How To Use Storytelling to Attract Ideal Clients, Establish Empathy, and Build Trust

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14 min read

The art of storytelling is an ancient one, but it’s also the future of marketing.

Storytelling isn’t a fad or trend. It’s been around for a while in the world of marketing and has earned a spot as one of the most effective tools in a business owner’s toolbox.

Using storytelling in your marketing strategy helps you make human connections in order to grow your service-based business.

Storytelling is the perfect way to get more clients and patients.

So let me tell you a story.

Pam, an acupuncturist client, had a typical health and wellness website. She had home page featuring her services, the benefits of acupuncture, and the conditions she treated.

Her about page was a long, detailed story about how she overcame her anxiety and depression and how it led her to acupuncture, and why acupuncture is so wonderful.

The only way to contact her was via a phone number. There was no easy way to book online.

Not only did she get very few visitors (and SEO issue) but those that did land there didn’t stick around for very long.

Her ideal patients simply were not connecting to her website or her message, because it looked like many other websites.

Her website also failed to draw her ideal patients in, or to see themselves in the message. To them, there was no compelling character or conflict, no plot, no call to action, no guidance, and no visualized resolution.

To put it another way, Storytelling works because it keeps eyeballs on your website. It drives the CLICKS to your landing or checkout pages. It keeps people interested in your message, engaging in your social media channels or groups, and opening your emails.

Stories work at every level of your marketing, whether you are attracting your ideal client or patient, keeping them interested and engaged, persuading them why your offer is a perfect fit, or showing how your services or products have worked for others.

Why, and how?

It has everything to do with the human brain.

Our brains organize concepts into stories. Not just the cognitive, rational part. Not just the emotional part (amygdala) but the ENTIRE brain is on board when a good story is being told.

This phenomenon is based on thousands of years of storytelling, but also on modern brain science.

The reason you are captivated by a good scifi or romantic comedy is due to a concept called Neurocoupling.

To use an example, when watching Harry Potter or Star Wars or LOTR, you begin to lose yourself in the story and identify with the Hero. You can feel the tension, sense of loss or hopelessness, (and hope) and the anticipation of a resolution. Even though you know that Harry will live, that Luke will succeed, and that the Ring will be destroyed and life will go on in peace after a long epic struggle.. We wouldn’t want to watch it if we didn’t experience this phenomenon.

Stories also need certain elements, like character development and empathy, a plot, a basic structure, and a conflict. The best stories have an external, internal, and philosophical conflict. Without it, there would be no story.

Imagine if..

Frodo wakes up in the Shire, has tea with Bilbo, attends a party later, lives many more years because of his anti-aging secret, and all is well. The End.  There’s no conflict. How boring.

The message is more powerful when your ICA/ICP is the hero of the “story” and embarks on a version of the classic Hero’s journey. Let’s talk about the journey. But first, I want to point out that many practitioners don’t fully grasp the concept of storytelling.

The 3 biggest mistakes wellness practitioners make when telling the story of their brand

1. They leave out their own story, as the guide who has been through a similar ordeal.

2. They go on and on about their own epic tale, making themselves the hero of the story, instead of the reader.

3. They use vague, generic, and meaningless language, jargon, new-agey word salads, and life-coach speak instead of speaking DIRECTLY to the hero. 

I see a lot of marketing content, and in particular,  websites…  that are STILL NOT focused on the patient or client.

I still see advice given to newbies to “tell your story. ” The result often translates into the equivalent of Dumbledore or Gandalf or Yoda taking over the entire plot. The story of your Harry, Frodo, or Luke becomes lost as the guide takes center stage. Don’t do this. Step back and make the story primarily about the hero/potential client, not you.

The ideal client or patient as the main character

The hero of your story is NOT a demographic like “women between 25 and 45 who love yoga.”

This is the equivalent of a movie “extra.” You want to give as much thought to your main character as a casting director.

Take your time when developing your ICA/IPA. (Ideal client avatar or ideal patient avatar) Even though often we attract those like us, it’s not a given that their preferences and needs mirror yours exactly. The WHY that drives them, on a deep, subconscious, and ancient level will reveal itself when you take the time to really dive into this exercise.

It’s not always what it seems to be on the surface. There may be some baggage to drop, demons to slay, business to finish, or something to atone for.

Let’s use an example, for fun, outside the sphere of health and wellness, and explore a the story behind someone who wants to learn to play the guitar. Seriously, deeply, and passionately.

Lets start with some deeper layers of the person’s desire, aside from passion about the music itself: Gaining a sense of mastery. Going a little deeper, it could be about  overcoming self-doubt.  Where did this come from? And why does it matter?  If you think about one of the many possible meanings behind the pursuit of learning music, the process can take the shape of a Quest, a “Monster Slaying” or other transformational narrative.

If you can dig into the WHY part, what drives the hero, half the battle is won. It’s about how they FEEL about themselves before, during, and after the journey.

Developing your ideal client or patient avatar is much like developing a character arc in a story. If you want dive even further into this concept, there is a cool video based on the character arc in  Star Wars  Episode IV: A New Hope.

Storytelling, Connection, and Authenticity

When we structure information as a story, rather than a laundry list of information, the message feels more authentic and “real.”

This builds trust.

When the message isn’t about how great your product or services are, or how qualified you are, or an explanation of your process or modality, but about what DEEPLY motivates the protagonist, you are far more likely to capture the attention of your true fans.

An actual and true story resonates with the reader and inspires them to take action (whether it’s working with you or not) so that they can experience their version of a “happy ending.” (no, not THAT happy ending)

By now, you may be nodding your head about the WHY. But HOW does this work, exactly?

Let’s dive into the PLOT of your story.  Your website is the perfect place to showcase this.

The anatomy of  story flow (or StoryBrand) website

My websites are now all based on telling a story on each page. The framework is  similar to StoryBranding, but adapted to health and wellness professionals and coaches.

The “flow” on each page draws the visitor in and inspires them to take action, even as they scroll deeper.

This flow can be compared the the 5 parts of a good story, whether it’s a novel, a movie, a play, a poem, a song, or story told around a campfire:

  • Exposition
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Resolution

The very first thing you see when landing on a website is usually an image and a title/subtitle that captures the essence of the brand. It’s like a movie trailer or book cover and clearly lets the ICA/ICP know what you do (and what you don’t do!):

Just like a movie trailer, its job is to let the viewer know exactly what the story is about and whether it’s worth sticking around to find out more. In 3 seconds or less.

The is also similar to the Exposition of a story.

The next section establishes the conflict of the story. There NEEDS to be a conflict in a story, or it will be BORING.

This can be compared to the rising action of a story.

The middle section: You introduce yourself as the GUIDE who can help the hero solve their problem:

The next section: Show them the “stakes:”

This is much like the CLIMAX of a story.

The ending: Isn’t just about a happy ever after ending. It’s about the beginning of a new journey:

And this would be the Resolution of a story.

Don’t forget the Call to Action.  For a website, this usually means a button (more than 1!) for booking an appointment, call, learning more, enrolling in a course, subscribing to an email list, or making a purchase.

A common mistake is not including any call to action other than a phone number. Trust me, this is outdated. If you don’t have a way for people to take immediate action, they probably won’t, especially in the post-pandemic era. 

Other elements play a supporting role. They allow you to spell out who your services are for and who they are not for, to add some kind of pre-qualification process like a quiz, application, pre-requisite download, etc.

These help you manage expectations so that you can keep delivering your awesome services without having to deal with unrealistic expectations, people who are a poor fit or not ready for your services, having to explain or justify your process or prices, or burnout.

Bottom line: It’s even easier to establish your “vibe” when it’s presented as a story. You have more creative elements to play with.

Tips for crafting you own story-based website and marketing content

1. If you have not already completed a THOROUGH analysis of your ideal client or patient, this is a non-negotiable. It’s like trying to produce a movie without a lead character.

2. Read Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller.

3. Explore other StoryBrand websites for inspiration and to get a general idea of the flow.

4. Don’t make the “plot” too complicated. Think of a basic action movie or rom com. We all love a good plot twist, but for your website, we want to keep it simple.

5. Start your journey on mastering copywriting. This is VERY important. Copy can make or break a website. You can practice with social media posts, which are more ephemeral, and then move on to creating content (like a blog, a podcast, or video series)

6. If you don’t like writing, you may want to outsource (which isn’t cheap, for good reason) or at least invest in a course or class.

What’s in this for you?

  • It helps you attract ONLY ideal clients and patients so that you don’t end up getting burnt out dealing with those who aren’t a great fit
  • It does the “heavy lifting” for you so that you don’t have to explain EXACTLY that thing you do that nobody else can. This means no more phone calls or messages from tire-kickers and price shoppers who have NO clue what you actually do, but want solve a problem at THEIR level of thinking for the cheapest rate possible. This means that unless you proclaim the title of your story “we fix backs for cheap in one visit” you won’t attract that anymore.
  • It’s the perfect framework for service providers who are able to transform lives
  • It positions you well in a changing landscape in the health and wellness/coaching industry. The old school method of listing the 80 conditions acupuncture can treat (the village healer model) is DONE.
  • It focuses less on jargon, rambling, and random bullet points and MORE on what people need in a society that is thoroughly overwhelmed. It gets them from pain to pleasure in simple steps you actually put on your website.

Another benefit is that by seeing the story through the eyes of your “hero,” you may just find that the story of you and your business will find an even deeper meaning than the one you had when you first began your entrepreneurial journey.  It keeps the fire of passion lit, and quite possibly, prevents you from burning out.

Of course, there IS more to this story.  Start out taking small steps.


Need help creating your Story-Based website?

And now, it’s time for me to call YOU to action.  If you’ve been making do with a mediocre or outdated website, the good news is that StoryBrand based websites for service-based businesses are actually pretty simple.

You can go the DIY route or have someone build it for you. Either way, I’ve got resources for you so that  the process is as streamlined as possible, and that your website isn’t just “stunning,” but functional as well.

Simply apply to get started. No discovery call, no pitch. Your reply will help me guide you to the next step, and I’ll be contacting you via email.

Hi! I’m Julie. 

I’m a self-described nerd when it comes to branding, marketing, and websites. I’m an INTJ/P who loves working with “thinking” introvert entrepreneurs who are also passionate about their ideas and serious about their business.  Feel free to explore a topic or search for something specific. 

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