How to Tell Your Story

When you tell a story make sure you are telling it for your audience and not your boss. When you think about your sales or marketing, a good way to start off is by not thinking about your sales or marketing at all. Instead, put on your customer’s shoes and go for a walk. If you are thinking about your company and what you provide there are a lot of things you might feel inclined to talk about that will not interest your average reader.

Your company message is relevant to a lot of people, use it. But on social, depending on the target audience, the part of your company’s message that an audience might find truly interesting is a lot more than the tiny little triangle in the middle of this image. That is where your company's message, your ability to speak to it, and your audience's interests intersect. Good marketers tell stories that fit here as often as possible.

However, if you are able to really put yourself in your audience’s shoes you will find that you have a lot more things to talk about that might interest them. Thinking out of the box for your company you probably do a lot of other things of interest that you are not aware of. Once you know your customer's day as well as your own, you are ready to tell them a story they will appreciate. Something as simple as really thinking about their day will provide additional topics.

The "Real You" has a larger intersection of interests with your customers as people than your company does. If you KNOW the things they might appreciate, give them something that you can provide that they might really appreciate. Make sense? All I am saying is stop thinking about social conversations as the intersection between what you know about your company message and what your target audience might find interesting. Think about all the interests you do have in common as people, as professionals, as an industry and engage them there.

An Example

Mad Science wanted to find some new centers to work with. Instead of pounding them with ads about our services, we thought about the marketing person at the average center. They are overworked, under paid, and trying to maintain a positive attitude. We brainstormed some things our target marketer might really appreciate. Thinking about their week. What are some things they might appreciate dropping in their lap? What could they really use?

Thinking about other centers we work with, we know the marketing person is always in need of good professionally done images and graphics to pepper bulletins, slides, brochures, reports, social, web, prints, etc. So, we put together a dozen digital images with inspirational quotes perfect for their use.

It took the better part of a day to put a dozen multipurpose images together that we really liked. We could have sold the set for $100 and it would have still been a really reasonable price. We offered them for $25 for the set.

Several centers took advantage of this offer. Of course, those were the exact people we wanted to talk to about their social and marketing service needs. We knew the titles we were targeting, what they might appreciate, and gave it to them for a truly exceptional price. They got a great deal; we earned the attention and appreciation of several new potential clients. Our story was simple, we know you are busy and thought you would appreciate these.

Compare that to pounding on them to buy our services like many marketers do by thinking in the tiny box of intersection between what we sell and how to make them excited about that. If they buy our services, the graphics are free, so it is a great tie-in to other things we could do to make their jobs easier. Get out of your box and Instead think about your customer’s day, week, year, career. Not as a customer, but as a human, doing their best every day to provide value to their company and their customers. How can you help them with that?

The Real Me? Yes, the Real You!

Yes, the real you is probably more interesting than work you. Your making real connections with your audience will help your company connect with your customers. Speaking for myself, I am a father of five and a rock musician. When I talk with our clients we have so much to talk about we sometimes don't get to business. They know the real me, I talk to the real them. I always have some story to tell they will at least find interesting. I know they will because I took the time to get to know them and they me.

How to begin? Customer Personas

Take your customer persona and put it in front of you. Ask it, “how can I help you today?” Some companies call these Buyer Personas, Avatars, Customer Personas, etc. They are basically the same thing. This might be a good time to enlist the help of your sales team to double check that last year’s assumptions about your customers are still accurate.

Do a good job capturing the important information, then provide an updated copy to everyone from your delivery people to your President. You should all be on the same page regarding who you serve.

What? You have not already created your Buyer Personas for your main customer types?

Stop what you are doing. Go create one now. You shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near your marketing gun if you don’t know exactly who you are pointing it at. To get your head around the concept without reading much, take a look at this page by Now that you have an idea about the basics let's go ahead and create some personas for your organization.

To create your own Customer Personas

Noah Parsons wrote this article: How a Buyer (or User) Persona Can Improve Your Business. Don’t worry about the title of the article, it is actually a short explain and cheat sheet for creating your own customer personas.

Noah lists the following in his article as the important items to capture for each of your customer types:

1. A Name

2. Their professional and personal background.

3. Demographics: Age, gender, education, ethnicity, family status, etc.

4. Their Goals.

5. “I need/want” statements.

6. Concerns or pain points.

7. Past buying behaviors.

8. Environment: Physical, social, and technological.

9. A quote that sums up what matters most to them.

10. A photo

Why do you need this? Your customers are supposed to be top of mind for every employee, but many are faking it without this insight to your customer’s thought process and interests. If you do not care enough about your target market to put yourself in their shoes, the stories you tell are not going to land. Take the time to get to know your customers intimately and it will be apparent that you put in the extra time to get to know them when you talk.

Now that you have a rough customer persona in hand, sales and your executives all agree that these are your target customer types. Now tape it to your wall and talk to it. Think about life from their perspective and think of some little gesture that you could do to help them get through their day. Wouldn’t you appreciate reading a post by someone that took the time to get to know you before they started talking? Your audience will too!

So now you have an idea about who you are talking to, how should you talk?

Telling Stories

Why use stories, don’t people prefer lists and soundbites?

According to The Leadership Institute article on strategic selling, here are ten good reasons for using stories:

1. Stories connect to experience or values.

2. Stories have a subtle takeaway.

3. Stories force the storyteller to be concrete.

4. Stories bring the teller’s emotions to life for the audience.

5. Stories force you to focus your words on a very few points

6. Stories provide structure to your data.

7. Stories entertain.

8. Stories are convincing.

9. Stories are sticky.

10. Stories seem real.

Telling stories is harder than listing features and benefits…true dat.

But, only at first. Once you get in your listener’s head and look around in there, topics will arise. While you are putting yourself in your audience’s shoes, settle in, look around and think about your (their) upcoming day, week, year. What do you know that could help them with their challenges (not yours)?

What else might they be interested in besides your product? What professional groups and social platforms might they visit today? What’s making headlines in their industry? What, might I spend time looking for, or doing today (besides think about your product) that I would appreciate help with?

It is worth the trouble

These are inroads to introduce yourself and provide value. Get creative with this. If there is a future tie-in to your solution even better, but value is value. First learn empathy to get an accurate read. Then think about what you can do to help. Be the person that is always there to help your audience and they will look to you instinctively when they need help in your field. Find something they could use help with and go out of your way to give it to them.

Probably top of mind for your customers is something to do with their own customers. What could you do to help them with even if they do not buy your solution?