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The Seven Deadly Marketing Sins – for Storytellers

If you’re like most storytellers, you would like to tell more stories, and that means marketing your storytelling – whether for money or not.

Sadly, most tellers commit one or more of the following big mistakes. The storytellers are not the only losers, though; their potential listeners are also deprived of the joy and power of storytelling.

Are you guilty of any of these Seven Deadly Marketing Sins for storytellers?

1) Forgetting What Every Storyteller Knows

Every storyteller knows, at least intuitively, that storytelling, like all true communication, is based on mutually beneficial relationships – not on pleading, manipulating, or making people think they need something they don’t. In spite of some bad examples in mass advertising, there’s no reason to become impersonal.

Be who you are – an individual with your own quirks and talents! Let your true voice come through!

2) Forgetting You Are A Storyteller

I spend part of my time helping business people learn to use the power of storytelling. So it’s ironic that I sometimes have to remind storytellers to use storytelling in their marketing.

Tell stories: about who you are; about your successes; about the lasting effects of your work.

3) Forgetting The Big Story You Are Telling

Don’t just string together claims about your work, lists of gigs you’ve done, names of programs, etc., as useful as these can be as parts of a whole.

Rather, give your marketing materials a story-like shape! It can be as simple as “a customer has a need and can’t fill it; they find your particular brand of telling; their need is met.” Engage people in such a “story” and entice them to move from one section of it to the next!

4) Making Yourself a Commodity

It’s very tempting to try to talk to everyone at once. After all, you’re probably capable of a wide range of storytelling performance and services. But remember: one size fits nobody. If your message is tailored to everyone, it will be ideal for no one.

Further, if you claim to do everything (or fail to claim anything particular) because you’re afraid of missing some possible jobs, you’ll likely miss the most important jobs: the ones that you’d be most suited for, if only people knew your unique talents and enthusiasms.

Rather, for any one marketing communication, decide as specifically as possible who you are speaking to and what they most want. Are you speaking (at least in your own mind) to fourth-grade reading teachers who can’t stand to see so many students hating school? To twenty-something women who are just deciding whether to raise a family? To public librarians who are struggling to reach a newly-diverse local population?

Once you have decided who they are, give them an experience (perhaps through story) of what it would be like to get their needs met through your storytelling.

5) Expecting A Ring On Your First Date

Too many storytellers put out a brochure or website, etc., and expect it to do the whole work of building a relationship. If the only follow-up you suggest is “call to book a performance,” you’re like someone who expects a commitment from a person you’ve just met.

Instead, offer at least one way to get to know you more: a sample recording; an article describing a joyful experience you had sharing your stories with a 7th grade class; a free 15-minute phone consultation as a sample of your coaching work; a lesson plan you would offer teachers when doing a residency. Or something else that can demonstrate why they might want to get to know you even better.

6) Ignoring The Gold While Chasing The Silver

Do you remember the Girl Scout song about new friends and old friends: “One is silver and the other, gold”? Nearly every storyteller (and lots of other folks) put all their energy into getting new customers – while neglecting their relationships with their old customers.

The effort you put into nurturing your relationships with past customers (communicating with them frequently, learning what they’re interested in this year, giving them gifts of information or attention, etc.) will pay off ten times more than the same effort put into folks who don’t already know your work.

Spend time and money continuing to court old customers. Offer them opportunities not available to strangers. Treat them like gold!

7) The Ultimate Marketing Sin Is….

Not to market at all, because you don’t like marketing, because you “just don’t have a head for it”, or because you “hate to brag.”

First, marketing can happen in ANY communication form: word of mouth, phone calls, printed materials, etc. Choose the medium that is most suited to you and your potential customers as a forum for building relationships with them around their needs and your unique strengths.

Second, marketing is not about puffing yourself up or twisting people’s arms. Rather, it’s about deciding what you truly have to offer, finding people who want that, and then letting them know (vividly and engagingly) that what they want is, blessedly, available.

Spread the Word

As a reader of this newsletter, you are one of the relatively few who have tasted the richness of story and have learned to “cook it up” for others to consume. Wouldn’t it be a shame to hide that banquet under a basket of ignorance, indolence or indecisiveness, when so much of the world is hungry for it?

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