Storytelling 101: Who Are You?“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,
Lewis Carroll

Imagine you’re at a networking event, and — Hey, where are you going? Come back, please? We won’t stay long, promise!

OK, so you’re at this networking event when someone you’ve never seen walks up to you and asks, “Who are you?”

Like Alice, you may think this an unorthodox opening for a conversation, but you politely respond with your carefully prepared elevator speech.

Then she leans in and says, “No, I mean, who are you … really?”

You think “Ummm, okay, this is weird …” but then you check the person’s name tag and notice she works for a company you’d kill to have as a client. So you keep the game going, telling her a bit about your background and what you do for your current company.

She nods slowly. “Better,” she acknowledges, “but I want to know who you really are.”

You resist the urge to call security and take a deep breath, ready to give it another go …

Aaaand, scene.

Now, granted, in real life this conversation would be off the charts on the Creep-O-Meter … but it’s actually taking place just under the surface every single day, with the role of your inquisitive conversation partner being played by your potential customers.

Simple Question, Tough Answer

Who Are You?Here’s the deal: In today’s marketplace, customers don’t just want to see a slick image and a catchy tagline — they want to know who you are before they even consider doing business with you. And much like our eager friend in the example above, they won’t be satisfied with your glib, rehearsed, PR-committee-approved answers.

So how do we even start to think about answering this question “Who are you … really?”

We tell stories.

Think about the people in your life whom you know really, really well. What is it that makes you say you know them? Knowing their stories.

Copy Tells, Story Sells

So, how do we start telling the stories that honestly answer the question “Who are you?”

I’ll give you a couple of ideas to start with, with one word of admonition: Remember that you’re creating stories to connect, not to paint some slick picture of They Who Can Do No Wrong. Keep it real, keep it honest, keep it human.

Tell the Origins of Your Company

Tell the story of how your company was founded, from the very first notion up to the day it opened its doors. Who were the players involved? What obstacles arose along the way, and how did the founder(s) work through them? What was that first office/store/location like? Was it a suburban retail space, a tiny downtown office, or a dining room table?

When you tell the story of your company’s origins, especially the struggles and pitfalls, you put a human face on your brand, one that your audience can truly relate to.

Tell the Story of Your Product or Service

How did the idea for your main product or service come about? Nike’s founder, Bill Bowerman, was a track and field coach whose athletes needed shoes with better grip but were still lightweight, so he tried pouring rubber into his wife’s waffle iron … and the rest is history. What story can you tell?

When your audience knows the story behind your product or service, they get a deeper understanding of its value and the passion behind it.

OK, your turn: How has storytelling enabled you to create deeper relationships with your potential customers? Tell us THAT story in the comments — we’d love to hear from you!