In 2004, when coaching and digital marketing was in its infancy, I became a certified coach and started my own life coaching practice called “Momnificent!”. I helped moms live healthy and balanced lives – momnificent lives, so to speak. Back when Constant Contact was all the rage, I grew a worldwide fan base and created dozens of online courses. It was not easy and I had many periods of wanting to throw in the towel. But never in those eight years of coaching would I know that I would later go on to translate everything I learned into another business that helps coaches raise visibility, build brand awareness and ultimately scale their businesses. I bet you didn’t know this about me. This is the power of storytelling.
For most of us, storytelling begins when we are little. Although my boys don’t remember (cue my sadness), I certainly valued and remember all the books I read to them in the rocking chair, captivating them with stories. As a middle schooler, my son Kai immersed himself in the Redwall series of books, waiting anxiously for the next one to be released. And today, as adults, if we aren’t reading our favorite books, we are watching stories through TV shows and movies. We build friendships based on stories. The media captures our attention through the dramatic use of stories. And when used effectively in marketing, storytelling is the fastest way to grow a base of superfans that know, like, trust and rave about our content.
Not everyone is a masterful storyteller, but I think, if we practice, we can be good enough storytellers to create a connection with our audience. By studying the elements of storytelling, we can begin to write content that engages and builds relatability with our readers. As you continue to share pieces of who you are in your stories, you will attract fans that will eventually become superfans. These superfans later go on to become clients.
The Elements of Good Storytelling
Let’s dissect a good story for marketing and examine what elements keep readers hooked and wanting to learn more.
- Characters: Who is involved in this story? Is it someone they can relate to? Is there a villain or a hero? There is always at least one character in your story – yourself and more often than not, there are multiple characters. Your audience is often a character in the story as well. At least they think they are.
- Circumstances: In your story, there is normally a circumstance that you are communicating about. This circumstance should be something that your audience can see themselves in, or at least create enough suspense to make them want to know the outcome.
- Emotion: Emotions are what make us human and they help us relate to one another. Everyone feels sadness, fear, pain, anticipation, happiness, anger. The more vulnerable you can be with your emotions and relate to your ideal clients’ emotions, the deeper you will connect others to you.
- Curiosity. Yes, they say curiosity killed the cat, but I think if we are honest, we all have a bit of curiosity in us. People are naturally curious, especially if they think the story can help them in some way. Or if there is an element of drama that sparks curiosity. Do you know how to build your story so that people are curious about what happens next?
- Inspiration: Many good stories have a hero. People like to be inspired by someone who has succeeded in some way. Leslie Weirich, on LinkedIn, shares difficult content about youth suicide but all her posts have an element of inspiration and hope. In a world where we are bombarded by negativity, inspiration is a breath of fresh air.
- Tension: Conflict creates tension and usually makes for a good story. Recently I told a story in a social media post about a person that criticized my signature line and how I felt about that. The people that related to my story (which is somewhat controversial) chimed in. Tension is a normal part of life and resolving this tension is important for human beings.
How to Infuse Storytelling in Your Marketing
Now that you know what makes a good story, hopefully you are convinced that you need to master this art so you can connect with your audience on a deeper level and help them understand who you are as a human being, not just as a thought expert or coach. There are so many ways you can infuse storytelling into your marketing and I want to highlight all these ideas for you to start practicing.
What is Your Brand Story?
I love how Emma Bullen describes what a brand story is…
“Brand stories activate emotions and communicate values. It’s the way your brand presents itself to the world and the way the public perceives you. The most important rule of brand storytelling? Your brand is not the hero, the consumer is. To resonate with your audience, your brand should play a supporting role that will help improve their life.”
Your brand story is one of the most important places to share your story. Why do you exist? What story can help your audience understand how you got here and why you do what you do? What do you stand for and how will this help your ideal clients?
In Emma’s article, “11 of the Best Brand Story Examples”, you can read through how leading brands have shared their story and built a massive superfan base.
Share Your Story in Your “About” Section of Your Website
Your “about” section of your website is a powerful place to share your story. When someone goes to this area of your website, they are wanting to learn more about you. Your audience wants to know if your story is similar to their own. They want to see proof that you understand what they are going through and that somehow your story has prepared you to be the expert they need.
Remember, your bio story is not a place for you to focus solely on yourself, showcasing all your certifications and expertise. It is, however, a place for you to be human and vulnerable. To tell a good story about your trials and tribulations, and how you overcame them. And thus how you will help your client have success as well. Infuse language and emotions that your audience can relate to. Help them see themselves in your story.
Storytelling Should Be Used in Your Website Content
Besides your About section, there are other creative ways to tell stories in your website content. You can share stories about your team in their bio descriptions. On our website, we highlight our team members’ professional experience, but we also share a little bit about their personal life, in addition to showcasing our team members’ Top 5 CliftonStrengths. This helps our audience go a little deeper into who our team is.
Every good marketing strategy includes client success stories. Your ideal clients love to read about or listen to great stories about clients who have been in their shoes, used your services and have created the transformation that is important to them. Encourage your clients to tap into their emotions – before and after – because this creates relatability.
Stories about who you work with can go a long way towards helping your readers know if they are an ideal fit. It’s not just about describing your niche, but going much deeper than that. Tap into ideal personality, ideal mindsets, ideal habits and other defining characteristics. This will help prospective clients see themselves, or not.
Tell Stories in Your Social Content
Your social content is probably the most obvious place that you can share stories. With all the noise on social platforms, the posts that stand out the most are the ones with a powerful story. Start with a powerful hook that stops the scroll. Then tell your story and transition into how this relates to your business.
Make sure your stories are personal and unique to you. Do your best to avoid the typical social stories that everyone is sharing “How I made 40K in one month”. Find an authentic and creative angle that gives your readers more insight into you, while also entertaining them.
One of the things I often do when planning my social content is look at all the national holidays for the month to see if there is any particular holiday that stands out as something that resonates with me in some way. Then I tell a story about what this holiday means to me. Other ways I infuse personal stories into my content is by giving people a peek at who I am, what I believe, where I come from, what has shaped me and more.
Remember, people do business with people. It’s not always about how much expertise you have, but also who you are, what you stand for, what makes you different and more. Share your life and behind the scenes of your business. Let people know the human behind your work.
Email Marketing Thrives on a Good Story
Oh, the opportunity to use a good story in our email marketing is endless. Think about all the different kinds of emails we send and how you can incorporate storytelling to make them more interesting.
- Weekly nurture content: if you send regular newsletter content, being known for sharing good stories will help increase your open rates. No one wants a boring email.
- Email welcome series: after your prospects sign up for your lead magnet, your email welcome series is an opportunity to begin the storytelling. Tell the story of your business. Share a client success story. Use the welcome emails to engage your readers.
- Invite emails: any time you have something to invite your prospects to participate in, you can use powerful stories to convince them to sign up. Whether it’s an upcoming webinar, or a 3-day challenge, a story can increase conversion rates.
- Funnel emails: if you’ve built a sales funnel that runs on autopilot, you will need to rely on good stories to keep your audience interested.
- Launch sales emails: during a launch, you will have a series of emails that go out once you open cart on your offer. The purpose of these emails is to get people to visit your sales page and purchase your offer. Stories that convert will be crucial to the success of your launch.
Captivate your Public Speaking Audience with Stories
Whether you are speaking on a public stage, in a webinar or on a podcast, storytelling is the key to keeping your audience captivated. Stories provide a great way to illustrate your teaching points.
When I was building my life coaching practice, many years ago, I took several courses on designing a speech that engages your audience. Storytelling was at the center of the entire presentation. I remember always starting my speeches with a story that I knew my audience could relate to. This helped me capture their attention before I went on to make my educational points. And then with each point I was addressing, I always supported it with a story example.
People may not remember all the learning that you are trying to instill, but they will remember the stories. These stories solidify your teaching and help them remember you as a person.
Stories Can Be Used in Discovery Calls and Sales Pitches
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a discovery call and your prospect is sharing a problem they are having? Immediately, it makes you think of another client that had a similar problem and you find yourself sharing a story about how you helped this client.
Prospects want to know they are not alone. They want to know you understand their unique challenges and that you are equipped to support them. By sharing stories of either how you overcame this challenge or how you’ve helped others do the same, you begin to build that trust and relatability. This is how you turn prospects into clients.
Case Studies Should Always Tell a Good Story
At the center of every good case study is a powerful story. In the simplest terms, a case study helps your clients see exactly how you have helped others like them resolve a particular problem or challenge. It gives them a deep dive into your process and a chance to see it through a more personal, relatable lens. It’s the best proof you can give about your offer/service. You can incorporate it into your website, emails, or social media in a video, graphic, or text format using strategic storytelling.
Instead of you talking about your service/course, it’s a happy client doing the talking for you. And trust me when I say, that makes all the difference in the world. For nothing is more effective at closing sales than a powerfully relatable success story brought about by your offer.
Magnify Your Educational Content with Story Examples
Courses, blogs, and lead magnets are all great examples of educational content we use to showcase our expertise. Imagine how dry this content would be without the use of storytelling. It’s like listening to a teacher lecture all day, boring you to tears.
A perfect example of the use of storytelling can be seen in this blog. Weaved throughout this long piece of content are several story examples that my reader can hopefully relate to. These stories can be used to deepen understanding, entertain, inspire, and even encourage action.
So do your best to refrain from being 100% teacher and spice up your educational content with stories that keep your readers reading or listening.
A Good Advertising Campaign Uses Stories
Behind all the amazing commercials we see on TV are stories that motivate or inspire us to buy these products. My son works for Upwork and recently I saw this commercial on TV. It made me laugh and it definitely makes me remember Upwork.
Although you probably won’t be paying for an advertisement on TV, you might be running an ad campaign on social media. Hook your prospects right away in your ad, then captivate them with a powerful story that illustrates your offer.
How to Get Started with Storytelling
Not all of us are natural storytellers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn. With story prompts and ideas from an experienced copywriter, we can get our creative juices flowing. Jennifer DeWitt has a great free resource “100 Storytelling Prompts to Help Your Copy Connect and Convert”. She also includes her five favorite tools for collecting all your stories. Here are a few of her story prompts that you can steal to get you started…
- How did you feel when you signed your first client/made your first sale?
- Talk about something or someone you lost that changed the course of your life or business.
- What’s a trait that defines your family? Are you all big readers? Do you love cooking? Does everyone have a loud laugh?
- What movie could you watch on repeat and why do you love it?
- Talk about the worst client experience you’ve ever had and what you learned from it.
If you’re struggling to get your stories on the page, then definitely download Jennifer’s resource and refer back to it as often as you need. I know I do every month.
Ready to create a base of superfans for your coaching business? Master the art of storytelling.
Lori Young runs a digital marketing agency serving the coaching community. Specializing in content marketing, website/landing page development and launch management, her mission is to help coaches raise visibility, build their brand awareness and ultimately build a coaching business of their dreams. To learn more, visit us at www.amazingobm.com.
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