The secret behind connecting with clients or businesses is to have a story, according to TEDx and SxSW speaker David Sloly.
At last month’s Practice Excellence Conference at London’s Barbican Centre, attendees learned how mastering the art of storytelling will help them communicate their brand and value proposition. “If you have a story you stand out,” said Sloly. “People share that story. They're more likely to listen.”
The primary example in Sloly’s storytelling lecture was his own. Sloly arrived at his story after his dream job as a radio reporter got off to a terrible start: he was fired on his first day. But this set back turned into his big break. He was offered a new job.
While this may seem like a naval gazing exercise, accountants are more familiar with the power of stories than they might imagine: consider how successful referrals are as a source of practice growth.
Change your story, change your world
When practitioners have a story, especially one that shows how they’ve overcome a problem, it demonstrates to prospective and current clients how effective they can be. As Sloly said: “Studies in psychology show that stories deeply influence our attitudes, our beliefs and the decisions we make.” For practitioners, changing their story can shape the direction of their practice and bring clarity to why they do what they do.
Peter Root from Cuddles Accountancy, for example, was so struck by the story of how an embrace from an accountant hoisted a down on their luck client out of their struggles that he based his whole brand around that idea: “Our job is to embrace [clients] and their businesses.”
Studies in psychology show that stories deeply influence our attitudes, our beliefs and the decisions we make.
Stories can be used as motivation, too. By now you might be hatching your self assessment plans. The story of past self assessment seasons should help mobilise you into action: perhaps how you survived those long working days or how this story validates your expertise to clients. “If you're a leader, tell your leadership story. How you led your team to success,” Sloly said.
When it comes to finding your story, Sloly said don't go looking for the stories to tell. Look for problems or challenges that you've faced. They are great starting points.
How to create your story
What makes a great story is a three-act structure. Firms wanting to craft their story should follow this template:
Act one: the problem
It is here that you set out what the problem is. When you do this it creates some intrigue because people would like to know how are you going to overcome that problem.
Act two: the struggle
This is where you bring the drama of the story to life.
Act three: the resolution
What did you learn from going through that experience?
When you start asking who, what, why, when, and where, your story becomes more clear.
Once constructed, these three-act stories can be applied to your social media presence, marketing efforts or even client meetings. “When you create your own story it empowers you,” Sloly said. “You can turn a negative experience that may be holding you back in your life, like getting fired on your first day at work, into a positive experience that can move you forward.”
To find out more, you can watch Sloly's TEDX talk below.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.