How people communicate always fascinated me. Literally since I was a little kid, stuttering through my answer to an adult’s question, or trying (and mostly failing) to convince you of my own story, I’ve wondered what makes one person persuasive and the other one not. Which even led me to major in Reasoning, Logic, and Persuasion.
Fast forward to today, where I tell my clients’ stories with emails, prospecting letters, brochures, videos, or web pages, I still wonder what makes one work and another one not. And through the past 30+ years these count in the thousands. All of which has given me a lot (A LOT!) of chances to find out if people hear, connect, and act, or not.
I learned something profound in the process:
I actually learned two things. Both simple on the surface, but profound in how they impact sales.
First, speak your truth as a narrative. And second, work very, very, very hard to find the people who fit with who you really are. I’ll explain both below, but if these two things resonate with you, if you’re nodding your head, we should work together. If not, keep looking, there are plenty of consultants out there and you can find someone who better fits your values and comfort zone.
Speak your truth, that’s enough…
Too many small companies try to appear how they think will appeal to as many people as possible. It usually is different than who they truly are and doesn’t work because it’s not authentic. Because if it isn’t authentic, it won’t be consistent (you can’t fake it that well). And if it isn’t consistent you’ll be found out and people won’t connect with you. And when people don’t connect they don’t buy.
Ikea is a great example. The retailer speaks their truth, don’t they. Everything about Ikea is true to their values of simplicity, functional design, and low prices. If you’ve been in a store you know.
Another example is a software developer that sells college research paper formatting software. They hired us to stop their sales slide. They felt their software was better, but admitted that all the products “pretty much do the same thing”. Their CEO was uncomfortable sharing who the company was because he didn’t think it was “enough”. So they stuck to talking about features. My solution was, “Well, let’s find out”.
It turned out that in addition to being passionate about supporting their users they were quirky and fun and felt like one big family. We shined a light on their user support, which truly was unique in the industry. And we let their quirky shine through.
We asked users for referrals so this band of geeks could show the cool kids who bullied them in high school how successful they were. We had “My research paper was late because…” excuse contests (“Granny died, again” was one of the winners.). They even coded a late paper excuse generator (Press a button, a wheel spun, and a funny excuse popped up.). They made up hobbies in their bios (runs otter rescue, lead singer in an Air Supply tribute band, perfecting a recipe for a better cheddar biscuit then Red Lobster’s). And on and on.
All the sudden using a really boring piece of software became fun and interesting, their users spread the word about a great company that makes a good product, and sales jumped.
Speak your truth as a narrative…
Tell me a story. That’s been the request for centuries. Before the written word stories were all we had. Even after the written word was invented, the story (narrative) continued to be used to communicate. The great religious books tell stories. We didn’t lecture our kids about the value of hard work, we read them The Three Little Pigs.
Speak your truth as a narrative. Tell me a story about who you are. Do you have better technology? Tell me a story about how you created it. Or better yet, tell me a story about how your customers use it. Can your company put to rest a big fear that surrounds buying your product? Tell that story.
A residential remodeling contractor came to me with a new patented material they wanted to promote. After some homework I felt their real story was more about how they treated customers. They were NOT the big scary contractor everyone feared. We told that story with a very simple approach: If you were my brother, here’s my advice on how to pick a remodeling contractor. It was like we turned a switch. People understood. It connected with them and handled their biggest fear (of being taken advantage of). And they responded. The client went from two crews to eight.
Find the people who fit who you are…
What’s your story? What can you say about who you are and what you do that nobody else can? Talk to the people who care about that and don’t worry about all the rest. This makes some owners nervous (You’re sure leaving out a bunch of the market!!). Yes, yes I am. But if you try to attract everybody you’ll attract nobody.
What I do…
I find your story in and among all the things you’re saying about who you are and what you do. Rediscover your story, actually, is more accurate. Your story launched your business. It’s just gotten lost a bit since. Then we both work at making sure the entire customer experience reflects your story. And then I help you tell it. Clearly. In ways and in places your customers expect to learn about what you sell.
This’s what I do. It’s at the core of what I’ve done for the past 30+ years for small businesses in a wide range of industries, from the University of Phoenix and Jacoby & Meyers to many, many amazing companies you’ve never heard of.
Make no mistake, story isn’t some soft, “squishy” thing you can’t be bothered with because you have to grow sales. It’s your least expensive, shortest path between where you are now and growing sales. It is the thing that gets people’s attention long enough to hear your pitch. It’s the thing that’s probably missing from that new website, brochure or email campaign that isn’t working.
How are you feeling right how? Comfortable enough to talk? Want to know more? Or is it time to move on?