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Stories, word-of-mouth, and an undercover space alien.

I recently posted on Twitter that stories tend to get passed on more than plain information. With this post, I am taking few minutes to delve a bit deeper and look at why stories are such great word-of-mouth material, and what kind of stories you might want to tell.

What’s a story anyway?

Just to clarify, by story I don’t necessarily mean The Notebook or the Njáls Saga. I’m simply talking about accounts of happenings, told in a captivating way. It may contain a ton of information, but the difference lies in the delivery. A story is personal, in the sense that it has a point of view and an audience. Good stories get shared when they are relevant to the person telling them and to the one listing.

The shortcomings of information.

Of course it’s super important and helpful to have a good amount of plain, factual information, and there is a type of information that’s also quite sharable. (More on that in another post, and in my free workshop on April 17.)

But it often isn’t enough to lead someone to your (virtual or brick-and-mortar) door. The problems are that one, there is way too much information out there than we can ever possibly make sense of, and two, it’s getting increasingly hard to figure out what information is trustworthy and relevant.

This is where stories and word-of-mouth come in.

A story about Chinese Medicine, featuring a 102-year old doctor.

Especially helpful are stories about real people, in similar situations, who had positive, surprising, even shocking experiences. For example, I had read before that Chinese Medicine can be very effective for alleviating or healing chronic conditions (information). But then last weekend I heard this first-hand account (story) from a gentleman who had lived with diabetes for years, combined with some unusual complications that had several doctors write papers on him and his wife joke that he must be an undercover space alien. When he traveled to China, he went to see a 102-year old master practitioner who, through a translator, correctly identified all his symptoms and prescribed a protocol that completely resolved his health issues within about three months.

Now, if I meet someone with diabetes who is considering complementary or alternative treatments, I will most definitely tell that story. Too bad I can’t refer them directly to that doctor, but I’m sure he’s getting plenty of business through local word-of-mouth.

Using stories to help your people overcome blocks.

Let’s get down to it and look at what stories specifically you might want to tell and why. One strength of stories is that they can help people overcome certain blocks that keep them from becoming your client. These include:

Block #1: Being afraid to try.
People might be afraid to try your class or treatment or pickles for all kinds of reasons. They may be afraid of feeling stupid for asking questions, or not getting results, or not being able to keep up. Maybe they anticipate physical discomfort.

You can help them overcome that fear by telling the stories of people’s experiences with their trials, especially people they can relate to – maybe because they came to see you for a similar problem, or they had a comparable level of fitness.

Block #2: Being skeptical.
People may have gotten the memo about, say, the healing potential of essential oils – but they might be skeptical whether they can believe what they heard, and whether it will work for them, in their situation.

The best kind of stories to share with them are those of others who were initially skeptical, and then got surprisingly awesome results.

Turning stories into word-of-mouth.

So, how do you get those stories to be shared in genuine, real-world word-of mouth interactions? As you may have imagined, a lot of it is outside your control – but you can create the spark and fan the embers. I will write more about that in coming posts, but for starters, you can give newbies, prospects, and happy clients a chance to meet and have a conversation (in person or online). You can also sprinkle honest, interesting stories throughout your materials, and you can give your clients and allies helpful pieces (print or digital) they can pass on to others.

If you have any great stories up your sleeve, I’d love to hear them!

{Photo by frt.z on Flickr.}

3 Comments

  • lightbox on Mar 28, 2013 Reply

    Yes, and yes. 🙂 Sprinkle them into your website copy, share short and sweet ones on Facebook, tell them face to face. You can do that without identifying your client. Just give enough information to allow others to relate to them, for example what problem they came to see you for, or what misconceptions they had about massage therapy.

  • Nguyet Howard on Mar 25, 2013 Reply

    How do you tell your stories- put it on your website or facebook page. I have conversations with clients every day and some are personal, therefore can not share and some are about massage and benefits. How do I pass these stories onto prospects?

    Thank you.
    Nguyet

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