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Selling Vs Storytelling

Updated: Jan 22, 2019

Creating a Community for Customers to Step Into


[ I promise, this story has a point ]


When I was in first grade, my parents bought me a community pool pass for the summer. It was a great community pool; they had water playgrounds, lap pools, water volleyball and basketball, they probably even had water polo for all I know, but I was more focused on the water slides of all shapes and sizes. Plus, the had two diving boards, a normal diving board just like the one at your friend’s house, and a high dive that could have doubled as a weather observation deck is was so tall. One sunny, California day, shortly after learning how to dive on a regular diving board, I went to the community pool to refine my new skill. Of course, the regular diving board was right next to the high dive, but that wasn’t an issue since I had no aspirations of expanding my newly learned skillset. The thought of the high dive didn’t even cross my mind until I stood in line behind a group of cool 5th grade guys. Naturally, there was nothing I wanted more in life at that point than to be recognized and accepted by a group of cool 5th graders. The group of guys were giving each other a hard time about not being brave enough to stand in line for the high dive, and how jumping off the high dive was the pinnacle of manliness.


I overheard their claims, so – impulsively – I switched lines. They noticed. Then, hesitantly, they switched lines as well. The fifth graders couldn’t get shown up by a puny first grade kid. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was happening. I was recognized, I was a leader of the cool kids. Life was amazing, the possibilities seemed endless, at this rate I figured I could reach the presidency by middle school. As I processed my newly expanded view of the future, I moved to the front of the line and was face to face with the tallest, steepest staircase I had ever seen. I became scared of falling backward off the staircase, let alone jumping off the top of the diving board. My future’s aspirations began to shrink, and I looked back for a way out. Standing there in anticipation were the guys. I knew I had no choice. I had to do this, or else I would never be cool (there’s something about a young brain that tends to think in polarities). So, I began the ascent. By the time I reached the top, the air felt thinner, and the water seemed miles below. I tried to remember my training on how to dive, but when your life and coolness are on the line, everything else seems to fade away. I jumped, I flailed, I prayed, and then I flopped. Belly-flopped, to be precise.


The pain was intense for my 40-pound body, but the failure to complete a proper dive in front of the entire pool audience hurt worse. I doggy paddled to the side of the pool and began to limp off to my towel, ashamed, embarrassed, and the front half of my body as red as a lobster. Then, much to my surprise, that group of 5th grade guys, who I had never spoken to mind you, came up and congratulated me on being brave enough to jump and how cool it was. The rest of the day I walked around shirtless to show my red skin as a badge of honor.

Why do I tell that story? For two reasons. First, because innate in human nature for all of us is the desire to belong, to fit in, and to feel accepted. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, right after our desire for survival and safety are met (and sometimes before, as my 2nd grade self illustrated) we long for a sense of love and belonging. Second, I tell that story and a story at the start of every chapter because people relate to and engage with stories more so than facts and figures. Good stories connect with us because we can relate with them – we can put ourselves in the place of the characters, and we can visualize the story like it is one of our own experiences.


A quality website shares the story of the target audience. It identifies with their problem and offers them a solution that people like them have found helpful. We all want to belong, and a website represents a brand that people can associate their personal brand with to feel like a part of something bigger than themselves, something representative of themselves. Most website tells site visitors about the site’s brand; an extraordinary website invites site visitors to become a part of their brand.


So instead of sharing a statistic about how you have helped all your clients grow by at least 10%, share a story about how you helped Beth grow her sales by 10%, allowing her team to create 10 more jobs. Instead of your organization offering services to your client’s organization, offer a partnership to learn and grow together. Words like ‘we’ and ‘us’ are the goal here. When clients see that you understand their problem, that you have helped others like them solve similar problems, and that you’re opening the invitation for them to become a part of your community, you will have an effective story brand that converts.


Need help telling your story in a digital world? Let's start a conversation.

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