I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people explain their firm by reciting the number of offices they have, their areas of practice or list of competencies. I will sometimes ask clients if that’s more or less offices than their competitor, to which they will often give me a blank stare because they don’t know and they aren’t certain how to answer. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things have a place, but in isolation as naked facts, that kind of information doesn’t say anything. What do you really do? Why do you do it? How do you do it differently? What has been your clients’ experience working with you? That is the story that is buried under the weight of facts that no one will remember. No one is buying your services. They are buying the story that you tell about your services. Your services are not unique. Your story is completely original and it is what distinguishes you in the market.
Getting to the story isn’t always easy but it’s worth it. It takes effort and skill to craft a powerful, economic story that can be told in presentations, networking events and meetings; but the story is what people are actually buying. When you divest yourself of all the facts from your website and marketing material and you find the narrative spine to your story, you will be able to wield more influence in every conversation you have. The notion of features and benefits and empty elevator pitches are old modalities of selling and business development that ignore everything we now understand about storytelling and the brain and it’s vital function in business development.
Start replacing fact patterns with stories.
1. Don’t tell me how many offices you have, tell me a story about how the number of offices you have has saved, served or elevated a client – preferably a client like me. Your audience matters. Be sure that your stories are client or audience centric. If I’m a million dollar company, I don’t care about what you’ve done for a billion dollar company, I need you to speak to my needs.
2. Tell a story about your approach. Is it collaborative, innovative or unique? Don’t TELL me that, SHOW me in a story that expresses innovation, collaboration and uniqueness.
3. When you go through presentations, look at slides and ask yourself if the thing you’re saying on the slide has happened to people. Tell that story. A slide with a graph or three bullet points will be forgotten as soon as you click to the next slide, but the story will be remembered long after people leave your presentation.
4. Stop telling yourself that what YOU do is different and not conducive to storytelling. If your clients are humans, they are influenced by story. Age, gender, culture, and profession do not matter; if they are human, they will respond to story. If you keep telling yourself that storytelling isn’t relevant, you are making your business development process infinitely harder than it needs to be because storytelling does the heavy lifting for you.
5. Think about the best story your leadership has ever told about the impact your firm has made on a single client. You have probably heard that story more than once and maybe even retold it yourself. That’s great! Don’t feel bound by direct experience. You can tell stories about what your organization has done for your clients even if you weren’t on that exact deal. You are part of a tribe, a collective WE. Don’t be limited in your thinking. You will collect a repertoire of your own stories over time but you should be sharing stories about your colleagues as well because every story contributes the narrative imprint™ you are creating in the market.
Storytelling is not a marketing gimmick, it’s how humans respond to information and make sense of the world. When you don’t leverage your story you make it harder for potential clients to understand, connect and remember you. Your story is your greatest marketing and business development tool. Your story helps you communicate, build trust and relationships and influence behavior. Without a strong narrative, you are merely another provider competing in a noisy market. Be the voice that rises above the noise with a powerful story that makes it easy for your clients to choose you.