Browsed by
Tag: Marketing

5 Simple Questions That Drive Repeat Business

5 Simple Questions That Drive Repeat Business

I admit it.  I am becoming obsessed by the challenge of creating “High Touch” in a world dominated by “High Tech”.  

Here’s what we know.  People buy from people they know and trust.

You can use the internet to attract people.  Then it’s up to you to get to know them.

Here’s a short post with 5 great questions you must know the answers to if you are win loyal, repeat clients and customers.

Delivering Happiness Takes High Touch, Not High Tech

Happiness is more than just a state of mind and Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is on a mission to prove it. I had the privilege of seeing Tony speak for The American Marketing Association and after two pages of notes I examined his philosophy and realized why the businesses he’s managed have been so abundantly successful.

Even if I wasn’t quite sure about this “happiness speak” (which I am, of course, being the happy, cheesy person that I am) Tony would have received my full attention if for no other reason than the fact that he sold a business to Microsoft at the age of 24 for $265 million.

In our high-tech world we are trained to shift further and further away from live, in person interaction but doing so hurts us in the end. We have email, text messaging, social media, videos, assistants, project managers and on and on, each removing us from the core customer experience. Tony spoke about their customer call center, and how there are no “time limits” for each order, and that the record for their longest customer service call was 7 hours!

How different would your business look if you were able to authentically touch and connect with more people? In the Zappos model the telephone is key. There are no scripts, no upselling, a 365 day return policy and they’ll even recommend their competitor when they can’t fill a need themselves! Wow!

Here are the 5 key questions that they use to evaluate the customer experience:

1) What do customer expect?

2) What do customer actually experience?

3) What emotions do customers feel

4) What stories do they tell their friends?

5) How can your culture create more stories and memories?

It took a year for Tony and his team to determine their core values.Amongst them are humility, embracing and driving change, creating fun, creativity, adventure, the pursuit of growth and learning, positivity and passion. Each of these things helps them to deliver the wow factor. A company’s brand and culture are two sides of the same coin. As you look at the list above do you feel motivated, frustrated or disappointed?
Why is Selling the Most Important Skill to Have?

Why is Selling the Most Important Skill to Have?

Today’s blog describes why learning the art of selling may be one of the most important skills you can learn.  Yes, yes, I know, like many small business owners, you say, “I just don’t have time for that.”  Or, you might say, “I don’t want to be a ‘sales person.'”

Guess what?  Selling is a critical skill every business owner needs.  

Long ago, and far away, I had an economics professor in college who had a simple premise.  “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.” 

Read on to find out why this is so important. 

Why You Should Consider Taking That Sleazy Sales Job

By Tim Murphy • January 16, 2012


Learning to sell is one of the best skills you can bring to your career — and life.

Recent college grads often think, “Meh/ugh (or some other whiny noise), I don’t want to do sales.”

Either they think a sales job is beneath them, they don’t want their pay to be tied to performance or they just “don’t like the idea of selling something.”

I’ve been there, too; I actually felt bad for my friends who were “reduced” to sales jobs right out of college. And I’ve seen friends adopt an air of apology when explaining that their job involved sales. Oh, the shame!

But that approach is plain old stupid. Being able to sell is everything.

Every idea you pitch to your boss,every business you want to start andevery job interview you have are all about selling. Sometimes it’s an idea, other times it’s a product or service, and it almost always involves selling yourself. The ability to sell is an absolutely critical skill, and taking a job that forces you to learn and master the art of sales early on in your career is a great move.

Get over yourself

If you are a recent college grad, chances are good that nothing is beneath you. Sorry, but that’s how it goes. People love to say they’re willing to “start at the bottom” and “work my way up the ladder,” but when they are presented with such an opportunity, they recoil in terror.

Taking a sales job is hardly starting at the bottom, but there’s definitely an air of superiority implicit in anyone who disregards sales as an unworthy profession.

Are you just afraid?

The reasons why we have negative perceptions of sales as a career vary, but part of it is the thought that salespeople are “sleazy.” That stereotype does a great disservice to young professionals everywhere. “Sales involves being sleazy,” so the flawed logic goes, “thus my dismissal of a sales position must be due to my integrity.”

The fact is that a career in sales can be quite challenging, and that’s intimidating. But associating a sales position with being “sleazy” allows people to give themselves a pass, rather than take on a difficult, sometimes uncomfortable job. In other words, a lot of people don’t want to do it because they’re scared.

To the bold goes the paycheck

While some of us are intimidated by the prospect of salary being tied to performance, others wouldn’t have it any other way. They see a set salary as a cap, a limit to their potential, while a sales commission-based salary is only limited by their abilities.

That’s why lots of people in sales make great money, eventually landing the set salary and the ability to make a bunch more via commissions. Adopt the right attitude and sales-based pay can be very attractive and lucrative.

Learn to pitch

The ability to sell is one of the most versatile skill sets a person can have. It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineer, an architect, a waitress or a business owner – if you can’t sell, you’re severely handicapped.

At some point, probably more often than you’d think, we all have to sell, and taking a job in sales forces you to learn the craft quickly. Making sales calls and presentations hones your critical thinking, on-the-fly thinking, public speaking and interpersonal skills like nothing else.

Plus, part of making a sale is negotiating – another tremendous skill set. By the time you need to negotiate a salary, ask for a raise, buy a house, a car, a business or sign a lease, the practice you’ve had at negotiating and working through alternative prices to close a deal will pay huge dividends.

Bottom line: taking a sales job is a great way to jumpstart your career, make good money, become a pitching and negotiating pro, and turn yourself into a well-rounded professional.

You might not want to be “in sales,” but the fact is,you don’t really have a choice. You’re going to have to pitch, sell and negotiate regularly throughout your life. Rather than brushing off sales as “not for you,” why not embrace it and get to work mastering a skill you’re going to need, regardless of profession?

Tim Murphy is founder of, a free application tracking tool.

Why Storytelling is Important for Your Business

Why Storytelling is Important for Your Business

One of my readers posted a comment asking for more posts on using story telling to promote our businesses.  

Using stories about your business, your products, or your service is a powerful way to get people to remember you.  And, when people remember you, they will buy from you. 

Here is a great post telling you more about it. 


For as long as there has been language, there have been stories. Indeed, since the dawn of civilization, stories have been essential to our communication, our understanding of the world, our relationships with one another and the very survival of our species. From early cave paintings and practical warning stories to tales of soaring imagination and comforting tradition, stories have defined humanity through time and continue to shape our world today.

So what makes a good story?

Think back to your favourite story from childhood. (You know, the one you sneaked under the bedclothes and read by torchlight, the one with the dog-eared corners, the one you or your mother has still got in the attic somewhere.) Chances are, the book you’re thinking of contained one or more of these elements:

  • Simplicity – It had a clear structure and few characters.
  • Memorability – Even now, you remember the main plot, character or even the words/rhyme/rhythm.
  • purpose – The story had a message or moral to ‘take home’.
  • Shareability – Whether your mum or dad read it to you on their lap or your friends couldn’t get enough of it, it was something you wanted to talk about.
  • Comfort – You read and re-read it, especially when you were tired, upset or ill, and it never failed to cheer you up.
  • Imagination and adventure – The story whisked you away to a wonderful world of make-believe and excitement, where anything could happen.
  • Character – You could identify completely with the main character or felt as though they were a real person.

For adults, stories are no different. As well as being a quick and effective means of communication, a good story is one that allows us to visit new worlds, imagine new solutions and share ideas. The process of reading a story is fun and relaxing and a good story itself is memorable, shareable and often inspiring. From literature, art and film to business, religion and politics, stories permeate all aspects of our lives and are present across all cultures, languages and societies.

Above all, stories make an emotional connection, which is unsurprising given that our individual and collective lives are, in themselves, stories. Able to make us angry or irritated, and provoke laughter or tears, the sheer power of the story to affect us at a deep, human level cannot be underestimated.

But what does this have to do with your business?

If you are running a business or promoting yourself as an ‘individual brand’, your story is a strong and effective means of marketing. Telling your story can:

  • Increase brand recognition
  • Encourage followers
  • Build a loyal community
  • Maintain existing clients/customers
  • Increase visitors to your website
  • Increase sales
  • Increase clicks/downloads/sign-ups
  • Establish you as an expert in your field

As I mentioned above, a good story is one that is both memorable and shareable. And in today’s fast-paced, socially connected world, that’s very important for businesses and for brands.

Although we are increasingly seeing ‘content creation’ and ‘content curation’ as central to marketing and publicity and the creation of job titles such as Director of Content or Content Marketing Manager show that businesses are taking content seriously, there’s often still something missing, and a lot of business blogs, ebooks, whitepapers and corporate documents are failing to hit their mark because of their lack of storytelling ability and emotional impact.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be running a series of blog posts that focus on how to harness the power of storytelling to build your brand and to communicate effectively with your target audience, whether you’re a small business owner, a self-publisher or a budding entrepreneur. So keep watching this space to find out how the art of story can make your small business more effective, more recognisable and ultimately, more profitable.

For more about what we do, visit our website or follow us on Twitter,Facebook or Google+. You can email us too

Why Building Customer Relationships Should be #1 on Your List.

Why Building Customer Relationships Should be #1 on Your List.

As Small Business Owners, we all know the importance of customer service and customer relations.  Unfortunately in the “high tech” world in which we live, building customer relations is pushed aside.  Many business owners feel they “just don’t have time.”  

People buy from people they know and trust is one of the basic tenets of marketing.  The attached article explains why taking the time to build long term relationships with prospects should be # 1 on our to-do list each day. 


Today’s marketing landscape is radically different than it was just one decade ago. It continues to evolve at an ever-increasing rate, keeping pace with the latest technological innovations.

mobile tech

Successful companies have adapted to the demands of this new environment, integrating competitive SEO and social media campaign initiatives into their marketing portfolios. Those who turn their backs on these changes put themselves at a steep disadvantage. However, those who are a bit too eager to go full-tech run the risk of falling even further.

The problem isn’t that businesses choose to embrace the high-tech transformation. After all, in order to remain relevant, a company needs to play ball on the same field as its competition. More often than not, that field is digital, at least to some degree.

Instead, the problem is going digital without a plan to preserve high-quality, high-touch relationships with clients.

A High-Touch Game Plan in a High-Tech World

Get Cultured

As in any relationship, it is important to develop an assured sense of self before committing to something serious and long-term. Companies must know who they are, what principles they represent, and exactly where and how their customers fit into their communities.

A business’ culture determines the way it is perceived by the public. This culture must be developed from within and include employees at every level of the organization. Having a firm hold on one’s guiding ideologies is critical to building and maintaining sincere, lasting partnerships with customers.

Why? Because a company that lacks a cohesive sense of itself generally cannot act with precision or uniformity. This same company will also have a difficult time managing its public image and brand.

When customers are not sure what to expect from a particular business-or when they are led to develop inaccurate expectations-they are taken aback by apparent violations of that business’ compliance with its own values. The same is true when a business tries to reinvent itself without a thorough, well-thought-out course of action in place before any transition is made.

Developing a robust culture takes time, but it is a worthwhile investment that bolsters businesses’ trustworthiness and reliability. Doing so will provide a strong foundation for positive and profitable customer relationships.

Focus on the Future

In the competitive global marketplace, it is easy to develop a form of nearsightedness. The allure of a quick sale often appears more attractive than the somewhat blurry prospect of a partnership that might lie farther down the road.

This nearsightedness can come at a high cost when one-time customers aren’t converted into repeat clientele. This is especially true now, when the prevalence of e-commerce puts even more competitors’ products and services in front of prospective clients. As a result of this, fostering brand loyalty is-as a rule-more difficult than it used to be.

Here’s the bottom line: It is important to invest time and resources in optimizing a customer’s experience before, during, and after a sale. Focusing on a sustainable future, rather than just a lucrative present, is the best predictor of a business’ ability to thrive over time.

Reach Out

Simply because a business only operates an online storefront, there is no rule that its presence must be limited to the digital world as well. There are many ways to remind customers that there are real live people running a website, and that these people are thinking about them.

Tried-and-true strategies from the age of traditional offline marketing still offer plenty of value. Customer appreciation events, notes written by hand (or at least signed by an actual person), distribution of promotional items or freebies, and participation in community events gives businesses a face-and sometimes even a heart.

Get A Little Personal

It’s possible to save money by replacing traditional customer service specialists with automation technology. Alternatively, these positions can be outsourced to third party firms-oftentimes firms that have no genuine stake in the companies that contract them.

The first scenario is problematic because customers want to feel like they’re interacting with real people when they make purchases. The second scenario is little better, as customers also want-and deserve-to feel valued. Part of feeling valued is sensing that a business is grateful enough for their patronage to ensure that they receive expert advice and service from representatives who embody the spirit of the company that employs them.

It is important to create opportunities for customers to interact with friendly, professional personnel. It’s not a bad idea, either, to encourage personnel to stray from highly scripted conversation into the territory of casual chat.

About the Author: Gary Austin is the CEO of, a company focusing on high quality promotional pens and fantastic customer service.

Photo credit: Johan Larsson


How to Sell Without Selling

How to Sell Without Selling

We all know the ability to sell our product or service is crucial to the success of our business.  When I talk to small business owners, the biggest complaint I hear is,”But, I’m not a sales man (or woman)!”  I have studied the art of selling for many years. (Yes, it is an art.)  Here’s the good news.  At its core, selling is really all about listening.  Here is an excellent article explaining just how that works.

Death of a Salesman: The Art of Selling Without Selling








Death of a Salesman

As a small business owner, you’ve probably thought to yourself, “I’m not a salesman (or woman), how am I supposed to market myself or product?” The beauty of marketing is that you can sell without actually selling.

But how can this be?

I’m going to focus on social media marketing for the sheer fact that I’ve had many small business owners say to me, “I post my products on Facebook, but no one seems to care.” People don’t care because you haven’t given them a reason to care.

Let’s use a real life example. Let’s say it’s the first time I met you and all I did was talk about myself and what I wanted you to do for me. Would you continue to talk to me? I’m not a gambler, but I think it’s safe to bet that the answer would be no.

Give your audience a reason to like you

In social media marketing, or really any form of marketing, you rarely want to talk about yourself. This might seem counter intuitive but if you talk about things your audience cares about, educate them about the topics you are an expert in, and let them speak their minds, they will be much more willing to listen to you when you do talk about yourself.

Remember, you are an expert in whatever you do and your audience knows that. This gives you the opportunity to show off your expertise and build relationships with your customers. For example, if you are a hair salon owner, offer a daily tip about how to do your hair. This can be anything from “Tip: If you’re going to curl your hair, make sure you do not wash it for 12 hours before curling,” to a video tutorial about how to style your hair for a black tie event.

When you show off your expertise, your customers will appreciate you for educating them about the things they’re interested in. Also, the next time they are looking for a hair salon, they’ll think of you first because you gave them such great tips on how to do their hair at home.

Let your audience talk about themselves

People love to talk about themselves. This is no surprise to any of us, so tap into that urge. Ask your audience questions related to your brand or create a poll and let them participate. The best thing about doing this is that you’re not only increasing engagement but you’re learning who your audience is, what they’re interested in, and what they’re looking to learn from you.

Let’s go back to the hair salon example. Why not ask your audience, “What hair style have you tried at home but can’t seem to get right?” This question allows your audience to interact and participate with you, and (this is a big AND) it helps you understand what your customers are struggling with. You can then take this knowledge and create a workshop or tutorial to help them with that tricky hairstyle or simply make sure you’re offering that specific service.

Make your audience laugh

So many people are afraid to post things that are not directly related to their brand. This is a fear you need to overcome.

Again, we return to the hair salon. You can post a picture of a dog having a bad hair day and have a caption that says, “Looks like Fido should have come into the salon today.” You can also go a little further off topic but make sure to bring it back to your audience. TheConstant Contact Facebook Page has a ton of great examples of this…but here’s one of my favorites:

Constant contact funny Girl Cube

Use the 80/20 rule

This does not mean that you can’t promote yourself. By building relationships with your customers and ensuring 80% of your content is for them, you can then throw in 20% about yourself without the fear of scaring them away.

Now that you’ve engaged your customers with the valuable information they’re looking for, allowed them to talk about themselves, and entertained them, they’ll be willing to listen to your promotions without feeling like they’re just another person you’re selling to.

Your promotions don’t have to feel “salesy” either. There are ways to talk about your new product without saying, “We have a new brush…come buy it now!” Never say “buy it now.” This is a pitch your customers will run from. Instead, why not post a picture of that new brush with the brand name below and a caption that reads, “It’s waiting for you!”

No salesman allowed

Not a salesman? That’s perfect! People don’t want to be sold to. There are numerous ways to spin your content so you are selling them without making them feel like you’re selling them. This is the key way to build engagement and relationships.

Just remember, if you read your content and realize you’ve been talking about yourself more than 20% of the time, it’s time to change your strategy. Take a step back and interact with your customers. You can sell without selling!

What steps have you taken to sell without selling? Have you seen an increase in your customer engagement? Let us know in the comments below.








Here’s 4 Ways to Find What Your Customers Want.

Here’s 4 Ways to Find What Your Customers Want.

One the biggest challenges facing us as small business owners is finding out just what our customers and clients really want.  Here is an excellent article that outlines 4 ways to do just that. 

4 Strategies for Getting to Know Your Customers with Mobile

To increase your customer retention and loyalty, it is important to learn as much as you can about your customer base. By recognizing and understanding their needs, wants, and buying habits, you can anticipate and meet their expectations. There are many different ways to learn more about your customers, including a well-crafted text message effort.

Mobile can be used to gain insight about your customers in two different ways. It provides a forum for conversations with your audience to get to know them directly. It also provides an indirect means for understanding your customers through data. You can use both of these avenues to improve the customer experience and achieve your business goals.

Photo Campaigns

One strategy for getting to know your customers better is to encourage them to text you a photo after they’ve purchased a product from you. Consider offering them a special discount in exchange. Customers can send in photos demonstrating how they use your product or similar concepts. This can help you to understand the way that your customers engage with your products, as well as what other items they may want to purchase in the future.

Ask you customers to send in a picture of themselves using your product.

You can advertise a photo campaign in various venues, including in your post-purchase text to your customers. Also give your customers the option of sharing the photos on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts including a hashtag. This not only helps you to learn more about them, it also helps to spread the word about your company. According to CMO, where your customers choose to post also gives you insight into how they will likely engage with you in future marketing campaigns.

Contests and Voting

You can also use contests or polls to find out more about your customers and improve your products. For example, you may want to have your mobile subscribers vote on a new product you plan to bring to the market so that you customise it to their preferences.

Texting is the perfect medium for customer voting

You can increase the incentive for them to vote by entering them into a contest to win something. Text to vote campaigns are easy to develop. You simply create a set of keywords, and encourage your customers to text a certain keyword to vote. Then you tally the winner by seeing which keyword received the most texts.


Distribute surveys to your mobile subscribers in order to get to know them better and improve the customer experience. You can send a variety of surveys through your online SMS system, including questionnaires about customer demographics, preferences, an experience with a product, customer service experience, and more. Surveys help you learn more about the customer and their experience with your business.

Analyze Customer Data

Getting to know your customers is not just about directly communicating with them through online SMS or other avenues. You also need to spend some time looking at data that will give you other insights into their preferences and habits. For example, you can look back at past campaigns to see which offers they’ve redeemed, and which have been ignored.

Tracking data across various marketing channels can help you form a more comprehensive picture of your customers. You should look closely at their spending patterns, income, hobbies, interests, location, gender, and other attributes to then define customer groups based on various demographics, according to Business 2 Community.

When you have a full picture of your customers, it is easier to develop targeted ads and offers for your audience. You can also create an experience that matches what your customer wants and expects, which can increase your customer retention and loyalty.

Connecting and getting to know your customers with mobile can benefit your business in many different ways. If you are interested in getting started with online SMS, try FireText for free.

FireText provide SMS Marketing for your business. 
Add SMS to your marketing mix today – find out more.

© 2015 FireText Communications Ltd. All rights reserved

How to Tell “Your” Story

How to Tell “Your” Story

In my last few posts, I have been discussing the importance of using stories to promote our small businesses to potential clients and customers.  The inevitable question is, “OK, how do I do that?”  I recently ran across this excellent article on telling your own story.  This article was actually written for Lawyers, but just substitute your business or profession and see if there is not magic here. 

Our guest blogger this month is Michael Hammond who writes about the strategic use of stories in relationship marketing. This article originally appeared in “The Briefs” published by the Orange County Bar Association.

“Tell Me A Story …”

Pat Conroy, the well-known American novelist, once said:  “The most powerful words in the English language are, ‘Tell me a story’”. Why do stories have such power over us? Perhaps, it’s because long before humans were writing, we were telling stories and these stories – told, memorized, repeated and embellished over millennia – became the wellsprings of human development. Our innate love of telling stories seems to be almost as powerful as our love of listening to them.

In the modern world stories are everywhere.  They provide the plots for books, movies, theater, and television shows. The twenty-four hour news channels bring you the stories of the day. The best teachers, leaders and communicators have always recognized the importance of storytelling and have used them to convey lessons, messages and inspiration. Just think about Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s recent Academy-award-winning movie. A well told story has the power to conjure strong images and evoke a powerful emotional response in the listener.

Think about it, whether we’re meeting an old friend for a drink or a complete stranger on a plane, our interaction is largely defined by the exchanging of personal stories. Dr. Jonathan Gottschall, an English professor at Washington & Jefferson College and the author of “The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human”, said in a recent interview:  “We live in stories all day and we dream in stories all night. … Storytelling is a key competence because it’s the most powerful method we know of riveting the attention of others and of connecting with them emotionally.”

What’s Your Story?

Because telling and listening to stories is hard-wired into our psyche, they are one of our most powerful forms of communication. Harness the power of storytelling in your word-of-mouth marketing and you will tap into the innate receptivity of those you want to educate about who you are, what you do and why. Use stories in conversations with potential clients to demonstrate your expertise, with referral sources to illustrate how you can help their clients, and in social settings to educate people about your firm.

Richard Stone of the StoryWorks Institute advises lawyers to “Look for the drama in your everyday actions to formulate your stories. Just as a good author can find a story where others see only the commonplace deeds of ordinary people, it’s possible for each of us to frame our work in heroic terms. Stories are your narrative assets.”

According to Stone, a well-crafted story about why you became an attorney, why you feel compelled to help people or how you fought to succeed in spite of great difficulty, becomes an important conversational strategy. These stories are like verbal commercials for you, your practice and your brand. Once discovered, these narrative assets can become the hidden gems of your word-of-mouth marketing program.

Finding Your Voice

How do you transform your own many and varied experiences into well-crafted stories?

Read the following prompts and write down the first ideas that pop into your mind when you hear them:

  •  I became a lawyer because…
  •  I’m passionate about my practice area because…
  •  The type of people (your primary client) I like to help is…
  •  The reason I like to help these people is…
  •  I make a difference for people because…

Recall other stories that convey your effectiveness as a lawyer. Don’t bore your listener with a thinly disguised list of your accomplishments; instead, tell them about how your clients have actually benefited from your professional skills. Tell them a story about:

  • A case you just won.
  • An award you just received.
  • Your background or upbringing.

While not yet full-blown stories, whatever came to mind as you read these prompts could be promising and may warrant further thought and development. Once you’ve found your basic story idea, it’s important to flesh it out, expand upon it and add color to it. To add structure to your story, think about the three elements of every typical tale – context, characters and climax.

One criminal defense attorney tells his story this way:  “When I was young, I got into trouble with the law. But before I went too far, an attorney who was an old family friend intervened and set me straight. My practice is dedicated to that man – I want to do for other people what he did for me.”

Stealth Storytelling

At Atticus, we call stories the “stealth bombers” of strategic conversations. On the surface they may enlighten or entertain the listener, but they are also educating them, connect them to your background, highlight your values and reveal your motivations. In short order, the information these brief narratives provide can portray you as an empathetic human being and, because they require a certain amount of self-disclosure, deepen your intimacy with the listener.

Whether you employ long, rambling stories or simply divulge small glimpses of your personal history, having a variety of brief narratives you can use at different times and in various situations can be a valuable addition to your marketing assets. Stories can be helpful in conversations with potential clients trying to gauge your breadth of experience and your depth of compassion; with prospective referral sources trying to determine how well you would serve the clients they could refer to you; and in social settings to educate people about who you are and what you do.

Remember, stories that are humorous show that you are human. You don’t have to be the hero in every story; in fact, stories that portray you in a self-deprecating light can be engaging, heart-warming and among the most memorable.

The Three Cs of Storytelling

Way back in 1982 in his watershed book “Megatrends”, John Naisbitt posed a paradoxical prophecy:  “The more high tech we create, the more high touch we want.” How much more high tech have we become in the last thirty years? How much more do we yearn for high touch today? For human connection? Perhaps this accounts in some way for the psychic pull and the mesmerizing effect that storytelling still has on us.

Jim Blasingame, a leading expert on small business and entrepreneurship, says that we should deliver high touch to our clients through the telling of stories and reminds us of the Three Cs of Storytelling:

Connect – Use stories to connect with prospects and convert them to clients.

Convey – Use stories to convey your experience, expertise, humanity and values.

Create – Use stories to create a client’s memory of you and generate top-of-mind awareness.

Learn the art of storytelling and tap into the power of a good story, told well. You’ll know you’ve been successful – that you’ve really connected with someone – when they tell your story to others.

Michael Hammond is a “founding father” of Atticus and is a Certified Practice Advisor. A licensed attorney since 1983, he has spent his entire career either practicing law or supporting and promoting the practice of law. Michael has a depth of experience in lawyer marketing, one-on-one business coaching and strategic planning.


How to Build a Good Story

How to Build a Good Story

In my last few posts, I have been emphasizing the importance of using stories about your small business to engage potential clients and customers.  People love stories.   And they will remember stories long after your pitch about your product or service is forgotten.  Here is another great article on how to tell a good story. 

Harness the power of storytelling to appeal to new customers

In today’s world, which is crowded with messages, businesses need to create a brand with an authentic story

Hands holding roasted coffee beans
 If you know the farmers who produce the coffee you sell, include them in your brand’s story. Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

For brands, and the marketers behind them, the idea of telling stories to win over hearts and minds is nothing new. But in today’s world, which is crowded with messages and largely devoid of trust, it has never been more challenging, or more valuable, for a brand to win loyalty.

How does it do this? There is a well-known proverb that my former boss used to use, “tell me a fact and I will learn, tell me a truth and I will believe, but tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” We remember narratives and journeys over facts.

When you’re thinking about your business, you shouldn’t only think that you’re selling a product or a service, you should think about how your brand is appealing to people’s emotions and how it fits in with their lives.

The good news is, storytelling is cheap. The bad news is it isn’t easy. It requires emotional intelligence, cultural insight and a lot of craft.

So what do we mean by story? Simply put, a story unites your idea with an emotion, it makes your product personal. Think about your customer and get under the skin of what they believe in.

Forget your product momentarily, it’s the context you’re trying to articulate. Telling people what to believe will fail, but showing you understand how they already feel – that is how brands get ahead.

Take a brand like Ella’s Kitchen. The founder, Paul Lindley, who I was fortunate to work with for a number of years, crafted an entire brand on the authentic story around his personal experience of encouraging his daughter to eat healthily. He created a world for kids filled with fun and experimentation. It is a story that taps into the emotions of parents and families across the world and is expertly woven into every element of his business, from the font used in emails to the design of their packaging and their adverts on TV.

Crafting your story can take time, but the important thing is to be authentic – consumers can tell if you’re not. It is unlikely your story will appeal to everyone but that’s fine, if you aren’t turning some people off, it’s unlikely you’ll turn anyone on.

How to use your story

  • Show, don’t tell – in the world of Vine, Instagram and Twitter, you don’t need to tell people that you make your leather bags by hand, or that you know the farmers that produce the coffee you sell, you can show them. Sharing inspiring content can be the most effective way of winning over consumers and proving that your story is authentic.
  • Let your customers do the talking – customers are as important in creating a brand’s story as the business itself. Start a conversation with them, ask them to be part of the story. Think about Coca-cola’s personalised cans – the customers did the hard work here, Coke just produced the product.
  • Bring it to life – live events and experiences can take your story to the next level. So, if you’re telling a story about being adventurous, then you should be engaging with customers in a way that shows them that you are. Think about the way Red Bull hosts live music and extreme sports events. They’re giving something meaningful back to a highly engaged audience.
  • Use the press – your story should be a “red thread” throughout everything you do with your business and using PR can be the most effective way to really strengthen your brand story. Being in the right media, with the right messages and at the right time can position your business in a way that allows people to see what you stand for.
  • Be authentic and consistent – no matter what, your story has to be true and you need to make sure you are committed to it. As a startup it can be tempting to take every opportunity that comes your way, but ask yourself each time whether it fits in with your story and vision. From which shops stock your products, to where you advertise and the people that represent your brand – make sure it all fits into the wider story.

Nicole Green is a communications consultant and runs PR workshops for startups. She tweets at @nlgreen

Sign up to become a member of the Guardian Small Business Network herefor more advice, insight and best practice direct to your inbox.

How to Tell Stories For Fun and Profit

How to Tell Stories For Fun and Profit

In my last post, I included an article on the importance of telling the story of your small business to attract customers and clients.  You may have read that post and said, “All well and good, but HOW do I do it?”  Here’s a great article I found that explains just that. 

There’s a story about how Shoestring Marketing was born. And, I tell my story all the time.

It’s in the “Meet Jessica” section of my website. It’s also in my ebooks. It’s in my sales-copy. When I host webinars and teleseminars, I start with the story behind Shoestring Marketing.


Because it helps my prospects connect with me.

The goal in telling my small business story is to show people that I personally know what it feels like to build a business on a shoestring budget. And that it CAN be done.

I tell my story so that I can try and convince people that if I can do it – so can they.

If you really want to stand out from the crowd, then you have to connect with people on a deeper level.

It’s not enough to tell people about the features of your product or service. Believe it or not, they really don’t care that your widget is faster than the speed of light.

And, preaching the benefits your customers will receive when they use your widget isn’t even enough anymore. Although focusing on benefits is an important part of marketing, your prospects need a reason to believe that your widget will improve their lives.

Nowadays, in this crazy, competitive world you need to connect your story to your prospect’s problems. It’s important that you show them that you have experienced what they are experiencing and that you know exactly what they are going through.

You need to connect to their pain on a truly emotional level, show them the solution and convince them to take action.

We all have a small business story to tell.  Here’s a simple 5-step process in order to use your story to add power and pizazz to your marketing:

1) Discover the personal story hidden behind your business.

Why did you start your business? What problems are you trying to eliminate? What hurdles did you need to overcome.

2) Tell your story authentically and with passion.

Obviously, your story needs to be a true rendition of what you personally experienced as a small business owner. If you are passionate about your story, your prospects will be passionate about your story.

3) Connect your story to your prospect’s pain points.

It’s vital that your story zeroes in on the problems that your prospects are currently facing. Your story should create an immediate and lasting bond between you and your prospects.

4) Show them the solution.

It’s important that once you connect to your prospect’s pain, that you immediately show them how to alleviate this pain. Show them that you have personally discovered the solution and, as a result, your problem has been solved.

5) Convince them to take action.

Once you share your story, what do you want your prospects to do? Should they call a 1-800 number? Visit your website for more information? Or make a purchase? Each time you share your story, make it incredibly easy for your prospect to take the next step.

Connection is one of the main tools for the Shoestring Marketer. So, connect with your prospects and your customers on a deeper level by sharing the story behind your small business.

And, by the way, you can read all about the story of Shoestring Marketing right HERE.

Telling Stories for Fun and Profit

Telling Stories for Fun and Profit

OK Mr. Small Business Owner.  You have a website.  You have a product.  How do you get people interested in buying?  The answer is simple.  Tell your story.  People love stories.  Attached is a post explaining how you can do this.  I found it fascinating. 


For years I couldn’t figure out how to get attention for my business products. Since no one knew the products existed, I couldn’t make sales.

With a more expensive product I could use direct sales: calling and emailing customers to educate them about the product, then ask for the sale. That worked, but was always slow and painful—and not the least bit scalable.

Worst of all, that high touch sales process doesn’t work for products under $200. There just isn’t a high enough profit in each sale to make it possible to spend time on the phone with every customer.

I watched other businesses spend money on ads, but that seemed to work best for big national brands that could spend money on awareness and didn’t have to make sales from every ad. And ads require money to spend. Something most small business owners don’t have.

Besides, even if ads were a possibility, the moment you stop spending you stop seeing results.


Another way for attention

I needed another way to reliably get attention and turn that attention into customers. Oddly enough the answer was sitting in front of me, it just took me all that time to realize it was the solution to my sales problem.


Start teaching

I read articles and blog posts by the experts in my industry. I clicked through from those article to their books and software products. Often purchasing both.

For project management I use Basecamp by 37signals. Without their popular blog I never would have heard of the product.

For invoicing I use Freshbooks, also from reading their blog giving advice on how to invoice my freelance clients.

For video hosting I use Wistia. They have a great product, but I’m not sure that alone would be enough to convince me to use them over YouTube, a free alternative. Instead, it’s that Wistia put out an amazing series of videos that taught me how to produce great videos on a budget.

As a final example, I purchased Rework by Jason and David at 37signals. Why? Because they had taught me so much about business already, I was desperate to learn more from them. My purchase was one of many thousands that helped launch their book onto national bestsellers lists.

All these companies used free teaching to gain attention, then turned that attention towards their related products.


My turn

After finally noticing this trend and the impact it could have on my business, I finally decided to give it a try. My next project was a book, called The App Design Handbook, that teaches developers how to design beautiful iOS applications.

Step one was to write app design tutorials and publish them on my blog. Each one got attention, and I funneled that attention to a pre-launch email list about the book. Within two months I went from no audience to nearly 800 people who asked to hear more about my book when it launched.


The results

On launch day the members of my email list purchased The App Design Handbook in droves. I watched sales climb throughout the day until they finally peaked at $12,500 for the first 24 hours!

Far more revenue than I had ever seen before in a single day. At that moment I knew that teaching wasn’t just a tool for famous experts, but that it could be used by anyone to build a following and sell products.

Since that moment I’ve sold two more far more profitable training books and launched an email marketing startup, all of the customers acquired through teaching great content.


But not for everyone

Teaching worked—and I told everyone it worked, but I had a problem. I knew how this worked for some types of businesses, but some business models didn’t seem to fit.

For example, If you want to sell an email marketing tool, teach people how to do email marketing effectively. If you want to sell training to photographers, give away some training for free to build an audience.

But that only covers some types of businesses. What about the expert photographer who wants to sell fine art prints.

The up and coming photographer that would buy training from the expert wants to shoot photos, not buy prints from the expert.

The art collector doesn’t care about the details of f-stop and aperture, they want to buy beautiful art that has a story.

Someone in the market for custom furniture isn’t trying to learn how to make furniture, they just want a beautiful, functional dining room table.

That puzzled me. How does teaching help sell fine art and custom furniture?


It’s in the story

What does the art collector want to buy? They don’t just want a beautiful photo, you could get that from any home decor store for under $50. The art collector wants a photograph that has a story.

Imagine you come over to my house for dinner. Just before we sit down you notice a photo of a western ghost town hanging in my dining room. It’s such a strikingly great photo that you can’t help but ask, “where was that taken?”

How would your interest level change if I responded, “no idea, I bought it Walmart.”?

The only response to that is “Huh, it’s a neat photo.” The conversation moves on.

But what if that photograph had a story? That would completely change the conversation.

If instead I say the photograph was taken in a small ghost town in Idaho. Then I go on to tell you that it is one in a series of seven photos taken by this great photographer out of Washington state. Last fall he went on a road trip through seven different old mining towns, capturing one perfect image in each town.

The photographer wrote on his blog about the story of each town, his process finding the perfect shot, and the tales of his journey along the way. Available for free on his blog, or in a coffee table book you can purchase that includes all the photos.

The photo hanging in my dining room is a limited edition print that I purchased after following his journey. I also have that coffee table book that you can look through after dinner. His story, the story of each town, and the details of the entire trip are all included.

Now are you interested?


A form of teaching

That story is just another form of teaching—really it’s more of sharing. Just about everything has an interesting story. When told well, that story does two things: first, it increases the perceived value of the product, and second, it makes you want to follow the creator and learn more about their work.

Interesting stories get shared. That’s marketing.


Teaching + Story

The two techniques could also be combined. When I self-published my first two books on design I shared the details and the backstory on my blog (that’s the story). Soon I had almost as many people following me for marketing and self-publishing as I did for design. Then I started writing more specific tutorials about publishing and marketing (teaching), before releasing a book on the topic.

The fictitious photographer we talked about earlier can sell training, art prints, or custom work. Teaching—giving information away for free—will help is training business, but it will also get more exposure for his prints and custom work since he will now be seen as more of an expert.

Art prints, with a good story behind them, will demonstrate his expertise and if he shares the process will bring even more followers to his site. Soon he will have an audience following him not just for his work or teaching, but also just for who he is.

Teaching and story can be two sides of the same coin. Not every product can benefit from both story and teaching, but combined they make a very powerful business model that brings customers directly to your products.


I need your help.

I’m writing about teaching and story for a new (secret) project. Do you have an example or case study of using teaching or story in your business? If you know of a good example from another company feel free to share it as well (just make it clear that it’s not your own example).

Tell me your story.

Enjoyed the article?

My best content on design, marketing, and business. Delivered each week for free.

First Name
Email Address

Join the newsletterWe won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons