how to use stories attract your ideal clients with marsha shandur

[341] How to use stories to attract your ideal clients with Marsha Shandur

Do you want to attract more of the right clients? Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to build an audience and to establish trust and credibility.

But many people either lack confidence in their storytelling ability or are scared of revealing too much of themselves.

In this episode, I talk to story coach Marsha Shandur who teaches others how to tell their own personal stories to build audiences. She explains the power of storytelling, busts the myths surrounding it, and gives practical advice on using stories to grow your audience.

{Click on the player above to listen to the podcast episode and/or read on for a detailed overview. Scroll down to the bottom to read the show notes including all the links mentioned in this episode}.

Why storytelling is important

Storytelling makes people who encounter you – a potential client or somebody you want to subscribe to your email list  – feel like they already know you.

As Marsha explains: “Given the choice between hiring someone who we knew was a friend of a friend, or hiring someone who’s a total stranger, we’re more likely to go for the friend of a friend because there’s some trust value there. Telling stories is a way to make strangers feel like they’re your friends instantly.”

Myths about storytelling

“There’s a myth that either you’re a good storyteller or you’re not, like you’re born with the talent for it or you’re not. We all tell stories when we’re kids, but we forget that,” says Martha.

She believes storytelling is a learnable skill and that there are a set of rules to follow that anyone can learn.

Another myth is that people think they have to have a fascinating life to be able to tell engaging stories. In reality, it’s not about the story you tell, but about how you tell it. In fact, if your aim is to build an audience or to make a connection with people who don’t know you, the less outrageous your story, the more likely people are to connect with it.

Marsha uses the example of people who quit corporate life to follow their dream career for entrepreneurship. Typically these kind of people believe their story isn’t interesting or dramatic enough to attract their ideal clients.

But Marsha believes a story like this can give you credibility. There will be other people out there who want to quit corporate life because they want to be an entrepreneur. That story will resonate with them and give them confidence that you understand their problem.

It also offers hope – you’re showing them there’s a way out of the situation they’re in.

It also shows prospective clients that they are not alone – that there are other people out there who feel the way that do. This is really powerful.

Whether you want people to hire you, to buy from you or subscribe to your mailing list and get on board with you, you need to create trust in them, and that’s what personal stories do.

The importance of sharing vulnerabilities

Many coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs are terrified of sharing personal details of their life – particularly if they have previously been in corporate life.

Janet’s clients often tell her they are worried about oversharing, being boring and/or being laughed at by former colleagues.

But being vulnerable isn’t about sharing huge life-changing events. It’s about showing small vulnerabilities and being honest enough to admit that your life is not perfect.

In fact, Janet believes being vulnerable can help you create a stronger connection between you and your audience.

For Marsha too, showing vulnerability is a crucial part of helping people connect with you. She explains, “When we meet someone, vulnerability is the last thing we want to show them but it’s the first thing we look for. The reason we want vulnerability is because we feel inadequate if we’re around people who don’t show it.”

Leadership and vulnerability

Many coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs also worry that being vulnerable will compromise their status as a leader.

But this is rarely the case – as Janet found when she accidentally went live on Facebook page recently. In fact, people contacted her afterwards and said that seeing her mess up made them feel so much better about things that had gone wrong for them in the past.

As Marsha points out, “Telling a story about a time that you were imperfect, shows people that you’re not a perfect robot.”

If you’re worried about oversharing, Marsha recommends choosing stories that allow you to maintain emotional distance. Sharing too much – for example, that you’ve had a fight with your husband  –  could mean that your audience won’t feel safe. But sharing that you accidentally went live on Facebook is unlikely to have the same effect.

Janet Murray Speaking at Youpreneur Summit 2017

How to be a good storyteller

It’s tempting to think that being a good storyteller means sharing all the details: the beginning, the middle and the end. Actually the opposite is true. It’s the small ‘moments’ that help your audience connect with you.

A great story consists of two things, says Marsha.

  1. How you felt
  2. What happened next

For example, Janet recalls being sat at a speakers’ dinner with her entrepreneurial heroes Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas sat beside her. A woman came up, knelt down beside her and said ‘are you one of the speakers’ wives?’ (Janet was also a speaker at the event).

The fact Janet refers to them as her ‘entrepreneurial heroes’ tells us she was excited [how she felt] and the woman kneeling down beside her is the ‘what happened next.’

One story can be told from different angles – allowing you to repurpose your content. For example, Janet has already used this story in her social media marketing in a number of different ways.

Angle 1: How Janet can’t help getting starstruck when she meets her entrepreneurial heroes

Angle 2: How difficult it is for women speakers to be taken seriously

Angle 3: The curse of being British and polite (Janet almost pretended she wasn’t a speaker so she didn’t hurt the woman’s feelings)

How to deal with criticism

One of Janet’s clients had an unsettling experience after going live on Facebook and receiving some unsolicited criticism from a friend, discouraging her from doing any more video.

Marsha think this is difficult to avoid when doing anything in the public eye and has had similar experiences herself.

And, as marketing is generally about attracting and repelling people, if some people don’t like what you’re doing, it can actually be an effective way of flushing out timewasters.

“Even if your story offends a bunch of people or makes them think badly of you, it also will have helped a load of other people. So if someone is mean, remember that’s not the person that you’re trying to effect. That’s not the person that you want on your mailing list. And that’s also not the person who’s going to relate to your story – or become your client.”

Podcast show notes:

  • Marsha’s business story
  • Why people are scared of storytelling (and why you shouldn’t be)
  • Why it’s good to show vulnerability (without airing all your dirty laundry)
  • How to get to the point and pick out ‘the moment’ that will hook people in
  • Why you shouldn’t worry if your stories are not for everyone
  • How sharing your mistakes or fears helps people to feel comfortable


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