It’s Monday morning. You know you need to put out a weekly blog and newsletter, but you struggle to connect your topic area to something approachable that people will respond to. You push it off until your blog and email list are basically a graveyard of good intentions and well-meaning half posts. You only post regularly as you gear up for a promotion and you’re exhausting yourself.
And what’s worse — the income isn’t as consistent as it could be and you’re on the verge of burnout. You wonder whether you can sustain the endless grind, whether you made the right decision in building a business. You work more now than you ever did in a day job.
Your purpose and passion to your work guide you, but it can’t keep the debt collectors at bay.
I’ve realized that I’ve taken for granted something central to what I’m trying to help people with — how storytelling can help them and their business. It’s become quite the buzzword in marketing. I think that a lot of people understand the concept of brand/content storytelling, but they don’t know how they can apply it to how they can make it work for their unique business. If we can first establish why it matters in their content and across their business, then application becomes so much easier.
Our brains rely on stories to make sense of the world. That’s why we read, we watch movies, and we listen to podcasts. There’s these different things where there’s this beginning, middle, and end. As humans, we strive to make sense of our world, even when it’s chaotic and seemingly random. That’s what stories do for us. But you may ask yourself, “Why is this relevant to me and to my business?” or maybe, “Okay, I get that it’s relevant, but now what?”
Storytelling is relevant because it’s been missing in most of marketing and content, though this is starting to change. I’ve read a lot of different blogs and newsletters and I really try to pay attention to which ones make me open up and read to the end. The point is to stand out over what other people are doing because there’s people who have a lot of really great information out there, but there’s no immediate reason to know why this is relevant or how it can help me.
What’s In It For Me — Build Relevance
If you wanted to learn a skill or you wanted to learn about how to write copy, learn how to design something, or compare two similar products. Let’s use SquareSpace as an example. There’s a million blogs or videos that will show you how to choose and edit their templates. But the problem is, you really don’t understand exactly how to apply this skill or with this knowledge. You haven’t immediately established the after picture of what’s possible. They may learn how to edit or write their copy, but that’s just a means to an end. Describe that, show how this can be applied to elevate their relationships, health, well-being, or business.
This is especially true with services, particularly in coaching and consulting. Your brain and your expertise is the product. It’s not immediately obvious what they can get, what kind of result, or what kind of experience they’re going to have by working with you or by learning something that you know. And by “not obvious,” it’s something intangible. If you’re a dating coach, you need to fully illustrate their confidence in conversing with the opposite sex, in knowing exactly what they’re looking for, upping their confidence, and how they can let go of old, toxic relationships that were no longer serving them. Flesh it out as much as possible. This is something you need to know like the back of your hand in your business/non-profit.
Relevance is key; without having that immediate relevance established you potentially lose them. This is something that you can do with storytelling. Without knowing why it’s important to tune out and turn off and click out because there’s so many other things competing for our attention.
I think that there’s some confusion here — Is storytelling is the content in and of itself? I don’t believe that — Storytelling is one piece of the content puzzle. I think it’s very important. It’s the glue that puts all the other pieces together and makes it cohesive. But it can’t always stand alone. We’re usually consuming content with the intent that we’re going to learn something that we can apply.
Strike an Emotional Chord
Storytelling also builds this emotional connection to the content. We make most of our decisions using our emotions. This is true in branding, marketing, watching movies, or reading books. If you don’t really care about the character or what happens to them, you don’t care about the movie or book. Half of the problem with writing fiction is to make somebody relate and emotionally connect to that character.
This is true in content marketing as well because how many of us know something, we have been told something that I need to do x and y to help my business, or I know that I need to stop drinking soda. You can intellectually know something, but until you connected emotionally to your why you want to make that change, that information goes unheeded and forgotten. And that is exactly what you don’t want to happen to your content. You do not want someone to read it and then forget about it. within 15 minutes.
Overcoming Objections with Storytelling
Storytelling also, plain and simple, leads to sales. If someone’s forgetting your content, they’re not exactly going to come back and they’re not going to become a part of your audience. They’re not going to subscribe to that newsletter. Or if they do happen to click the button, they won’t open up the emails and will eventually unsubscribe. And when you continue building on your connection with them (that coveted “Know, Like, Trust” factor), they will think of you first and foremost when they’re ready to buy.
If someone’s forgetting your content, they’re not exactly going to come back and they’re not going to become a part of your audience.
Storytelling makes us and our business appear more to be like a living, breathing person instead of a faceless brand. People do not invest or buy from brands. They buy from people, they buy into the stories and the shared beliefs and values (for more info on this, I’d suggest reading this post of mine). When we resonate with the person behind the business, when we see ourselves in not only their struggle, but in their client’s struggles, their clients’ victories, and their clients’ frustrations, when we see ourselves in that, that’s worth more than any sort of sales conversation you could have with them.
Why? Because a lot of the objections fall away. A major objection, especially in service based professions, is, “That’s great that this worked for you, or a few other people, but will it work for me?” If you build that emotion and connection to the content, to the clients, to the stories, then that becomes irrelevant. You, with your engaging content, have helped them make shifts and some results already in their lives.
And they are already seeing themselves in the stories of others. It’s not a question of ‘will this work for me’ anymore. It’s, “Oh I’m dealing with the same thing.” Or “Oh, I’ve been frustrated by that too.” Or, “Oh, they experienced this after implementing this process or by learning this and getting support. That’s exactly where I want to be. That is the after picture that I want to have.”
Once they’ve at that point mentally, it’s no longer about sales. It’s about informing them of the ways they can go further with you. They don’t need convincing, but they do need a bit of direction to know what the next steps are. They need the Call to Action to seal the deal. Don’t spend so much time on content that this becomes an afterthought, or you won’t have predictable revenue and won’t be able to keep the lights on.
Conclusion + Takeaways:
Don’t just educate or entertain with your content. Good content does both of these things well, but when you inspire and motivate folks with your own story and your content to consider what’s possible in their lives and business, that’s what leaves the most impact. You should them that ultimately, their story is for them to write with support and encouragement. Most people need a MAJOR event or crisis to put themselves into action. You shouldn’t be expending energy convincing people who are not yet at this stage. But what you CAN do is shine a light on the future possibilities. Help them turn that crisis point into a catalyst and jumping off point to break through and rise above to become the best version of themselves.
Knowing the story and how you serve your clients, why it matters, and by leaning into the emotions and identity people have surrounding the problem you help them with; all of this makes content much more aligned and even effortless.
The best way to do this is thinking through these questions:
- Why does my work matter? Why am I passionate about this?
- What’s their crisis point that propels them to action? How does it make them feel?
- What do clients tell me was their biggest take-away from working with me? How do I want them to feel afterwards?
- What are things people ask you about your work? What do you wish people knew before working with you?
Once you have these questions answered You will be able to sit at your keyboard or as you record a video, and instead of wondering how things fit together, you have the framework already there and just fill in the blanks with the theme and purpose of the content.
Crystal Sheffield-Baird is a Strategic Content Storyteller who collaborates with purpose-driven entrepreneurs to develop compelling clarity in their content marketing. You can find them here, on Instagram, and on Twitter.