As a business owner, I bet you’re forever worrying about how you come across online.
At the absolute heart of that whole stress-pot is the idea of messaging, which is quite simply: how do you articulate what you do, what problems you solve, who you solve them for, and why those people should buy from you?
No doubt you’ve come across many marketing gurus who have strong opinions, complicated-looking frameworks, and expensive courses, all geared towards helping you figure that out.
One recurring school of thought is that it’s a great idea to make your customer the hero of the bulk of your messaging. Some folks go even further, and say that you should never, ever talk about yourself in any way shape or form!
Instead, they say, you should relentlessly be creating content about your customers: the problems they face, their hopes and dreams, and the pitfalls they need to avoid in order to reach their desired goals.
You know the type of stuff; you’ll see it all the time, running the spectrum all the way from genuinely helpful to shameless clickbait…
'5 Ways to improve your mental health’
‘Are you struggling with faddy weight-loss diets?’
‘Top 3 mistakes amateur fishermen make (NUMBER 2 WILL SHOCK YOU TO YOUR CORE)’
And that’s all fine! Naturally, it’s incredibly important to be clear rather than clever when it comes to communicating with your audience, and keeping most of the focus on how you can help them. In fact, the idea used to be that your competitors would be so mired in muddled, self-obsessed messaging, that simply cutting through that noise with clarity alone would set you firmly apart from the crowd.
The problem is: the cat’s out of the bag.
Take a stroll around Instagram or Linkedin and you’ll see that every business on the block is now ploughing that kind of value-packed content into their social channels. In many ways, it’s the new noise: an endless barrage of unstoppably helpful (and occasionally preachy and overbearing) content, with no light or shade to break up the onslaught.
These businesses are caught in what I call The Hero Trap. They’re so single-mindedly-focussed on talking about their customer and making them the hero, they forget to offer any personal insight into themselves whatsoever. The result is that everyone blends into the cacophony of other businesses all selling the same thing.
So this all begs the question: if your competitors are talking just as good a game as you are, how do you stand out?
Well, if you’re a certain type of business-owner that actually believes in what they’re selling, then the answer is inevitably very simple:
"your audience will buy from you if they buy into you."
Does your audience have any idea what makes you so uniquely placed to deliver for them? Do they have a clue about the challenges you overcame that have shaped you and your business? Can they feel that you really believe in what you’re selling, or can they tell you’re just using this week’s content template?
Your story is the only thing that can get all of that stuff across on a rational level, whilst sparking an emotional connection at the same time. It’s also the one thing your competitors can never replicate, no matter how many courses they go on, or how many big-time agencies they hire.
So just tell your story, yeah? Well, not so fast.
I know that telling any stories about yourself can feel like a big leap to take, because the Hero Trap is actually a pretty comfortable place to be, especially if you don’t like talking about yourself to begin with. It means you can avoid putting yourself out there fully, and hide behind a shield of semi-anonymity.
So with that in mind, here’s the first, most important twist in perspective you need to get straight: you’re not an influencer. It’s not about what macrobiotics you had for breakfast, the petting zoo you took the kids to last weekend, or your killer skincare routine. When you’re telling your story in a business sense, you’re not just tooting your own horn for likes and shares.
"You’re telling the story of how you became the one your audience can trust to solve their problems."
In this context, your audience is still the hero – your story simply provides the compelling proof that you’re the business that can help them achieve their goals.
If you can get that straight in your head, you’re well clear of the Hero Trap, and everything becomes ten times easier. Think of some of your past experiences from this new perspective. Can you see just how many there are? Can you see how massively important and inspirational they could be for your audience?
In this comically overloaded online world, where faceless corporations pretend to be your best friend while offering anything your heart desires, people are desperately craving a degree of genuine emotional connection. If you don’t provide it, they’ll go looking for someone who can. And then they’ll buy from them.
Bottom line: your story is the most powerful tool you’ve got when it comes to making that connection, and truly setting yourself apart online. Don’t risk leaving it untold.
So now that we’ve figured out why your story is so important and why you’re absolutely allowed to tell it, check out the next article to discover the exact business circumstance that will turn your story from a solid USP into a genuine superpower.