Actually, you did all that.  YOU participated in their story.  A good story well told demands it.  Does yours? Take Apple. . . APPLE’s story isn’t compelling because it’s a huge company.  It got that way by telling its story, and its story was and is a good one.  For me, Steve Wozniac tells such a clear story about the iPod that demonstrates what Apple is.  To paraphrase: Everybody else focused on designing a better music player.  Apple focused on designing something to make listening to music simple and fun. Think about that.  Apple has always focused on the experience.  Focus on building a more powerful computer and you get Dell or HP.  Focus on the experience of using a computer and you get the Mac and iOS. But forget about Apple.  There are hundreds of companies out there with smaller budgets than yours telling their story and killing it! Get started.  Read some...

Stories give people permission to come to their own conclusions.

Storytelling is incomplete.  It leaves the conclusion to the storytellee. And that’s okay.  Sure, it’s different, especially if you’re used to controlling things.  Or feeling like you’re controlling things. If you push me I’ll push back.  So tell me a story and draw me in.  Let me participate — add my own conclusion.  Because when it’s mine it’s more powerful than something you try to push on me. When it’s mine I’m more likely to act. And isn’t that what you want me to do,...

People. Buy. Stories. And your story is enough.

  Roger and Chris had just patented a swimming pool interior surface when sat down across the table from me.  “We’re READY, finally, to start promoting the heck out of our business!!” The truth was they had been ready long before the patent.  Because their story was enough without it.  And your story is enough without that new this or better that you’re waiting for. Ron bitched on the phone for five minutes about how people just weren’t understanding why his work was worth the premium he was charging. The truth was he was talking about features, not telling his story.  What do you talk about? Their problems, the problem I see so often, is companies promote features, they don’t tell their story. Features don’t make you different, your story does.  And properly told, your story is enough. The Absolute Best Thing About Adding Storytelling to Your Marketing: Do a good job telling your story and just being who you really are is enough.  How does that sit with you?  At the risk of sounding like Mister Rogers, who you are right now IS ENOUGH.  Really.  There’s still work to be done, plenty, but work telling YOUR story — accurately communicating who you are and authentically demonstrating your difference — not shouting about features.  Do this, and struggle turns into flow.  Because: You don’t have to spend energy pretending.  Trying to be something you aren’t is easy to spot, especially on the internet. When you compete on YOUR story you don’t have to spend money out-shouting the other guys shouting about the same features everybody’s shouting about. How nice, no more shouting!! You start attracting customers who are...

Storytelling: The Ultimate Marketing Strategy/Weapon/Branding/Breath-of-fresh-air

  Donna said something to me on the phone I hear a lot: “We just don’t do a good job telling our story. . .” And then she went on about how much their customers love them, how companies request her partner and husband as the lead on projects and how successful they’ve become via word-of-mouth. BUT — and there’s always a but or they wouldn’t call me — NOW they want to grow faster than WOM will take them. I’ve been a Small Business Marketing Consultant for 30+ years (I started young!).  I’m a generalist, working with everybody from software developers and other marketing consultants to contractors. While every small business has its own set of unique marketing challenges, I’ve seen one thing drive the success or failure of EVERY marketing project: When you tell YOUR story, you connect and engage and good things happen.  When you DON’T, everything else can be right, but very little happens. Think about it: You redesign your website, brochure or mailing and nothing happens.  Yet, when you get someone on the phone or in a demo or in a gotomeeting, nine times out of ten, they become a customer. What’s Going On Here??  The video tells the story:   Hint. . .the answer is your story isn’t being told.  YOUR story.  And as a result, people aren’t sticking around long enough to understand what you can do for them — why they should buy from you.  They aren’t engaged.  And this is why you’re here. Like Roger and Chris — they came to me after testing and patenting a new material to resurface the interior of swimming...

The Truth About Branding for Small Businesses

Does it feel weird to be at a storytelling site when you’re looking for branding? It shouldn’t, since branding — good branding — tells a story. Branding campaigns, as generally practiced today for small companies, focus too much on the visual and too little on the message or story.  Yes, your website and everything else needs to reflect who you are. But who are you?  What’t your story?  YOUR story. A redesigned logo or website or brochure is a good thing. But they aren’t sufficient to make an impact on sales.  Unless A) it tells your story and B) the story it tells is reflected in the customer experience that follows it. Let’s face it, when you think “We need to improve our branding” what you really mean is your website, brochures, etc., need to better reflect who you are, now.  Right?? Okay, then, a visual upgrade, right?  Probably.  (This is how most branding is thought of — a new website design or new logo.) But a visual update isn’t enough without an updated message that better reflects who you are, now.  After all, your visual update needs to be based on an updated “who you are”, right?? And, an updated message and your cool, new look won’t be enough unless you use storytelling techniques to gain attention and create engagement. Who you are now needs to be clearly and authentically communicated.  But I believe a faster, better, less expensive way to accomplish this is with storytelling, not branding. Good storytelling presents authenticity (who you are) in narrative form. It. Talks. To. People.  In words. In video. In testimonials. In customer support policies. In everything...