In 2009 feminist, author, all around power house woman badass, Chimamanda Adiche, took to the TED stage to discuss the danger of a single story. Her hair is securely wrapped in a red, yellow and black patterned scarf, exposing her lovely round face, and she stands poised as she cautions against the act of getting caught up in one representation of a group. The novelist tells the audience that her stories are not representative of every aspect of the Nigerian experience—she makes jokes, they laugh. Adiche reminds us that while stories can be used to bring us together and bond us, if not treated properly they can separate us by only allowing one idea to shape our view of one another.
Adiche’s talk is thoughtful, thought-provoking, and delivered beautifully—and what it ultimately reveals is the POWER in a single story.
If I asked you to ask yourself if you are interesting, a large percentage of you reading this would probably shrug lightly and say no. But if I sat with you over coffee and asked you light questions, deep questions, fun questions and easy questions about the past few years in your life, I would pull out all sorts of amazing things about you. In the late 90s, CBS had a series called Everybody Has a Story, it was a very moving show about how the extraordinary can be revealed out people and things that seem to be ordinary on the surface.
When it comes to growing our businesses, it is important to include our story in our marketing strategies, and client/donor acquisition plans. Master Entrepreneur and Business Coach, Andrew Cass, lists storytelling as one of the 7 essential steps to "making your BIG IDEA stick."
Your story is a key component in the growth of your business. Let’s go back to sitting together in a coffee shop…I’ve invited you out to meet for a cup of coffee at the local French bakery. We sit down, exchange pleasantries and then I hit you with my pitch, my folder full of marketing collateral, some stats and key metrics on how and why my services are so good. We’ve gone from the weather to the sell…and besides the fact that I have great tastes in local eateries—you don’t know much about me, or why I do what I do. All you know is that I seem nice, and now you have a folder full of things to think about. Honestly, if I were you, I would forget me by that evening.
Now, let’s say, we meet at the French Bakery, we order our coffee, we exchange pleasantries, and I start to tell you that I have a background in something completely different than what I asked you here to talk about. I’m actually an IT specialist, who found God and financial security in the midst of divorce and a layoff from a job I’d held for more than a decade. I’m not sharing this with you so that we can have a girl talk or a cry fest, I’m sharing this with you because this is what informs my motivation for offering you quality and compassionate service as your financial advisor. I know what it’s like when you don’t plan, and I know what it’s like when you do. Soon, you’re talking to me about your faith, and the love God has shown you through your financial highs and lows. We’re mirroring each other’s body language smiling laughing and talking about faith and purpose. Then, I give you the folder, and there are the numbers to back me up and the stats to show you I’m legit. We sip our coffee some more, and eventually we part ways—each a little lighter for having shared the moment. Even if you don’t select my services, I know you won’t forget me…
It’s important to note that no matter how many times you’ve heard your own story—there are always people in the room that haven’t. And with that in mind, you can never be afraid to share it over and over again. If it is true, if it is sincere, if it is real, it will always resonate with your audience. Your audience will not care about your numbers, if they do not care about you.
So ask yourself, “What’s My Story?”
Write down why you started your business, does your mission statement hold true to that? Do your blogs, social media accounts, etc. reflect that?
Who do you hope to help with your business? Even if you started your organization just to make a lot of money—there’s a reason you want money (i.e. freedom, family, etc.).
Why is your business so important to you?
What qualifies you to provide this service? Dig deeper than a degree, or previous job experience. There are a lot of degrees and certifications going around—what makes you special?
The power of your story is that it is uniquely yours—you must own it, and you must deliver it with the power that it truly has. There may be days where your story feels like something you’ve said a million times, it may begin to feel old in your mouth, tired in your mind—but remember—THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER HEARD IT. Also remember, sincerity and truth are ageless.
To separate your story from your business growth strategy would be a disservice not only to your business, but to your audience—they need you, don’t let them down.
Everybody has a story, and yes, that includes you.