business growth through storytelling

I'm the sage archetype, so i geek out over data and facts and all that jazz. (I have a splash of the outlaw and lover archetypes, too... just in case you were wondering!)

But I also realize that the true power of those things are the stories I use to bring them to life. It’s the difference between appealing to the heart or the head… the rational or the emotional.

You see, friend, our stories allow us to share exactly what we stand for, who we wish to serve and why we’re uniquely suited to meet our audiences’ needs in a compelling and authentic way. Stories are a great way to showcase who we are as humans. They are also one of the best ways to make our creative endeavors relatable.

When crafted well, we can see ourselves in others' stories. We identify and empathize with them (especially if it’s happy hour related! Is that just me? Oooook...).

Long story short, pun intended, stories break down barriers between us and our audience.

Stories work well when they're interesting and engaging. You're probably rolling your eyes and saying: "Duh, Andrea!" 

Ok, smarty pants, what I meant to say is here are five stories everyone loves to hear... so be ready to tell 'em at the drop of a hat.

1. Story of Self

The story of self focuses on change, and the key moments where you made important decisions that led to where you are right now. 

Use this story type to explain your calling as a creator. Share your why with your audience in a way that helps them understand how you ended up where you are today.

Include as much of an issue or experience as possible so that your buyers and fans not only understand what sparked your initial interest in the first place... but can also relate to it within their own life experiences. 

This is a great story to:

  • Share exactly why you were called to do what you do
  • Talk about the changes you've experienced, or created for others, as a result of doing what you do

2. founding story

With this story type you’re focusing on the start of your creative empire — highlighting the advice, experiences, and decisions that led to its founding.

Typically, we start from modest beginnings. Perhaps you started on a shoestring budget busking to pay rent and gradually found success... growing to where you are now. Don't hide it.

Shout it from the mountaintops. I guarantee there are others in the same situation who think they can’t do it. Show them they can. People love hearing rags to riches stories because they are inspiring. 

This is a great story to:

  • Inspire others to realize that regardless of where they start they can also have successful businesses
  • Make you more relatable to your audience by sharing your humble beginnings or other vulnerabilities

3. what you stand for (or against)

These stories explain what you value and care about the most. They describe the moment you realized it was something non-negotiable in your life.

Since you’re talking about your beliefs with this story, you have the flexibility to tell it based on either a personal experience that's not related to your craft or something you learned while developing professionally. The right structure will be based on your audience at the time.

This is a great story to:

  • Make it crystal clear who you create your work for... and why they matter to you
  • Create a space with your audience where they feel connected to you because you share the same values, beliefs and quirks 

4. personal vision

A personal vision story explains the kind of change you hope to bring about through your work. It takes your audience on a journey where they can start to see the possibilities — a desirable and relatable future that they desperately want to achieve with you or through your art.

A great connection point is to share how the mentorship, teaching or coaching of someone you trusted influenced you and contributed to the work you produce today. Go ahead, give a shout out to Aunt Edna. She deserves it.

this is a great story to:

  • Shine a spotlight on your vision of the future — aspirations, accomplishments and accolades 
  • Excite your audience as they climb on board to take the journey with you

5. memorable customer story

With this story you're telling of an encounter that led you to think and act differently. It's about a change you made professionally or personally in order to better meet your patrons' needs.

A memorable customer story should lead back to your vision or what you stand for (or against). It's not a bragging story about a great thing you did for a buyer. The story is actually about how the interaction led to change on their behalf.

this is a great story to:

  • Shine a spotlight on the input of your top buyers and raving fans
  • Let your audience know that you see (and appreciate) them as individuals

It's going to be important to create several versions of all five story types since each one might detail different parts of your life that got you to where you are today. 

But even more importantly, friend, make sure that you personalize your story for each unique group of people. When creating stories — and when choosing which to tell — always keep your audience in mind.

For example, the story that you'd tell industry professionals would be different than the one you'd tell fans. For business contacts, you may choose a story that focuses more on the specifics of your life as a creative entrepreneur. Your story for potential customers might be about the change you want to make in the world with your art.

A few things to consider about your audience when creating or choosing a story to tell:

  • What do they think of you? Remember, a first-time visitor to your website will likely not trust you yet. Or, based on what you’ve done to date, your audience may see you as a mentor or more experienced craft person. Either way, the story you tell must reflect their thoughts.
  • How connected is your audience to you? Do they feel a kinship with you? For example, someone you’ve just met may instantly feel like they're already a member of your crew and may not need as much of your back story. Others may take a minute to warm up.
  • What will your audience relate to most? Addressing their problems and challenges should be the central hook of your story's plot.

You'll want to consider your audience not only when creating and choosing stories, but also as you tell them. Consider anything you already have in common with your peeps and bring it up throughout. Again, this makes the story you're telling more relatable which will give it more impact and make it more engaging.

Here are other ways to make your stories engaging:

  • Establish an emotional connection with your audience at the beginning — sympathy, concern, suspense, fear, excitement are just a few options.
  • Make the current story part of a bigger story. Think of it as part of a larger arc that moves your audience to action in a meaningful way. Repetition is key.
  • Make your stories share-worthy and visual. Create a buzz with your story so that your audience simply can’t help sharing it on your behalf.

Creating a personal story is more than just promoting yourself or your work. It helps you to identify your true values — in addition to helping you to share them with others. Use your story to convey yourself authentically. That close connection is what will help you far better than any other form of marketing.

Even if you’ve never told a story in your life, you can become a great storyteller!

When you put in the work to document the details and practice the delivery, your storytelling skills will improve… and people will be drawn to what you have to say.

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