You’ve probably seen loads of marketing advice telling you that you need to share your knowledge and establish yourself as an expert in your field. That’s all true. When you have a small business, you need to go one step further and share a bit of your life with your customers. The big brands can build a corporate image around their values, but you need to show your audience who you are as a person. Here’s why you need to put some of your life into your marketing.
It makes your audience feel part of something
Content marketing is designed to help you build a relationship with your audience so that they’ll buy from you. When your marketing creates a community, it helps your audience feel as if they’re part of something amazing. That might happen because of chats in the comments on your posts or what you share in your Facebook group.
The easiest way to make your audience feel included is by giving them a glimpse behind the scenes. If you create products, you can share videos or posts of you making something. Someone might see the work in progress and decide they must have the finished product! Case studies are brilliant if you’re like me and offer a less visual service. You can show prospective customers the process so they know how you work and can read about the results.
Shared experience connects you with your customers
Maybe you started your business because you came through a challenge and wanted to help other people do the same. Your story needs to be central to your marketing. It shows your customers that you understand what they’re going through because you’ve been in their shoes. You can build trust by talking about your experiences. This is particularly good for business or health coaches, personal trainers and parenting experts.
Showing your life and the experiences you share with your customers can also work in another way. Whilst it might not be directly relevant to your business, sometimes you just want to work with someone who’s on the same wavelength as you or support their business. I work with lots of business-owning mums and it gives you a shorthand that makes communication easy and fun.
Sharing your life shows people you’re human
When you spend time running a business online, you’ll inevitably come across people who forget you’re a human being with feelings. They think that those nasty comments will bounce off (if they even think before they type). Sharing posts that show people what your life is like when you’re not at work helps to remind people that you’re a real person. It could also help to distinguish you from another, similar, business. I haven’t had anyone tell me they want to work with me because I’m a rugby fan so far, but you never know!
One word of caution; use posts like this sparingly. Every so often is fine but your customers aren’t your friends. They don’t need 500 pictures of your baby, cute puppy or to hear about how hungover you are. Just an occasional reminder that you have a life outside business.
Are you ready to put some of your life into your marketing? I can help with that. Book a call here and let’s have a chat.
I don’t think I’m alone in having a lot of different things in my life. We’ve all got those metaphorical balls (the ones we juggle, but occasionally the other kind too). There’s all the life stuff; the home, partner, kids, family and friends. Delete or add as applicable. I keep finding myself saying ‘let’s have a catch up soon’, then organising a coffee takes about a year. That’s even before I get to the bit where I run a business too. You’ve heard all this before, I know. The only reason I’m talking about it now is because I seem to have had an influx recently. There’s been more paying work, which is extremely lovely. Conversations about self-care seem to have become a thing too. As I write this the words of a wise woman telling me I’m hearing it for a reason are floating at the front of my brain. There have been new ideas that I can’t seem to make a decision on. Then there have been people asking about my book. Have I told you about the book? Maybe I haven’t, so let’s start there.
It’s always been about the book
Before I had the faintest idea that I might write content marketing for businesses, I wrote stories. I know that we all did that at school, but I carried on. Ideas for crime novels pop into my head at regular intervals. The one I’m working on now existed as an idea for a few years before I started making some notes, writing random scenes as they occurred to me. When I was a commuter I wrote on the train. Now I’m editing; it feels as if I’ve rewritten the thing about eleven billion times but I could be exaggerating. It’s a murder mystery, set in Leicester and I’m almost ready to send it out into the world.
I think I might be scared
There’s the problem, you see. I feel as if everything has been pushing me towards this point. Even the self-care conversations, because I know I need to look after myself to deal with whatever different thing comes next. It’s also why I keep getting new shiny ideas. A bit of me wants to get on with it. A much bigger bit is utterly terrified. What if it’s rubbish? (Apparently most first novels are.) There are characters inspired by people I love and tiny snippets of my life in those pages. It feels personal. The other nagging feeling is the fact that being a published novelist is my dream. I don’t know what happens next if the dream comes true. Will my life still be my own if I take it in a different direction? Will I become a magnet for trolls on Twitter? No idea.
What shall I do next?
This is a silly question, isn’t it? I need to finish the two little edits that are bugging me and send my manuscript out for someone else to read. I’ve got friends who’ve offered and I know where to get a reader’s report. An author friend (yes, I have one of those) even got me an email address for a published crime writer who’s happy to look at a couple of chapters for me. So, I know the answer to my own question. I just need to get on and do it.
Why am I telling you this story? It’s because I’m a writer and that’s what I do. I can help you find the right story to tell in your marketing so you can attract wonderful new customers. If I can help you with that, let’s have a chat.
I’ve talked about sharing your story in your marketing so many times, yet there’s one story that I’ve always held back. As I write this, I’m still wondering whether it will end up out in the world for you to read. The only reason I’m even considering it is because I know I can’t be the only one who’s had the same experience. I’ve been bullied more than once during my life. It would be easy to focus on the negative beliefs that come from that (and on a bad day, I definitely do). The years have given me perspective, so I’ve decided it’s time to tell my bullying story in case it helps you too.
The school bullies
I reckon most people must have their own version of this story. I went to a tiny primary school followed by a bigger middle school. The bullies singled me out as I was a clumsy bookworm. Not just a swot but too poorly co-ordinated to be good at either gymnastics or dancing. As far as my peers were concerned, I was utterly useless. I longed for anonymity. Thankfully senior school was better; there were more people like me and became invisible to the bullies. It was the first time I learned the importance of finding your people and I still use it today.
Bullying at work
I didn’t go to university straight from school, but took some time out, did other courses and ended up in the job from hell. I worked as an admin assistant (aka lowest of the low), with colleagues who didn’t like people with A-levels. There were times when my supervisor told me there wasn’t anything for me to do, but in the next breath would go and complain to the boss that I wasn’t pulling my weight. Anything that came out of my mouth was treated as an opportunity for a sarcastic comment or outright sneer. On the plus side, it made me realise that I did want to go to uni.
How it holds me back
Those days are gone, but some of the scars remain. When you’ve been treated as if you don’t belong you start to believe it. You think your feelings don’t matter and you don’t have the right to be considered. It’s easy to adopt a mindset where you don’t try new things or talk to new people because then you can’t be rejected. Yet I find myself here, with a business that depends on me promoting it. I fight the instinct to ‘not be a nuisance’ every time I market my business. It makes me wonder whether I’d do more if I didn’t feel this way.
What it’s taught me
I don’t know what my life would have been like if the bullying hadn’t happened. There are some positives; I’m aware of the mind monkeys that hold me back. Silencing the chatter has become a skill, although not an infallible one. I’m selective in who I trust so I’ve learned to listen. There have been people in my life that others regarded as a ‘good bloke’, when they were anything but. I’ve learned to observe and work out who they really are. That comes in handy when I’m writing for clients and being their voice. In that respect, it could be a gift.
Sharing stories like this one help your future clients to see you as a human being, not just a business. It doesn’t have to be as personal as this. If I can help you find the right story to use in your marketing, let’s have a chat.
I was listening to the news recently and heard Michael Rosen talking about ‘that’ Downing Street cheese and wine party that wasn’t a party. As you might remember, Michael is a poet who was hospitalized with Covid-19 and spent several weeks in intensive care. He compared lockdown to the blitz during World War 2. Here’s the quote that stuck with me:
“Instead of the equivalent of wreaths at the Cenotaph, what we’re getting is ‘oh, we were partying while you were doing that’.”
It bothered me and I couldn’t work out why. Then I realised that we’ve been hearing this kind of Blitz spirit stuff all the way through lockdown. It’s the people who say you’d never have survived if you’re hoarding toilet rolls or can’t even cope with staying at home. They say that everyone pulled together and no-one was out for themselves. The trouble is, it’s rubbish.
Michael Rosen was right
When Michael Rosen was talking about the Downing Street gathering, he referred to the social trauma that we’ve all been through in the last two years. In that sense, it’s a fair comparison. We’ve been isolated from our loved ones and faced huge uncertainty. We’ve longed to get back to normal (whatever that might mean). There has also been fear. We might not have faced being sent out to a foreign battlefront, but we’ve certainly dealt with the reality that a bomb might drop in viral form.
We don’t know what the long-term impact of Covid-19 will be. The Blitz generation grew up (and grew old) in a world very different from this one. I’m still absolutely certain that comparing our society to that one isn’t helping.
People cheated during the Blitz too
The reason I have a problem with the whole idea of a modern day ‘Blitz spirit’ is that it glosses over historical reality. There’s a nostalgia which imagines that every generation before this one was somehow perfect. We’re fed a wartime image where every neighbourhood pulled together. The trouble is, not everyone did. There were lots of examples of neighbours looking after each other and community groups organising resources and support. But then, as now, there were plenty of people out for themselves too. The blackout provided plenty of opportunities for crime. People behaved badly when they got the chance because they didn’t know when the bombs would drop. Even fundamentally decent people found ways to bend the rules. Which reminds me…
The rules are different this time
Covid-19 brought a set of rules that separated us from our loved ones so we’d all stay safe. In the 1940s my dad didn’t see his parents for months at a time because he was in a ship on the Atlantic. Near the end of his life, he told me that every day had been a bonus since then. He knew that a torpedo could come through at any moment and it would all be over. The difference was that when you got the chance to let off steam, you could do it in a crowd. The party that’s unforgiveable now would have been part of life then. The trauma might be the same but we processed it differently.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because even though no two lives are the same, we’ve all got shared experiences and it’s important to talk about them. You might not think that your personal stories can translate to your business marketing, but they can. If you’d like to find out how, send me an email or book a call and let’s have a chat.
DI Alan McLean sighed and looked at his watch. Only ten minutes until sunset. He could only guess what time Victor Alexander would return home from work and find whatever he was going to find. McLean pulled the file across the desk and opened it again. It was certainly an unusual case. He wondered whether he’d have been sent the file if half of the station hadn’t gone down with a spectacular vomiting bug. Probably not. It wasn’t a major crime yet, although it certainly had potential. At the moment it was a just bizarrely seasonal stalking.
The first photo in the file had been taken on 22nd December, when Mr Alexander had arrived home to find that the front of his house and two shrubberies had been festooned with fairy lights. It was the Santa dummy on the doorstep that had rattled him. Or rather, the sign around its neck that read ‘what will you be getting for Christmas little boy?’ He wasn’t alarmed – far too level-headed for that – but it was a nuisance. He wanted it on record in case something else happened. The Santa was certainly creepy. A real-life version coming down the chimney would have been enough to send you running away screaming. McLean had taken his daughters to a grotto with a far more avuncular specimen.
He looked at his watch again and wondered what they were doing with their Christmas Eve. Was there a festive movie playing at home? The sky had turned orange and it would soon be dark. Had they talked their mum into making hot chocolate yet? He didn’t yet know what time he’d get home. One call from the officers stationed outside Alexander’s house could give him an idea, but his phone remained silent.
He turned back to the file and another photograph. The 23rd of December had brought a new display. Mr Alexander arrived home to find a series of photographs showing happy families celebrating Christmas. They all looked happy, eating and drinking or exchanging presents. The photographs had been blu-tacked to his front door, along with a wreath saying ‘Merry Christmas’. The FIs hadn’t found any fingerprints but they’d sent the whole lot for further examination, just in case. McLean wondered whether they’d been decimated by vomit too.
Now it was Christmas Eve. Time to find out whether Mr Alexander would come home to another prank or something more serious. He read Alexander’s statements again. He was the senior partner in a firm of accountants based in Leicester city centre. It clearly paid well – the house was large and in an affluent part of town. Yet he lived alone. Conversations with his neighbours revealed a man who worked long hours and didn’t socialise. Perhaps that was why they hadn’t noticed the new decorations being added to his house. McLean wondered whether he should feel sorry for the man, or whether he liked things that way. He drummed his fingers on the desk. It was finally dark. Surely something had to happen soon. There were two plain clothes officers in a car outside the house and a patrol car nearby. His phone buzzed. Mr Alexander had arrived home and there was no obvious sign of any interference with his property. Maybe it had just been a strange practical joke that had fizzled out. Hopefully that meant that he could go home soon. He liked Christmas Eve better than Christmas Day; there was something wonderful about the anticipation. He’d loved sharing the traditions from his childhood in Glasgow too. Most of them had been the same as the English customs, except one. His wife had never heard that you should light a candle and put it in your front window to welcome strangers. Their children had turned it into a candle to welcome Santa instead. He smiled, wondering if the candle would be there to light him home. The phone rang.
“Go ahead. Understood. I’m on my way.”
Alexander’s house looked even more impressive in real life than it did in the photos. The fact that there was a top of the range Jaguar parked in the drive didn’t hurt. McLean knew the plain clothes officer who answered the door.
“Evening sir. We found him in the garage, turning off the power. He’s in the living room now. Mr Alexander wanted a word.” He ended on an eye roll. It had obviously been a trying night already.
As McLean entered the room, his eyes were immediately drawn to the display on the wall next to the fireplace. ‘How does it feel to spend Christmas alone in the dark?’ It had been created by a projector that sat on the carpet.
Another officer rose from the sofa as he entered the room. He’d been sitting next to a pale young man in handcuffs, who was shaking so much McLean wasn’t sure he was capable of standing. It was a stark contrast to the beetle-browed man in the armchair. McLean knew it was Victor Alexander before he stood up to identify himself and shake hands. He had a firm handshake and a piercing gaze. McLean remembered his neighbours’ comments and wondered what it would be like to work for him. You certainly wouldn’t argue with him. The man was physically unremarkable yet somehow, he had force.
“I know it’s not the usual form, but I wanted to hear his explanation before you took him away.”
McLean nodded. “Have you had an explanation?”
Alexander shook his head. “I’m waiting for him to stop trembling. Come on, pull yourself together man!”
There was another chair opposite the sofa and McLean sank into it. He looked into the eyes of the handcuffed man and saw the effort that he was making to form a sentence. Finally, with a gulp and a deep breath, he spoke.
“He doesn’t remember who I am.”
“We’ve met a few times. I used to come and pick Fiona up when she was working late, save her getting the bus home.” He glanced at Alexander. “That happened quite a lot.”
“Fiona?” Alexander said. “Do you mean Fiona Mitchell?”
“My wife. I’m Mark Mitchell.”
“She was a good worker; I was sorry to lose her.”
“I bet you were. All that overtime for no extra pay.”
“She was dedicated.”
“She was overworked!”
“Is that what this is about?” McLean asked. “Getting your own back on your wife’s old boss? Why?”
Mark was shaking his head. “That’s not it. Let me explain.”
He fell silent until Alexander ran out of patience and told him to get on with it.
“I met Fiona when she was a trainee accountant. She was already working for Mr Alexander’s firm and they were paying for her training. I had quite a few friends who’d gone into law and finance so I knew you had to work hard to make it. The trouble was it never stopped. She told me that once she was qualified, she’d have more of her own clients so she could plan her workload. No more late nights because one of the partners needed her to do something urgent. Except it didn’t work that way. She became a safe pair of hands, someone he,” he nodded at Mr Alexander, “could rely on for sensitive work.”
Alexander nodded. “That’s true enough.”
“When we got married, she had to beg for two weeks off to go on honeymoon. Her Dad had a heart attack and he rang her to ask her to come in while he was still in surgery.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Of course you didn’t. You don’t exactly encourage personal confidences. But how hard is it to realise that you don’t call someone into work on a day their relative is near death?”
Alexander didn’t reply.
“Christmases were the worst. They always open because tax returns are due at the end of January and their clients often use their Christmas down time to get up to date. Somehow Fiona always ended up working because she didn’t have children.”
“That wasn’t my decision. I left all of that to the office manager.”
“Yeah, but plenty of people asked you to intervene because it was unfair. You could have done that, but you just closed your office door and let the office manager’s cronies get their own way. Every Christmas I’d have to go and visit my family on my own. Every year I’d sit there, seeing the sideways looks between my aunties. Their poor neglected nephew with a career woman for a wife. As if she had a choice. All because you don’t need a break if you haven’t got kids. The irony is, we really wanted them. It wasn’t for a lack of trying.”
“Is that why she left?” McLean asked.
“Yeah. She got home from work one Christmas Eve and just sobbed; she was exhausted. We had two days leave together before she had to be back in the office. I wanted to wrap her in a blanket and sit her on the sofa but she needed to see her family. We spent the whole time travelling around to visit everyone, then she went back to work. She handed her notice in a couple of weeks later.”
Alexander was nodding. “I remember. I still don’t understand why you did all of this. Were you trying to give me a terrible Christmas as some sort of revenge?”
“No. That wasn’t it. Have you read ‘A Christmas Carol’? Charles Dickens?”
Mark looked around the room, addressing the question to all of them. Someone muttered that they’d seen the film and McLean wondered if they meant the Muppet version. “Scrooge didn’t understand Christmas. He thought that life was all about money so he ended up alone and friendless, with no-one to mourn him. You reminded me of that story. You’re all alone in this lovely house until you go back to work. Maybe you’re happy that way, I don’t know. It sounds daft now I say it out loud, but I thought that if I could recreate the ghosts, it would help you to understand what Christmas is for. That it might make you think about your employees and look after them a bit better.” He went quiet but McLean had a strong impression that he was holding something back.
“Did you have something else to say?” McLean asked. “Now’s your chance.”
“It’s just – are you happy Mr Alexander?”
Alexander looked surprised. “I can’t remember the last time anyone asked me that. No, I don’t suppose I am. I grew up in a family where hard work and fun were equally important. Oh, we had the most wonderful Christmases back then.” His eyes shone as he spoke. “My father used to dress up as Father Christmas for the children’s party at the factory and I had to pretend I didn’t know it was him. Then over the years, hard work took over and the fun stopped. My wife, Belinda, died.” His voice faltered. “She had breast cancer. We didn’t have children so when she went I was all alone. It’s easier to bury yourself in work than to submit to the sympathy of well-meaning neighbours. Then one day you find that work is all you have.”
He looked up at Mark. “I’m sorry about Fiona, I didn’t realise she was so unhappy. The truth is, I liked it when she came in over Christmas. I don’t suppose she liked me very much, but she was kind. It reminded me of Belinda. She was good at looking after people, I expect Fiona’s the same.”
Mark nodded. “She is. Everyone except herself. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you.” He looked up at McLean. “I don’t think I want to press charges. Am I able to do that? Can you just let him go?”
“We can. He broke into your garage, but that’s his only offence.”
Everyone stood up and the sergeant removed Mark’s handcuffs.
“There was one other thing.” Alexander said. “Why now? Fiona left nearly two years ago, what prompted you to visit me this year?”
Mark smiled and reached into a pocket for his phone. He found what he was looking for with a few taps and held it out towards Alexander. “This is our daughter, Angela. It’s her first Christmas.”
The sergeant went ahead of McLean to stand down the patrol car that had pulled up in front of the house. Victor and Andrew shook hands on the doorstep.
“I can’t supply you with a giant goose, but I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.”
“Thank you. The whole family are descending tomorrow so it’ll definitely be busy, but at least we’ll have a few quiet days afterwards. What will you do?”
“I don’t know. I’ll think of something.”
As they walked down the path, a woman of about fifty walked up. “I’m sorry to intrude, but I saw the police car; is everything all right?”
“Yes, thank you.” Victor replied. “Just a misunderstanding.”
“Oh, that’s good.” McLean saw her hesitate, biting her lip. “Look – I know we don’t really know each other, but Belinda was a good friend to me. I loved her very much and I don’t believe she’d want you to be on your own at Christmas. Would you like to come over for a drink?”
“Thank you, I’d like that.”
McLean smiled. It was a lovely gesture but he still felt as if he might throw up. He checked his watch. If he was lucky, he’d be home in time for hot chocolate.
It’ll soon be time to hang up the ‘closed’ sign and head off for Christmas. (My closed sign is metaphorical – my office is in the garden and I don’t get visitors.) I know that there are lots of things that are traditionally great about Christmas, but it can also be hugely stressful. The conversation at a recent networking event turned towards gratitude and how much it can benefit our mental health. It got me thinking about the things I actually enjoy about Christmas, so I decided to write them down. Here are my 5 favourite things about Christmas…
I love taking the school holidays off. There’s nothing quite so joyful as turning off the alarm clock until January. I get to visit people I don’t get to see and spend more time with the ones I live with.
My favourite day off is the one I take on my own before school finishes. I know, I’m weird. I spend the day pottering about doing whatever festive thing comes to mind. It might be ‘Muppets Christmas Carol’ (again) or it could be wrapping presents with a mug of mulled wine and a mince pie. Bliss.
I’m a vegetarian so I’m not talking about turkey (although I do love Paxo). It’s all the other stuff that goes with Christmas. The cheese, the mince pies, opening the Prosecco at breakfast time. It’s the ridiculously huge tubs of Twiglets, Cheeselets and chocolates that you don’t get at any other time of year. I know I could eat pickled onions all year round, but I don’t. It’s all part of the festive feast and I love it.
If Christmas trees were banned tomorrow, I wouldn’t mind, as long as I could still have my lights. I love wearing jumpers and scarves and the fact that cold weather makes hot chocolate essential. The only thing I struggle with is the lack of light. A lot of my favourite things about Christmas involve lights – the Christmas tree, the candles and the high street displays. When January comes and the Christmas lights go out, the winter always feels just a little bit harder.
I’m not a religious woman, but I always head to church at Christmas. One of my relatives is a churchwarden and it’s always fun going to Christingle and watching lots of small children handle naked flames. Also, Christmas carols are brilliant, even if you’re not a believer.
There are also loads of good tunes on adverts and in the shops (although I was once a Christmas shop assistant and I know how wearing they get by Christmas Eve). It’s the one time of year that you can sing to your heart’s content and no-one bats an eyelid.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to start bumping off family members. Christmas is often associated with ghost stories, but I’m a crime writer. ‘Hercule Poirot’s Christmas’ is a fixture in my festive viewing, along with any new Agatha Christie adaptations that pop up. My husband bought me a copy of ‘The Mistletoe Murder and other stories’ by PD James a few Christmases ago. Since then that bit between Christmas and New Year, when you can’t remember what day it is, finds me curled up on the sofa with a new seasonal crime collection.
What are your favourite things about Christmas? Leave a comment and let me know!
In the 5 and a bit years since I became a business owner, I’ve learned a lot about mindset and motivation. A fitness coach once told me that you needed to aim for a positive outcome as trying to avoid a negative one didn’t work. I repeated this theory during a writing workshop, run by one of the most insightful and encouraging women I’d ever met. I don’t know what I expected her response to be, but “b***ocks!” certainly wasn’t it! I understand that avoiding the worst can be a powerful motivator, but I’ve seen a trend among some people in my network that focuses on talking about the people who hate you. I don’t get it. Why would you focus on that?
We can all think of people in the public eye (like Katie Hopkins) who seem to thrive on being hated. I get it, up to a point. If you find it easy to make controversial statements and it gets you work and fame, why wouldn’t you? The thing is, I’ve started to see other people doing it, whose businesses aren’t built around writing opinion pieces or turning up on TV as a talking head. I find it harder to understand why someone who runs an ordinary business should be shouting about being hated, yet I see it all the time.
Doubters vs haters
I feel it’s important to distinguish between the people who hate you and ones who are trying to protect you. Starting your own business is risky. You know it and the people who love you do as well. When I started out I was leaving a profession and a steady income behind. I had plenty of people tell me that I could always go back to it if things didn’t work out. I bet you did too. Hearing those kinds of comments could dent your confidence. They motivated me because I knew I didn’t want to go back. There’s a world of difference between that and trolls who send you abuse.
The people who hate you
When I hear most business owners talk about negative comments, they describe it as an annoyance. It’s something that takes time to deal with, often when they don’t have time and mental energy to spare. One business owner said that having haters is a sign you’ve made it, because it means that people are paying attention. There might be something in that, but if you’re talking about the people who hate you, why not mention the ones that love you too? Otherwise, it could just mean that your marketing isn’t reaching the right audience.
It’s been a while since I studied psychology, so I did some revision to try and understand what’s going on. For a divisive celebrity, the appeal of being a hero to some could counteract the effect of being hated. It could also be their way of putting two fingers up at anyone who tells them what to think. My favourite approach is in a 2015 study which suggests that knowing who your enemies are makes the world feel safer, so drawing them out might have its benefits. I think we can all understand wanting to find a bit of certainty just now.
I’m not going to start celebrating hate (it still feels like a waste of precious time and energy) but it’s given me some insight into the ones who do. Personally, I’d prefer to focus on the people who like what I do, because they’re the ones I can help.
What do you think?
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There are days when I sit down to write and it all just works. Today isn’t one of them. There are two sets of circumstances that allow me to just open a new document and get going. Firstly, there are the times that I have a plan. I’m either writing something for a client, where we’ve had a chat and I’ve got loads of notes, or it’s something I’ve written into my marketing planner because I think you’ll find it useful. Secondly, there are the days when I’ve got something to get off my chest. This is the stuff that sometimes doesn’t make it into print. It just feels good to write it down. When I’m wearing my fiction writing hat those words sometimes come back to me. They might not go into a finished piece, but it helps me get into the mindset of a character who’s thoroughly hacked off.
What’s the plan?
Today, I sat down with no idea what to write about. I’m a big believer in showing the person behind the business and being honest, but it’s not easy. I get frustrated at the way other people’s social media posts either pretend that everything in their life is perfect or exaggerate the misery. It’s the same in business. We feel as if we have to present a front that pretends business is easy and wonderful 100% of the time. Truth is, it isn’t. It’s frequently tough. It leads to those 3am crises of confidence where we sob and tell ourselves that we’ve made a horrible mistake. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. I’d rather deal with the self-doubt than go back to having a boss. But does reminding you all that there’s a real person behind the business make me look weak?
Why am I telling you this?
You may be reading this (or perhaps you’ve given up) wondering what on earth I’m going on about. What’s the point? The point of the story is that we all struggle to know what to talk about in our marketing. What do we share and what do we leave out? It’s partly for me, to help me work out why I find it difficult to write when I don’t have a plan. I hope that it helps you to know that you’re not the only one who struggles. Most of us don’t tell the truth on social media (I know that isn’t a profound insight, but there you go). A lot of us leave out anything negative. If times are bad we don’t post at all. Some people just lie. Or exaggerate to add some drama.
If we want to show the person behind the business, where do we start? Do we post warts and all accounts of the doubts and fears along with the wins? Probably not. We all have things we can justifiably keep private. But maybe we can start sharing some of the eye roll moments, or the times when things don’t go to plan. Or when the plan didn’t exist in the first place.
As for me, I’m going to go back to my planner and think of more stories like this one. I might even look at ideas for strategies to use when your mind goes completely blank!
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Once upon time, there was a brave warrior princess who decided to start a business. She told lots of stories in her email marketing so her customers would love her and her business was a great success. The end.
Don’t worry, I haven’t lost the plot. I’m just telling you a story. What sprang to mind when you read ‘once upon a time’? Did it feel familiar and maybe a bit comforting? That’s what stories do. They don’t all have to start like a fairytale though. Telling a story is a really effective way to market your business, especially when you use it in your email marketing. Here’s why it works and how you can use it for yourself.
Why storytelling works
When a story comes in a format you recognise it feels comforting. You know what to expect and feel as if you’re in safe hands. A story doesn’t have to be a fairytale. It could sound like a chat you’d have with a friend. The point is, it doesn’t feel as if you’re being sold something. You’re just listening to someone else’s experience. When you use this in your marketing, it builds trust and helps you to connect with your audience. Simple.
When to use it in your email marketing
Storytelling works particularly well in email marketing. You’ve come straight to your reader’s inbox and now you’re going to share a story with them. There are, as you might expect, a few different ways to do this. You could tell one long story and relate it to your business at the end, or you could drop in snippets of story here and there. Here are a few ways that you can start using storytelling in your email marketing.
Nurture sequences are those emails that you send to new subscribers. They let new people know what to expect. It’s also your opportunity to introduce yourself. You can use a sequence to show your subscribers who you are and how you help. Let them see the person behind the business and you’ll build trust. You can also share useful stuff, like links to your best blog posts and handy tips.
You might not think of a case study as a story, but it is. It starts out with someone facing a challenge, looking for a solution and ending up in a better place than they were before. It’s the real-life equivalent of a hero going on a quest. The only differences are that there aren’t any dragons and the princess saves herself. Case studies are also brilliant because they show your audience that you know what you’re doing and have got results for other people.
Email marketing introductions
If nurture sequences and case studies sound a bit long winded, don’t panic. There are simpler ways to use storytelling in your emails. You can start with your opening paragraph. That bit where you say hello before you share your latest blog post and current offers. You might decide to share your latest business news, but you can also tell a personal story. I work with lots of business owning mums so will often talk about the school holidays or something funny my kids have said. It’s a small thing that reminds my readers that we’re all dealing with the same stuff.
Do you want to start using storytelling in your marketing? I can help with that. Click here to book a chat with me and find out more about your options.
When you start coming up with blog topics, there’s one very important thing to keep at the front of your mind. Your customer. Whatever you write about, ask yourself – “will my customers care about this?” If they won’t, don’t write about it.
Knowing your customer should be one of the foundation stones of your marketing. When you know who’s most likely to need your services you can start talking just to them. A good blog can create that moment of recognition that makes your reader feel seen and understood.
Before you start working on a list of blog topics, think about who they’re for. Are they cash rich but time poor or the complete opposite? Will your products only suit people who are at a particular stage in their lives, like new parents or people who’ve just retired? Think about the problems you solve or the ways you make your customers’ lives better. Then we can get started.
The story so far
Sharing your story with your audience helps you to understand each other. People get to know you, like what you say and ultimately come to trust you enough to buy from you. The key is to talk about your experience and link it to the ways that helps your customers.
As an example, if you’re a parent selling clothes for babies and children, talking about your family shows your customers that you’ve been through it all and know how to make clothes that will last.
What has my personal life taught me?
You might have a personal story that isn’t obviously related to your business, but that’s made you who you are.
For example, when you’re building a business, you need to be a bit brave sometimes. If you’ve found a way to be brave, share it! Maybe something in your past has helped you to build skills that you use now. Tell your customers because they might just recognise themselves.
Answering an FAQ is a quick and easy way to create a new blog post. What are you asked most often? What do your customers ask you in emails or face to face? If they’re asking, people who are looking for you online will be too. It’s an easy way to start building your search rankings.
Create a list of the questions you’re asked all the time and start answering them in your blog.
What’s in the news?
You have to move fairly fast for this one, but if you can relate a news story to your business, people are more likely to find you. Lots of businesses offered advice about GDPR when it was on everyone’s minds. You can talk about current topics, but it’s also worth thinking ahead. Look out for topics you can talk about that your customers will need to deal with in the future.
Hopefully that’s got you off to a good start, but what else can you do? As always, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Think about what questions they’re typing into Google that will help them to find you. I’ve found that small business owners won’t necessarily search for a writer. But they will ask how they can attract more customers or improve their marketing. It’s my job to make sure that I talk about the answers to those questions.
If you’d like some more inspiration in book form, I can help.
‘50 blog topics for your business’ does exactly what it says on the tin. It gives you 50 topics that you can use straight away – if you write one a month that’s over four years’ worth of ideas for less than the cost of a family takeaway.
Does that sound good? Get your copy by clicking on the image below.
Some useful resources
Answer the Public – type in a key word and it’ll tell you what people have searched for.