The other day, I met up with a friend and fellow female entrepreneur for coffee. We talked about her business and the struggles of being self-employed. As we sipped our lattes, we bonded over our combined experiences of hustling it out.
At one point, I discovered we had similar backgrounds in how we were raised and the entire conversation shifted. We went from discussing entrepreneurship and marketing to family and the struggles in our lives.
Our coffee date transformed from a one-hour chat about marketing to a three-hour bonding experience that went much deeper than I could've ever planned for.
Storytelling is powerful because it allows you to put yourself in somebody else's shoes and see things from a different perspective than your own. We all have our own unique stories, backgrounds, and experiences. They're what makes us who we are and brings us closer together with those who resonate with them.
What I've found is stories give us an opportunity to better relate to and communicate with others. They have the power to build these human connections and create memorable experiences.
How Stories Connect People
Let's say you're meeting someone for the first time. How do you build a connection with them?
Most likely, you'll start telling a story about something that happened to you earlier that week or a good movie you saw recently. Then, as soon as you hit a point where you find something in common with that person, you stop and discuss it further.
For example, my conversation with my friend began with her mentioning her family background. As the words came out of her mouth, my eyes widened and something clicked. I grew up that way, too!
I told her this and her face lit up. "Wait, tell me more," she said.
If we didn't have this in common, however, her story would've at least allowed me to see a different perspective from the one I was used to. It would've opened my mind to a different worldview of somebody's childhood that wasn't my own. I would've gotten an opportunity to walk in her shoes and form a better understanding of who she is.
Stories That Bring People Together
As a small business owner, you have two stories to tell. First, there's the story of how you got to where you are today; how you started, why you're here, and the challenges you had to overcome to get to this point.
Secondly, you have your customer's story. This is the story you formulate in your buyer persona. It's the challenges your customers face on a daily basis and how your product's benefits solve them.
The stories that truly bring people together are the ones that resonate on a deeper level and give people something to connect with and relate to. They're the ones that are truly vulnerable, transparent, and authentic to you and your brand. They speak directly to a specific person or type of person and make them feel as though it was crafted just for them.
The best stories involve conflict, lessons learned, and the background struggle of how the character (you/your customer) got to their resolution. These stories work for small businesses because they bring out the humanity in the brand name; after all, people buy from other people.
Bringing Humanity into Brand Storytelling
Small businesses have a unique opportunity to connect with their customers on a much deeper level than a large corporation ever could. When you're telling a powerful story, it doesn't matter how many marketing dollars you have or how pretty your Instagram feed looks - your tribe will find, resonate with, and become loyal to you.
This is only possible, however, if you're willing to bring your humanity into your storytelling. After all, it's difficult to want to become best friends with a logo - no matter how pretty it may look. But, let me warn you, it's not going to be easy.
Humans aren't perfect. That means making your brand story more human is going to require true vulnerability and the courage to admit when things get tough. It means sharing those struggles with your customers in whichever way you're most comfortable with.
Yep, I told you. Not so easy!
It's scary as hell letting it all on the line. When I did so just a couple of months ago, I was terrified. I kept thinking, "but I'm supposed to be professional - how could anyone trust me if I admit I'm struggling with this?"
But I went for it anyway. To be fair, I was at the edge of the cliff by the time I grew the courage to be truly vulnerable. I was scared, confused, and totally lost.
Then, I shared my story, and what I was most scared of happening...well, it never happened. Instead, my community grew. I found a number of amazing women who supported me and who I'm here now to support.
As you begin telling your brand story, the key is to stay true to yourself, your purpose, your values, and your passion. Try not to get lost in the numbers and validation. The moment that happens, you may lose sight of making your story - and the people in it - a priority.
So, what story can you tell to better connect with your customers?