Continuing my theme of interviewing people who I believe are Marketing Experts, I recently had a fascinating conversation with Gina Balarin, The Corporate Storyteller. She happened to be in South Africa at the time, but with modern technology and Skype we were able to talk, and she shared with me her passion for storytelling, which I will share with you here.
Gina has been interested in stories for as long as she can remember. Once, as a child, she recalls being asked by her mother what was wrong, because she was crying while playing with her toys. Surprised to have been interrupted, she replied that she wasn’t crying – her dolls in her dolls house were!
She was simply acting out the story she had created for them. In fact, she has been creating stories all her life and told me that her father tells the most wonderful stories. So it makes sense to her to use stories now in marketing.
However, Gina believes that the power of the story has been ignored until recently. Why the come back? Because authencity is creeping to the fore of business. Now clients want to understand the real story behind your business and your service, rather than be bamboozled with pseudo-science or fake facts. Prospects want something much more personal and believeable. Stories created by clients talking about your business and why they work with you are the most genuine and authentic marketing tools that you can use. Rather than relying on your own words, Gina says that using the words of your clients is like sprinkling fairy dust over your marketing!
Tell Me a Story
How do you do this? Simply by asking your clients about why they work with you. Larger companies are doing this more and more now through the use of case studies, testimonials on their websites, blogs, videos and podcasts. Bigger businesses often face barriers to writing stories or trying something different – for example, it can take too long for a case study to be signed off by the PR department of their client. But small and micro businesses can quickly make the most of the technology available to leverage the power of stories. It doesn’t take long to call a client, ask them a few questions, write up a case study and ask them to check it. As an example, Gina and I spoke for about 40 minutes about the content of this blog; it then took me around an hour to write it up from my rapidly typed notes. If I had recorded the conversation, I could have produced a podcast even more quickly.
Telling stories about your business allows you to get personal. Put a face to each story to help your prospects identify with the type of people you already work with. Gina told me about one of her clients who creates podcasts with an audience of just one! He selects one of his highly targeted prospects and has a conversation with them. He can tell them stories about other people he has worked with, just like them. Personal, one-to-one interaction is very powerful. He can then leverage that podcast by sending it to other, equally targeted prospects, to show them how he can help them too.
Who is the Hero?
Gina says that all stories must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning is where your client was, before you came along to help them. For me, they are usually coaches who are struggling to stand out from the crowd and finding it hard to attract enough clients. Then comes the middle – how you help them. For my clients it could be by helping them to find their way through the crowded coaching market, or giving them the confidence they need to blow their own trumpet. And finally the end – the results you help them to achieve. Recently one of my clients won an £8,000 coaching contract with a client as a result of the help and support that I gave him. (I will be writing up a full case study about this great success very soon, thanks to these tips from Gina!)
A vital element to add to your story is the antici …pation! You don’t have to give it all away in one go. Draw your audience in through the story, sharing plenty of value with them. Then you can tell them that you will share with them the secrets of how you achieved these great results and how they can do it too … if they click a link or fill in a simple form (name and email only) to receive something extra for free. Human beings want to know the end of the story and what happened next. When you give away enough value throughout the story, you will have them hooked and happy to take the next step, in order to get the golden nugget at the end. Build up trust through your story, with a truly authentic connection and they will be ready to ask you for more.
Every story needs a Hero – the person who goes from nothing (the Coach with no coaching clients) to something (an £8,000 contract), but they can’t do it alone. Every story also needs the Wise Person, the Magician – that’s you! You are the character in the story who solves their problem and shows them the way to success.
Stories can be told across any medium – video, audio or writing (from 1 sentence to 100).
Videos are very good for converting prospects to clients because they are so personal and authentic. However, some people don’t like the idea of being filmed, so ask gently and give your clients guidance about what they might say. Ask the question – how did I help you to solve your problem?
In the public speaking world, the best talks we hear (Gina and I met through the Professional Speaking Association) are when people are being authentic and are telling thier stories.
Gina says that you can even use anonymous stories when a client doesn’t want to put their name to the published story. When you use their words and tone of voice and it will be obvious that it’s a real story, even if you can’t put a face to it.
How could you use videos, blogs, talks or podcasts to share your stories and use them to attract new clients? Whichever medium you choose, use words from your clients and their stories about how you help them in their businesses and you will be able to sprinkle fairy dust across your marketing!
Thank you Gina, for a fascinating conversation and for allowing me to share all this with my readers. Gina is the author of The Secret Army: Leadership, Marketing and the Power of People and would love to connect with you on LinkedIn.
In the A-Z of Marketing Experts, who will H, I and J be for? If you would like to be interviewed for this blog series, or you have any suggestions of other Marketing Experts, do get in touch.