Tell better stories to stand out from the crowd
Robert Tighe explains the spotlight versus mirror approach to storytelling and what it can do for business. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How do I stand out from the crowd?”, “How do I cut through all the noise and attract customers who want to buy my product or service?”, or “How do I build a […]
Robert Tighe explains the spotlight versus mirror approach to storytelling and what it can do for business.
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How do I stand out from the crowd?”, “How do I cut through all the noise and attract customers who want to buy my product or service?”, or “How do I build a personal or business brand?” – telling better stories is the answer.
Storytelling for business isn’t about telling stories for the sake of it. You need to tell stories that explain where you’ve come from and what inspired you to follow the path you’re on.
You need to tell stories that connect with your customers. You need to use the spotlight and mirror approach.
“Customers don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own,” writes Donald Miller in Building a StoryBrand. “Your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand. This is the secret every phenomenally successful business understands.”
This is the mantra of most marketers and copywriters these days. The theory is that by holding up a mirror to your customer and identifying their problem you’re more likely to connect with them.
That’s a great strategy, BUT customers need to be able to identify with your story before they can trust you and your product or service – particularly if you’re in the B2B or service sectors.
If every company in your industry is holding up a mirror to the customer there’s a risk they’ll be blinded by the light, or the BS! It creates a house of mirrors effect (the kind that used to be popular in old-school funfairs) where the customer gets lost in a maze of carbon copy messaging and empty clichés.
As well as using a mirror to convince the customer you feel their pain, you also need a spotlight to highlight what makes you different from your competitors, what makes you uniquely qualified to do what you do. Start by telling your story.
Sharing your story on social media, your website and marketing communications is your way of telling the world: “This is me. This is who I am. This is what I stand for.”
The stories you tell depend on your industry. If you’re selling widgets, nobody really cares about your backstory as long as the widget works. But even then you need to inject some personality into your brand. People buy products that align with their own personal brand and values, or help them get closer to their aspirational, idealised version of themselves. If your business brand aligns with their personal brand, you’ve got a match.
If your spotlight isn’t focused enough, your message can miss the intended target. Authenticity is key. Don’t make up stories for the sake of it.
Tell versus trigger
On a recent episode of the StoryHacker podcast, Nick Warren talked about the importance of telling stories about ourselves as well as stories that trigger our target audience.
“We all have a backstory which is about us, but there is also a front story which is the copy about our customers, our clients, our prospects, telling themselves a story about what their lives will be like if they buy this product,” he says.
“The story we tell is about the brand whereas the story we trigger is about the sale, or the customer thinking about their lives if they do this particular thing we want them to do.
When we work on the stories we trigger we’re working on one thing, one offer, one product. When we work on our brand we are raising the value of all of our pieces of work and the yet-to-be-created.”
So if you want to differentiate yourself from your competitors – step into the spotlight and polish your mirror.
You need both to connect with your customers.
Robert Tighe is an award-winning journalist and the founder of Storybud – specialising in helping business leaders find and tell better stories to build their brand and grow their business. www.storybud.co