The stories we rehearse come true

Simon holding a book asking what's your story

What’s your story? What story do you tell? Many people I meet don’t tell stories.

Not that they don’t have a story to tell; just that they either don’t know how to tell it, or don’t even think they have one.

So, why even tell a story in the first place?

Because when people are choosing to work with you, they want to know about you. They don’t need all the gritty details, but they do need to have a sense of who you are.

I believe that telling your story reassures potential clients that they can trust you and work with you. What’s more, its sets you apart from everybody else as an individual. It’s one of the most important tools in your effective, authentic and ethical marketing toolbox.

In fact, it is – or will become – the most used tool in that box. And therefore, it’s important to consider what exactly your story is, and how you can tell it. The story you rehearse and tell is the one that’s true because it’s what people will believe about you.

No fairy tales, no scripts

Your story does not begin, “Once upon a time…” It is not a script that you learn off by heart and can recite perfectly on demand.

I’m talking about the kind of response you give when someone asks you, “What do you do?”

It’s the kind of story you tell when people you’re interested in working with want to know who you are, who you work with, what you work with them on, and whether they can connect with and trust you.

When you hear these kinds of questions, you can either trot out a sales pitch or you can paint a picture, set the scene, and tell them who you are.

This can make the difference between the person wanting to carry on talking with you (and maybe then working with you) or moving on to talk with someone else.

The story you tell is important, and it’s simpler than you think to create a flexible framework for your story that you can use to connect with people.

It’s all a matter of perspective

In my book, Reframing Marketing, I explain that there are three story variations that you can use to tell your story different ways. Let’s look at a core theory of storytelling that underpins this thinking.

The stories of self, us and now

Author Marshall Ganz created a simple way to look at the stories we tell from three perspectives. These perspectives help us to tell a complete story in different ways to people at different stages in their own journey. The three stories are:

The story of self (the personal story) is when you talk about your journey in relation to the journey your client is on. It’s a chance to show that your story aligns with that of your client, that you have points of connection, similarity or shared experiences. It’s not a sob story or a tale of ‘woe is me’. It is not the history of you.

The story of us (the business story) is where you show that their story truly unfolds when you work together rather than alone. It’s the things from your life that speak to the place where your client is now and where they want to be. What connected those points for you, and how does this make that same connection for them?

The story of now (the client story) is where you talk about why now is the time to start that journey, and how you see the hurdles and obstacles stopping them. You talk about how you have been here before and you made it to the end. It’s where you reassure them that you will be there for them, you have the map, your compasses are pointing in the same direction, and you invite them to take the hardest step, the first one.

Where the magic happens

This might all sound a bit abstract, and for a while I struggled to wrap my head around how to actually put fingers to keyboard and write these stories. That is until I read Susan Payton’s book, The Business of Stories. Susan has connected together the three stories you need to tell with some very familiar words: who, what and why.

“Between your personal story and your business story lies your why: the reason you do what you do. Between your business story and your [client] story lies your value: how you help your [clients] win. And, between your personal story and your [client] story you’ll find your people: the ‘ideal’ clients you feel passionately called to serve.”

A framework for productive conversations

Looking at your story from these perspectives, you will have the answers that you need, whoever you’re telling your story to.

None of these stories or perspectives is a scripted answer to “What do you do?” But combined together, they form a more interesting answer than “I am a business coach”, or “I’m in business consultancy”.

You can use snippets of each of story to articulate what you do, why you do it and who you do it with, in a way that is interesting and thought-provoking. Definitely more interesting and engaging than the usual answer to a dull question at a networking event!

But… I’m not a writer how do I write my story?

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a writer.

While writing your story is a task that needs thought and consideration, it’s your story and you are the person best-placed to write and tell it. As for how to write your story, Susan Payton has written a whole book on the subject: The Business of Stories. With Susan’s kind permission, I’ve included a summary of each of her three story methodologies and how you can write them for yourself in my book, Reframing Marketing; plus how you can effectively intertwine your story with your marketing plan.

Once you have your story, you will find that you’re able to call upon it in many different situations, matching the relevant story elements to the circumstances.

You may find yourself telling parts of your story in a variety of different situations; such as introducing yourself at the start of a new Zoom meeting, when you meet someone new at a networking event, or simply updating your LinkedIn bio.

Your story is unique and only you can tell it

Although this blog post may not offer a deep dive into writing your story, I hope it will get you thinking about how you could use your story in a creative way. I believe it will help you to have better conversations with the kind of people you really want to work with, and connect with them in a way that inspires them.

The key is to really know your own story. Tell it to yourself first, and understand not only the different parts but how those parts link and fit together. This builds confidence and in turn provokes inspiration.

The first few times I found myself telling my story, I would surprise myself with the way I tweaked it in the moment, changing it as the words left my mouth. As with a lot of things in marketing, your story is never truly finished – it’s just the current version.

You can learn more about writing and telling your story, and how your story can be part of a 3-step ethical and effective marketing plan in my book, Reframing Marketing. You can find out more about the book and order your copy at reframingmarketing.com