Abha Thakor, co-host on my podcast Do the Woo, has been bringing on guests to tell stories since she joined our team. Before she did that, she was a guest herself and took the time to explain why storytelling is such an important part of being a builder.
The reason behind storytelling
I get really exasperated when people tell me in a professional environment, “Oh, we do storytelling” when this storytelling is basically nothing about the person or capturing what it is that it means to them. And it is just a corporately-engineered line. Some corporate blurb that has nothing about the real person or people involved. Storytelling has been around for thousands of years, the only difference is the tools that we use. A story, to be effective, has to have certain components to help people understand that story, to reach others, and for them to be moved or inspired by that story.
That doesn’t mean that they should create stuff that’s not there. This is one of the things that I would really say to WooCommerce businesses, please don’t create stories that aren’t true. If you change people’s stories or what they share in reviews to fit your corporate brief or what you’re trying to sell, they will come back about it and they will not work with you again. They will also be a lost customer.
And actually, you don’t need to approach it like that because the story they’ve told you is the one which will inspire somebody else. Storytelling needs to be something that is positive, it needs to have an integrity to it. It also needs to avoid being translated into words that actually people will not understand. People don’t relate to that, people relate to people.
What storytelling means to a product builder
The best stories are often going to be the people who write to you and give you a particularly strong review, saying why it made a difference. Now, don’t just use their review and run it as a promotion with all your branding around it. Talk to the person. Because talking to the person will give you more of the context of that story. That story itself is likely to be more powerful. You have empowered the person and the customer, you’ve made them feel valued, which is important because this customer has taken time to contact you. It is often so easy to give a negative review. In our culture, sadly, people will not jump to pay a compliment. Value that customer who does and help them share their story.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a really good example. They are a charity in the UK and Ireland, and like many other organizations, they monitor what is happening. They monitor what is being said. But they don’t just take it, reproduce them and say, “Hey, this is all about us.” What they do is actually something that is the same for what you would do for a product.
It’s, “Let’s talk to this person, let’s see what the context is. Let’s see what else they might want to say.” It may be that they want to share more. If you don’t have the conversation, you could have just missed out on the best story, something that will not only interest your audience, but will also motivate your team or staff.
Stories can also come from other sources and interactions with your customers. Encourage your team to look out for how to help build your community.
The story brings trust for newcomers to WooCommerce
We often say to one of the WooCommerce agencies we work with, “Okay, if you are working with a charity or you are sponsoring something because you passionately believe in it, what are you want to say about that?” And not from the perspective of making money off that charity or making money off that cause. But what is it that is part of your story? Because actually telling your story is more than telling the public that you sponsored something.
And I’ve seen it with WooCommerce builders. I’ve dealt with a couple of sites recently that they’ve sent me. [These sites in their version of stories] literally talked about what they had in their toothpaste and when they brushed their teeth, what came out of their teeth. And “Why would people want to know this?”
It was because the teams looked at social media where people talked about breakfast and things like that. They didn’t know where to start, so, that’s what they did too. I have got permission to re-tell that story because the team there said, “Someone should have told us this.”
But it’s telling your story and telling what you are comfortable with sharing. I’m one of the editors of the People of WordPress series. And we’ve interviewed lots of people who are from e-commerce, but hear them say, “Okay, what are you happy to be reading about yourself? What are you going to be happy about someone talking to you about? Is really important and that’s for any person.
It’s about being listened to and heard
And that’s the joy for me, coming from a PR background where I’m a Chartered PR Practitioner and that’s a lot about actually thinking about the ethics of communication and how we deal with things in a positive way and how we involve people. We don’t do communications to them, we create or we do communications together because it’s about being listened to and being heard. And helping people be listened to and heard is the greatest way to do that.
We talk about ownership a lot. So if I was talking to you as a product developer, I would say, “Okay, share a little bit about what that means in terms of why it’s special to you, how and why it excites you,” because that is your story. And that may be what you invite other people to share as well.
For example, with the boats work that we do, we ask the captains to share what it is that they love about taking people on these wonderful excursions. And it becomes much more than this e-commerce thing that you’re supposed to do. It becomes a living and breathing part of your business and part of your organization. And that is when business really innovates, it’s when you get fantastic solutions, it’s where you meet and collaborate with other people. And more importantly, you get to meet exciting customers that makes day with you for the rest of your business career. And that’s the people that you want to be at your party when you retire. So, it’s bringing that locality back to you, really.