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Are You Afraid to Use this Powerful Business Tool?

At first, I was more of a rapper…

When it was my turn to sing, my mouth felt like it was full of tube socks, my heart was surely going to blow out of my chest, and I was sweating through my shoes.

What happened next? Did they survive?

Learning the story behind almost anything is a passion of mine.

Stories move us to take action.

If you aren’t incorporating stories into marketing, presentations, training, sales, diagnosing, etc. you are missing out on a HUGE opportunity.

“No one marched on Washington because of facts, data, or graphs.”  – Karen Dietz, PhD

Stories move us to make decisions, to buy a product, follow a team, support a charity. They help us to understand a concept, empathize with others, laugh at ourselves, and learn.

People remember 5% – 10% of what they hear when statistics or data is presented on its own. 

When stories are used to convey data, people remember up to 70%.

The idea of using a story in marketing, sales, or presentations sometimes intimidates or confuses people.

And something personal? Forget it.

Some people refuse to share a personal story because they believe it will expose weaknesses that will repel people, or it will seem unprofessional. They don’t think that their story is interesting. I’ve been guilty of it too! I believed my story didn’t matter.

Many believe it has nothing to do with business.

I’m here to tell you, it has everything to do with a successful business.

The fact is, sometimes you need outside help to connect the dots in order to see how your personal story relates to EVERYTHING in your business.

At the beginning of my adult life, I became an actor to tell other people’s stories. Actors learn to draw from their experiences to empathize with their character’s situation but put their own opinions, beliefs, and circumstances aside to step into the life and mindset of their character. It was easy for me to do this because I am fascinated by other people’s stories.

I draw on so much of my acting training when I’m working on marketing strategy with business owners, but didn’t even realize I was missing this KEY ingredient in my own business messaging and marketing.

The hard part was recognizing how my story might help or mean something to others. Sure, other people’s stories, but mine? Sometimes pulling stories out of your own vast library of experiences is a two person job. After working with an amazing marketing strategist, I saw the bigger picture.

Here’s my approach to the stuff that seems scary:

Face your fear,

Risk being vulnerable,

Discover how awesome the results can be!

I’m not as brave as the people who inspire me. I usually get brave when someone convinces me I can do it, and I get really “brave” when they tell me I can’t (sometimes that “someone” is me).

As an 8-year old kid, I loved standing behind the front seat of our rusty Dodge Dart, riding all over town, no seat belts to hold me back, singing along with the radio at the top of my lungs. One day I was belting out, “Stop. In the name of love…,” when I heard, “STOP. SINGING. Not everyone is a singer!” from someone whose initials are M.O.M.

I’m sure she meant well. She assumed I’d be teased because what sounded exactly like The Supremes in my head, was more like an angry, screechy parrot to her. She was probably frazzled from dealing with three (rotten) kids under the age of eight all day. Or maybe she was repeating something someone said to her when she was a kid.

I was really disappointed. Then the logic of it set in, and I accepted it as a fact.

Ten years later, when I went to acting school in NYC (AADA), there were mandatory singing classes.

“That’s a problem”, I explained to my teachers. “I am not a singer.”

They explained that everybody can be a singer, especially if they wanted to avoid being kicked out of school. They challenged me to prove I was NOT a singer.

A first, I was more of a rapper.

When it was my turn to get up in front of my classmates and sing, my mouth felt like it was full of tube socks, my heart was surely going to blow out of my chest, and I was sweating through my shoes.

Over the course of my first year, I karate-chopped my way through my fear, leaned heavily on my classmates for courage, trusted my teachers’ talent and wisdom, – and I sucked. Big time.

But, eventually, I rewrote my story. It turns out, I actually AM a singer. Proof: I was cast in more than 40 singing roles over the course of my 25-year acting career!

When I look at my life, there were several big turning points. Telling you about them might help you overcome something that’s in your way, but it will also help you remember me, understand who I am, and why businesses hire me.

“It’s hard to learn someone’s story and not feel connected to them.”

Our brains synthesize a neurochemical called oxytocin, that acts like an empathy drug. It sends us a signal that we should care about someone.

“The oxytocin we get from stories helps us care, whether we like it or not.”  – The Storytelling Edge by Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow

Over my life, I’ve learned risks are:

  • Necessary
  • Scary
  • Opportunities for amazement (could be amazingly good or – for the pessimists out there – could be amazingly bad.)

Here’s more scientific proof that stories are powerful!

“…we don’t even need to share our own stories to build a relationship with someone. Sharing almost any story makes a difference. In a 2011 study, researchers put kids from different racial and economic backgrounds together for a series of storytime activities. The scientists found that even when the kids weren’t sharing their own stories—when they were simply reading storybooks—they developed empathy for one another. They felt more connected. And as they grew up, they were less racist and classist than other kids.

The researchers concluded that storytelling, fostered empathy, compassion, tolerance, and respect for difference.

–  The Storytelling Edge by Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow

Huh. Maybe the knuckleheads in D.C. need to add storytime to their agendas.

Just a thought.

The fact is, to succeed in life and business everyone can and should be sharing information through stories, whenever possible. Stories connect us to each other. They make us memorable. They are why we are hired. Why we do business with companies and service providers. Why we choose to buy brands and products.

Are you using stories in your marketing or presentations to differentiate your business? Now you know I love stories, tell me yours!

If you think you might be holding yourself back from telling powerful stories in your business, it’s time to break out of the same-old marketing rut, and contact me!

I help clients recognize where they are holding themselves back, advise them of the real risks (like missing out on gaining new customers), and co-create a successful, unique and meaningful marketing strategy that cuts through the noise of the competition, to woo, win and wow customers. Having fresh eyes look at what you are already doing can help you make the small, impactful tweaks that will raise you above the crowd!

If you’re a story geek, like me, here are a few other great articles about the power of storytelling: