“Most storytellers run their businesses like the impractical man who built a lovely house on a busy street, then waited in vain for visitors to come in – because he forgot to build a front door!”
Okay. Your storytelling house is built. That is, you are telling stories excellently. When people hire you, some are pleased enough to hire you again. It’s a solid, pleasing house that serves well those who enter it.
If you’re like most storytellers, though, not enough people seem to enter your “house”!
We hate marketing, but…
To be sure, conventional marketing has little in common with what we love about storytelling. It all seems manipulative. It seems like puffery: exaggerated and unseemly.
Unwilling to be crass, many of us just don’t market at all.
Others try what “everyone else” around us seems to be doing: making a glossy brochure, designing a logo, choosing a catchy business name, etc. We get some results. But it’s seldom clear that such efforts are worth the time, energy, and money that goes into them.
What’s the result of all this? Too many of us either toil endlessly to make ends meet, or give up altogether. The world is then deprived of our storytelling gifts – both because we reach fewer people AND because we don’t get the years of experience required to develop our storytelling to its fullest.
The Big Question
Having created a fine storytelling “house,” how do you help enough people enter it, so that you can afford to remain in it?
And how do you do all that without making your house into something you wouldn’t want to live in?
Answer: To get the right people to enter, make an appealing doorway.
Let Me In!
I call a “doorway” anything that allows visitors to “come in” to your storytelling life. It’s a way for customers to enter into your world, to engage in the process of simultaneously supporting you and benefiting from your work.
You would certainly recognize these “doorways”:
- having a phone number so people can call you;
- having a postal address, fax number and/or email address so people can write you.
But the above doorways share some disadvantages, from the point of view of the customer:
- They can be hard to find unless a customer already knows you;
- Using them requires effort and initiative from the customer;
- There is little pressing reason for customers to “enter” through them.
Here are some other familiar doorways that partly (but not entirely) address those problems:
- Offering a CD for sale in a local store or at your performances;
- Attending meetings and conferences with your business card in hand;
- Having a sign-up list on hand at your performances so you can stay in touch with interested audience members.
The Four Requirements!
None of the conventional doorways mentioned above is capable of systematically energizing your storytelling business.
But it’s possible to create your own unique doorways. It’s possible to personalize them so that they suit you perfectly – and suit the people who are most hungry for your work.
What’s an ideal doorway for you? If you are seeking new customers (rather than getting closer to existing customers, which requires a different kind of doorway) an ideal doorway meets these requirements:
1. In itself, it fulfills a need felt by your particular customers [Meets a need];
2. It involves little risk and relatively little effort for customers [Low Effort and Risk];
3. It allows you to reach out to customers over time while also allowing them to reach in to you [Continued Two-Way Exposure];
4. It fits your energies, style, and budget [Personalized and Energizing].
For me, my email newsletter is one such ideal doorway:
1. It gives useful information that is hard to find elsewhere [Meets a need];
3. When people sign up for it, they give me permission to contact them every month, so each issue shows them ever more of who I am; and through their comments and any surveys and offers they respond to over the months, I learn about them [Continued Two-Way Exposure];
4. It fits my enjoyment of writing, my love of technology, my limited budget, and my need for deadlines. [Personalized and Energizing]
What’s another example? I don’t think that Brother Blue thinks he’s doing marketing (and that’s a sign of how right for him it is), but his weekly story-swap in Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts meets the requirements in a different way, more suited to Blue than to me:
1. It meets the needs of attendees to hear and tell stories that are powerful but not necessarily polished, and to experience a storytelling community [Meets a need];
2. It’s free, near public transportation, informal enough to allow coming in late or leaving early; and it offers a great variety of tellers (if you don’t like one teller, you won’t have to put up with her or him for very long) [Low Effort and Risk];
3. Many attend every week, giving Brother Blue a chance to hear their stories and otherwise get to know them over time; and they get to experience Blue’s style of hosting and responding to the stories he hears [Continued Two-Way Exposure];
4. It doesn’t require any planning for Blue (he can just show up, and his great resource of a wife, Ruth Hill, does all the organizational work), it allows Blue to extemporize about the stories he hears at the event, and it brings him into personal contact with lots of people. [Personalized and Energizing]
Create Your Own Doorway
So, what’s a doorway that suits YOU? How could you change something you already do, so that it meets all four of the above requirements?
What new activity could you start, that would attract those people you want more of?
Don’t stay inside your “house” lamenting how lonely it is. Instead, unleash your creativity. And make yourself easy to find, for those who are eager for the benefits of your work.
Build a new storytelling doorway, and invite people in!