There’s a lot of talk in the branding and business worlds these days about story telling. And every day I read long, involved stories from business owners who lead with their life experiences – who use their own journeys as the basis for presenting their products.
And last week, I had an interesting question from a reader:
“How does finding a unique story translate into actual sales?”
It’s a great question, and it’s the same question you should be asking about every aspect of your marketing program. How does this actually help me to sell something?
If you come to my blog regularly, you know that I’m a strategist. I believe that strategy trumps everything. And a story is a tactic. It’s a tool that’s used in service of an overall strategy.
Your story is not the strategy.
Last Monday I wrote a blog called Are You Trying to Sell Your Product? Or the Transformation?. In it, I promote the power of selling NOT your product – but rather, selling what will happen to your potential customer AFTER he or she uses your product.
You’re not selling your thing… you’re selling the transformation it will facilitate.
Let me give you an example. Say you sell wellness teas, like one of my clients. Folks might buy wellness teas for general wellness. But they would be more inclined to buy them if the teas provided an actual transformation – from pain to satisfaction. And my client’s teas do.
If you’re often sleepy in the afternoon, her teas will provide you with an extra boost of energy, in a natural and healthy way. You’ll transform from feeling groggy or foggy, to feeling vital and alive. And it’s this transformation that my client must sell, in order to really turn on a potential buyer. She’s not selling tea, she’s selling “from groggy to alive.”
“But wait,” you say… “I asked about MY story. Not story of the tea. Not the story of the client or the product.”
And here’s the tricky part about story telling that many small business owners and online marketers are failing to pick up…
If you’re using it in your business communications, it’s NEVER really your story.
Even the story about you is actually a story about your client.
Your story is a powerful demonstration or affirmation of the transformation your client is seeking.
“Waaaiit a minute, Juju,” you now say. “I am AUTHENTIC. I am not cheesy or salesy or manipulative. I want to tell my story so people will connect with me. I want it to be real.”
It should be real. It should be authentic.
And if you own a business and you’re putting it on a website, it should also sell your product.
If you have an authentic, heart-wrenching story that does not sell product, then use if for your memoir, not your website.
I’ve been in marketing and advertising all my life, and I can tell you two things with absolute certainty:
- People won’t read most of what you write.
- What they do read, they will read because they’re seeking something for themselves.
So, how can you write a unique story that leads to actual sales?
1. Show your own transformation as validation for the transformation your product promises. My tea client? She used to live in China. And in the afternoons, she found herself sleepy and groggy. And at the time, she was studying Chinese herbs. So she tested the herbs until she came upon a formula that gave her energy and vitality during the hours she wanted to lie under her desk. And she was so excited about her own transformation that she decided to create a tea so she could share her newfound vitality with women everywhere. Her story validates her client’s need for a transformation. And her ability to sell it.
2. Demonstrate how you led someone else through the transformation. Not everyone likes self-revelation. If you fall in that category, then tell the story of someone else whom you led through the transformation your client is seeking. If you helped a mom with post-partum depression overcome shame and confusion in the most challenging time of her life, and that mom now has a blissful relationship with her five-year-old and a booming business of her own, then tell her story – and your role in it. So long as you demonstrate the transition your client will experience through your products.
3. Position yourself as the expert – or as someone who knows the expert. If your story is that you once were a high-powered corporate marketing executive who burnt out on corporate life and decided to build your own business, where you coach, teach, and inspire small business owners because it’s more fulfilling and helped you find your life’s purpose (oh, wait… that’s my life story) – then you demonstrate that you’ve made the successful transition to business owner, and that you can facilitate it. If you’re not an expert, you can write a similar story about knowing an expert, interviewing an expert, or being mentored by an expert.
4. Bring a level of outrage to your story. I love a blogger named Isabel Foxen Duke. She writes about the “diet culture” in our society and how we must separate ourselves from this culture – and learn to love our bodies – before we can experience any significant change in our relationships with food. Isabel had an eating disorder, and her story is inspiring. But what I like most about her is that every email she sends has an element of outrage – of anger that society pushes and presses us into something we need not be. When I read her emails, I get angry. And in my anger, I feel justified in taking on a new story that will transform my life… the story of the product and the philosophy that Isabel sells.
5. Inspire. Maybe you’re a badass. Maybe you’ve been a catalyst for much-needed social change. Maybe you broke down and rose up again. Maybe you felt like an ugly-duckling, and now you’re a mother-f’ing swan. If your story is inspirational, you can motivate your readers and prospects to act. But there’s a word of caution here: you must include your prospects in the story – they must see themselves in the product you are selling as it relates to the story. Or, you must allow them to be part of the inspiration (through giving back or being part of something larger), as they make their own transformation through your products.
So, HOW? How do you use the story to lead to action?
Sell the transformation first.
Back it up with your story.
Remember that the real estate on your home page that lies above the fold is about your client.
It’s about that transformation your client will undergo.
It’s about the move from pain to pleasure that the client is seeking.
Your story comes later. It supports. It demonstrates. It generates emotion. It motivates. And even though it’s about you… it’s all about the client.
So, what’s your story? Share with me in the comments below.