Leverage the power of story
I was a storyteller before I wrote for professional clients. After drafting multiple many-thousand-word manuscripts that aren’t worth reading I realized I wasn’t cut out to be a novelist. My writing has been much more effective at helping entreprenuers achieve success than it is at purely entertaining.
The time I spent telling stories was worthwhile, even though I rarely write fiction anymore. The skills I learned while studying this art have served me and my clients well. Stories are powerful. Why not leverage that power to be more successful in business?
Stories are more memorable than facts.
Until I began to read biographies and attend reenactments I had trouble grasping history. Names and dates seemed pointless, but stories gave life to dry facts through relatable characters, captivating struggles, and hope-filled outcomes.
My best teachers leveraged the power of story to help me engage with learning instead of simply paying attention only enough to pass a test.
Entrepreneurs can use stories to help customers and clients engage at a deeper level. These stories can come in all forms from a case study about a past project to a short fictional illustration in a longer factual article. No matter the form it takes, a story will stick with the reader longer than mere facts.
The reader will tend to relate to the main character.
When I first started writing case studies as a seamstress I talked about the process from my own perspective. I would wax eloquent on the meticulous details that took me hours or the fun I had picking out materials.
Now I know better. Since a reader will subconsciously place himself in the shoes of the main character of any story he reads, I focus on the details that the reader will relate to.
This article is a good example of how I can tell stories about myself and still engage with my reader. If I were writing to hear my own voice I might have rambled about my time as an American Civil War reenactor, but that isn’t relevant to you, an entrepreneur. You want to hear how a creative like yourself has used a certain skill to find success, so that’s the story I’m telling.
When I write a case study about someone I’ve helped I don’t talk about my own struggles, I focus on theirs. This is because the ideal reader of the case study is a potential client who is thinking about hiring me. He doesn’t want to read about how I pushed through a roadblock while executing on a project. He wants to read about how a client like himself achieved success after hiring me.
If he can picture himself in my past client’s shoes and if I tell the story of that past client’s success, then he will be able to see how I can help him achieve success as well.
Conflict drives good stories.
The journey from trial to triumph is compelling. When a reader sees the story’s main character overcome her problems he is more likely to believe he can overcome his own.
Simply sharing the outcome is not enough. Unless I begin by showing my reader that I understand his pain, giving him a solution is all but pointless. When I begin the story by establishing—even agitating—his pain, then I capture his attention and can offer him a solution he will accept.
This is key to selling: a customer will only buy from you when he wants what you can provide. If you are selling a solution to a problem he is finding particularly painful in the moment he will want it more than if he thinks he can get by without it.
Everyone loves a Happily Ever After.
A little girl loves seeing the princess ride off with the prince because she dreams of that happening to her someday. Sure, sometimes a story that doesn’t wrap up with a pretty bow in the end is more relatable, but we all need a fairytale ending at least once in a while.
I don’t know where I first heard it, but the adage is true:
People don’t buy products; they buy better versions of themselves.
Tell the story your reader wants to hear. Show him how his struggles may be overcome. Give him the ending he wants for himself.
In summary: When you tell a story your reader relates to that begins with a struggle and ends with a triumph, your reader is liable to become a paying customer or client because he wants that story to become his own.