Learning how to market your business and close sales can be the toughest part of running a business. Most of us start a business because we happen to be good at “something.” We started a business because we were good at accounting, or landscaping, or building houses, or freelance writing, or software programming, or Web design.
But chances are, we are not that great at sales and marketing. Heck, you can’t be good at everything, right?
Unfortunately, no sale = no eat.
But if you want to boost your marketing by 100% and make it easier to get sales, try this one little technique that anyone can learn to do …learn to tell stories.
If you tell a story, your business is more likely to be memorable. And being memorable goes a long way toward marketing your business and getting people to buy — directly and indirectly.
Let me give you an example. A while back I gave a speech about the value of business blogging. In it I debunked a lot of misconceptions about blogging. I told a little story about how I work at home, and write blogs, but contrary to popular belief about bloggers, I don’t work in my pajamas wearing fuzzy bunny slippers.
Afterwards, people came up to me joking about those fuzzy bunny slippers. I got emails for the next two weeks. I got a lot more feedback from that one speech than I normally get — by a factor of 5 to 1.
More importantly, that one speaking engagement directly led to my getting a new piece of business. The client heard the story from someone else who thought it interesting enough to repeat it … and the rest is history.
That fuzzy bunny slipper story made the presentation come to life — made it pop!
T.J. Walker, a public speaking consultant to the rich and famous, wrote about the power of telling stories. Quoting the book “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, he notes that 63% of people will remember a story from a talk or presentation, versus only 5% who remembered statistics.
He also said this: “Stories are not a luxury; they are the single most effective way to get your audience to remember your messages.”
OK, he was talking about public speaking. But, that same principle applies to marketing your business, too — because marketing is partially about getting your message across.
If you want your business to be memorable, and for your message to reach as many people as possible and persuade them to buy, learn to tell stories around your business. Learn to tell stories that prospects and the public can relate to and will remember. Here are a handful of ways to use stories:
- Develop a startup story about your business to reinforce your brand image and the public’s recollection of it. Consider the startup story around Bob Evans. An entire section of the Bob Evans website is devoted to telling the story of the small farm in a small town in Ohio where the restaurant chain got its start. They even tell the story on placemats in Bob Evans restaurants. That story reinforces the “down home” atmosphere and brand association they want to convey. If you think comfort food, you’re likely to think of Bob Evans.
- Tell business stories in newsletters, in blog posts and in other communications with existing customers, to trigger word of mouth. Stories get people talking about you. Other people are more likely to repeat a story and share it with someone else, than they are to repeat dry marketing-speak from a brochure. Help word of mouth along by creating the kind of message that spreads. Think about how many people have spread the story of Hewlett Packard’s beginnings in a garage.”
- Learn to explain what your business or products or services do in a story. This will clarify your message and make it easier to understand. How many times have you heard a sales pitch and had no idea what the sales rep was trying to say? Or read a brochure or website that you couldn’t understand? Technology products are notorious for this — they use verbiage that is broad and conceptual. Try this experiment: read the copy on a dozen different “software solution” websites — I’ll bet you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference among at least half of them. Ah — but if instead you read a story about how one customer used the software, or a story about the problem the founder was aiming to solve when he/she founded the business, then it starts to become clear.
- When speaking to the press or in public or when putting out press releases or even when writing blog posts, wrap a story around your point. Use colorful language to describe your story. A well-told story can make for great sound bites. Make yourself “quotable” and you’re more likely to be “quoted” by the press.
- Write case studies as stories. If you think about it, a case study is nothing more than a particular kind of story, told a particular way. For best effect, write like you are telling a story.
If you’re not used to using stories to talk about your business or what you’re selling, start practicing until it becomes easy and just flows. Practice telling it to your husband or wife. Practice telling it to the cat or the dog (they can’t talk back!). Talk about it internally and get your staff to help round out the story by pointing out details you may treat matter of factly, but which they may see as important.
You’ll find that once you can present your business message in the context of an interesting story, marketing your business and even closing sales becomes much easier.