The power of storytelling in business with Andreea Wade

28 October

I’m back after attending my first Askaton event and I am truly hooked! Imagine a room filled with passionate business owners (or those on the brink of launching) who are interested in sharing ideas and inspiring each other to succeed. One of the taglines of the group is to ‘Ask, Share, Laugh’. I did all three of these things and met a bunch of inspiring ladies to boot! This group could help you too…

askaton dublin adreaa wade science gallery

Andreea Wade is one of the co-founders of Askaton and also owns a marketing company called Brandalism. She gave a talk about Storytelling in business. As you probably know by now, this is something that I’m really passionate about. It’s certainly not about making up stories (which is what most people think clever marketing is about). It’s about getting to the core of what you do and why you love it. Some of us get lost in the doing and making and we forget about what it was that got us started in business.

My mission this year is to connect with all sorts of new people; to seek out adventure without knowing exactly where it will lead. This is what blogging teaches you and what I’m passionate about sharing. You come to realise that sometimes the unexpected encounters are where the best things happen. They can happen online, but really, the magic happens when you get out and meet people face to face.

Andreea talked about the power of “Once upon a time”. She reminded us that, once upon a time we had a passion that led us to set up a business. This is something that we need to capture and never forget. And she reminded us that stories are about things that matter.

Andrea also spoke about how confusion is one of the greatest enemies of any marketer. As business owners, we need to be crystal clear about the message that we put out into the world. If we are not clear ourselves, how can we expect our customers to know how we can help them? The purpose of your blog is to be like a window into your business. It’s your space to chat with and educate your customers; for you to get to know them and for them to get to know you. To share what it is that you love to do and tell others why they should consider spending their money with you.

Ultimately though, people buy from people they like or can relate to. We hear this again and again but do we really understand how it works? In the chaotic, frenzied, online world, we need to find a way to make people pause and feel something. We’ve been telling each other stories for centuries; it’s how we all make sense of the world. This quote from Ira Glass, that Andreea shared, sums up the idea perfectly;

Great stories happen to those who can tell them.

So, are you interested in telling your story or finding new ways to tell people what you do? I’d highly recommend the Askaton group as a way of meeting like-minded business owners. The other thing worth mentioning is that there is a really relaxed vibe to this network. There is no power dressing or stuffy formalities. It’s about people who are into doing stuff as well as talking about it!

I give a number of different blogging courses and workshops to help business owners to learn how to talk confidently and passionately about what they do. My one-to-one classes focus purely on you and my group workshops allow for lots of interaction and cross-pollination of ideas! Would you like to be notified of my up-coming events? if so, just drop me an email or leave me a comment below. And I’m always up for a 3d coffee and chat…

Let me know if you’re a member of any collaborative business group; I’d love to put together a list that we can share.

I agree; we should all be an ‘and’.

17 September

I read a post by Jeff Haden recently, that had a big impact on me. It summed up what I believe and teach others; that it’s OK [and great] to be good at a variety of things. Jeff wrote a article called Why we should all be an ‘and’. He earns a living from several different occupations. But he finds that people react strangely when they hear that he is not just a specialist in one area. There’s an assumption that he can’t be good enough at any skill to specialise in it.

what diverse business skills do you have
 

I’m going to look at this idea from a different angle. When someone asks us what we do, we usually simplify it down to our specific skill. You might say ‘I’m a photographer’ or ‘I run a B+B’. Most of us don’t talk about our other areas of expertise; the things that make our product or service different from our competitors. When I talk about what I do now, I explain that I ran my jewellery business for fifteen years, learned how to successfully blog for it and now want to share the skill with others. I’m bringing other areas of skill to what I do now and I’m sure you do too.

It’s time for us to stop thinking that we ‘do’ one thing. Forget about paper qualifications and write down some of the additional skills you have, that help your customers. This isn’t marketing blurb; when you see these things from your customer’s view, you can understand why they would choose you over someone else.

I’m even taking this one step further; I’m actively connecting and collaborating with people who have different skills and interests to me. I guess that’s what the internet has allowed us to do. Find and introduce yourself to interesting folk online and then arrange to meet them for a chat.  It’s a major relief to realise that we don’t need to ‘know it all!’

Reassure me; tell me more.

22 July

You might be shocked to discover how many people get anxious when they visit your website or blog. I am talking ‘mild anxiety’ here, but most customers are looking for reassurance and help when they research online. The purpose of your blog is to provide answers to their questions.

Recently, I had an architect take one of my blogging workshops. The group talked about their perception of architects and our chat sounded something like this;

mark stephens architecture ireland

The thought of having a house designed or renovations done is really exciting. We’re all huge fans of Grand Designs aren’t we? But when it comes to approaching an architect, we are petrified of the process. First of all, most websites are not customer friendly and they use language that is hard to understand. We could arrange to meet an architect but would we then feel obliged to employ them? What is the process involved and how long will it take? Will it totally disrupt my family life? Will there be huge hidden costs which might bankrupt us? You can see where this conversation was heading!

A blog is the perfect place to explain your process and reassure someone who is thinking about working with you. You can’t possibly explain every eventuality but you can show that you are open and willing to make the process as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.

Mark Stephens is an Irish architect who gets this idea. He has recently added a section called ‘The Process‘ to his website. Here, he talks to the customer in simple language about what is involved in having building work done.

Mark told me why it’s so important to understand his clients’ needs and for them to understand how the design process works;

“My creative process always starts with me thinking “If I was this person, living with their circumstances – what would be the best possible solution for them, the site/house and the planners? It is only with this mindset, where you are looking for the ‘best’ solution, that although inevitably there may be compromises along the way, the initial ‘ideal’ concept carries through.”

Can you see how this way of thinking is essential for all businesses? We need to start thinking like our customers, in order to understand how we can help them. If your website simply has a product gallery and contact information, you will lose the potential customer who needs to find out more information before making a decision.

I hope I’ve got you thinking about what your customers might need help with? It could be as simple as explaining the process of how you work, as Mark has done. Share your thoughts by email or below; I’d love to hear from you!

For more information about Mark Stephens Architect, visit the website and blog.

Photo credit: Mark Stephens

A shorts story – Patagonia

10 June

What emotions do your customers feel when they buy from you? I’m not suggesting that you manipulate these emotions! I want you to think about how they align with your passion for what you do. Your passion is what your customers want to know about. And your blog is the perfect place to share it.

Patagonia are a long-established outdoor clothing and equipment company. The emotions I associate with their products are adventure and a love of the outdoors. The clothes you wear are tied in with your memories of events. That’s one of the reasons Patagonia have such loyal customers.
 

worn wear patagonia

When your customers start telling stories about how much they love your brand, you know you’re on to a good thing! Surfing couple Keith and Lauren Malloy set up a Tumblr site called Worn Wear: True Stories of People and Their Patagonia Gear. These two were inspired by the years of use they were getting from their surf gear, so they decided to start a blog where people could share stories about their favorite piece of Patagonia clothing.

Here’s one of my favourites from Melissa from Vermont;

patagonia worn wear

“Dear Patagonia,

I bought these blue Stand-Ups in 1988, in Connecticut, right before I took one of my first extended road trips around the country. That summer I traveled with a friend, cutting a kind of figure-eight through the United States. Since then the shorts have been with me to every state except Hawaii. Over the course of 25 years they have climbed mountains in New York, Colorado, Alaska, Vermont, Montana, Wyoming. They have visited the desert and the sea. They’ve sat quietly in the car across Texas and the Dakotas; they’ve seen small shacks in Louisiana, ancient Indian dwellings in New Mexico, vast fields of corn in Iowa and thirty Dead shows. The stand-ups have never, ever let me down. Each spring, they’re the first item of clothing I take out of storage. I slip them on to make sure not too much damage was done over the winter (to me, not the shorts), and then I get lost in the dream of the road, of the kind of adventure that is waiting for us all the time, and of this trusty pair of shorts that have been with me everywhere.”

-Melissa

People choose to buy for a number of reasons; mostly it’s to do with how the product or service makes them feel. So it makes sense to be aware of what these emotions are, right? I teach business owners like you how to confidently tell your business story online. In order to do that, I help you understand who your customers are and what they need help with.

I offer one day workshops to small groups as well as one-to-one sessions. I successfully blog for my business and can help you do the same. I am easy to contact and would love to hear your ideas! My next workshop is on Sunday 7th July. Early bird tickets are available until 21st June.

Credits and links:
Image via The Wornwear blog
Pataginia blog : The Cleanest Line
Patagonia on Tumblr