We all share the planet together, but we each live in our own little world.
On a personal level, it’s easier to understand some people and the world they live in because they are closer to ours. Others live in worlds so far apart from ours that we just can’t reach them.
On a business level, the more we understand about our customer and the world she lives in, the more we can empathise with her problems. Specifically, the problems that we’re in business to solve.
Our customer could live in a world very distant from ours personally, but in business, the common ground is our empathy with the problem they struggle with.
Once we know exactly who our customer is, we can then build a bridge into their world. We meet them where they are and persuade them that we know just what they’re struggling with. We have a product or service that can help, and we can do it better than anyone else because we understand exactly how the problem is affecting them.
This is where we build trust, and it’s what customers respond to.
But how do we reach them in these times of clutter and noise online, with “Buy Now” buttons staring at them everywhere they look? Not to mention the cookies that follow them on every search.
We build a bridge into our customer’s world
We go back to basics and share stories they can identify with. We go to that place deep in their neural networks that remind them that they love to listen to stories, especially ones that mean something to them in their world.
We all grew up learning by listening to stories. The mechanics of a well-told story are imprinted as a pattern in the most primal levels of our subconscious. We hear a story begin, and we listen. As the story progresses, curiosity gets the better of us and we want to know what happens. The hero is struggling with a problem and we feel their pain. Will the villain get the better of them, or will they persevere against the odds and eventually succeed. What can we learn from their experience?
When we apply story principles to business, we strike the same chord deep within. If our story is well-told in a way that entertains our listener (keeps their attention) then we are not noise.
We’ve built a bridge from our world over to theirs.
Finding your stories
Stories are everywhere in and around your business.
Who founded the business? Why were they motivated to start this particular business? Was there a need or a gap they saw in the market? Was this an entrepreneurial effort, or has the business been in the family for generations?
Do you have a team? What are their stories and why are they as passionate about helping customers as you are? Have they got stories about customer experiences? Employees feel recognised and appreciated when they are trusted to share their stories and be your ambassadors. They come across as authentic, and it is a powerful way of strengthening the ‘identity culture’ within the company.
What about the ups and downs you’ve been through and survived? People relate to those stories because it makes you human in their eyes. Everyone struggles, but not everyone survives. Steering your business through the rough times will motivate others, and they’ll respect your efforts and successes. If you can do it, maybe they can too.
Tell stories that tell others about pitfalls to avoid. Things you’ve learned from experience that will help them avoid the same mistakes. Or mistakes you’ve seen others make that will warn customers about what not to do. You’ve helped others with similar problems, so you’re an authority on the subject. You’ll be seen as a trusted guide, and this opens the door to a meaningful conversation.
Then there are customer success stories. These case studies are told by satisfied customers who are happy to recommend you to others with a similar problem. These are more powerful than mere testimonials. If they are produced in an authentic and believable way, they’re probably the most powerful referrals you could wish for.
Crossing the great divide
Your customers are worlds apart from your business.
The distance between you and those you need to reach is your story. It’s the bridge from what is, to what could be.
Telling your story will connect you with your audience.
Listening to their stories will connect them to you.
“Successful brands – individuals and companies – see themselves as storytellers first. They go to where their audiences are living their lives and, once there, create authentic, personal, and passionate stories that are tailored to fit the way their audiences consume content.” – Carmine Gallo, The Storytellers Secret.