The Extraordinary Power of Story for Small Business Owners

Guest Post by Sam Uhl, memoir writer, teacher, & publisher, owner of The Cheerful Word

In recent years, it has become popular for the everyday person to publish memoir. This is a powerful form of personal story, one that allows us connect with the generations to come; to share a legacy with family and friends.

The small-business owner can also benefit from the extraordinary power of personal story.

Storytelling connects

Humans are driven to connect through story and we spend lots of money on it at the theater and reading books. If you learn to discover and tell the extraordinary stories of your own life and you have all the marketing fodder you need as a small business owner.

While you are in business-building mode—before your first million or so—your story is rich with the enthusiasm and joy of bringing your gift to the world. Your story becomes the platform. This is where you connect with your primary audience.

By the way, I teach my authors that they are the best marketers their books will ever have. Who knows their book or will sell it better than they will? Social media channels are fantastic tools, but they must be populated with their stories and the energy found in their books.

Three pillars of story

Stories must deliver one or more of three things to be effective. They must be emotional, they must enlighten me, or they must entertain me. If they don’t do at least one of those things well, you have failed.

Everyone loves a good book or movie, but we don’t spend $40 just for the date, the popcorn and the strawberry slushy. We want to experience story.

Take romance films—we all know what that warm wash of giddy attraction feels like. We enjoy it, and it’s utterly light-hearted and relatable. We view them time and again because we are entertained and we feel positive emotions every time.

Enlightenment & Emotion

Other times, we intentionally choose a book whose author reveals a true experience so far from our own, that it grips our core values and shakes them into bits. We sit still and breathe shallowly as we turn the pages, or shed a tear and wonder at human cruelty, frailty, or resiliency and joy. We want to learn something new about the world, even if it makes us squirmingly uncomfortable.

When our eyes are tired, we’re emotionally rung out, or dinner needs cooking, we put a business card in the pages, close the book, and return to the safety of our living room. We contemplate our gratitude and return to the story later when we’re ready to dive in again. We read these books or see these films so that we can find answers to life’s questions with friends or turn them over in our own minds.

This is the power of story. To learn. To feel. To laugh. To connect.

We seek people who are passionate about what they do in the world, and we find them when they share their stories. Have the courage to put your business story to words and share it with the world—enjoy the connections that follow!

Market Yourself with Reviews and Testimonials

Testimonials and reviews are a great way to showcase your great work. They are more powerful than anything you say about yourself because they come from clients. Most people say they rely on recommendations from people they know to make purchasing decisions, so your testimonials and reviews have tremendous marketing value.

Ask for Reviews

Have a plan to ask for reviews from every customer. Good reviews are great for your marketing. All reviews help you to be better at what you do.

No matter when you ask, provide clients with easy step-by-step instructions for providing a review. Be clear about where the review may be used.

Consider these approaches:

  • Ask for a review when you issue the final invoice.
  • Once a week/month/quarter follow-up with a past client to check in and ask for a review.
  • Use your email marketing program to maintain a list of clients who have not done reviews and send periodic reminders.

Make Reviews Visible

Once you have reviews, make them visible in several places.

On your website: A testimonials page is good, but it is even better to feed reviews into every page. Better yet, provide reviews that are relevant to the particular service covered on the page.

Email signature: Link to your reviews in your email signature.

Marketing collateral: Tout your average rating in your offline and online marketing.

Social media: Make note of new reviews on your social media. Thank the person providing the review and highlight a feature of the project or service provided. Use a related image along with the review.

Get More People to Create Content for Your Brand

You talking about you is fine as long as you do it in an interesting way. Others talking about you is likely to get more attention.

There are many content channels and content creators that may be highly valuable to
your brand. Contributors, bloggers, social influencers, and thought leaders are all
worth evaluating.

Focus on finding people who would logically want to tell their audience about your brand.

Identify Content Creators

Bloggers

Bloggers have many characteristics. Some may be employed by a particular publication. Some may operate blogs of their own.

Find bloggers with the right expertise for your brand. Look at what they have written to determine fit and the potential value of what they write to your brand.

Send them relevant and compelling pitches that make writing about you seem effortless.

Influencers

Social media allows everyone to publish content. Influencers do this at a higher level, talking about issues and topics of interest and engaging many people in their efforts.

These people have audiences who look to them for recommendations and advice. Find influencers by looking at who your customers and target customers are following and commenting on.

Just as with bloggers, engage influencers by sending them relevant and compelling information that they will want to share.

Customers and Friends

Your best content creators may already be connected with you. You’ve got relationships with customers and other people who love your brand. Keep these people well informed of developments in your business, competitive landscape, industry, or shared areas of interest.

Pick the Content Providers with the Best Potential

Focus your efforts on the content creators most likely to deliver impact for your business. Don’t base outreach strategies on name recognition or publication size alone. Look at the real impact of influencer content, then focus on the highest value content creators.

Consider these factors:

  • Reach. When a content creator mentions your brand, how many people in your
    target audience are likely to see it?
  • Engagement. Does the influencer’s audience take action when presented with information? Do they share content?
  • SEO Impact. Does the influencer’s content appear with high domain authority? If so, backlinks, mentions, and sharing will signal to search engines that your site is highly relevant.

Build Relationships

Focus on building relationships with the selected content providers. The more you know about the influencer you wish to engage, the better you can engage them. It takes time and effort, but a long term connection has more value than a one-time engagement.

Ask for their support and ideas. Thank them for anything they do, no matter the results. Share the impact of what they write.