How To Tell A Story That Readers Pay Attention To
In the previous post, I talked about why you should use stories as a part of your business strategy. This post, I want to talk about tips and tricks on crafting a story that actually helps your case.
If you take absolutely nothing away from this blog post, I would still urge you to remember this one thing – the stories you tell are not about you. They are about your customer. What do I mean by that? I mean sure, you can tell a story about how your daughter learned to take her first steps. However, if your reader fails to see themselves in any of the characters in it, your story has failed.
Know your customer
Before you even begin to decide what story to tell and how to do it, you need an audience profile. Be very very clear about who your target audience is. The story I talked about a minute back, the one about your daughter learning to walk? A sixteen year old worrying about what to wear to her prom most likely will not be interested in it. A room full of moms likely do not care about aftershave that much. (Unless they really like smelling it on their man!)
So knowing or not knowing your target audience well can make or break your story. While this step is crucial, it also is quite simple. Think about it this way – you want to sell a shovel. Now think about the kind of person who is likely to buy a shovel.
This is the person probably:
- Owns a home with a yard
- Is 25 or above
- Has children
- Is interested in gardening
- Subscribes to gardening magazines
- Buys plant saplings and fertilizer
Now craft a story featuring this person. Of course, not everyone who buys a shovel will fit this category, but this is a good estimate nonetheless. When your target audience sees themselves represented in your stories, they are more likely to be influenced to buy from you.
Determine your message
If you could say only one thing to your customers, what would it be? Craft your story around that message. What is the one message that you feel compelled to tell your
Some of the other things you can consider when selecting a story to share are:
- When is it okay to share your own story – Share your own story when it is something that will directly impact your audience. If you are aiming to inspire, then you can talk about your own successes, failures, and how they built your business to be what it is today.
- When is it okay to share someone else’s story – For example, if you are a life coach or coach of any kind, it is more impactful to share stories of people you have already helped. If you are only starting out, do not worry. You have already helped people achieve results you are promising, even if they have not been your paid clients. Talk about how after working with you, people’s lives or businesses have improved for the better.
The Hero’s Journey
Almost all stories essentially involve the hero’s journey. To give you a little overview, this story plays out in three acts, with our hero (or heroine!) starting out in the ordinary world as a seemingly ordinary person. Then something happens that ushers our hero into the world of the extraordinary. Our hero then rises to the occasion, battles their monsters, and returns victorious back into the ordinary world. Yet, our hero is no longer ordinary.
Similarly, your client is your hero, and it is their journey your stories must focus on. The easiest way to demonstrate this would be with coaching and training programs. Perhaps your potential client is someone who believes they are not cut out to run their own business, and that they are nothing more than ordinary. But then they meet you, their mentor, and they are ushered into a world where they can be and eventually are, extraordinary business owners. Once they complete their programs, the business becomes the new normal for your clients, and while they return to their daily lives, they are internally transformed.
Know your story archetypes
They say there are only about 7 archetypes that can be applied to all stories. Every story falls within the framework of one or more of these archetypes. They are:
- Overcoming the Monster – Prince Philip slaying Maleficent the Dragon is quite a literal example of this. For my clients, their monster is a series of repetitive tasks that keep them busy and prevent them from scaling their businesses. They slay this monster by hiring me!
- Rags to Riches – This one is a classic, isn’t it? Cinderella is a rags to riches story. Oprah is a rags to riches story. Tupac Shakur, J K Rowling, Ralph Lauren, they are all rags to riches stories. Yours does not have to be as dramatic as theirs. Yours could be how you went from having difficulty sending your kids to school, to owning an apartment, thanks to your business.
- The Quest – Traveling in search of a priceless treasure. Think of all the Indiana Jones movies. For sure, you and I are not in search of the Holy Grail. My quest is more time with my family. And running my business from home is how I seek it.
- Voyage and Return – Alice in Wonderland, Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time – these are all voyage-and-return stories. At the end of your voyage, you are someone transformed for the better. Your business could be something that aids your hero (client) at any stage of their voyage.
- Comedy – These comedies are not really meant to be funny per se. The basic structure of these include having confusion that tangles everything, and then the confusions are resolved to have a happy ending. You are very much a part of this story archetype, if you are, say, a business consultant. You step into a mess where nothing is working, and deftly untangle the knots to restore functionality.
- Tragedy – For classics, think “King Lear”, and “Wuthering Heights”. From a business owner perspective, think mortuaries, divorce lawyers, or any service or product that helps your client get through a difficult time.
- Rebirth – “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is an excellent example! The Grinch started off as this ghastly entity that hates Christmas and people of the village who celebrate it. Or my personal favourite – “Megamind” – the epic but severely underrated story about the blue man who starts out a villain and ends up a hero. The key here is to get the protagonist to see what it is they are doing that is negatively impacting those around them.
Let us do a recap now – how do we craft a story that helps our business. First and foremost, we must know who our customer is. A detailed customer profiling is a very good way to start. Now that we know who to aim for, we must determine what our message is. Next is the fun part – making your client the hero of your story.
Your product or service must take them on a journey that helps them become a better and transformed version of themselves. If you pay attention, you will notice every product and service caters to this, even if it does not seem like it at first glance. If you are thinking – “I sell dog beds! There is no hero transformation going on here”, think again. Your client has a dog who they love very much. But they do not believe they can be better dog parent – they cannot buy fancy toys and accessories, cannot afford the best vets, or the best food. But you come along with affordable but good quality dog beds, and the narrative changes. Now they too can make their fur babies more comfortable, and be the hero of the story.
Next, understand the story archetypes, and determine which one(s) are relevant for your client. Where are they in their journeys where you can step in and be their loyal sidekick and help restore balance. Knowing which story they are a part of will tell you more about where and how to step in and work your magic!