Many people create a website, start blogging or use social media as a way to create an audience and get new customers, which is terrific. I'm a huge proponent of using essentially free tools to do those things and think they can be extremely effective at meeting those goals. But you have to do it right. Instead of selling your story, you need to tell your story.
Unlike traditional advertising, where the hard sell often works best, generating business online is frequently most effective through a soft sell. People online are savvy and if your tone is too promotional or self-focused, they'll likely seek out another business in your space that they feel a connection with.
But everyone has a genuine, authentic story to tell. And by telling it well, you can bypass the hard sell and get people interested in you and your business on a very personal level. This is hugely important online (and in the real world), where connecting with an actual person has a deeply humanizing effect. A compelling story can influence people to pick your product or service over someone else's that seems very similar.
In my own career, I've used my story to attract a large audience to my website, the Somerville Beat. By weaving a structured narrative in combination with developing a tone that fit my content, I was able to turn my blog into a very popular, easily identifiable local website.
The same was true when I worked at a financial publishing company. During the recent market crash and financial crisis, we used the company's long and trusted reputation in our editorial content to capture an audience in a non-sales-y way. We were able to position our well-respected editors as level-headed, cautious and forward-thinking to get and keep customers during a very trying time for the industry. And when the crisis was over, we had already earned their trust and were able to parlay that into several effective marketing campaigns.
You can do the same thing for your business by crafting a narrative that tells your story in a genuine, authentic way that helps you create an audience, gets them to become customers and retains them over time.
It can be really tough to write about yourself or even know what your story is and where to begin. As a journalist, I've written hundreds of stories about small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits, and used my own story to build a successful website. And if you're looking for help telling your own story, I can help.