“The best businesses are the best stories.”
This was one of my favorite quotes from a marketing conference I attended last year because it gets to the heart of what it takes to be successful as a marketer and entrepreneur. You need to develop a story—and then share that story with others.
Stories are compelling because they trigger our emotions. They align (or don’t) with our existing beliefs and values. The ones we like confirm our worldviews and our biases.
All these things play into our decision-making process. As much as we’d like to think we’re perfectly rational when we make choices, we’re simply not. And you need to keep that in mind if you want to convince more prospects to become paying clients of your firm.
This being said, finding success—developing your story and then sharing it well with others—isn’t easy to do, which is why most people (and planning firms) don’t market themselves well. Good storytelling is an art, and even if you can spin a yarn that resonates with others, you need to find a good one to share first.
Here are some of my best tips to be able to both find your story and tell it well.
Make Sure You Have the Raw Materials for Building a Story
I would not describe most of the financial advisers I know as “thrill-seekers.” And that’s not a bad thing. Most people get into this profession because they’re naturally inclined to protect and nurture valuable assets, both for themselves and others. If you’re stampeding through life, taking unnecessary risks and making stupid mistakes, you likely won’t make a great financial planner.
But a little adventure, a little risk and a little discomfort are good things that so often we become averse to seeking out on our own. The problem with that? If you’re comfortable, you’re not doing anything new. You’re not pushing yourself; not exploring or challenging anything; and not gaining useful experiences that you can use as the raw materials for good stories.
Finding a good story is not about dreaming up something more imaginative or innovative than the next guy. It’s more about being able to think creatively to piece together seemingly random, disparate ideas to come up with something new, interesting and original.
Living life and seeking out things that push you just a little outside your comfort zone each time is a wonderful method of developing great stories—as well as getting new insights, finding ways to think differently and giving yourself the opportunity to consider new perspectives.
I’m not suggesting that you be in a constant state of anxiety or discomfort in order to grow or form new ideas. But you have to be willing to step into a situation you know will be uncomfortable for you in order to give yourself the chance to grow, see things in a new light and develop the experiences necessary for a good story.
Talk About Where You Divert from the Mainstream
Ever get that feeling that the crowd is moving in one direction—and you’re doing a 180 in the complete opposite direction? Treat that feeling as an indicator that you might be sitting on a good story to tell.
We try to do this often at Beyond Your Hammock, in both blog posts and on podcasts. We’ve challenged the idea of homeownership as “always good,” specifically pointing out that there’s a lot of pressure for high-achieving 30-somethings to want to buy a home…but a lot of us don’t want that at all.
We’ve pushed against the FIRE movement’s idea that there’s only one way to “financial independence,” and it’s through extreme measures. We’ve been willing to say, you know what? Being good with money is not all about how much you can save. It’s how well you can use your money as a tool to live well today and still plan responsibly for tomorrow.
It takes some vulnerability to stand up, raise your hand and say “I don’t seem to feel the same way as everyone else. I’m thinking differently about this and here’s why.” But these are great places to find a unique story that others will appreciate, because what happens is you give a voice to the things your audience already thinks but might not feel brave enough to say.
Think About What Matters Most to You
What gets you fired up? What do you feel passionately about? What do you believe in with such conviction that you’re willing to take a stand for it without being moved or dissuaded?
These areas of your life make good hunting grounds for stories. What can you share about how you came up with your beliefs? If you have a philosophy or a mantra you live (or do planning) by, what is it and what led you to develop it?
Telling Your Story: How to Share It Once You Find It
Developing your story is only the first step. You also need to hone your communication skills so you can share it with a receptive audience. Keep these quick tips in mind:
Polish your story first:
If you follow the advice above, you might dig up a really awesome story you want to tell—but that doesn’t mean just word vomit somewhere and people will enjoy it. You may need to trim bits and pieces, or just tell us a snippet of the story. You might need to lop off a lengthy intro and get to the point. Knowing what to share and what you can cut out is a critical component of good storytelling.
Aim to form connections, not prove points:
Stories are not lectures or sermons. A story should serve as a channel for connecting with other people—so don’t be afraid to dive into things that feel a little squishy or intangible or not even directly related to financial planning. People want to connect with other people. Be vulnerable, be human and share openly about what makes you, you, and how you came to form your views on how you do business, the advice you give and the people you want to help.
Use the right medium:
Is your story best told with visual aids? Then a podcast might not be the best way to tell it. On the other hand, do you want to tackle something controversial? Video or podcast might be better than a blog because people tend to be more receptive to new ideas when they hear them rather than just reading them. Consider the context and choose an appropriate medium for your story.
Give context to information:
A story is not a recitation of facts. None of us needs more information; if we need data or stats or info, we can ask Google. The value you can provide with storytelling is to put that information and the data and the facts into context. Information is widely available more than ever thanks to the internet. And context has never been in shorter supply.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this piece of advice for developing your story and the content to tell it with (a favorite tip from fellow writer and blogger Chris Guillebeau): When it comes to sharing your story, communicating your message or publishing your content, strive to be educational, entertaining or inspirational—but preferably all three.