If our stories are reflections of our world and our heroes the values of that world, then it’s certainly time to tell new stories and create different heroes!
Let’s start with the heroes!
For decades our views on the ‘hero’ were defined by the comic-strip characters created during WW2 and the post-war years. The clean-cut, muscle-flaunting, super-powered hero (Captain America, Super-Man, etc.) single-handedly confronted an external enemy, defeated the evil forces & restored ‘good’ to a world that had temporarily veered in the direction of ‘bad’.
Those popular characters rode the gravity-defying waves of individualism and singularity. Until … suddenly & unexpectedly the waves came to a crashing halt on the shore of Coronaland.
The heroes in Coronaland were very different.
They were not driven by personal glory or powered by ‘super’ strengths. They were the millions of nameless & individually-unacknowledged helpers, carers, service-providers, parents, friends & neighbours who worked together in the interest of community and the common good – some of them as part of under-resourced, over-worked teams.
The ‘elixir’ in Coronaland?
It was not carried by a triumphant super-hero, whose solo performances had rescued the world. The elixir in Coronaland was shared generously among all the unsung heroes. Those who drank it showed heightened levels of caring, compassion, generosity & humanity.
The stories emerging from Coronaland?
One thing is clear. Like the out-dated heroes, the old story-formulas didn’t fit their journey anymore.
Their stories about a time when a great darkness fell across the land and the people were very afraid are being written. One story at a time …Learn More
Whats your story of Covid-19? Which story are you telling about your experiences of ‘social distancing’, quarantine or lock-down? That story defines how you experience this crisis!
1 As the story of imposed confinement that disrupts your plans, interrupts your life & destroys your business?
What are the underlying energies behind this story?
Panic, self-righteousness, victimhood?
Are these the energies that compel people to act in their own interests (hoarding, non-observance of ‘social distancing’ guidelines)? Are people so unable to be with themselves that they constantly seek any kind of distraction?
2 As the story of a journey into your inner world, an adventure into unexplored territory, filled with insights, ah-ha moments and true wisdom?
What are the underlying energies behind this story?
Gratitude, compassion, connectedness?
If you need a reminder as to why these responses are also a very real perspective on the Covid-19 crisis, watch here!
It’s no coincidence that some of the greatest scientific break-throughs, art works, inventions happened during periods of social isolation – whether imposed (Isaac Newton & Shakespeare during the bubonic plague) or chosen. Social isolation creates a space in which we can go deeper, get in touch with our inner creativity, avoid external distractions, listen to our inner voice, etc.
The story you choose to tell now defines how you experience this crisis.
It also defines the story you are passing on to others and in turn their story and their experience of getting through this momentous challenge.
Your story of the Covid-19 today also defines the story you will tell when you emerge from this crisis! This the point between ‘before’ and ‘after’, the turning point in every story.
This is the moment when you are called on to make ‘heroic’ decisions – for your own safety and well-being and those of others.
Choose your story carefully!Learn More
Story has been trending for some time as the cure-all for creating engaging content – presentations, blogs, sales pages, a PR-blurbs, newsletters, etc. Story, apparently, is the fast-track to connecting us!
Neuroscience shows that story ticks all the important boxes to create impact. It touches us deeply, releases ‘happy hormones’, builds relationships, supports memory, makes identification easier and quicker, etc. etc. And the relevance of all that for business was reduced to one goal? Story sells!
So, everyone scrambled onto the storytelling bandwagon to grab the attention the masses with their manipulative stories and to sell, sell sell.
However, the wheels soon began to fall off that bandwagon – for obvious reasons.
How story gets our attention and holds it
According to recent research, we are not suffering from a growing attention deficit. We’ve just become more selective about where we focus our attention.
Simply put, if something is boring, irrelevant, repetitive, re-cycled, manipulative we switch off almost immediately. If something arouses our curiosity, engages us, we can’t seem to get enough of it – we ‘binge’ on it!
Back to that stationary storytelling bandwagon mentioned above. Story in itself does not make engaging content. According to the same research findings, the winners on getting our attention and holding it are: “compelling stories” combined with “compelling visuals”! Note the word COMPELLING here!
How do you tell a “compelling” story?
A good way to answer that is to flip the question. Why does a story not grab our attention and hold it?
Here’s a few basics ‘Don’ts’.
- Your story is a thinly disguised sales pitch! People do not like to feel they are being manipulated or have their trust abused. Do not promise to tell a ‘story’ when you really intend to sell!
- Your stories are monologues about you. To make a story engaging, the audience has to identify with it and want to own it. It gets boring very quickly when you constantly talk about the same character – you!
- The story you tell is not relevant for the audience. Just because you think a particular story is good, interesting, funny, worked for others, etc., doesn’t mean it’s relevant! Always ask yourself before adding a story, “How does this story help the audience understand the point I’m making?”
- Your story is too long. For example, if you include stories in your 20- minute-presentation, then make sure that each story is about 2-3 minutes long – and only use 2-3 stories.
- You waste too much of your audience’s time on the backstory. Get to the primary story the goal, the problem, the challenge straight away and briefly include the backstory as the main story unfolds.
- Your story isn’t integrated into your content. Too often the story feels part of a ‘cut and paste’ activity. It interrupts the message instead of illuminating it. It takes know-how and practice to seamlessly integrate a story into your content, so that it feels ‘compelling” for the audience.
The goal of all our communication is to create connection, inspire engagement and start a dialogue
Through dialogue we organically build trust by adding value that invites participation, inspires action and eventually investment. Knowing how to integrate a “compelling” story into your dialogue is a powerful tool to achieve this. It’s also the quickest way to get off the storytelling bandwagon – for good!
If you want to find out more about how to do this, make an appointment and let’s talk about dialogue!Learn More
I love going to local markets. Apart from my interest in hand-made, sustainable items and quirky creations, I am curious about the ‘marketing’ approach at each stall – how do the semi-professionals and the amateurs sell their products?
Unfortunately, very similar to how big stores, small stores and huge conglomerates sell. Some personalise the whole experience and you end up buying a product imbued with love, care, skill and a great story. Others are just there to move merchandise as quickly and profitably as possible.
When we give value, we don’t need to sell
Here’s why I love to buy at my local market, whether seasonal or regular. Maria sells clothes made from recycled and ethically-sourced materials at my local flea market. As I browsed her rack of skirts we chatted about the various materials she works with and why some are not up to her ethical standards – yet. But she’s working on it with the help of her family back home and her business partner, who does the sowing and helps out with the design. When I handed her a skirt to try on she advised me that it didn’t suit my size or shape (I’m on the smallish, skinny side). She’d have a wider selection ready for next week – if I was around again.
Story trumps hustle
Guess what? I did call again and I bought two! I didn’t just buy two skirts. I bought the stories woven into the fabric of those two skirts – of Maria’s family in Central America, of her small workshop with her business partner in Berlin where they rotate parenting with running a new business and of how challenging it is to live your sustainability standards working in fashion. I’ve shared the story of my skirts with everyone who asks me about them and tell them where they buy them.
Don’t Sell Scarcity
Last weekend I visited our local Christmas Market to find a new winter cap – handmade, soft, warm, colourful and made for small heads. WhiIe trying on one in my favourite colour, I asked the stall owner if she made the caps herself. She evaded my question, but immediately remarked on how much the cap suited me. The mirror clearly told me otherwise. While trying on another one, I asked her where she sources the wool . This time I got an abrupt response that ignored my question, before she declared with authority that this cap definitely suited me better. The pompon was bigger than my head! As I put it back with the others, she then delivered the conventional sales pitch. Her caps were selling so quickly they’d all be gone very soon.
I don’t buy scarcity or desperation, so I left her stall and continued to browse.
We buy connections, not commodities
Whether you stand behind a market stall, offer online courses or the latest technical invention the same rule applies: We are in the market for good stories, told by people who show us they care and ones we can share with others. Or, in the words of the marketing guru, Seth Godin: “People don’t buy goods and services. They buy relationships, stories and magic.”
As I wandered through the stalls afterwards, I smelled the magic of the market wafting through the crowds. I followed that smell to the mulled wine stall and gladly joined the queue.Learn More
How to Pitch?
You make you audience care.
How many pitches have you heard/read in the last six months? How many of those do you remember?
One? Two? None? Why so few, if even any?
This is the question that kicked off our workshop recently on how to move beyond the standard ‘pitch’ and engage your audience.
According to the participants, almost all the ‘pitches’ were too long, complex, confusing, jargon-filled, boring, predictable, general, self-promotional …
How to pitch to make your audience care? Maybe start with the question, how to improve a ‘bad’ pitch?
We could try a quick cheat-sheet that addresses the above issues individually. It’s been done – hundreds of times. It’s time to stop pruning the leaves and do root and branch. How to make your pitch engaging for your audience is to make them care, i.e. make it about THEM – not you, as I’ve already said. Simple! And here’s how you do that.
Make your pitch a dialogue between you and your specific audience; rather than the conventional monologue-pitch, i.e. you talking about you
Don’t start like this: “Hi, I’m Jack/Jill. I’m a Business Consultant/Financial Advisor/ Life Coach … with 5/6/7/ years experience.
That’s how a monologue begins. And it continues by being way too general and supplying irrelevant details about you and your service or product.
Golden Rule: The simplest way to create a dialogue with the people you want to reach is to tell them a compelling story – about themselves!
That’s a story about who they are, what they struggle with, what their goals are and eventually – after you have their attention and got them interested – how you are going to help them solve that problem/reach that goal.
How to begin your pitch
Make the audience care! The beginning of any successful conversation is to make it easy for people to find themselves in it. Here’s how to do that.
Call them by their name! Not their personal first name, but the name they use to define themselves in business. Instead of using a generic term, e.g. business owner, coaches, professionals, working women, etc. name your niche, (one niche per pitch), e.g. career coaches, working women over 40 stuck on the career ladder, service-based micro-business owners, etc.
Can they say, “Yes, that’s me!”? If so, you’ve got their attention and they are responding – silently.
But audience attention is a fleeting phenomenon.
You now need to move beyond grabbing their attention to engaging them.
What’s the most effective way to do that?
Describe a challenge they know they have in their own words. Dump the jargon, the hype, the buzz-words. Have you listened to how they describe their problems? Use those words instead of your fancy phrases – if you want your words to resonate. How do they describe the problem of not being able to find enough customers, or the right customers, or to get their offers right, etc.
If they can respond to your description with “Yes, that’s my problem right now!”, you’re gaining trust.
Now take it a step further and pull them into a deeper dialogue with you and describe the consequences of these problems, i.e. where it hurts exactly. Have they cash-flow issues because they can’t find enough clients, or is their business stagnating because they don’t have a business plan, etc.?
Can they respond to your description with, “Yes, that’s what this problem is costing me!”? If so, you have engaged them in the story you are telling because they can easily recognise themselves in that story.
Can you now provide them with a way forward?
For example, you have developed a state-of-the-art data base system or a new app, etc., that you know could solve the challenges they face right now. Avoid a self-promotional monologue about your product here. No one (except you) is interested in the technical specifics right now. Tell them instead how your system/app will solve THEIR problem, e.g. increase sales, make it easier to find better clients, improve automation efficiency by 50%, etc.
If they can say, “Yes, I want to hear more about that!”, your pitch was successful.
And when they follow up, remember it’s because you told them their story in a way that showed them you know their problems and you can provide them with a next step. Build on that.
Don’t ruin it now by pushing your story centre stage!
A final word on your ‘pitch’
Times are changing. Your pitch is also part of your message, your tagline, your website headline, your sales letter introduction, your profile text, etc. It’s on all your social media content. It’s important to get it right.Learn More
While driving home from a recent peer-to-peer session, I had time to reflect on the huge benefits of sharing where we’re at with like-minded people. As we all went our separate ways, there was a clear sense that we had moved through many similar issues and we had new tools to meet the challenges we faced.
How had we managed to make such progress during our few hours together? One obvious answer is that we provided a mirror for each other that let us see the blind spots in our thinking that we can’t see from the ‘inside’ perspective.
I’m talking here about being willing to listen to each other – without the compulsion to fix, save or sort out.
Thinking back on the individual stories, I noticed how we got to a place where something magical happened for all of us. Something so simple and so powerful you wonder why we don’t devote far more time in schools, families, workplaces, communities, etc. to nourishing and nurturing it.
Here are some of the benefits of being listened to by others: we feel seen and heard, and acknowledged for who we are and where we are right now.
There are also enormous benefits for us as active listeners.
When we fully listen to others we are guided to ask the right questions. These are the questions that will give them the opportunity to discover their own ability to find the best solutions.
Here’s when we humans are seriously challenged, when we get in our own way, when we slip into ‘authority’ mode and when we can sabotage the great benefits peer-to-peer coaching offers.
We have unlearned how to listen deeply to each other.
Instead of giving our full and undivided attention to what the other person is saying, far too often we feel compelled to dole out unsolicited advice. And the message we send out to someone with our ‘advice’ – however well-intended – is that we don’t think they are capable of solving their own problems. It also kills the conversation before it begins.
So, how do we listen deeply to each other instead of rushing to give advice?
Knowing what listening is NOT is a good pace to start and Simon Sinek’s quote will help do just that: “There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.”
As someone who spent decades teaching and lecturing, in other words, constantly giving out advice and information, it took quite some time and practice to re-cultivate my listening skills and abandon the podium position.
Here are 3 simple strategies I’ve learned to improve the quality of my conversations (insider tip – it’s all about practice).
- Let’s start with our human anatomy. We have TWO ears and ONE mouth, i.e. remind yourself of that ratio next time you want to speak!
- Know the difference and practise the difference between listening and hearing. ‘Hearing’ refers to the sounds that automatically come to us. ‘Listening’ requires us to pay full attention to what is being said and how it is being said, i.e. we must become active listeners for not just the words, but also the body language, tone of voice, silences, etc.
- Resist all temptations to interrupt – no matter how much you believe you know what needs to be said, or not said. You actually don’t know! Instead, listen and allow the question to surface that could direct the person to their solution and ask your question after they have finished speaking.
By listening and asking the ‘right’ question we are helping others get a clearer picture of what they need to do and how they can implement the changes they are ready to make.
Deep, active & generous listening.
These are essential ingredients for dialogues that can become truly magical experiences!Learn More
How can you protect yourself from working with not-so-ideal-clients, i.e. the ones who drain your energies and then tell you that they can’t afford you, cancel at the last minute, delay payment, constantly turn up late for appointments, etc. etc.?
The answer is simple: find your ideal clients, i.e. clients who value your work. And to do that you have to first of all know your worth & embody it in the work you do.
Here’s a few clarifying questions to make it easy for clients who value your work to find you
– Do I always do my best?
– Do I turn up prepared and on time?
– Am I always 100% honest, i.e. tell some people that they’d be better served with someone else?
– Do I only promise outcomes I know I can deliver?
When you walk your talk, you are actually teaching people how to treat you. The moment you’re prepared to work with clients who under-value your expertise & your time, you’re telling them: “I’m willing to put up with this”, or as Ted Hargrave puts it: “We encourage what we endure.”
Here’s what living your worth looks like:
You’ll lose clients who waste your time, but create space for your ideal clients, i.e. those who already see your worth, are happy to pay your prices, inspire you to do great work and generally make your life more fulfilling and enjoyable.
And do you know how to position yourself to be easily found by clients who value you and your work?
You tell them a story that shows them know who they are, that you care about them, that you can help them and that you see their worth.
And if you need help crafting that story to find your ideal clients, let’s talk!Learn More
To create a powerful connection with your tribe, inspire trust and loyalty, become a leader in your field and have your ideal clients lining up to buy from you, you should start with “why”!
In his famous TED talk, Start with Why, with over 3 million views, and best-selling book, Simon Sinek gave us the simple Golden Circle Formula that promised to do just that. Simply put: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Did his formula convince people? It would seem so if you look at most of the content marketing: it’s purpose, cause and belief that jump out at you. Speakers start with ‘why’ in order to get us, their audience, emotionally involved. Their ‘why’ should suck us into a commonality of shared values, so that we automatically self-identify and are instantly eager to buy!
But that’s not what actually happened for us!
Clients didn’t line up to buy after we’d bared our purpose.. Nor did we quickly become successful leaders in our field because of sharing our beliefs.
Is it me, or is it the formula?
Why didn’t the formula work for us?
It didn’t work for a very simple reason. One size does not fit all! What works for Apple, does not seamlessly downscale for the small enterprise.
The blind-spot in Sinek’s formula (which he’s subsequently revised) runs through so much marketing material, particularly how we misuse storytelling. Starting with your ‘why’, or telling your unique story, is simply too much too soon. It’s equivalent to planning a big joint family get-together on the first date.
Unlike Sinek’s examples, the ‘ordinary’ small business owner, i.e. people like you and me, are not (yet) famous, have not achieved celebrity status and do not command immediate attention when they post on social medial or stand on a podium.
The hard reality is this: people are actually not interested in our ‘why’, nor in our unique, authentic stories. They are initially interested only in their own!
How do we, the not-yet-famous entrepreneur, get the attention of our potential clients, hold it long enough to covert them into ideal clients, eager to buy from us?
We start with their ‘why’, not ours.
We provide a satisfactory answer to the primary why-question of our potential clients: “Why should I give you my attention?”
And to answer that crucial question effectively, you have to tell them a story that makes them feel that you know them, i.e. who they are, what they struggle with and what they really want.
In other words, your opening story lets them know that you care about them. You do that by addressing THEIR fundamental concerns. The pivotal issue here is this. If you can’t answer THEIR “why” (“Why should I give you my attention?”) convincingly, you will never get to the point where YOUR “why” is relevant to them.
The Golden Rule of getting your clients attention: Your introductory story is NOT about you. It’s about your CLIENTS.
That means your story has to first get THEIR attention. To do that you tell them what you can do for THEM. That creates a sense of curiosity about you and a bridge to why you do what you do.
Here’s a quick neuro-scientific explanation for that important sequence.
Think lizard brain, i.e. our gut instinct, our automatic Yes-No-Response. It’s concerned only with our survival and self-preservation and is activated when we are confronted with ‘threats’, such as new situations or new people.
When our lizard brain is turned on, we’re not capable of tuning into someone else’s story.
We can only connect with and build sustainable relationships with new people after their lizard brain response has been calmed. And we do that by reassuring them that we know who they are and what their struggles and desires are.
Only then can we engage with their limbic brain – that’s the part responsible for emotions and feelings. Simply put: when we move them into the limbic brain, their in-built defence mechanism is lowered and they are ready to move into relationship building, i.e. engage with our story. We can start an interactive dialogue!
What’s the impact of this on your marketing?
Starting with your ‘why’ is equivalent to a farmer who throws seeds on a barren, uncultivated field and expects a bumper crop because the seeds are good quality.
Starting with your client’s ‘why’ is when the farmer first creates fertile ground and only then sows the seeds.Learn More
As you can’t avoid ‘that’ question, “Why do you do what you do?”, it’s a good excuse to think about what your job, your business, your career, your commitment, your life means to you in a hyped-up world.
For some the meaning is deeply personal and is the driving force behind what they do. It’s that old-fashioned word ‘vocation’: the calling to do the work they are best suited to do and drawn to do by some invisible and irresistible force. (There is usually an inspirational story at the heart of this “Why”.)
It’s not easy sticking to your ‘vocation’ to improve a small slice of the world you live in when can see that the attention of investors is magnetized by the glamour and hype generated by lifestyle-driven projects. Sticking to your convictions is the big challenge when doubt and feelings of inadequacy pound you all too frequently, when the glossy once again trumps the genuine.
What do you do when doubt creeps in?
The sooner you stop looking for external recognition and attention and just claim your inner calling, the better. When you can do that it will take you to a place where the stakes are much, much higher. Even if you encounter ‘failure’ along the way, living your convictions will always take you to where you truly need to go.
And in our celebrity-obsessed world, you’ll organically connect with others along that path who are also driven to do good work and those waiting to support value-driven work like yours. Together you’ll become a powerful force for making positive change and keep you integrity.
Isn’t this a good opportunity to revisit some important questions:
- Why do you do what you do?
- What’s the inner conviction behind what drives you?
- Are you out there living it now? If not, why not?