How Do I Get People to Care About What I’m Doing? – Tell Bigger Stories

Knight Horse and Sword

One of the tenets of the Human Business Way is that we must learn to tell bigger stories. What do I mean by that? What am I trying to solve by suggesting that to you as part of my thoughts on business design?

Think about you and your media consumption habits. I sent this out Monday in the early AM (in the US, that is). When did you get to it? How many posts did you read before and after this post? How often do you read something and just move on to the next piece without really taking a breath or two to consider what you learned and what you might apply from what you’re reading? How many times do you hit “bookmark for later” or similar and then take months and months to get to something?

Your reader is in the same boat as you. They’re rushing around the web looking for scraps of useful or entertaining (or if you’re lucky, both) content, and you’re just one stop on the menu. What are you going to do to be seen and heard in the fray?

Tell a Bigger Story

I gave similar advice to friends in my free newsletter yesterday. But in case you’re not getting that example of my best advice and heartfelt help for your own business and goals, I’ll tell you a bit about what I shared.

A “bigger story” is one where you make your buyer the hero, where you equip him or her for success, and where you serve the community within which your business exists. For instance, this post itself is written for you, as a business professional, to take and use for your own business value. But maybe you’re not in the same business as me. What if you’re Joel Libava: The Franchise King? Joel serves people in the franchising space. So what does he write about? Joel tirelessly seeks out ways to help the people who buy franchises as well as consults with those who sell franchises. What you read and watch on Joel’s site serves his community well.

A bigger story comes from Gini Dietrich, when she equips PR professionals with thoughts that aid those people with their development. If you’re a PR professional and you’re not seeking out great quality learnings from people like Gini, you’re missing the best opportunities out there.

So, How Do I Get People to Care About What I’m Doing?

It’s difficult. People are busy with their own work. They have their own huge stories going on. Think about yours. When you’re not hanging out reading [chrisbrogan.com], you have this huge life, right? So how have you seen me get through to you?

A Quick Recipe for Telling Bigger Stories

Ingredients(Pick 2 or 3 of the following):

  1. Connect with an emotion.
  2. Share something useful.
  3. Create a valuable resource.
  4. Give without asking as often as possible.
  5. Be brief and/or entertaining.

Preparation Instruction:

Tell a story about your buyer. Start with them, and not you/your products, in mind. My friend, John Jantsch, is very much the voice of education and a trusted advisor to a horde of small business owners who aren’t necessarily marketers first and foremost, but need to know what John knows to succeed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen John push anything selling-wise. Even when he publishes a new book (which he does reasonably often), he writes one fairly chaste post and moves on. That’s what you’re aiming for in all cases.

If you’ve got customers who’ve been successful with your help, write about them, but don’t mention you. Never ever give in to that nagging urge to say, “…and we were able to supply the website that gave him those 304% more leads a week.” The magic trick is when you can tell your readers some advice that will help them without having to sell your product, and then maybe way near the bottom of the post, you can mention a way to contact you (or however you get people into your pipeline), such that you deliver as much value for free and up front as you can before you ask for anything.

Finally, keep matters brief. People don’t have the time to sift through your rambling piece to find what they want. Break up your post with lots of visual cues (not sure what I mean? Look at this blog post), and make it easy to consume. This means a lot.

For best results, comment as often as you can when people reply to your post. Not always, and not neurotically. Just do what you can.

We Live Through the Lens of “I” But Sometimes We Slip Into “We”

These pronouns of ours matter more than people think. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone says “you guys” when they are addressing people that matter to their success. When I started my first consulting company, we referred to our clients as “partners.” It was difficult for some people (on either side of the table) to understand my insistance, but it’s simple: what I wanted to foster was the belief that we were there for our partner’s success. It’s pretty easy to say “well, you didn’t do what we suggested.” But if we’re all “we,” then, we all work for the victory. Right?

Deliver Victory

To close this up, realize that the best recipe for success with telling bigger stories is the one that helps everyone be the hero in their own story. My best success (in regards to my writing) is when someone uses something I’ve written and they score a win in their own world. Why? Because what do you think that person does once they model my advice and it works? They come back.

Isn’t that why you’re here?

What’s your big story around your product or service?

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  • http://twitter.com/phillyrealty Christopher Somers

    Wowsa. This is a GREAT read to start the week with a lot of tips that I will utilize more in my own blogging efforts.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Glad it helped, sir. : )

  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    I’m really big on the not selling through content model you describe here. But what I’ve discovered this year, particularly when Marketing in the Round came out, if you spend all of your time blogging without asking people to buy something, they’re offended (as if!) when you have something to sell. Like John, I wrote one blog post about it and the book is highlighted in the sidebar of Spin Sucks, but that’s created some animosity.

    I relay that because I think it is important to find a way to remind people you’re not just creating content for free; you have a mortgage to pay, too. I know I could do a better job of it.

    But the most important thing? Know what you’re trying to accomplish with your content. Is it brand awareness? Is it credibility? Is it to change the perception of an entire industry? Once you know that, the content piece of it comes a little more easily.

    And…thank you for the nice compliment!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      In your case, Gini, what might be happening is what I see as commonplace in the PR world. Because it’s the world of earned media, many people forget that products and services cost money. Especially if your community is used to not paying for anything, for some reason, seeing the request to buy is tricky. I made that painful transition a handful of years ago here and it was rough going for quite a while.

      What I learned from the experience was valuable:

      1.) Lots of people view “Free” as a right, and not an offering.
      2.) Most of the people who want free-only aren’t necessarily in it for your success (they’re using you in some cases – not all).
      3.) The people who can’t afford a product but are most often decent and just say nothing or politely defer.
      4.) Over a very short time, once people come to realize that there’s a dividing line between what’s free and what isn’t, they just come to know when you’ve clearly demarcated that line.

      That’s how I experienced it. One’s mileage may vary.

      And you’re welcome. : )

      • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

        As my mom would say…some people’s children!

        • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

          Hah! What a nice way of saying it. : )

      • http://twitter.com/SusanGiurleo Susan Giurleo

        It’s the psychology of setting expectations. If we go along in one direction for a long time (offering value for free) people expect it to continue that way forever. To flip to ask for money results in cognitive dissonance. An internal “whoa, this isn’t what this person is about. I’m confused and irritated now because my expectations have been rattled with no warning.” This would happen if your favorite pizza place started to suddenly sell sushi. No one would like that there would be complaints.

        In our world, the way to avoid these expectations is to get out of the gate with what you REALLY want to do on your site. If it’s to offer value as a marketing tool to sell something – get to that quickly and no one will blink an eye. Even if you have a big thing to sell down the line, offer small things along the way to prime those expectations. No one gets huffy when they turn on the Home Shopping Network and get sold to. No one will get cranky if you sell from your blog if it’s what you tell them (and show them) you do.

        • ceb

          True that. Context and work.

      • http://twitter.com/ScottPropp Scott Propp

        Chris – very through provoking post – it’s helping me to more consistently put the avatar of my client at the center of the story thanks.

        Also appreciate the great conversation – as a three decade corporate type moving to a solo, I can relate to the challenge of finding the hazy line between complementary and paid services. I am learning to frame the dialogue in the context of service delivery from the outset (complementary consultation) which seems to ease the speed bump or fee for service.

    • http://thefranchiseking.com/about-joel-libava-the-franchise-king The Franchise King

      Gini,

      You mean that you’re trying to make a profit in your business this year?

      LOL

      The Franchise King®

      • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

        Imagine that!

        • http://thefranchiseking.com/about-joel-libava-the-franchise-king The Franchise King

          Weird.

  • Rod Dunne

    Very interesting Chris – Stories & Heros. Sounds like we’re venturing towards some of Joseph Campbells work here (Hero with a thousand faces, etc.). Very interesting to see you apply this in a business context, with the customer as hero. It has me wondering now how Campbells’ concepts of Mentors, refusals of the call, central ordeals, etc. could all be applied

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Thanks, Rod. Though I can’t cop to being nearly as clever as Campbell, I agree with the comparison in the abstract. : )

  • http://www.dickiearmour.me.uk Dickie Armour

    Loving the new look and feel of your website Chris – neat and very professional.

    I love your Quick Recipe for telling bigger stories; all 5 points are so valid. My personal favourites are 2. and 4.

    What we share has to be useful and I totally agree it’s got to be about helping others. But for me Point4. is absolutely key. Bob Burg’s brilliant book “The Go Giver” is all about giving and helping others first without expecting anything in return.

    I think that’s why I’m such a fan of social media and blogs because people are so nice on these platforms and become advocates of others first. It’s never about broadcasting but about telling stories and sharing great content which helps other people.

    As Zig Ziglar says “If we can help enough people get what they want; eventually we will get what we want.”

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Thanks, Dickie. I appreciate the kindness.

      I agree that these types of platforms give us a chance to do more and do it better, and with heart. : )

  • BrianHumek

    Loved the post Chris. This is a test to see if my comment will stick this time.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      It stuck. : )

  • BrianHumek

    I needed to read this today. We’re about to mount a campaign on Indiegogo for PizzaSpotz. Of course, there is the main reason for the campaign which is redesign, PR and some funds for salary for a few months. But we wanted to combine our campaign with something more emotional than just finding, making or reading about pizza.

    We wanted to embrace item #1 in your recipe for telling bigger stories. We found a charity that provides free cataract surgeries to the blind in the predominately Buddhist countries of Bhutan, TIbet and Nepal. We love the charity and cause and have pledged, if our campaign is successful, enough money to provide 100 cataract surgeries and will give even more if our campaign exceeds our goal.

    We’ll have a video of the good work and have committed to giving to this charity on a permanent basis. I think when we connect emotionally with people, it better not be a gimmick. As with most things, authenticity is key. I have been passionate about this charity for a few years. The low rate of admin and funsraising costs is amazing. It was only logical for us to make it a charity partner.

    I’ve seen lots of startups who partner with various charities, Kiva, Charity Water, etc. that have nothing to do with their core product, so I’m hoping what we’re doing is acceptable too.

    Thanks again for the inspiring post.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Wow! So smart to tie cause marketing to your success. Then people are doing good while helping your organization. It’s a two-fer. : )

      • BrianHumek

        i’m hoping it works as well as it plays out on paper or on a word doc : )

      • http://www.whiteboardbusiness.com/ Dallon Christensen

        So let me ask this question, because I really like this idea – does it make more sense to tie “cause marketing” to something related to your business? I focus all of my charitable time and effort on three causes. One is a cancer research foundation named after my sister’s late fiance. Another is JDRF because my son is a Type 1 diabetic. The third is Junior Achievement. All three organizations are great and do so much good. However, JA is more focused on entrepreneurship. That seems like the most logical “cause marketing”, but can I make a business-related cause out of JDRF or the cancer foundation?

        I’d love to hear about the pros and cons from Brian and Chris on this one.

  • http://youtube.com/user/tommyisastrategist Tommy Walker

    Fantastic piece Chris! I’d like to add that a “bigger story” can also include your own, when there are real lessons to be learned from it.

    A lot of advice out there gets really preachy, but when you pepper in some “this is what I’m doing” and “these are my goals and this is what’s worked and what has failed” it gives your reader a part in an ongoing narrative.

    I”ve started to take this approach with my own, and my client’s work, and so far it seems to be gaining a lot of ground. We’ll see, just wanted to add that to this very timely post:-)

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Well sure, but I don’t really have to remind people to tell their own story. People do it exhaustively.

      • http://youtube.com/user/tommyisastrategist Tommy Walker

        True, but very few do it well :-P

        I’m going to have to give this one an extra share later :-)

        • fosterow

          are u sure?

          • http://youtube.com/user/tommyisastrategist Tommy Walker

            positive. From what I see, many will do the “look at me, look at me” instead of giving their readers something or someone to root for. Those who do it well are on the rise, or at the top already.

  • http://www.lifestyleupdated.com/ Slavko Desik

    Telling a big story is nothing about enticing with a sweeter carrot, or threatening with a sharper stick. What to do, or what not to. It’s about sharing a vision that gradually develops by itself with every reader individually. Something that evokes more engagement. Just as the recipe you mentioned above. Something bigger…

    Making people care about what I write, I must first care about what they want; what they need; what they enjoy being a part of. Then it’s not my writing that they follow, but rather their vision, their idea. Suddenly the shift is apparent, whereas my stories are nothing but their stories instead.
    Great post Chris. Something many online entrepreneurs lack as a concept.

    • ceb

      I’d offer that the vision doesn’t develop by itself. Interpretations might, but I don’t know how many successful visions were “wait and see” experiences. Your mileage may have varied. Everything I’ve ever done has been with purpose.

  • http://thefranchiseking.com/about-joel-libava-the-franchise-king The Franchise King

    Thanks a lot for the mention. It was a nice way to wake -up, today.

    Your support for me…my mission has been tremendous.

    Sp glad we met.

    (2nd attempt to thank you via comment. 8:30 AM one didn’t stick.)

    The Franchise King®

    • ceb

      If you stuck a URL in there, I’ll probably find it tomorrow. And you’re welcome. Do good work.

  • http://purchaseplr.com/ Jessica Kihara

    I love your thoughts on calling your clients “partners”. It’s probably a great way to foster connections and build trust.

    • ceb

      It worked quite favorably for me. : )

  • Park howell

    Hasn’t it always been about the story? Social media started out and still prescribes to lists, and “How to’s,” and “Why’s…,” versus the bit harder work of translating that wonderful information into a compelling tale buttressed by myth. Tell me a story, for my brain will always succumb to its suction.

    • ceb

      Well, YOU know it, but do you feel it’s the norm?

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  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    The recipe for stories is too tempting to make. Truely the points are bang on. Thanks for the share.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wheelersmind Richard Wheeler

    You guys are all great and have collectively illustrated and delivered all five ingredients in a way that left this reader wanting more. It appears that Chris’s concept might go full circle as it emrges from deep generosity that is applied to a marketplace philosophy and will now help guide my awareness mission for my inherited neuromscular disorder Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT). It’s a rare disease that affects 2.6 million people worldwide and I will be reaching out to 31 million mixed martial arts (MMA) fans that might not be watching the telethons!

  • http://www.turndogmillionaire.com/ Turndog Millionaire

    I echo my comments from Sunday…love the bigger story idea. It’s all about the bigger picture :)

    And really am loving the style of the new site. Good job sent out to he/she who designed it

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  • http://www.strategicpropositions.com Jose Palomino

    We’re always told to tell stories, but I like that you’ve taken it one (big) step further. I also love the ingredients that you listed. It really got me thinking which ingredients I tend to use, and which ones I should use more often than I do.

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  • http://www.lisarobbinyoung.com Lisa Robbin Young

    I think we’ve been enculturated to not tell our bigger stories because – well, they’re BIG – and that almost smacks of bragging. Some of us have done incredibly awesome things and nobody knows about them. Some of us are up to amazing things and don’t feel confident opening our mouths to share these stories with the very people that not only need to hear them, but also can help us spread the word.

    Of course, I hold myself in this crowd from time to time.

    One of the things I teach/harp on is that we train our clients how to treat us by what we expect and permit in our relationships. If we’re not sharing our big things in a compassionate, service-oriented way, how in the world will they ever know? More importantly, how can we expect THEM to share their stories if we’re not modeling that behavior?

  • HelenNest

    Great article, Chris! I feel point 4 should be the most important while building relations with customers. The more you give, the more you get – this is a well-known truth. Someone may object that we are here to earn money but I strongly believe that it’s possible to reach your own goals helping others to solve their problems.

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  • Sue

    How can you have a big story out of being a caretaker and get your other family members to care?

  • http://www.indieswebs.com/ Indies Services

    Hi Sir,
    Love your post.
    “We Live Through the Lens of “I” But Sometimes We Slip Into We”.
    Marketing is all about incubating the above line.
    Thanks for a wonderful insight.

  • DEEP3R

    Storytelling is something I have yet to do, and I am going to try this and see how it works.Another great tip, to add after I just finished your book.

  • http://WiltonBlake.com/ Wilton Blake

    To me, the most powerful message is what I use with my clients. I work hard to make them the hero and to teach them to make their clients, customers, donors, and volunteers heroes.

    I love stumbling across old posts.

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