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The Clientside Podcast

Business Story Telling With Steve Rawling

The Clientside Podcast

51 min Steve Rawling

Andrew Armitage talks to former BBC TV journalist and Business Story telling expert Steve Rawling about what Business Story telling is and how a story can be used for a positive impact.

We discuss how telling a story and sharing both the positive and negative business experiences allows those listening to relate and learn more about who you really are as a business.

We look at how having clarity over who your audience is and not speaking in the abstract can enable you to reach potential leads easier.

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Andrew :
Hi everyone it's Andrew Armitage with you again for another episode of the Clientside podcast. This is the show that gives you actionable tips to take away and apply in your business, supporting your digital marketing, your brand and your growth. Hope you're OK and starting to see the return of some normality now that we're seeing some of the lockdown restrictions being lifted. Now, in the last episode, we spoke about SEO and how content was really the foundation to any search engine activity. So this week, to follow on from that, we're talking just about content, but not any old content. As we emerge from lockdown I think it's pretty obvious we're going to see a recession, hopefully the muted V shaped recession rather than the prolonged economic shock. But nonetheless, it's going to be vital to keep getting your message across to your audience. That in itself often isn't too much of a problem. However, getting your voice heard above the noise as everybody strives to up their content game can be more challenging. Storytelling is something, as humans we're introduced to from a very young age and we repeated throughout our lives, we have our own stories to tell but how well do we tell these stories in business? Well, my guest today is someone who knows all about telling stories and how powerful they can be.

Andrew :
Steve Rawling has helped entrepreneurs sharpen their pitches, estate agents to sell houses and leaders manage their teams all by telling better stories. As a former BBC TV journalist, Steve reckons he's told about 20000 stories in his career so he can probably help you tell yours. He blogs regularly on LinkedIn, and his website is newthinking.tools So welcome to the show, Steve.

Steve:
Thank you very much for having me on. It's really interesting what you're saying about content is king, and we've heard that many, many times. But quite often people don't then actually go on to tell you what is content and then they might tell you a little about your story, but they actually don't tell you what actually a story is. So a lot of people are thinking, well, yeah, one of my one of my clients after the training I've done with them said I used to think the story was basically this magic thing that only a few people could do, and it was script writing. And in Hollywood, it's not it's not at all stories is the kind of thing that you talk about in a coffee shop or a bar or on the phone to you, to your friends. And, you know, how was your day? It was a fantastic day, I had a great day. And they say oh yeah what happened. And then you tell a story, or you go, oh, I had the day from hell. I had the worst possible day. And I'm cringing inside when I think about the day I've just had. Oh what happened? And then you tell a story.

Steve:
So actually stories as you said, they're all around us they're at our fingertips. And what's really, really interesting is that when we then sit down with the same fingertips and start typing away at an email or a newsletter or a blog post or, you know, we start writing copy all that goes out the window and we start thinking, ah now what does my boss want to read? And they start, you know, start writing things that your boss wants to read or, you know, what do I think I should say if I was if I was an expert and I'm on news night and, no.

Andrew :
So we forget how to articulate our message you're saying because we're you know, we're so used to talking our stories, but maybe not so when it comes to writing our stories.

Steve:
Well, also, what's really happening is we live our stories. We act them out all the time. And those are the true stories of what you actually do. And then what you find again and again and again is so people do their thing all the time and they do it's often really well and they struggle and they and then someone says, OK, well, tell me about your work. And they strip all that out, all that they actually do and they raise it up, this kind of abstract level, and they start talking about the theory of what they do at this sort of super abstract level and everyone's going, ahh yeah.

Andrew :
It becomes overcomplicated. Do you think that's an effort for people to try and stand out? Because they think actually, if I just say, for example, we build websites, is there too many people that do that and therefore they think, oh, I'm going to make it sound a little bit more exciting.

Steve:
Make a little bit sound more exciting, but also just kind of, you forget that, that OK, there's this thing that is described as the curse of knowledge and the curse of knowledge is when you're an expert in something. An expert just means you've done many, many hours of it. So, you know, you racked up your hours. So when you're an expert in something, you forget that no one else knows what you you've done. Never mind.

Andrew :
You get too close to it.

Steve:
You get too close to it. And so you forget that people don't haven't seen what you've seen. So when you're talking about your work, you're running a little movie in your head because you were there and you remember it. But I'm not, because I wasn't there. And so all you need to do is to drop certain things in. So yesterday I was working with this guy in Estonia who, and he runs an engineering firm. And ok, straight away, you're starting to build a little picture in your head of this guy in an Estonian factory and working in engineering. And that's what you need to do. You need to stop talking about abstract, need to stop talking about customers, plural. Because when I say customers, you can't see anything, that's all in your head.

Andrew :
It's too broad a picture really.

Steve:
Too big. When I say, look, there's this guy in Estonia, he's an engineer. He's been working for 40 years, 40 years in the family firm. And, you know, OK, so now you can see you can make up a little picture. Now, your picture might be nothing like the real guy in Estonia. Doesn't really matter. At least you've got a picture. And the more detail, little bits of detail I can drop in along the way into that story, the richer your picture becomes to the point where actually you might have a pretty good picture. The point is, we think in pictures, we don't think in abstract we think and visual images and we remember stuff that's visual, that's real. So if you're only talking about abstract and you're only talking about big data,these customers who.

Andrew :
You're making it hard for people to join the dots, I guess, aren't you then? And tie the different aspects of a story together? If it's all too abstract.

Steve:
It's too abstract you can't picture it. You can't, therefore, you can't really understand it. And you don't, certainly won't remember it. And so when you talk about, you know, it's all about importance of standing out in the crowd. And you're absolutely right. There's kind of two things. One is about getting people's attention in the first place. And storytelling, storytellers has always been very, very good. Storytellers live or die by whether they can get get your attention and then hold your attention. And that's the two things don't necessarily go together. I mean, there's all sorts of ways, the people who invented click bait, they know that there are certain ways of getting attention, but then they never reward you. They never actually deliver. So you go emerging from five minutes to reading a click bait article. It's like, you know, you need to have a shower. You feel used, you feel dirty, right?

Andrew :
How dare somebody waste your time like that.

Steve:
Exactly. Because they promised to reveal the secrets of. And then all they did was. Yeah. Sell you some guff about like anti wrinkle cream. So doesn't, you know, yak. So we hate that but the trick is the same. The trick is there's a storytelling trick about I know something you don't know. You need to listen to me whilst I tell you the story. And what good storytellers do is they actually deliver. So they say, I know something you don't know. Here's the secret of. And then they actually give you a secret. So you go, oh, OK, thank you.

Andrew :
Yeah. I guess a really good example of that actually could be stand up comedy, because if people if you're a comedian on stage can't captivate the audience, they're going to get heckled and they're going to be booed off stage almost literally. Aren't they?

Steve:
Ruthless? Yeah, ruthless. OK, so here's a Segway. Here's a joke three. There's an engineer, an accountant and a storyteller walk into a bar. Now, they don't walk into a bar, but they. OK, so the engineer, the accountant and the story teller are looking at, look, you know, the business and it's an engineers business. And the engineer says, we worked on a thousand. We maintain machines, we fix motors for clients. And we did a thousand pieces of work last year, all under guarantee. And only one of them came back to be fixed again. So a thousand pieces of work, only one complaint on guarantee. And the engineer looks at it and goes well that's at an acceptable tolerance, you know, ninety nine point nine percent. That's an acceptable tolerance for any complex system. And the accountant looked at it and goes, well, actually, you know, we can we can afford the cost of that one fix because nine hundred and ninety nine people have paid a little bit extra. So it kind of defrays the cost. So they're all looking at the nine nine nine going that's pretty good. The storyteller goes, tell me about the one.

Andrew :
Right.

Steve:
Tell me about the one that went wrong. So this is the client, my Estonian engineer was telling me about before I said, OK, tell me, you're very proud of your thousand to one rate? Tell me about the one. And he went oh, oh God yeah. So he tells me a little story and he said the the company involved, they'd sent a motor that broken down and they sent it to his factory and his engineers fixed it and the bearings had worn out. So they fixed that. They sent it back to the factory under guarantee, a 12 month guarantee. Six weeks later, the boss of the company is on the phone screaming on the phone, your, your motor is broken. You know, what are you going to do about it? Really, really, really pissed off. So they sent an engineer to the factory this time. And they say, right, you go and fix it in situ for free. No charge. So the guy goes and he takes the motor apart. Sure enough, the bearings are burned out again. So he fixes that, for free. Then he looked around and he realizes that actually the motor is driving another piece of equipment, drive shaft or whatever, and that drive shaft connection is loose. So that's what's causing the motor to burn out. The fault is not in the motor. No, not it's in the factory. Yeah. So he fixes that as well for free. And then he tells the boss that's the real problem there, but all fixed for free. So that one customer now, the one customer who complained is now their best customer, the guy who raves about them. So the engineer and the accountant don't pay attention to the one, they accept it as kind of, you know, OK, we can. The story goes, tell me about the one. And actually what emerges from that is, that story then becomes goes from being a statistic, look, we did a thousand jobs on to guarantee we only had one complaint. You know, that's just, that's just a statistic. It goes into a story because you dig into it and think, well, something interesting going on. Let's let's dig deeper into that.

Andrew :
I mean, I suppose the beauty is with that. Yeah, I mean, that idea of a story invites you to ask more questions, invites you to dig further, doesn't it, really?

Steve:
If you're. If you're nosy, if you're curious. So curiosity, generosity, but humility. All these things are great virtues, if you want to learn something. But the key wants to storytelling is curiosity. Think, wow. OK, well what's the what's behind that then. So, you know, a bit of a bit of generosity and humility go a long way as well. So one of the groups, one of the client groups I work with in the UK are one of the first groups are lockdown, the estate agents. And so these guys have now been, they've got about four months worth of pent up demand. Obviously, though, the estate owned business dealing with a very difficult situation because you're having to get into people's homes at a time when people are very, very anxious about letting anyone into their home. But at the same time, if you think about your own you know, your own position, would you would you be happy buying or renting somewhere else you'd been in?

Steve:
So one of the ways that they've adapted very, very early on was to start using like mobile phone and thinking, OK, we're going to do video tours of houses. So one client I'm working with, an estate agent client and they've got video tours and they send an estate agent out with a phone and they basically do a walk around on the property. And then anyway this guy's got, he's the boss of the company, down in London and he's got a number of estate agents working for him. And one of the guys who works for him, sent him, ok I've just done this video tour. We've just sent this out, some potential renters for this property. And the boss says, hey, why is that door closed? Why haven't you opened that door? Because normally every door is open so you can see through the house. And the estate agent said, well, there was there was kind of paint splodge on the floor. And if I closed the door, you couldn't see the paint mark and his boss said, right, OK, that was a mistake. What you need to do now, you need to go back and do the whole thing again, not only leave the door open, but you need to take the camera, and zoom like, show people and say there's a paint mark on the carpet. And then we need to send in an apology to everyone who's seen the first tour and say, sorry guys, we missed something. Here's what you need to see, and send them the second tour. And he said from that point on, he said, every time we go out somewhere, we can stand in the garden to listen to the traffic noise. We stand to the back of the house when the train goes past on the line. And he said, well, we absolutely go all out to show everything that the people might find a problem.

Steve:
He said, I'd far rather, because people are putting so much trust in us, they're actually they've got people now, dozens and dozens and dozens of clients who are renting a house. They're signing on the contract that they've never actually set foot in. So he said they've got to trust us and we've got to be super honest with these stories were telling. And then because if you show it, warts and all, I'm much more likely to trust you. So stories actually that you can visualize things you can imagine. Therefore, you can see them in your head. That's fantastic. But they build trust like nothing else. So the story of the the engineer with a thousand to one ratio of, you know, well, that's that should make you trust him. A thousand jobs for every one that goes wrong. That's pretty good. The story of how you fixed it.

Andrew :
Carries so much more weight and value.

Steve:
And much more weight. So trust is something which obviously everybody needs in business. You have to have people trust you. I don't think there are any facts for trust. I think it's stories that carry trust.

Andrew :
Yeah, so it's the stories that give that credibility and demonstrate where that trust has been offered and earned in a lot of ways.

Steve:
Earned is a very good yes, very good way of saying it, you know, people you you earn people's trust, you don't get it, you earn it. And it only comes down to, you know, there's certain things that people talk about. Again, talking in abstract terms they talk about quality, customer care, reliability, trustworthiness, they talk about all these things in the abstract. And the trouble with those abstract words, take a word like quality. So I can say I deliver quality consultancy. You can say you make quality podcasts, that you give quality advice to your clients. OK, the trouble with the word like quality is everyone can claim quality. Nobody tends to. So if you're thinking, how do I describe myself, how do I describe my business? And you come up with a list of words. And then a really interesting test to do is would I ever, would anyone ever say? Would anyone ever say the opposite? Of those words I've just written. So would anyone ever describe themselves as low quality, untrustworthy, not value for money? Not cutting edge.

Andrew :
Pretty unlikely, yeah.

Steve:
So what that means, if nobody ever called themselves those things on the opposite side of the piece of paper, then the ones on that side of this paper are pretty worthless.

Andrew :
Yeah. And we're all competing against the same worthless words then in many cases aren't we?

Steve:
So, yes, what you should do. I'm not saying that don't aspire to quality. Don't aspire to customer care. Obviously not, all of those things are really, really important. What you need to do is maybe start of by saying, OK, what are the top three things where I think we're really, really good. Where I know, that when it comes to we've got estate agents, for example, who do really go the extra mile and they do really, you know, they're there for their clients. OK, so what are, maybe there's three things where I think actually, you know what? This is what we're really proud of. Great. So write them down, even write them on your website, then think. Right. What are the moments where you can see that in action.

Andrew :
Right.

Steve:
Right. So there's a moment here where this thing happened, that moment here where this thing happened. Customer care is a fantastic one. So Leo Tolstoy at the start of Anna Karenina says that all happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unique because they're unhappy in their own special way.

Steve:
I'm paraphrasing. Same goes for customers. Actually, all happy customers are alike. Yeah, it's the unhappy customers that are unique and interesting, especially if you take them from being unhappy customer to being happy customer. That's a story. Yeah. So you have to think about your OK, what are the three things? Let's say, let's start small. I start with three things that you think. Right. This is what makes my business exceptional. Right.

Steve:
You now need to constantly think not just once, but again and again and again and again. Let me see that in action. Tell me about a moment when, tell me about a customer. Not not lots of customers, a customer who, and all of these allow you to tell actual stories. Then what's interesting is well where do you tell them. And social media is fascinating. When I started as a I started as a journalist at the BBC in 1992, I think so a long time ago. And prior to that, I've been a freelance in print, print media. And basically, if you wanted to, if you wanted to tell your story. Back in 1992, you could either basically, you know, you could you can make fanzines, get a photocopier and make a football fanzine that was possible. That was kind of, you know, you have to have a newspaper, a magazine, a radio station or TV station.

Andrew :
Yeah. You needed a broadcast channel didn't you?

Steve:
You needed a platform. And you needed equipment costing thousands or more. And then you needed to get to do a gatekeeper, an editor. And you need OK, now you just basically that's it.

Andrew :
We're carrying a studio in our pockets, aren't we?

Steve:
You're carrying a studio in your pocket. You can not only record, you can edit and you can broadcast and you can reach a phenomenal, phenomenal audience. Now, what's fascinating about that is so can everybody else. And so actually, it's possibly as hard as ever to get noticed. You know, it's hard to get noticed 30, 40 years ago because there were so few channels. And therefore you have to pay money to get noticed. And it's now hard to get noticed.

Andrew :
We've got the opposite problem haven't we?

Steve:
Exactly, there are so many channels. So there isn't, I don't think there's a kind of of magic formula. There's a slow, when it comes to content marketing, which I know is the real subject of what we're talking about. There isn't a magic formula. I'd say you tell these stories, you will get followed, you will get likes, you will get, you will go viral. There is no magic formula. It's a slow grind through you, you have to make content regularly. You have to know your audience. You have to know your platform. You have to you know, there's a slow grind through it. And what I think is really interesting for a lot of companies and is the question of how much is this worth your time to do? So you mentioned before I blog on LinkedIn. Well, I do, but I don't get a lot of work out of it.

Andrew :
Right.

Steve:
I don't get alot of paid.

Andrew :
Presence and profile.

Steve:
Presence and profile. So what I what I need to have is, if somebody, if I approach somebody directly through a phone call or an email to talk about work, they'll they're going to Google me. And I need to make sure that what comes up is good. But that's basically it. So, so I then work out I kind of make a calculation and think, well, that's probably worth four hours a week of my time. And I'm going to spend four hours a week doing it, so that's that's the kind of calculation you have to have. Otherwise you can you know, you can kind of chase a little vanity vanity metrics and get oh this post got four thousand like or four thousand views.

Andrew :
And to be fair it hasn't resulted in anything, arguably it's not really carried much value, has it?

Steve:
You know, you have to think, well, what are you in business for are you in business for the metrics? Or are you in business for money? Ultimately, we're in business for money. So it's a calculation everyone has to make. And there say there isn't a, there isn't a natural there isn't an algorithm I can sell you. If you tell these kind of stories, you will get noticed. What I can pretty reliably say is if you don't tell stories, you won't get noticed, because people just there's so much information out there. And the, you know, it's so overwhelming when we're overwhelmed by information, we tend to take all sorts of shortcuts and a story allows us to take a massive amount of shortcuts. Let me give you a little example.

Andrew :
So, yeah,

Steve:
I'll just ask you a question now, or anybody watching the podcast. If you're looking at me now. Can you guess how old my son is?

Andrew :
Well, there's some artwork on the wall, but that might be that might be sort of a few years old. So I'm going to say, I'm going to say about 15.

Steve:
Ok, so what interesting is the correct answer to that is I have no idea. You might you might not even have a son. How the hell do I know?

Andrew :
Right.

Steve:
That's the correct answer. Yeah. No one ever gives that answer. But it's what you do is your overall there's a picture on the wall done by a kid. Oh, there's some stuff on the, and Steve looks about, let's say he looks about forty five note and he looks about 51. So you do all these kind of calculations. That's what you basically do when presented with an unfamiliar situation with very partial information. You tell a story to fill in the gaps.

Andrew :
Right. Right.

Steve:
Because actually nobody likes to say I have no idea mate. I have absolutely no idea. It's impossible. Nobody likes to say it's impossible to know.

Andrew :
And nobody like to challenge either sometimes that can be an uncomfortable thing, can't it?

Steve:
Well, you know, so I set you a puzzle and, you know, like Sudoku or a crossword. You want to play with the puzzle because we're curious creatures. But the point is that when we fill in gaps, we tend to take shortcuts. And story is one of the shortcuts. You're looking at me and thinking now, is Steve the kind of guy had kids when he was young and or has he just recently? He's got two year old running around outside somewhere, and that's why he's looking so tired. You trying to fill in all the gaps by telling a story in your head and and, you know, story is, stories are very, very old. So we've been telling stories. The fossil record or the you know, the cave painting record goes back 50000 years. And data science, logic, they go back about 500 years. So story is the default place to go.

Andrew :
So the mistake I've made is trying almost to make my own story out of your puzzle and therefore being too abstract, as we were talking about earlier, I potentially come to the wrong conclusions and the fact that you might not have a child at all. You know, you've you've missed almost the opportunity to set the path of the story that you want people to take away.

Steve:
Exactly. So framing is really key. So by even by the way, you ask the question or the way you write a headline or the way you know that that sets a frame. So rather than me saying, do you think I've got kids or, you know, is there any way or if I said the question, is there any way of telling whether I've got kids or not just from looking at me? And then you'd go, oh, no, not really. Right. But I framed it and said, how olds my son. He's 25, by the way. So but the way we frame things sets people thinking down a very particular route. And we're not very good at thinking about stuff that's outside the frame. So you put a frame around something in any way by, you know, by describing it, by by picturing it. And we tend to focus on what you've put in the frame.

Andrew :
Set some boundaries.

Steve:
Yeah, but that's, we have to otherwise the world is just too complicated. So the world is a discussion, information. Exchange of knowledge is constantly is a framing process all the time. And it's, it's worth philosophically we're thinking, look, I've been given a frame here. That's not the only way of seeing things. There are other things that maybe are outside of the frame and that's that I need to take a step back. But we have the time. We don't tend to do that. You do it when. So you do it when you were making a really big decision that had a lot of cost. You know, if you're buying a house and the estate agent said his three brilliant houses, you wouldn't just go, well, those are the only three out there.

Andrew :
No, you challenged again don't you.

Steve:
Yeah. You go, Oh, really? Are those the best three? Oh, no. I'm going to check elsewhere. Right. So when are you making big decisions? You challenge frames, but it's quite effortful. It's quite difficult, when we're up against it. So when when we're you know, we've got cascades of information coming at us. There's a study somewhere suggested that we we now either see or hear about 100000 words a day. That are around us, and that basically is like, if you imagine that we speak at about three words, a second a hundred thousand words a day is like, you know, you wake up in the morning and someone starts talking to you and they don't stop until five o'clock.

Andrew :
Yeah.

Steve:
In the afternoon.

Andrew :
Which would be impossible to make sense of, wouldn't it?

Steve:
Yeah, absolutely. So we filter almost all of it out and what we pay attention to and this is interesting, again, around, you know, around story we pay attention to, is stuff that means something to us at the time. And we just we don't even see the rest. So your challenge as a marketer content marketer is, look, how do you even get people to see you in the first place as important? And again, this is something that that storytellers have done down the ages. And there's all sorts of little things they do. And there's also little tricks that they do, which is like around around suggesting, basically around suggesting they know something you don't know and that this is important and it matters now.

Andrew :
Triggers curiosity as well.

Steve:
Exactly. Exactly. So, yes, we're very curious creatures and it's very hard to present somebody with, you know, the pieces of a jigsaw and for them not to have a little go and whilst they're having a little go at putting the pieces together, you've got them. You've got their attention. So it's very interesting. I talk to talk to clients about putting a pitch together. How do you, you know, you've got something maybe it's a new product you're trying to sell as a designer. You're trying to sell a new software solution, and you you need to pitch it. So you've got a really, really great way to start the pitch is with a question, because if you ask a question, how old is my son? If you ask the question of why is it that, why is it that somebody why is it that men are more more prone to die of coronavirus than women? Very timely question. Now, it's impossible, I think, for people to not try and work that one out.

Steve:
So the correct answer again today is I have no idea. I'm not a scientist. Yeah, but that's not you know, you ask people that question why are more men dying of coronavirus than women, and you get all sorts of answers because people look, whilst people are thinking about the answer they're on exactly the same place as you, you've got. And what they'll then do is they'll listen to you set out your answer. And if it's the same as theirs, they feel very clever.

Andrew :
You get an alignment.

Steve:
Yep. And if it's different to theirs, then they they're willing to be surprised. Maybe so either they feel clever or they feel like they've learned something. Either way, it's really positive.

Andrew :
Yeah. Yeah. I was going to say that are left without positive feeling about that connection that you've just had.

Steve:
Absolutely right. So it's really, really key.

Andrew :
Yeah. You're almost what you're saying is that you want to bring people into the story. Do they need to feature in the story or is it just as a you know, do you want as a storyteller, do you want them to feel a part of the story? They don't necessarily have to see themselves within it.

Steve:
There's some very interesting stuff going on around around technology that allows you to allows broadcasters to put local references so that when you're watching a drama and I'm watching a drama and the technology now allowing some things to be in both versions of the drama that are slightly different so that you watching and if you're watching in London, you'll get London placed references and I'm watching in Manchester. I'll get Manchester place references. Now, that sort of technology is very, very interesting. And the what drives it behind is if I think the story is about me or people like me, I'll pay more attention.

Andrew :
I'm more engaged in it.

Steve:
I'm more engaged it. Yeah. So this is so this is really interesting. I and I that's that's kind of future technology. There's a version of that which I think is really key when you're talking about sales conversations or marketing conversations, which is why I say to clients, when the client is preparing a pitch to a particular kind of investor, and I'll say you cannot do the same pitch twice. Well you can, but you're very foolish because if you're doing the same pitch twice, you're doing it to nobody. Or you're doing it everybody, you're doing it to nobody.

Andrew :
Yep, yeah, it's an interesting comment.

Steve:
I mean, you have to do it to somebody. So you have to have the person in mind who you're trying to talk to. Very good tip that I heard in radio when I was working in radio was a good radio presenter is not talking to everybody, they're talking to somebody so a good radio presenter has someone in their mind and it's almost like they're sitting the other side of the microphone in the studio. They're talking to one person.

Andrew :
Having a one to one conversation.

Steve:
Precisely like we are now , they're having a one to one conversation. But the the equivalent of that from now, obviously not everyone's doing podcasts, not everyones doing broadcasts or the equivalent, I would say is, OK, so you, you're in business, you're sitting down. You think, OK, I need to write, I need to write something now. I need to write an email to write a heading. I need to write a blog, right. What you need to do is imagine you are not writing to everybody. If you are then you be writing to nobody. So you picture this one person who is typical of my audience or this one person who I am going to give her a name and you're going to imagine that she is sitting literally on the other side of the keyboard from you, the other side of the laptop screen. Slightly weird but there she is. She's sitting there. And you looked at her and think right? What do you need to know? And then you start writing, and you start writing as though you're talking to that person and you're trying to go, hey, listen, I've got some really interesting here, all right? And you're talking to one person.

Steve:
So that's really key. Then, of course, the the the crucial bit is who are you trying to talk to? And then you need to do some kind of audience segmentation. So I'll give you an example. I've been working with a company in Dubai, actually, and they they've offered to connect me to hundreds of hundreds of different companies. And they know the market really well over there. I don't know. They've offered to connect me and they've they've lined up 700 companies who they say, look, we're going to we're going to connect you. You write the emails, we'll connect you to the potential leads. So it's a marketing company. Fantastic that I look down the list of companies. They were split into four sectors, I.T., health care, education and media companies. So I said, well, there's no point in writing one email to all four sectors. So I've written them four approach. Four sets of emails. And in the email, which I write, with email that was going to the broadcasters, I make a big thing about my work with the BBC and other broadcasters. In the email to the health care providers, I talk about Rossia Pharmaceuticals and the Health Research Board of Ireland, and.

Andrew :
You've got four stories, for four different audiences.

Steve:
And I guess the things for people when you know, a takeaway for people from this podcast, is OK if you need to talk to, you know, you're maybe you're doing narrowcasting. You're really trying to reach one person. So broadcasting is obviously trying to reach loads. You're trying to reach one person. They're a potential client. They're a potential, they're a lead. And you're thinking, right, I need to talk to them. And and what do they what sector do they work in? OK, well, they, they're the designers, so that's my case. I'm I'm trying to sell consultancy who was selling so well, they are they're designers. They're software designers and they're they're European based. And they work, so they're working to come up with new software. New IT. Right. So I am going to tell them a story about another client I've got like them. There's no point me telling them about. Oh, when I used to work at the BBC, we did this, this and this. They don't, well they might care, but they don't really care. I say, well, when I was working with Accenture and when I've been told. So then you go, right, here's a client like you who you'll remember who you know, they're a big player. That's the story I'm going to tell.

Andrew :
Yeah. It might be a similar situation as well. And you can draw parity between the two.

Steve:
And the other thing, what I used to say is brilliantly I used to say when I talk to clients, I used have a real downer on jargon. And I used to say, look, don't use business jargon. It just makes you know, it just confuses people because.

Andrew :
It's back to the abstract again, isn't it?

Steve:
Yeah. And I think there's two reasons why people use jargon. And one is is an insecurity thing. So they feel like I must use these words to look like I belong. OK, and and and the other is well. You know, sometimes it's a shortcut. So if you're an engineer and I'm an engineer and we can talk about tolerance in such a way that.

Andrew :
It doesn't need explanation to go with does it?

Steve:
We don't mean that we get on with people. It means that something's not going to break. OK, so we have we have an understanding, but often people use jargon because they're desperately trying to look like they belong. And that's when people use jargon and you can tell they don't know what they're talking about. So that's that's always bad. But I used to say to people, look, don't use jargon, use ordinary, everyday language if you can. And then I realized actually that that badge of belonging is quite important because what you're saying, by using the right jargon, not stuff you do understand, but using stuff you do understand in the right setting. Is you're saying, look, I, I know, I understand what you do. I speak your language. I can communicate with you.

Steve:
So take an example. There's a there's a term that the software designers use. They call, but they talk about UX. And UX means user experience. Now, if you're not from the design world, you've no idea what UX is and if you are, you absolutely know what it is. Now, if I'm talking to design clients and I'll say, look, I'm going to talk to you about storytelling and you can use stories right away from UX to final pitch. And they all go, yeah, I suppose we could, right? Where if I'm talking to, you know, if I'm talking to an engineer? No, I'm not going to talk about UX, because it doesn't mean anything to them.

Andrew :
No, that's right.

Steve:
So it's all about those. The first stage in all communication, whether it's storytelling, pitching doesn't matter, the first stage is always who is my audience? What do they need? Right from this conversation, that's the number one thing you have to think about, and then you're thinking, OK, what have I got that's similar to them? So I can say, hey, look, you do this. I've helped someone who does, if not the same thing. I help someone who does similar and you're trying to find common ground.

Andrew :
Yeah.And is the challenge in that you're overcoming that challenge sort of a key part of the story you've been able to demonstrate? Well, actually, this person or this situation, there was a certain amount of adversity. There was something that had to be overcome.

Steve:
Totally. Totally. Yes. The the thing about the day before about happy customers, all happy customers are the same. So all happy customers, if you sort of imagine a story arc. So story arc basically is it's like the roller coaster, you know, so stories stories don't go straight lines. They always go up and down. And the the happy customer story. There's nothing wrong with happy customer stories. I'm not knocking it. It's a straight line. It's well, it's a straight line going up. We had a customer with a problem and they came to us and we made everything better. But it's a rising story arc. It's a very simple story. Nothing wrong with that story. We love it. But that's Cinderella. That's Rocky. Sort of like Here's rocky. He's the bomb. He's on the streets of Chicago, Philadelphia. Thank you. And then he gets a big chance. Yeah. What's fascinating about Rocky in the first film, he doesn't even win the first fight. He loses some points, but he still. Yeah, he rises. OK, here's Harry Potter. He's in the cupboard under the stairs. Right. OK, so we like, we love underdog stories. We absolutely love those stories. And and that's the story that when you go into WHSmiths, you go into the news agency and you're sort of looking at the men's health magazines and there's that one that says's you can have a six pack in six weeks and you're like, yes, I can. And then you buy the magazine. And six weeks later, what have you got? You haven't got a six pack.

Andrew :
Still not quite there. Yeah.

Steve:
No exactly. OK, because it's not easy. OK, if it was that easy, we'd all have one. So, so that's a story we like and we buy it all the time. And every time you feel a bit stupid about a purchase, you've made it because you've fallen for that story. OK, there's nothing wrong with the story. However, it's not fully, it's not as credible. So let me give you an example of a really clever way of telling stories I think. Unless, they don't have, don't have to be once upon a time, they can be really, really simple. So this example is, again, an Estonian client, and these guys make timber houses and they make modular. So you can literally like a kit, you buy a kit of parts and bang, you've got.

Andrew :
Bit like a huf house type thing.

Steve:
Yeah. And you've got a house and it's beautiful. It's like IKEA. It's Scandi, it's A frame. It's absolutely gorgeous. And so you go on their website and they say, look, here's our beautiful like A frame houses. They're super simple. They're cheap, they're, they're environmental. This is your dream house. And you go, oh my God. And I was looking at it. It'll probably take about three weeks to build that because I'm stupid and I was completely bought. And that's just gorgeous. Now, show me the price. Anyway, as you scroll down the website, the next thing that comes up is a document available to buy. Not to, for free, but to buy, here's one hundred problems you're going to have if you decide to build your own house. OK, so here's 100 thing. This is from planning permission, land clearance, sewage pipes here's 100 problems that you are going to hit if you want to build your own house. And we're not going to give this to you to sell it for 30 dollars. So buy this, if you're serious, have read through this and then come and talk to us. Now, what was interesting about that was the company said, I said, did that affect the number of people coming to you? And they said, yes, our sales calls dropped, but we didn't have any time wasters anymore.

Andrew :
No, the conversion rate would go up.

Steve:
Oh, absolutely right. So what was interesting about that is, so the dream stories, look, you need a house. We're going to give you a beautiful house. But the more real version is you need a house, you get really excited. Then you have all these problems.

Andrew :
You still got to go through all those snags and difficulties and challenges that any other House build might have. We've streamlined some of them, but clearly not all of them.

Steve:
Exactly. And then, you know, all these problems you hit and then finally you get your beautiful house. But the fact is that they've given you now they've given you the they've also given you the down. Lots of downs, lots of problems along the way. And I think two things happen with that. The first is that it feels more real. It feels like life. If, if everyone could have a six pack in six weeks, we'd all have one.

Andrew :
If it's too good to be true, then it probably is.

Steve:
Exactly too good to be true. We even have a saying in everyday life that sounds too good to be true, no such thing as a free lunch. So we have that. So skepticism is built in. And any time you try and sell people on the kind of look, this is going to be fine. Just come with us to be fine. Right. There's a danger that.

Andrew :
You're making a rod for your own back.

Steve:
Yeah, they're going to they're going to react skeptically. So if you say, look, come with us, this isn't going to be easy. Oh, well, first of all, you might stand out because everyone else is saying we can sort this out. It's going to be fine. No problem. Just do it. Click on this. One click solution to your problem. Yeah. Yeah. OK, if my problem could be solved with one click, it's not a very big problem.

Andrew :
Exactly. Yeah.

Steve:
Yeah I have a big problem and ok so. So it's more credible. And also we you know we root for the underdog, we root for the trier, you know, we root for people who have to work at stuff. We don't really root for people who.

Andrew :
We want them to see success don't we?

Steve:
You know. So we want we want. So it's Bing Crosby song. Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. So OK, wrong, Bing wrong. You accentuate the positive by accentuating the negative. So that's what makes the positive feel like a real achievement, if it was hard to get there, if you basically say, look, we've arrived at, you know, we're here at the top of this hill and we started here and you know what? A piece of piss. No, we want it to go harder, before it gets easier.

Andrew :
And reflect the reality of life,

Steve:
That's the reality of life. And so back to your original question, which is well do customers need to see themselves in the story? Yes. So this is why every single customer you have should be providing you with at least one story that you can tell other the people and the story should not just be well, the simple version is, look, we had a problem. We sorted it. She had a problem. We fixed it. That's the simple version when you get into the chance to actually have a proper conversation. So this customer came to us and she thought she wanted this. This is what designers tell me all the time. But the customers come to designers, system designers and they go, look, we've got a problem. How can you fix this problem? And what the designers do is go, you don't even know that's the problem, you think that's the problem. Give me six weeks and the design. The client's going and you'll have a solution. They're going no, give me six weeks and I'll know what the problem is.

Andrew :
You'll identify the real problem. Exactly.

Steve:
The real problem. The client's always going to give me the answer. And the designers are going you don't even know the question is.

Andrew :
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Steve:
So, so that's OK when you get into the real the, you know, the really gritty stuff. And what was fascinating about that is that this is the way stories work in all the stories we love. So, you know, you can go into the Bible stories, Aesop's Fables, Hollywood, nursery stories, they are all the same. They all involve.

Andrew :
A format.

Steve:
Yeah, exactly. The form. The pattern is nothing good is easy. And if it's easy, it's probably it's probably going to bite you. It's going to come back and bite you.

Andrew :
And not deliver the satisfaction at the end either.

Steve:
Exactly. And so all of this comes again and again and again in all the stories we like and and your and then so the story like so every customer you have should be should provide you with at least one story, possibly, you know, several even the story, even customers where everything's gone swimmingly. Well, OK, that's that's nice. The customers where you really had to work at it. So you can probably hear the printer going off beneath the desk. The stories that you had to really work at it to get the customer, where they want to be. And it's been a rocky road. And you've had some of those are really good stories.

Andrew :
There the ones with interest. Yeah. How you deal with those adversities as well, isn't it? It's not just about what we got there from A to B, but actually we had to zig zag around a bit, which meant we overcame X, Y and Z along that journey and took us towards a better outcome.

Steve:
Exactly. And that's much, much more credible than than look, we do this really easily. You know, we make this this is just easy. Well, if it was easy, why would I come to you for it? If it's easy, I can do it myself. Exactly. So so if it's easy, there's a line, I use it when I'm working training with clients about talking about how the roller coaster and the importance of the down as well as the up and the motto that I ask people to remember is nothing good is ever easy. And I think we know this in life this way, you know, getting a six pack, you know, very few people have a six pack it's is not easy. So nothing is ever easy. And if somebody is telling you in, you know, a commercial business setting that, that their solution is good and easy, well, they're lying about one of those two things.

Andrew :
Exactly. Yeah, there's more to it.

Steve:
Yeah, if it was good and easy. I'd have done it already. And so it's not good and easy, it's good and hard.

Andrew :
And it needs to be told in such a way that people can acknowledge and recognize that.

Steve:
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And I think, you know, I think it's really interesting that lots of lots of brand. Don't really do it, therefore, there's a really good way of standing out. Really good out of standing out is to talk about the really difficult journeys.

Andrew :
Fantastic. Well, we're out of time there, Steve. So that's been a really interesting conversation. And clearly, we could we could talk much more about it. But, yeah, we're out of time. So, Steve, where can people learn a little bit more about you and where can they follow up with you online?

Steve:
So a really good place is LinkedIn because I'm blogging fairly regularly about moments and stories anyway, but also lots of takeaways for people about so if you need to do this, then think about your audience first and those kind of things. So LinkedIn's really good. Search Steve Rawling on LinkedIn.

Andrew :
We'll put that in the show notes as well.

Steve:
Thank you. On the website. I've just done a bit of redesign on the website to make it more story focused. So there's either stories-that-work.com. Or newthinking.tools same site where again, there's not only a lot of there's a lot of blogs on there, there's also just lots of tool kits. So, you know, a tool to show you how to use a story arc, a tool, a tool to help you write more clearly. So all that sort of stuffs there. And of course, you know, if people want to have a conversation about about the specifics of their story and the specifics of their audience, then yes, the email me through those two places and let's have a chat.

Andrew :
Great. Well, we'll put those links in the show notes which will be found adigital.agency/podcast Steve, thanks very much for joining me today.

Steve:
It's been a pleasure.

Andrew :
So thank you, Steve, for joining me on the clientside podcast. I'm a huge fan of stories and how they can be used for positive impact. And I love the example he gave where the accountant and the engineer were so focused on the big picture, the 999 widgets or whatever they were that were produced successfully while the story teller was interested in one example where something went wrong, it immediately created intrigue and curiosity as it often does, leads us to pay attention and dig deeper, to learn more. In this instance as well focusing on where something went wrong gave a new dimension to the story. It wasn't just about the things you do or make, but actually how you react to certain situations showing humility and a picture of the people behind the story rather than a straight account that those listening may struggle to see how it could relate to them. This opens up huge opportunities for other content avenues and can be much more revealing about who or what you really are. So I love that conversation. Thank you, Steve, again do look him up on LinkedIn. We'll add the links to the show notes adigital.agency/podcast And this time we've actually posted the podcast to YouTube as well to do like and share if you've enjoyed the show.

Andrew :
Thank you again for checking out today's episode of the Clientside podcast. I really hope you found a useful conversation with some actionable steps that you can apply in your business if you can spare just a few minutes of your time please do look us up on Apple podcasts. Search for the Clientside podcast by A digital and leave us a five star rating. And if you can leave us a quick review. I'd love to hear your feedback. I would really appreciate your support. If you're interested in learning more about A digital and how we might be able to work together head across to our website at adigital.agency and complete our online scorecard so you can benchmark your own digital performance. You'll get a free personalized report sent you by email. And I can learn more about you and your business and the particular challenges you're facing. We can then follow this up with a free call to map out your priorities, either on the phone or over Zoom with absolutely no obligation. Thank you so much, everybody. I'm really grateful for you tuning in. If you have any comments about this episode or any previous episodes of the Clientside podcast, then drop me a line to Andrew@adigital.co.uk or head across to our website at adigital.agency/clientside. See on the next show. Cheers.

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I don't think there are any facts for trust. I think it's stories that carry trust.

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