We’d all like to stand out from the crowd, have a clear & consistent message, take our business to the next level and do our marketing in a way that feels completely true to ourselves.
There’s a way of achieving all that within one straightforward process, and the good news is that it leverages a skill that you learnt when you were around three years old. And you’ve been practicing it every day since. Telling stories.
You don’t need me to tell you that storytelling isn’t a panacea. Uncovering your brand story doesn’t mean that you never have to do any hard work again. But it does simplify all the decisions you need to make around your marketing, your offers and your content strategy.
And because your story is unique to you, it effortlessly separates you from your peers, meaning that you should never need to compete on price again. And the best thing is that once you start telling your story with clarity, consistency and conviction, your perfect-fit clients will more easily be able to recognize that you’re just the person they’ve been looking for.
Stories are how we connect to other people – they’re what make humans unique among animals (other animals communicate, but only humans tell stories), so our brains are literally wired for story. Stories help us to understand the world around us and to remember complex information, so it follows that they’re an incredibly powerful tool for marketing your business.
How do you go about uncovering your brand story?
The first thing to bear in mind is that your brand story is an umbrella that encompasses several stories:
- Your origin story (both your personal story and the genesis of your business)
- Your values and how they play out in your business
- How your business fits into your deeper sense of purpose and the change you want to see in the world
- Your vision for the transformation you can achieve for your clients
- Your overall strategy (how you align your values, purpose & vision with your plans for your business)
Ideally you want to start uncovering stories relating to all of these strands before seeing how they might fit together.
The first step is to do a bit of journalling, to kick-start the process of getting to know your brand story. Give yourself half an hour just to free-write on these topics and see what you come up with. You might surprise yourself – and you might just come up with the heart of your brand message. Here are five prompts to start you off:
- What do you want to be known for?
- What’s the problem you want to fix for your clients? Why do you care about this issue?
- What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? What did you learn from it?
- Why are you uniquely well-suited to run your business?
- Tell the story of a transformation you’ve achieved for a client.
Once you’ve written your thoughts out for each of these prompts, start looking for a through-line. Do the stories that you’re coming up with feel like they fit together? Do they make you think any differently about who your ideal client really is? And do you have more of a sense of clarity about what you stand for and the change you can bring about for your clients?
The next step is to bear in mind that telling a story is only half the picture – someone has to be listening to the story for it to come to life.
Which aspects of your story does your potential client most want to hear? What’s most important to them? You need to understand their worldviews and their unmet needs and shape your story accordingly. This doesn’t mean altering it out of all recognition, but it does mean that, for instance, you need to be open to using the exact words your clients would use to describe how they’re feeling, rather than the terms you’ve learnt in your industry training.
You also need to be open to thinking about how they want to hear your story (do they prefer video, a podcast, a blog post, a workbook) and where would they be looking to find it (social media, your website, their favourite magazine)
You don’t need your story to reach hundreds of thousands of people, for most business models you just need your story to reach a few hundred people who really resonate with it. The more specific you can be about who exactly those people are, the more you can tune into their wavelength, the more likely it is that they’ll recognise how much you can help them.
As Zig Ziglar is much-quoted for saying,
“You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
People aren’t buying your product or service so much as they’re buying how you make them feel. Again, journalling around what you think your perfect-fit client wants to feel is a good place to start. Here are four more prompts:
- What do they need that you are uniquely well-qualified to provide?
- What are they confused about that you can help them to understand?
- What keeps them up at night?
- And what questions will they ask Google, even if they wouldn’t talk about them with a friend or mentor?
If you can let your answers to those questions guide you as you tell your story, you’ve an exponentially greater chance that the right people, your people, will listen.
Sophy Dale is a brand storyteller, helping coaches, designers and other creative entrepreneurs find the right words to reach out to their perfect-fit clients. She has a free workbook, The Power of Story, that will help you dig deeper into your brand story. If you want help either with uncovering your unique story or to start connecting the dots from your story to your bigger business strategy, sign up for a consultation via her website. She lives in a small Scottish seaside town and when not working can mostly be found reading, walking on the beach or making up stories with her seven year-old daughter.