Martin Luther King said ‘I have a dream,’ not ‘I have a strategy and vision.’
A dream is so much more compelling than a strategy or vision. We have all experienced dreams and know what they are. We can get our arms around them and can imagine them. Strategies and vision, on the other hand, are too often associated with power point presentations.
About Story Telling
The age-old practice of storytelling is one of the most effective tools of a business leader. It is a skill that connects and engages people at their deepest level.
Stories are critical to every aspect of your business and help the listener to consider their own possibilities in the context of the story. They can inspire everything from understanding to action. They help galvanize an organization around a deﬁned business goal by telling about where you business is and where it is going. Stories help clients decide to work with you. Some of our most acknowledged leaders in business including Steve Jobs of Apple, Lou Gerstner of IBM, and Jack Welch of GE owe their success in part to their story telling abilities.
Stories can create legends that an entire workplace culture can build upon, and they have the power to break down barriers and turn a bad situation into a good one. They capture our imaginations and make things real in a way that cold, hard facts can’t.
Stories help people learn, absorb, remember and share information and ideas. They motivate, persuade, inform and inspire. Compelling stories have far-reaching emotional impact – and a far longer shelf life than the dry, abstract, one-way methods of corporate communications that clutter businesses today. Stories demonstrate what success looks and feels like, painting a clear picture of how we might need to change the way we think and do things.
Stories are the compelling message that enroll others in your vision, and enable you to create an organization where the employees join you in creating equity in your business.
Every story has a purpose that you want to clarify at the outset, as well as selected to match the listeners’ interest or situation. Each recipient of your story is unique and your story wants to reflect the needs of each audience.
As a small business owner, many of your stories will be intended to move prospective clients to use your services. Story objectives for the small business owner include:
- Have a prospective client identify with the problems you solve
- Communicate who you are and who you work with
- Transmit a sense of your values
- Foster collaboration
- Leading clients and staff into the future
There Are 5 Basic Elements To A Story
A protagonist the listener cares about
The story must be about a person or group whose struggles we can relate to – your client, your team, your associates, and service providers.
A catalyst compelling the protagonist to take action
The listeners’ desire, pain, need or challenge. The facts. What is it that your client comes to you for? Look beyond he obvious and understand what he or she wants more deeply. For example the person shopping for a Mercedes Benz is shopping for prestige more so than transportation. This is your stories first act.
Trials and tribulations
The story’s second act commences as obstacles produce frustration, conflict, and drama, and leads the protagonist to seek change in an essential way – to use your product or services.
A turning point
This represents a point of no return, which closes the second act. The protagonist can no longer see or do things the same way as before. She takes an action as a result of your intervention.
The third act tells how the protagonist either succeeds magnificently (or fails tragically if she did not use your services).
This is the classic beginning-middle-end story structure defined by Aristotle more than 2,300 years ago and used by countless others since. It seems to reflect how the human mind wants to organize reality.
What’s your story?
Your story may be for your prospective clients, your employees, or other stakeholders
In crafting a story to attract clients, begin with identifying a specific prospective, new client that you want and create a story to narrate how you helped someone else who struggled with the same challenges. You will have to do some homework in understanding your prospective client’s needs. Identify the situation that is similar, and begin a story about the problem that client had. You can start your story with “Once upon a time….”.
And most importantly, practice. You can begin simply what a story about how you helped a client. Practice and practice your story, before different audiences – at first low stake audiences. Watch and listen to see how your story resonates; and experiment with different element and expressions until you get the reaction you want, “Can I hire you?”
If you want to read one of my stories see my blog of December 2005 that tells how it is that I came to be doing what I do.