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Kelly Swanson The Story FormulaWhy Stories Matter To Your Bottom Line

Every person in your organization has the power to affect the brand and tell better stories. Are you teaching people how to be powerful storytellers of your brand?

Every single person in the organization has the power to affect the bottom line. Whether it’s an employee’s impact on a customer, the leader’s impact on the employee, or the company’s impact on the marketplace – we all impact each other. When one part of the body aches, it affects the entire body’s performance.  Right? So what do we do with that? We look at the stories they are writing and change them.

We teach people how to be better storytellers of the brand. 

I know, sounds weird.  So let’s connect the dots. I’m going to give you the condensed version.

  1. Everybody in business pretty much wants the same thing – to attract, retain, and engage customers , and to get employees to do more with less and be happier doing it. Recap:  Productive Engaged Employees, and Consistent Customers. 
  2. What does all of this have in common, no matter what your industry?  Persuasion.  Persuading people to work hard, embody the vision, buy from us, be a team player, try our product, listen to our idea, promote us.  Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all in a position of influence.  Recap:  We’re all sales people.
  3. Cardinal rule of sales: People buy from people they like, trust, believe, and feel like they know.  Think about those four words. Like. Trust. Believe. Know.  These are emotional words, focusing not so much on what you make people think, but how you make them feelRecap:  Persuasion is about influencing on an emotional level.
  4. Data can’t do that. Information can’t do that. Telling people what to do can’t do that.  Facts can’t do that.  And chances are good, your customer service script isn’t doing that.  Recap: Many of you are focusing on the what, and forgetting about the emotional piece. 
  5. Connection beats communication.  Motivation beats manipulation.  Telling me what you have to offer matters less than telling me why I should care. People buy for emotional reasons.  Recap:  Your ability to connect determines your ability to persuade.   (Do the research, I’m right on this.)
  6. Story is the tool that enables you to connect on an emotional level.  Recap: Don’t just focus on the data, focus on the story you wrap it in.

If we can’t agree that connection is important to your business and story is the way to get there, then  there’s no point reading the rest of this article. Seriously. If you don’t understand why we’re using story, then the tool is absolutely useless.  For what good is a tool if you don’t understand its purpose?

Okay, I get it. Stories matter. Now what?

Many of you already understand the importance of story in business.  That’s actually the easy part.  Implementing it is a lot harder. Especially when you have people telling you that you need to tell stories, but not actually showing you how to do it! Recap: We have a lot of people focusing on strategic storytelling with no clue how to put it in action.

Bad news: It’s not always a quick fix.

Incorporating storytelling into your skill set is like deciding you’re going to focus on social media this year.  There are quite a few steps between deciding to use social media, and doing it effectively. Same for story.

Understand the Tool

Some people are playing on social media with no idea what they’re doing, or why they’re doing it.  You’ve seen their posts. You received their dumb salesy private messages. You get it. These people are using a tool without understanding the tool.  Sure, they know how to post and share, and comment, and like. They’re using the tool in the proper way. They’re just not using it effectively.

Many people in business are using story just to use story.  This is a hit or miss strategy. Mostly miss.

The first step is to truly understand story as a tool.

Note: We’re not talking about story writing for TV, literature, or movies.  There are plenty of resources teaching you how to do that. While there may be some overlap, we’re talking about persuasive storytelling in business. Our goal is to use story to connect emotionally with the person we are trying to influence.

What is story? What are the components that make up a persuasive story?  How do you write it? How do you tell it? What makes it interesting? What are the fundamental pieces that must exist in order for it to persuade your listener on an emotional level?  Remember, this is all about connecting through emotion.

Using the tool of strategic storytelling without understanding it, is just a lot of wasted time, energy, and money.

Define What You Need Your Tool To Do

Here’s where storytelling for entertainment, and storytelling for business fork.  We are telling stories because we want to influence people to do something – think something  – feel something – change their perspective – take a certain action – as a result of hearing that story.  Maybe you’re in leadership and you need to teach a value you want them to embody in the workplace. Maybe you’re a coach and you need them to trust that you are the one they should hire.

Business owners will often come to me saying, “I need to write my business story.”  I already know why they are struggling to get it down on paper. Because they aren’t really clear on what they need that story to do, and what action they want their listener to take as a result. Often we find that they are trying to find one story to achieve a hundred purposes, when what they need is to break it up into different stories.

Confused yet?

The Story Formula Book CoverDon’t worry. I’ve broken this all down into my book The Story Formula. If you need the worksheets to help you process what the story should do, and how to put it together, get my book The Story Formula. It’s a great workbook that’s easy to get right to the meat.

At this point you should be brainstorming who is telling the story, who is listening to the story, why you’re telling the story, and what you want as a result of that story.

Study Your Platforms of Connection and Create a Strategy

Just like in social media, it’s not enough to just know you need to do it. You need to look at all the platforms, understand the value in each, determine where you are going to spend your time and energy, determine your market and come up with a plan. Having the BEST plan isn’t really as important as HAVING ANY PLAN.

Where do the people exist that you want to influence?  Are they stepping into your place of business? On the phone? In communities on your LinkedIn page?  On a Facebook fan page?  Are they coming to the home page of your website?  Are you giving a speech? Conducting a meeting?  Are you writing an article?  Are they driving up to your window?

When I work with companies on crafting their stories, we find that they haven’t really stopped to uncover the many places where they can tell a story.

Because where you tell a story can often define how you tell that story.

There Are Many Ways to Tell A Story So Get Creative

We are in a crowded market with a lot of noise and distractions.  Stories by nature stand out among the crowd. But making them compelling and engaging, eye catching, entertaining – will serve us even better.   Many people assume their story will be written on paper by one person. But stories can be told in video. Stories can be compilations of different stories attached together. Thanks to Instagram, we’re now forced to figure out how to tell a story with just one picture.  I’ve seen stories on video that had no voice over, only text. Start paying attention to what gets your attention. And copy it.  Look at what engages people. What they share. What they comment on.  And find a way to do that with your name attached.  The video doesn’t have to be an ad for your company. Share a story that moves them, helps them, motivates them – and having your name attached at the end is enough.

Be Consistent

Stop thinking it’s about finding that one magical story. It’s more about consistently sharing your story according to the plan you have devised.

Be Authentic and Real

This world craves real, organic, raw, unpolished. Good for us!  Overly slick commercial ads don’t connect with us on an emotional level. We want to do business with people we feel like we know.  Seeing the leader who is polished and slick and has it all together, doesn’t build half as much trust as the leader who shares a story about taking his granddaughter fishing.

Don’t forget that the point in all of this, is to connect on an emotional level. People meeting people and connecting.   This means that your bullet point list of things you want to say or accomplish, needs to be wrapped in emotion – what this means to them and what it means to you.

Put the Time Into It To Get What You Want Out Of It

Just like most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Maybe you can give your website a great facelift in just a few steps. And maybe you can pay someone to write a story for you to put in your speech.  But these are quick fixes. You are far better served in the long time if you adopt this skill set in your organization, and teach everybody how to be storytellers of their brand.

A story isn’t a list of facts.

Most clients I work with keep trying to make stories based on a list of facts. That’s not a story. I repeat: That’s not a story. A story has a character with a problem that is solved, and a lesson attached. I’m oversimplifying, but you need to know the difference in a story and ad copy.

What if you don’t have time to write and tell stories? Then focus on this one thing…..

In many areas, we are able to craft and tell stories that influence. But sometimes we only have a moment.  We don’t have the time to craft. It needs to happen organically, in that moment.  In these situations, the how-to doesn’t apply, but the principle does. You still have the job of connecting.  So as you walk through your standard routines at work – let’s say customer service for example – add one more layer to everything you do. The connection layer. Simply go one step further than what you’re supposed to tell them, to how you want to make them feel. It will make all the difference.

Confused? That’s okay.  That’s why people bring me in to teach workshops on this. I have some fun activities that will help your people develop and work the muscle that allows them to connect emotionally in a short amount of time.  So book me today and let’s help turn all your employees into master storytellers.

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