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Storytelling for Marketers

I’ve signed up for literally hundreds of webinars over the last few years. Why? Because I always hope that after investing two hours of my time I will be rewarded with at least one useful piece of information that will help me. Sometimes I get that one gem. Sometimes I get much more than I hoped for, and sometimes I get nothing.

After countless of hours spent listening to people who begin by recounting the story of their life I think I have the formula down. Nearly every single marketer started out in some kind of dire straits. Their story invariably included three elements:

Poverty. Illness. Death.

Sometimes all three. Honestly, had I taken out stock in Ramen noodles years ago I wouldn’t have to work so hard today. Better than the Xerox APO. Much better than buying gold at $500 an ounce.

Just once I would love to hear someone say, “I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I didn’t need extra money, but I decided to try internet marketing anyway. And guess what? I made more money and it was fun!” This would be someone I would be happy to associate with.

It’s very important for anyone trying to establish a presence on the web to convey their personal story effectively, especially marketers. It should be interesting, easy to relate to, and most important, it needs to be authentic.

Most marketers have little or no problem making their story interesting. The problem is that too many of them seem to have had the exact same experience with only minor differing details. When “things got really bad” they would end up having to sleep in a substandard place – their parents’ basement, their friend’s sofa, their car. They disappointed their parents, wives, children and friends by being an epic failure. Then one day, miraculously, they discovered the Secret to SuccessTM that Made Them MillionsTM that they are willing to share with me for a mere $47, $67, $97 or $497 dollars.

Okay, I get that you are pitching a product. That’s fine. I am somewhat more likely to buy that product since I committed to watching the webinar. But some of the personal stories I hear have no benefit to me, I find them hard to relate to, and they do nothing to convince me of the goodness of what is being sold.

Edit, please?

A popular internet marketer, whose products are very good I should add, is so enamored of his own story that he tells it over and over again. Word for word. Verbatim. And the telling of it lasts over 30 minutes! At this point I could repeat his story myself – word for word and verbatim. I am fairly sure it’s not a good thing when a prospective client attending your webinar knows that she can mute the sound for a full 30 to 40 minutes and not miss anything important. Please, don’t change your story, but change the telling of it once in a while.

Define “nothing”.

Sara was recently disappointed to learn that a famous marketer she was following, who always described himself as “coming from nothing”, actually came from a family worth two million dollars. While recognizing that everything is relative, this stretches credibility, don’t you think?

My parents came to the US from war-torn Europe with virtually nothing. They were fortunate to have family members here who were willing to provide a roof over their heads while they got jobs, learned the language and culture, and became model citizens. After they met and married life certainly was not easy. I would claim that we didn’t have enough to eat when growing up but my father was in the food business so that was never an issue. My clothes were all hand made by my aunts, which usually is indicative of modest means, but since my aunts were professionally trained in Europe my clothing was of exceptional quality and fit that could never be found in a store off the rack. My brothers and I went to college; two of us have advanced degrees. College was cheap back then, and we paid for it ourselves for the most part because we started working and saving at a very young age. When we couldn’t pay tuition our parents helped us. My father worked for a shockingly low salary but my mother was such a good manager of their very little money that they were able to buy a house, cars, and take a vacation now and then. In the end, they were well-respected members of the community who imparted stellar values to their children.

I would NEVER say that I “came from nothing”. I came from EVERYTHING. We just didn’t have much money.

My story.

I could tell you my own story of poverty, illness and death and it would be absolutely true. It would also rip your heartstrings out and make you feel sorry for me, even though I don’t feel sorry for myself. (Heaven forbid if you could relate to my experience because then I’d have to feel sorry for you!) While authentic, this part of me is not important for people to know.

Here’s what I want you to know about me: I love what I do. I love it as much, if not more, now as I loved it when I started decades ago. I adore writing and designing, branding, marketing and advertising, creatively communicating and solving problems. I also love that I get to learn something new every single day. After “practicing” my craft for so many years I have reached the Carnegie Hall stage – I’m good at what I do. If we are ever fortunate to work together I am sure we will benefit one another. At the very least I believe we will enrich each others lives just by our connection.

End of story.

Any questions? Call me at 610.937.5187 or write rhonda@contentandcreativity.com.


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This post was written by Rhonda Wenner

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