Looking for ways to breathe more life into your website/social media? Try these ten stories.
In my book Storytelling for Small Business: Creating and Growing an Authentic Business Through the Power of Story, I talk about ten bedrock stories that I think we can all be telling, and probably should be. I wanted to share a synopsis of those here. They’re ones that can easily be incorporated into any website, in either juicy bite-sized pieces or baked into blog posts or pages (can you tell I haven’t had breakfast yet?). You don’t need to add a whole new section or do any wholesale restructuring of your text, unless you want to. Just ponder them and think about giving them a home somewhere.
Where did you—and your business— come from? Your “origin story”
What brought you here? Can you craft a concise story about the road that carried you to the work you do now? I’ve yet to meet a person whose path to her current business was a straight line. There are almost always fits and starts, clues and inklings. These stories may be so ordinary to you that you don’t realize others may find them very interesting. I love the one from Marie Catrib’s restaurant, for example: http://mariecatribs.com/about
Why did you choose this work?
We live in a world where there can be seemingly endless freedom of choice about what we want to do with our lives. We’re out of the dark ages; no longer are we ridiculed for “following our passions”—we follow them and their energy, and often it leads us to our career. So why did you choose this? What problem are you solving by offering what you offer — and how does that make you feel?
Your bigger vision
Slightly different from the above, this is more focused on a story that leads to a larger positive change (for an individual or your community or the world). What’s important to you? What change are you hoping to be a part of? Clients want to know that we’re not just trading time for money and moving on. Paint them pictures of how you see the new, better story you’re hoping for, for them or for everyone.
Your natural habitat
In our visual world, you’re not “real” until people can see you. And haven’t we all seen enough buttoned-up annual report headshots to last us the rest of our lives? Tell the story of your humanity, your community, and your world. Show us you in your workspace (even if it’s just a great coffee shop), your dog, your sense of humor, the place where you find your wildest inspiration. Show us You.
Your clients: A love story
Most stories revolve around a hero. In the stories you tell, more often than not, your hero should be your client. This isn’t a brazen attempt to suck up to them (and shouldn’t be). It’s recognition that without them—without their story of what they want their lives to be like—you wouldn’t exist. With their permission, tell the world how great they are, and feel the pride. Tell us what they’ve overcome and achieved. Tell us what they do, and who they support. Show them enjoying your art, wearing your clothing designs, reading your book. Make them real for us.
The soul and history of your product, craft, or service
People love to know that the thing they’re holding in their hand, or the service they’re about to pay money for, has a life story of its own. Yogurt maker Chobani has a great story page at http://www.chobani.com/story. If you’re an artist, show where your piece is made, and how. If you make natural skin products, show where the ingredients come from. If you’re an author or a coach, tell us the history or show us a place(s) that inspired you. No limits!
Have you made mistakes? Congratulations!
It’s strange and counterintuitive, but we trust people more when they show us they’re not infallible. If someone is perfect and has never taken a misstep in her life, how can she possibly understand us? I’m a big fan of people who admit they’ve stumbled, but then learned a valuable lesson, brushed themselves off and kept going. Where have you tripped, stood back up, dusted yourself off? What’s a story about how your business is better for having made a mistake?
Stories of collaboration and partnership
Do you work with other smart, compassionate businesspeople for greater impact? You can tell a story about something you learned from another marketer, and how it ended up benefitting you both. Or how about one in which you cooperated or collaborated to help solve a sticky problem, and gave one another credit? I love this story about little Pip’s Original Donuts in Portland, whose motto is “community, not competition”: https://www.brandenharvey.com/sounds-good/pips-original-doughnuts
What helpers are you helping?
The media is bursting with stories of conflict, anger, and fear. It seems to take an enormous amount of effort to avoid the poison. People are anxious to hear good stories. Show us how you help the helpers*. Tell us about your pro bono work, volunteerism, charitable giving. Show us another dimension of your character and values. Good people like to support, buy from, and do business with other good people.
What makes you … you? What do you do? Not do?
More than anything, this kind of story can give your small business a personality, in addition to clarifying what you offer. If you offer one thing but not another, show us. It can show your commitment to your core offerings and core values. If you maintain your life balance even when popular wisdom says to keep pushing yourself, tell us that, and tell us how it’s made you better at what you do. If you get your best ideas from going to see strange museum exhibits, that’s also good. You can present yourself as smart or funny or approachable. It’s all in the service of helping people to know you and remember you.
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You’ll find these stories, along with examples, sample questions, and workbook space to brainstorm your own, in my book Storytelling for Small Business. I also offer free, non-icky, no-sales-pitch-whatsoever consultations (book yours here) if you’d like to explore the ways you can use them. Whatever you choose to do, I hope these spark some inspiring stories of your own that will help you stand out in an honest, authentic way.
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*Remember the helpers?: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ —Fred Rogers, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood