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I run a digital marketing agency. If we can track a client’s revenue and match it to the advertising we run (for example, an e-commerce client), we can tell them down to the penny how much they earn in revenue for every dollar they spend on advertising. If that sounds like a numbers game… it is. But when I pitch clients, I don’t lead by numbers.
When I pitch a client, I don’t tell them that we can generate $34.12 for every $1.00 they spend on advertising. Surprisingly, that’s not what seals the deal. Don’t get me wrong, the numbers are important and I share the numbers in every pitch I make, but they are not the most important thing. What’s more important than numbers or any other detail I could share is whether or not I can tell a good story.
Honestly, numbers begot customers. They are just a box to check. If I start talking about numbers too much, the client’s eyes will glaze over and I can see that what they want to say to me is, “Yes, yes, the numbers are good enough, I see that, check the box , move on, now tell me a story!” Not that they are looking for just any story, they want a story they can identify with. They want a story that shows that my agency has worked with someone like her before and that we’ve had great results. But that’s not all they want. Here are three elements your story should contain to convince your customers to work with you:
Related: Harness the power of storytelling to transform your business for the better
Storytelling Element #1: A hero
In his book The hero with a thousand faces, author Joseph Campbell explained what we now all call “The Hero’s Journey.” To keep it simple, the hero feels comfortable at home when there is a sudden call to adventure. He leaves home, takes on challenges, overcomes obstacles and comes home a changed person. This story is told over and over in books and movies, from The Hobbit until Star Wars until Harry Potter.
While every story needs a hero, many entrepreneurs make the mistake of assuming that they or their company is the hero. As Donald Miller explains in his book Building a story brand“If we position our client as the hero and ourselves as the guide, we will be recognized as a trusted resource to help them overcome their challenges.”
Your client is Bilbo Baggins and you are Gandalf. You are Luke Skywalker’s Obi-wan Kenobi. You are Dumbledore and your client is Harry Potter.
This technique has helped at least one londonbusinessblog.com raise more than $8 billion for its clients. “Most companies in our industry go into a meeting with a polished pitch, that’s all, me, me, me,” said Stacy Havener, CEO of Havener Capital Partners, an agency that helps investment boutiques build, launch and grow of funds. “We flip the script. When we help our clients raise money, we tell them to make their prospect the hero.” Havener explained that in one instance, the strategy resulted in a $10 million pledge after just one initial meeting.
Related: 8 tips that will help you tell your stories
Storytelling Element #2: A challenge
There’s no duller story than, “We wanted to do XYZ, so we got to work and we did it.” Where’s the excitement in that?!
Entrepreneurs are tempted to tell stories like this because we don’t want to admit that we will ever face challenges. We want the customer to believe that if they work with us, everything will run smoothly, without a single hiccup. However, when we leave this important element out of our story, we are not only hiding the truth, but we are shooting ourselves in the foot because we are missing a great opportunity to show the client something important about ourselves – that we know how to overcome it challenges.
Juliana Garcia has helped corporate coaches generate millions in revenue using her trademarked technique, which she calls “Elegant Vulnerability®,” to share their challenges. “You don’t have to have the perfect story or hide the parts of your story you’re embarrassed to share,” she says. “Your clients don’t need you to be perfect. When you share your own challenges, you emerge as a relatable human authority. This helps clients gain a deeper sense of trust and they are willing to help you more. Pay.”
According to Garcia, there is an ideal ratio when sharing your challenges. “Say 50% personal stories to be relatable and 50% corporate training to show you are a true expert. High paying clients come to you when they resonate with who you are and at the same time feel like you will get results. “
This is the future of storytelling online. A reasonable customer expects there to be challenges, but they want to know that if you encounter one, you’ll soon find out. There’s no better way to show a client that you’ll take care of them no matter what, than to tell them a story about when you overcame a major challenge.
Related: 5 Ways You’ll Benefit From Sharing Your Battle Story
Storytelling Element #3: A Lesson
What is the third element in crafting your winning entrepreneurial story? “Victory, of course!” Sorry no. Talking about how you took on a challenge and how you overcame it can be helpful, but it’s much less important than talking about the lesson you learned from the challenge.
Ever hear someone ask, “What’s the moral of the story?” Someone who was famous for incorporating lessons into his stories was Aesopa Greek slave born about 620 BC. Some of Aesop’s most famous stories, known as Aesop’s fables, include ‘The Fox and the Grapes’, ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ and ‘The Goose and the Golden Egg’. In each fable, Aesop added a lesson – something practical that the listener could easily learn and apply in his own life.
Including a lesson in your story isn’t meant to teach your client a lesson they can apply, but to show them that if something goes wrong while they’re working with you, you’re smart enough not to fix it on your own. but to make sure it never happens again. Ironically, by sharing your past challenges or mistakes, you build the customer’s trust in you.
My business is very personal because I sell services to customers. You can sell products and never get to know your customers. Either way, storytelling is essential to fueling your growth because whether you’re working with customers or customers or selling services or products, people do business with companies they know, like and trust. Nothing I’ve found helps people feel like they know you, come to like you and develop confidence in you than telling stories where the customer is the hero, an exciting challenge and a lesson learned through the challenge to enter. Try to integrate these kinds of stories into your marketing and sales strategy and watch your customers gather around you.