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How to Use Storytelling to Sell Your Brand and Vision




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The reason why the Bible is the bestselling book every year is because it delivers its lessons as a series of stories. And if you don’t want to use the Bible as an example, pick any other world religion that has attracted millions of followers and has kept growing for centuries. They all deliver their lessons through stories.

Related: Marketing 101: The Art of Storytelling

People are hardwired to listen to stories and relate them to their own lives. Religions figured this out a long time ago, hence why they all use stories. Stories are simply the best possible way to transfer information into someone else’s mind and make it stick.

I can back this up with a personal example, too: When I first started speaking at events, I would give out all my best information without any stories or personal details. I would literally give people the exact tools and procedures I was using to build by own seven-figure (now eight-figure) business.

I thought, incorrectly, that this would be enough to capture people’s attention and get them to take action. Instead, I would have a room full of people politely nodding along and then giving me a lukewarm response (and lukewarm sales) on the way out.

Later, when I stumbled across my “Point, Story, Metaphor” formula, I would get off stage and have people come up to me with tears in their eyes. They would tell me that they finally got the message, they could see the light in the darkness, and they were ready to go home and save their businesses.

Here is the lesson you need to learn from that: people remember how you make them feel, not the information you give them. As an entrepreneur, it’s your responsibility to change how people see the world and have them buy into your vision. For that to happen, you need them to remember you and you need to be able to change their emotional state.

Related: Why Storytelling Will Continue to Be the Go-To Marketing Strategy in 2018

Point, Story, Metaphor

To help you become more persuasive, here is my point, story, metaphor formula. I’ll walk through an example of one of my own messages here so you can see it in action.

The Point is simple: Just directly state your lesson. For example, I always tell people, “Leadership is always the problem and leadership is always the solution.” Your Point should be simple and direct, just like that.

Next comes the Story. The Story needs to show the negative consequences of not following the Point and then show the positive outcome of following it. For example, I always follow up the Point above with the story of my own leadership crisis. Back around 2013, my franchise was in chaos. I literally had employees trying to sabotage the business, and even the ones who weren’t actively against me were doing sloppy, lazy work.

At the time, I told myself it was their fault. My moment of clarity happened when I was on vacation in Palm Springs, Calif. with my family and I realized that all the chaos was my fault. I was being too timid as leader and I was allowing people to operate with low standards. I literally cut the vacation in half and drove us all home, chanting in my head, It’s time to man up, it’s time to man up. When I got home, I fired everyone I needed to fire, including my business partner, and established higher expectations for myself and for my team. In other words, I started to act like a real leader.

That leads us to the Metaphor. The Metaphor needs to demonstrate the Point once again, but from a different angle. For example, the leadership metaphor I always use is the difference between a bad military general and a good one.

A good general will make a firm decision, communicate it clearly to his troops, and speak with confidence so that the troops will believe they’re on the path to victory. A bad general will go back and forth on his decisions, look to his troops for validation, and leave everybody feeling panicked because they feel like nobody is really in charge.

You can plug any message into the Point, Story, Metaphor formula. If it looks repetitive to you, that’s the point. It’s designed to not just deliver information, but also make the listener feel confident about implementing that information themselves.

Related: So, What’s Your Story? 3 Ways Storytelling Can Help Boost Your Business.

Why you need stories at every level

As an entrepreneur, you need to use the Point, Story, Metaphor formula to sell your product or service to your market. That shouldn’t surprise you: Virtually all proven selling systems are based on the Point, Story, Metaphor formula or something similar.

It doesn’t stop there, though: You also need to use Point, Story, Metaphor throughout your hiring and training process to attract and keep the best talent for your team. This goes back to what I was talking about in my last article: You don’t want “employees” who only show up for the paycheck, do the bare minimum, clock in a little late and clock out a little early.

Instead, you want impact-driven team members who have an entrepreneurial mindset and constantly work to deliver greater results to your clients. Frankly, those people are rare, but you can make sure you attract them to your business by telling a compelling story about why your business is different. Those high-performing people want to work for a business with strong values and a strong message — just like they have in their own lives.

Plus, having a strong story helps you differentiate yourself from other businesses who offer a similar product or service. For example, I’ve been a member of Joe Polish’s Genius Network for years. Part of why I’ve stuck with it is because I believe in his story. Polish is very public about the fact that he used to struggle with addiction, and now that he’s recovering he’s dedicated to supporting addiction recovery services to help out people who have struggled like him. Plus, he even offers employment to recovering addicts who are serious about turning their lives around. It’s an inspiring example, and it’s part of why I’m so committed to staying in his group.

Related: Why Your Frontline Staff Need to Be Your Best Storytellers

“But, I don’t have a story, what do I do?”

Yes, you do. Here’s all you need to do to find your story: First, ask yourself why you chose to be an entrepreneur. You had other options besides starting your own business. Plenty of those options would’ve come with less stress and anxiety. Why did you choose this?

When you have that answer, ask yourself why again. Then ask why again. Keep asking yourself why and writing down your answers. When you’re somewhere between five and 10 whys deep, you’ll have your story.

Here’s the amazing thing: No matter how weird or different you think your story is, you’ll start discovering people all over who identify with it once you start sharing it. And as you attract those people to become your clients, your customers, your team members, and your business partners, you will build the foundation of a true business empire.

Related Video: Why the Best Brands Are the Best Storytellers

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Why Marie Forleo Says This One Marketing Trick Is So Important




Thanks to the success of the SELF Journal (our flagship planning, productivity and success tool), our company became one of the fastest growing businesses on Shopify. BestSelf.Co.’s rapid growth helped us win Shopify’s first Build a BIGGER Business Competition and a prize that included a week of mentoring from our business heroes on Tony Robbins’ private island retreat.

Related: 5 Ways to Build Killer Relationships With Customers

Here’s what Marie Forleo, creator of MarieTV and founder of B-School, taught us about marketing while we were in Fiji.

Turn the spotlight outwards.

Image credit: Allen Brouwer and Cathryn Lavery

Forleo had a lot to share, but without question, our biggest takeaway was to tell more of our customers’ stories.

We’ve used storytelling in the past as a tool for our business. For example, we’ve shared case studies and we post examples of completed journal pages in our marketing and on social media. But, thanks to our one-on-one meeting with Forleo, we realized there’s a heap of potential we’ve not yet explored — especially because our business helps people write their own incredible stories!

All our products are enablers. Everything we create is designed to help people unlock their potential, achieve their goals and create a life they can be proud of. We’ve had people use their journal to lose weight, start a business, grow a business, write a book and run a marathon. Recently, one customer used his journal to save $20,000. As a result, our products lend themselves perfectly to storytelling. 

This is important for business growth because as Forleo reminded us facts tell, but stories sell. Our buying decisions are emotionally charged. It’s why we’ll often buy when we can imagine ourselves in someone else’s success story. When you can picture yourself feeling those same feelings of accomplishment and success, you’ll often take the same action in an effort to get those results.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Good Customer Service Is Your Most Important Metric

As a thought process it goes something like this: If they’re like me and they can do it, then so can I?

So, if you want to persuade people to buy without being manipulative, stories can do a lot of the legwork for you. It’s why we’re going to follow Forleo’s advice and share more.

Overcome objections.

Forleo also explained how she uses customer stories to overcome common objections to her offers. For example, her signature online business building program, B-School, attracts a large percentage of women. This, by default, can make men believe it’s not for them. But, Forleo told us a story of a 70-year-old man who had bought B-School and got a lot of value from it. She explained that instead of her trying to convince men that B-School could work for them too, she just tells this story. It’s a powerful example through the eyes of a real customer that busts the objection.

The words of your customers in your marketing will always be more powerful than what you say yourself.

Related: 25 Tips for Earning Customer Loyalty

Build community.

A further benefit of storytelling is the way it builds community — something Forleo is exceptionally skilled at (and that we’re keen to model). 

MarieTV hosts an audience from 195 countries and has just crossed 34 million views. Her fans connect with each other through the stories they share in the comments and often form friendships in real life. In fact, there have even been two recent weddings between people who met in her community.

Customer stories spark conversations and interactions among other customers. We see this all the time in our Facebook group, the BestSelf Alliance. Members share how they personalize their journal’s daily pages with drawings and color-coding as well as talking about their successes or asking for ideas when they’re struggling. 

The supportive community that’s sprung up around our products is incredible. We feel very humbled and inspired to see how encouraging other journal users are of each other. Forleo helped us see that this community is also a hotbed of organic stories as well as a continuous opportunity to strengthen the relationships we have with our customers.

Related: Steal These 4 Proven Customer-Retention Strategies

As a result of our time in Fiji, we’re keen to strengthen the community we’ve already built. We plan to follow Forleo’s advice and use the Alliance as a platform to reach out. For example, we plan to have more conversations with people like the $20,000 saver. When you chat with your customers, you get incredible market insights as well as stories. So, even though interviewing individuals may not be scalable (because of the time it takes), if you can get a sense from one successful client, it speaks volumes. 

We’ll also follow Forleo’s community-building lead by introducing monthly Q&A’s as well as other useful features to the Alliance. The more we can impact our customers and help them succeed, the more stories there will be to share.

Apply Forleo‘s advice to your business:

Forleo gave us a pile of examples that highlight the power of storytelling as a marketing tool. Not only can stories help to build a community (that becomes a source of more stories), but storytelling is also a proven technique that allows your audience to see how they can benefit from your product or service without you blatantly selling.

Related: Mark Cuban on Why You Should Never Listen to Your Customers

What’s more, in an age of social media, this more subtle approach can be highly effective. Stories don’t look “salesy.” Instead, they feel more natural in your customer’s timeline, which increases the chances that they’ll be viewed, shared and commented on.

Every business can tell stories. The question is which ones will you choose to share. Here are some tips:

1. Figure out a way to collect and identify your customer stories. For example, we use the Alliance as well as email feedback from customers.

2. Look at the results your products and services help customers to achieve. Are there themes that jump out? If so, these could be good stories to start with.

3. Explore different options for sharing your stories. This could include written posts, images, videos and audio. See which resonates with your audience.

Related Video: Why the Best Brands Are the Best Storytellers

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So, What's Your Story? 3 Ways Storytelling Can Help Boost Your Business.




When I served as an admissions officer for the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, one thing became abundantly clear: Every year, thousands of applicants with stellar GMAT scores, strong career experience and genuine praise from their managers got rejected (and still do).

Related: 5 Places to Use Storytelling in Your Marketing to Drive Sales

The problem, as I saw it, was that having strong credentials alone wasn’t enough to carry these candidates to the finish line. In a competitive race, they also needed to demonstrate the “fit.”

Surprisingly, though, during the many feedback sessions I led at Booth, no one asked me exactly how they could demonstrate “fit.” The answer I would have given? Successful applicants weave compelling narratives that demonstrate how their sparkling qualifications, values and goals align with Booth’s.

That rule applies across the board: Whether you’re applying for an elite MBA program or trying to win investors and woo early adopters for your startup, it’s essential to convey that you and your audience are a perfect match. After all, as entrepreneurs, we’re all in a perpetual “competitive admissions” game. Hardly a day goes by that we aren’t trying to persuade others to join us in some effort. That means that we have to prove our “fit” day after day.

Stories create that sense of fit. Even if you have a Ph.D. or MBA from a top-tier university, even if you’ve led the most respected company in your field, even if you’ve done the most extensive market research possible, the story you have to tell is always going to be worth more than strong qualifications alone. Time and time again, the people with the most compelling stories stand out.

Related: 3 Storytelling Tips for Brands in Emerging Tech Sectors

Stories, in short, enable you to prove your value, paving the way to accomplish your goals. How do you find those stories? Here’s how.

Storytelling connects us with what our audience needs.

Say you have a business (maybe you already do.) You love the products you’ve designed. You’re proud of the services you’ve worked so hard to offer. But, focusing on your products, your services, your company isn’t what your audience needs. If you want to persuade anyone to act on the information you give them, you have to shift perspectives.

Several years ago, I worked with a real estate investment trust hedge fund to revamp its pitch book. At the time, the fund’s leaders were having trouble raising more assets to manage. As I looked through their existing pitch book, I noticed that every slide was answering the same question: “We are SO awesome; why wouldn’t any client want to invest with us?”

Of course, that’s what most investment funds’ pitch books look like. Like most of their competitors, they were preoccupied with themselves.

So, my work with them began. And, in time,, they shifted toward anticipating prospective clients’ questions instead of focusing on themselves. Questions began to emerge for the pitch book — questions that a client would ask: “How did the fund have such stellar performance for so long?” and “Can the team continue its track record?”

The pitch book we completed used these questions to tell the firm’s story. It worked so well that the firm achieved its asset-raising goals within 18 months!

Storytelling differentiates us, giving us a competitive edge.

Unfortunately, your company’s long lists of accomplishments don’t give prospective clients a way to see how you’re different from other equally impressive startups. You need accomplishments plus an emotional incentive. When faced with many similar-sounding options, people make choices based on how they feel about a business and its leaders. So, make sure that business is yours.

A powerful Radio Lab episode we produced, Overcome by Emotion, illustrated this. It told the story of a hard-working accountant who developed a brain tumor. After having surgery, he lost his ability to make decisions. Why? The surgery cut him off from his “emotional mind,” making him “pathologically indecisive.” Emotions are critical to our decision-making capacity. As author Alan Weiss has noted, “Logic makes people think; emotion makes them act.”

Di Fan Liu, an onshore private banker in Beijing, is someone I know of who uses storytelling to speak to his customers’ anxieties. Liu and his firm know that their potential customers struggle to pass their wealth to the next generation. So, when they pitch their services to ultra-rich Chinese entrepreneurs, they tell stories about multi-generational family businesses that have succeeded in handing down wealth.

The catch? All the stories come from countries other than China. The company then asks potential customers to think of a fellow Chinese entrepreneur who has successfully done the same. Most of Liu’s audience can’t name a single one. This is the point at which they’re ready to hear about what his company has to offer them.

Do what he did: Once you anticipate your audience members’ emotions, tell the story they need. As I discuss in my book, Let the Story Do the Work, plot strongly influences the emotions your audience feels. For instance, shaping your business’s story as a “quest” narrative can make your audience feel restless, ready to achieve more than what life currently offers.

Storytelling establishes our personal credibility.

People don’t just want to buy a product or engage a service; they want to know what the people leading the business are like. And, according to psychologist Robert Cialdini‘s research on social influence, we tend to like people we imagine as being like us. We’re more likely to form a stronger connection with them and more likely to find their ideas persuasive!

Leading a business provides countless opportunities to demonstrate that you are like your clients. After all, clients often ask us, “So . . . tell me about yourself.” We can answer this with a story that is universal enough to make clients consider how similar our experiences are to their own.

Entrepreneur Kelly Standing of Standing Media tells a story that, thankfully, has not happened to everyone. When asked to say something about herself, she describes how her father saved her life after a bully left her hanging from a tree. Standing’s “worst nightmare” scenario is one any parent (or anyone with a similar, personal story of resilience) could relate to. And, so, it resonates.

Related: 7 Tips for Storytelling That Dazzles Audiences

In the perpetual competitive admissions game, stories prove our “fit.” But that doesn’t mean only “born” storytellers can succeed as entrepreneurs. I firmly believe that anyone can learn the methods for telling a brilliant story, and that once you’ve learned these methods, you will reach goals you never thought possible.

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