Have you ever abandoned a book halfway through it, or given up on a movie before it ended because you just couldn’t “get into” it?
Conversely, have you ever purchased a product because you’re so invested in the company or the creator, maybe after reading about how it all came to be?
Story is one of the most powerful pieces of communication! It is through a story that people’s brains become emotionally invested in a person, a message or a product.
If your writing isn't working, chances are you're not using it to tell a great story. Let's turn things around, draw in our ideal readers and customers, and tell a story that connects us to the people we want to serve.
Are You Calling Attention to the Right Characters in Your Story?
Every good story is focused on its characters, and in the most compelling of stories, the main character, or the “hero,” wants something – usually to achieve a goal.
But here’s where we as entrepreneurs sometimes mess the story up: when it comes to promoting our brand or selling our products, we are not the hero in the story. We are actually the character who guides the hero.
So who is the hero in your story? Your reader, your customer, your audience, your consulting client, your buyer.
Whether it’s on your website’s “About” page or a blog post or a product description, you need to tell your story in a way that positions you as the guide and your reader or customer as the hero – and you are helping that person achieve something!
That doesn’t even necessarily mean you have to showcase yourself as an “expert.” Rather, you may even just be one step ahead of the client. For instance, you may have wanted an organic baby carrier with your first-born, and when you couldn’t find one that met your needs, you created one yourself. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a baby-wearing expert, but you are your customer’s guide. Your customer’s values and desires align with yours, and you can help them achieve their mission of using a high-quality organic baby carrier!
How to Write Your Business Story
So here’s how you write your own story: Your hero has a goal they want to accomplish. It could be anything from wanting to get more organized to figuring out how to yell at their children less often. This is where you come in. You are here to help! You have a plan for your hero, perhaps purchasing your beautiful organizing printable checklists or following these 3 steps that you learned the hard way. Your hero takes action, and… success! They have met their goal!
Even when your story feels like it is about you, no one else will feel invested or engaged with it unless they can live through your experiences themselves, by learning from you.
One of my most popular blog posts, for instance, utilizes this formula, even though it may not be immediately obvious. The hero in this “story” is the parent, and the problem they have is that their child points to, comments about or questions the way someone looks (in this case, my daughter, who was born with a very severe skin disorder.) In my post, I am the guide, and I offer some options of positive ways that parents could react versus slapping a hand over their child’s mouth and running away in embarrassment. Parents leave my post feeling better equipped to talk to their children about differences and encouraged to build connections instead of walls with their actions in situations like that.
To engage fully with your audience or customer, your stories must be very clear – what is it they want and how can you help them achieve that? You may even have different stories for different components of your business or message. If you’re a nonprofit, you can be the guide for several different heroes, particularly your potential donors and for those you serve. The way you choose to tell your story may vary based on this, but the story should always be clear – what does your “hero” want and how can you help them get it?
The Essential Elements of Your Story
As you examine all of your online content, the essential components of your story should include:
1) Who is the hero? (Hint: it's your reader, customer, or client!)
2) What is the hero’s problem to be solved or goal to be met? (How do your blog, books, services, or products solve that problem?)
3)Who is the guide? (Chances are, as Chief Creative in your business – you're the guide!)
4) What does the guide say or do, directly or indirectly, to help the hero take action to solve this problem or accomplish this goal? (Tell a beautiful story, but compel the reader to action too! Does action mean buying a product or service? Does action mean subscribing to your newsletter in exchange for the amazing guide you just created? Does action mean they walk away with a “quick win” they can accomplish in 5 minutes – so they're sold on you, your brand, and how you can help for the long-term?)
5) What is the outcome? (What do you want that reader or customer's life to look like when they're done with your story? How have things changed? What has improved for them?)
According to Donald Miller, author of a memoir about story, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, who uses this formula to help companies with their branding and messages, “Neuroscientists have proven that when you and I hear a story, the rational part of our brain turns off and we, in part, begin to live vicariously through the experience of the characters. For the last 2,000 years, storytellers have figured out how to compel a human brain.”
When it comes to your Etsy homepage, your online bios, your About web site pages, your blog posts, your book description, your Shopify listings… are you telling a story that compels people to invest in you, your message or your products?
Now it's time for you to take action!
Craft your perfect story and tell me about it in the comments below.
Courtney lives in Illinois with her husband Evan and two children, Connor and Brenna. After Brenna was born with a severe skin disorder, Courtney began chronicling family life and experiences raising a child with physical differences and special needs on her blog. She has had her work published on sites such as the Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day and Yahoo Parenting. She is also the author of A Different Beautiful, which releases on August 1. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.