Power Stories By Valerie Khoo

Valerie Khoo's book. Got to get a copy.

Valerie Khoo’s book. Got to get a copy.

This morning I was part of a webinar where writer, businesswoman and all round inspiration Valerie Khoo, challenged us to think about the way we use storytelling in our businesses.

I loved Valerie’s presentation because I am also a big fan of using stories as the basis of any marketing strategy. In fact, the work we do at Straight Shooter is based on our theory that ‘Marketing is telling – and selling – a compelling story to the right people, at the right time and for the right reasons.’

If you are interested in learning more about the types of stories you can develop for yourself and your business, check out Valerie’s book Power Stories: The 8 stories you MUST tell to build an epic business.

The webinar was run by the Australian Businesswomen’s Network. This organisation has terrific resources for businesses of all stages and sizes, with more webinars coming up soon.

Finally, Victoria’s Small Business Festival is underway with hundreds of events, exhibitions, competitions and ideas to choose from. Check out the program and book yourself in for some time to focus on you and your business.

Do you use storytelling in your business?

Handling Work Conversations With Family and Friends

lamb roastImagine this scenario:  Jenny and Bill had 15 people for dinner at their place recently to celebrate Christmas in July. Jenny was busy with preparations for weeks leading up to the event and Bill was determined to get the house and yard looking great – as well as cooking his famous roast lamb.

The guests began to arrive and Bill was pouring champagne. It had been a busy start to the year for him and Jenny had started a new job, so it was great to have time to stop and catch up with everyone.

‘How’s the business going Bill?’ each guest would ask in turn.

‘Pretty good – busy,’ Bill would respond.

‘What about you Jenny? How’s the new job?’ they asked.

‘Fine,’ said Jenny. ‘I hit the ground running.’

And on they would move to the next topic.

Both Bill and Jenny missed a great marketing opportunity here.

Bill could have elaborated, ‘Our numbers were down after Christmas and New Year, so we launched a new software product that is particularly helpful for services providers like doctors, accountants, lawyers. Our new clients are really loving it. I’ll flick you an email next week in case you have any contacts that might be interested.’

Jenny might have said, ‘Yes I started as office manager for a local group of health practitioners. It’s a great bunch of really experienced and energetic physios, sports medicine specialists, a podiatrist and a nutritionist. The business is growing fast so my job is challenging, but in a good way. We’re looking for new premises soon because we’re running out of space.’

In just ten seconds, Bill and Jenny might have told their guests a lot more about their work which may even had generated some business, advice or assistance. You see among their guests were:

Harry – a real estate agent with back issues
Bella – returning to work at a law firm and wearing heels again was agony
Simone – an architect who recently ran her first marathon and is looking to do more
Stuart – a struggling artist from a family of medical specialists
Peter – an accountant who is looking to lose 25 kilos, starting tomorrow
Kate – has 1,200 friends on Facebook and 1,480 Linkedin connections.

Many people are reluctant or even embarrassed to tell their family and friends about work. They think no one will really understand what their do so they don’t bother explaining. They might not want to be seen to be ‘talking themselves up’ or ‘getting a big head’.  They might be concerned about conflicts of interest or jealousy. Maybe things are not going so well and they don’t want to worry people? Or perhaps they don’t want to think or talk about work in their down time?

But you just never know where and when you might come across mutually beneficial opportunities or a way to help each other out – professionally as well as personally.

Tell them your story in a quick, informative manner – you don’t want to be a bore. Then ask them about themselves until you have a clear picture of what they do and who they do it for.  It would feel great to be in a position to send some business to a mate or put a family member in contact with someone great.

Think about your recent gatherings with family or friends. Did anyone ask you about work? If not, why? If they did, how did you respond? Do you think your mother, or brother, or best friend could describe what you do for a living? If not, have a conversation soon so you can help share each other’s stories.

What I’ve Learned About Great Stories

Once upon a timeIn my work I talk a lot about stories. But what exactly do I mean? Here are a few tips I have learned along the way about telling great stories and the benefits this approach can bring to you and your business:

  1. Great stories sell. Finding the great story in your organisation or about yourself is key first step in any marketing or communication plan. The story then tends to reveal inherent and obvious promotional opportunities.
  2. Great stories are genuine. The bonus of this approach is that the key selling points are authentic and the benefits are real. This instantly raises the comfort factor for the seller because they feel confident about what they are offering.
  3. Great stories are a delicate balance between fact and aspiration. You need to present who you are and what you have achieved as a case for where you want to go and who you want to be.
  4. Great stories are drafted from the audience’s perspective. What do your customers or potential clients want to hear about you? What will motivate them to act? What will stick in their minds about you or your organisation?

Stories can take different forms and can be drawn from a range of sources. A company needs internal stories to support staff development and culture plus external stories to sell organisational key messages to relevant audiences. The stories may focus on the achievement of one strong leader or on the commitment of many working towards a shared goal. In some cases the stories are obvious yet in others it may require more strategic questioning to tease out the threads and pull them together as effective messages.

In my view, a carefully crafted story with memorable key messages will always be a more effective form of communication than a list of services could ever be.

Can you think of organisations or people who are telling a great story? Let me know by leaving a comment.

A Tribe of Scribes

I have a new theory that we are all connected. When I say all, I mean all of us that are compelled to share our story with the world – bloggers, writers, songwriters, dancers, artists and creators of all kinds. Those of us who have an innate inkling that we have something to say that just might be interesting enough for someone else to appreciate. Those who feel and act upon that moment of confidence or nagging curiosity which implores us to test our instinct, to make our work available and to steady ourselves to react to the reactions.

Storytelling is unquestionably the most effective way to teach, to learn and to understand about yourself, about others and about the world. For those of us who are incurable storytellers – those who simply cannot resist the urge to share – we play an important role in history, for our families, for our communities and potentially something much bigger.

You see I believe that at some point, many years from now, sociologists studying this period will refer to it as ‘The Age of Sharing’. An unprecedented time of chronicling, enabled surely by technology, but delivered by an army of storytellers enthusiastically brandishing their thoughts, ideas and experiences. Scientists may dig a little further to uncover a part of the brain that specifically relates to compulsive storytelling. They will trace this genetic link back through the lineage of the great storytellers of our time to hypothesise and prove that we are indeed direct descendants of ancient scribes who chiselled in stone and painted cave walls and gilded castles and churches to document the stories of their generations. They will find that we are all connected as one large, enduring tribe of scribes just trying to make sense of life and do our part to record our history.

So today I want to celebrate storytelling and revel in my place as part of the tribe. To seriously and responsibly fulfil the legacy of all those who have gone before me.  To teach, to learn and to understand.