Telling stories is a prime way to share information. Whether "war stories" shared in a conference presentation, or "case studies" written for marketing collateral or web site use cases, stories of real people using your products and services can have a huge impact on the believability of what you offer.
SHHH! Don't Share!
Why is it then that so many senior managers and executives feel like they have to hide every little detail about how their product works, or made a customer's day, or successfully solved a serious issue? If it's factual, why not share it?
Several years ago I was working with a head of a major real estate firm at a national convention. He was nervous about his presentation, and sought my advice on how he could "WOW!" the audience (mostly made up of his peers). I suggested that he tell them a couple of stories about his best deals, and get into the specifics of how they happened. "NO!" he fairly shouted! "All the other guys will get our secrets!"
Needless to say, his presentation, prepared by his corporate marketing department and full of pretty charts, graphs, numbers, and pictures, told absolutely nothing of worth to the attendees. What could have been a highlight of the conference was, instead, an embarassment, especially to the speaker.
How Much of a Secret Are You Keeping?
Unless you're dealing with software coding, nuclear fusion, the newest mobile phone, or troop movements, there's really probably not a significant amount of information you're hiding. It's probably either been:
- Thought of
- Done well and replicated
- Done poorly and disgarded
In other words: There's no reason you SHOULDN'T tell your story about how you did it successfully. The likelihood of someone stealing your idea is between slim and none. Even if they DO steal it, telling about it FIRST makes you seem like the expert. It is one of the hidden secrets about self-promotion.
Telling EVERYTHING Works
Just this afternoon one of my Biznik friends, a corporate recruiter and career coach, was going through a 3-step career search process with me. As she walked me through her process, I thought to myself "This would make a great Biznik article!" I suggested it -- and she said "I know! I'm going to write it later today!"
She understands the value of "no secrets". She will tell basically everything that makes her successful in what she does. Why? Because she knows:
- Only a few people will "steal" her ideas
- Many more people will look at the article and say "Wow! That's brilliant!"
- Of those people, many will realize "I can't do what she does!"
- The result will be that they will call her!
And isn't that what marketing is about? Generating business?
Remember the story about the high-powered real estate exec who didn't tell any "secrets"? The next year one of the speakers, Jim M., had a similar assignment. Jim mostly dealt with buying land. In this group of real estate gurus, he was not considered very sophisticated. And he knew it.
About a week before the event, Jim came up to me and said "What should I do? There are all these big shots nationally and internationally, they'll all be there in their Gucci shoes and la-de-da tailored suits. What will I do?" I told him: "Jim, tell a story. Tell them what you do every day. Don't leave out any details. From the time you walk out your front door to the time you pat the dog on the head when you come home, just tell them what you do."
Cowboy Boots vs. Gucci Loafers
When Jim gave his presentation, I couldn't believe it. In a packed ballroom at a national hotel, full of corporate real estate experts from throughout the world, responsible for trillions of dollars of real estate, Jim strode to the podium wearing a blue denim shirt, a pair of nice jeans ... and cowboy boots!
The audience was stunned.
Jim was nervous... but he'd rolled the dice! He said: This is what I wear to work. I talk to landowners every day, and most of them ... well, this is what THEY wear to work!"
Then he told these "gurus" what he did, step by step. You should have seen the notebooks, the laptops, the PDAs, fly open as they took notes frantically. And Jim told them EVERYTHING he did, every little secret.
- A standing ovation
- A delay in lunch (the next event) because everyone wanted to ask Jim "insider" questions
- A line a hundred people long of these gurus who wanted to meet Jim
- Jim having a stack of business cards and more requests for "help" than he knew what to do with.
He told me later: "Several people came up to me and said "you just told me all your secrets ... but I can't replicate it, and I know nobody else in our company can. Come and work for us ... and bring your boots!"
Trade secrets. Corporate secrets. Business secrets. As long as you're not breaking non-disclosure agreements, or compromising formulas, or exposing strategies ... go ahead and tell the story about how and why you're successful! Because telling what you know, and how you do what you do, makes you the market leader! And isn't that where you want to be?