Love your clients fiercely, and the rest will follow.

I work with a lot of people who are in love with what they create and offer the world. That’s a lovely thing indeed. When we love something we’ve made, it shows. We craft it, shape it, smooth it, make it beautiful and useful and easy to want.

One particular client comes to mind, from a few years ago. She’d just become an LCSW, and had a vision of working with people recovering from trauma. She planned the perfect office from which to offer her counseling and coaching. She mapped out the location, the colors, the perfectly soothing art, the soft and comforting furniture. She designed programs on paper that perfectly articulated her beliefs and knowledge around how individuals could get their lives back after traumatic incidents.

And then, nothing happened for two years.

She worked in the public sector for a while, joined someone else’s practice, and occasionally looked in the folder with all the paint chips and treatment plans. Something was missing for her.

That special something floated into my mind this morning in my meditation (shorthand for “Margaret stares out the window and focuses on the big tree for ten minutes”).

It’s not enough just to love what you offer.
You have to love the person you’re offering it to.

Not just love them like all people deserve to be loved, that tidy, new age book love. But love them fiercely. Love who they are, and how hard they’re trying.

When I started my business 20 years ago, I wasn’t sure I’d stick with it. At that moment I was very much in the realm of “I have a skillset I can sell. I’ll try this.” My first clients, though, changed all that.

They were children’s book authors. But not just the kind who had fun writing and illustrating cute stories that would entertain an 8-year-old for ten minutes while mom cooked dinner. They had something bigger in mind.

They were travelers and loved to explore the world. In every place they visited, they saw the beauty in the vast diversity of our Earth and its people. Different art, different food, different ways of living, different landscapes. They lived out Mark Twain’s belief that travel is “…fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” They wrote their books to open the minds of kids who might never have a chance to see this bigger world.

But even more important than that vision, something else happened: They fell in love with the readers they wrote for. The kids they met and to whom they read their first book to were fiery-eyed, hungry to know that the world was big, interesting, and theirs. They pressed in with questions about the places the book characters visited. They asked whether they liked the food, how to speak other languages, whether they wanted to go to Africa, Australia, China.

They carried the beloved images of these kids with them as they traveled, researched, and wrote. They loved these wild, curious spirits, and were loved in return.

In turn, I fell in love with them as clients. I was floored by their mission, and wanted to help them open even more eyes, minds, and hearts.

When we love someone fiercely, it breaks us open. We are bigger, better, more expansive, more joyful. We want to share the object of our love with the world. We want to do anything for them.

When we take the time to know the clients and customers we want to serve with our work or our small business, it’s easy to love them fiercely. If you’re an artist, consider that your buyer might be someone who could never have nice things when she was younger. Now she’s able to spend a little to bring beauty, whimsy, and the elemental presence of human-made art into her home, her sanctuary.

If you’re writing a book, picture the person reading it, grabbing a few quiet moments before the next wave of life knocks them over: Are they stuck, suffering, craving new knowledge, needing release/relaxation after the stressful days of modern life? Are there wings you can help her unfurl to burst up and out into a new place of perspective?

If you’re a coach, think about how hard someone has worked to try to solve the pain or problem they’re bringing to you. See them as they sit quietly, remembering a time when life seemed so much better. Think about the beautiful new story they want to create, where they are able to be more joyful and share more joy with others.

When we take the time to really know and get acquainted with our ideal clients, there’s just so much to love about them. They are trying as hard as they can, doing the best they can with the light they have to see by at this moment in their lives.

Get to know them. Love them fiercely.

Learn what they want and need right now.

Create something that focuses on their needs. Make it beautiful.

Tell the world about them. Give them something that will make them want to tell the world about you.

But mostly, just love them. Everything else—inspiration, energy, abundance—will follow.

The connecting point story: Your best tool to help people feel good about taking a chance on you

Marketing the things you offer the world can be an interesting exercise sometimes. I can hear you out there. I know I’m being very charitable with the adjective “interesting.”

One of the most common conversations I have on any given day goes something like this:

“I’ve created a workshop (or coaching package, or group) that I think is really needed, shares a ton of great information, and just I know it would help so many people. But nobody’s signing up. I don’t get it.”

I wish there were always a smart, black-and-white answer I could give.

Sometimes it’s about clarity: The way you’re articulating it just doesn’t reach people in the right way, and can’t find a way into their heart space.

Sometimes it’s about cost: In a world where so much useful information is always on tap, potential clients can twist reality to convince themselves they can just work a little harder and get the same information for free (and rarely do, but that’s another story).

And sometimes it’s about trust: They don’t know you, there’s no trust factor yet, and so they resist taking a risk on possibly wasting their time, energy, and money.

But sometimes, it’s simply about bringing all of those elements together with a particular type of story structure. If you can create this special story and get it into the hands of people who need it most, it engages them, sinks into them, and proves the benefits they’re going to reap are well worth the risk of trying something new, with someone new (you).

In Storytelling for Small Business I talk a bit about this type of story, which I call the “connecting point story.” I wish I’d written more. (And in the second edition, I will.) It’s the delicious filling between these two elements of the story sandwich:

“Jean,” my client avatar

The person to whom you want to offer your products, services, and wisdom has a current story. It may be a story about how something in her life is lacking right now. A “bad guy” of illness, pain or physical challenge she can’t seem to resolve. A foe in the form of burnout, frustration, conflict, financial issues, or depression. She wishes she had a guide who could point her to something that would help her.

That same person also has a second story, a story she’s wanting to live into. It’s a place where she now has what she’d been hoping for — peace of mind, more financial security, greater capacity, physical health, organization, career advancement, success by her definition of it, authenticity, creative freedom, self-respect, or safety.

In between those stories, there’s you.

You also have a story, a vision of what you want to offer the world. It might be your unique way of coaching people to a better life; your artwork; your books; your blog; your stellar workshops. You wake up in the morning wanting to use what you know and what you do, in order to help take a person from their current story to their new story.

Here are some examples from the book that show you how those three stories fit together:

Their story now: Once there was a woman who dreamed of walking away from her harsh corporate life. She wanted to be a consultant for nonprofit organizations, but she feared she’d be worn down by the demands of running her own business. She felt paralyzed by all she didn’t yet know.

Your story: Once there was a coach who’d once been petrified in the same way, and so she chose to create some tools to help others vanquish those fears.

The new connecting point story: Our heroine was able to find the courage to start her own business. Her nonprofit clients did amazing work that lifted up thousands of others. The coach was able to continue helping more and more people, and build a joyful livelihood as well.

+ + +

Their story now: Once there was a man who had always felt he had to hide the emotional pain of his lifelong depression. The weight of his hidden suffering cast a pall over his work, health, and relationships.

Your story: In the mythical land of Massachusetts, a wise writer had dug deep into his own experience to shine a bright light on this kind of taboo pain. He found he could explain rock solid ways that men could use to begin defusing it for good. He wrote a book to share this with the world.

The new connecting point story: The book’s readers were uplifted, and responded with gratitude and positive reviews. They shared it with their friends. Both author and reader could move into their respective futures with more hope, peace, and confidence.

When you can articulate your audience’s current story well, articulate their beautiful new story well, and then demonstrate that what you are offering can build a bridge between them, more people will trust you enough to take a leap of faith and work with you.

There are many life-improving goods and services out there on offer at all times, of varying degrees of benefit, value, and quality. If you are creating something beneficial to people—a coaching relationship, a workshop, a product, a book—and you do not tell this three-part story well, it could make the difference between people being willing to take a chance on you, and not.

A few words on cost: If you sense or learn there is a cost barrier for your desired audience, you can only do your best to show them the ways in which their new story will prove itself worth the cost, in very specific language and with real math if it’s available. Social proof such as real-person testimonials (faces and names, folks) can help as well, if they also discuss actual results in a warm and human way.

There are some who will never feel something’s inexpensive enough; if you are working for yourself, you have met them. For those, consider adding a lower-cost offering that allows them to experience working with you…a one-hour session, a group consultation, even an eBook. Different payment options and plans can also help people cross that perceived barrier.

And a few words on marketing: If you’re concerned about not yet reaching the people you most want to reach, contact me and let’s talk about what you’re currently doing and what you might try (instead of, or in addition to, your current efforts).

But first: Know your story, and know the stories (now and desired) of the people you’re trying to reach. The place where those intersect can open up whole new worlds for your work.

 


Cover - Storytelling for Small BusinessMy book, Storytelling for Small Business: Creating and Growing an Authentic Business Through the Power of Story, is now available in several formats. It’s a small-but-mighty guide to getting started in the art/science of using the power of story to connect with more of the exact people you want to engage with your business. You can find links to all versions on my book page, and also find the Kindle and paperback versions on Amazon.com.

Your business, your way. That’s the way it should be.

What does it mean to run our business our way? What popular “wisdom” might that fly in the face of? A meditation on how and why we choose to do it our way.

Medaling in the “I’ve never done this before” jitters

Sometimes, when we’re doing something for the first time, we can stumble or falter just from the not-knowingness of it. Let’s talk about that.

Looking for ways to breathe more life into your website/social media? Try these ten stories.

Bring your website to life. Here are 10 stories to share, in either bite-sized portions or baked into your posts or pages (can you tell I haven’t had breakfast yet?).

A harvest of stories: The big guys do it well, because they know its power

A lot of storytelling happens in the commercial breaks between Super Bowl plays. Some of it is even good. What can we learn from what the ‘big guys’ are doing?

Who Are You Trying to Help? Go Beyond the “Ideal Client” (Meet Jean)

A good website is an invitation to a conversation, where you tell your story, and invite your audience to tell you theirs. Knowing who you’re conversing with has to come first. Have I introduced you to Jean?