Tag Archives: writing

Increase Sales with the Simple Six-Step Heroic Storytelling Formula

By Henry DeVries

Henry DeVriesA tough challenge for many in business is convincing enough prospects to hire them. To become more persuasive, it pays to know how humans are hardwired for stories. If you want the prospect to think it over, give them lots of facts and figures. If you want them to decide to hire you, tell them the right story.

Storytelling helps persuade on an emotional level. Maybe that is why so many Fortune 500 companies are putting an emphasis on teaching their sales and business development professionals storytelling techniques that will move units and convince prospects to come aboard.

Now any business leader or sales professional can easily use proven techniques of telling a great story employed by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Wall Street by employing “The Simple Six-Step Heroic Storytelling Formula” to gain the chance to make a proposal or close the sale.

These stories must be true case studies, but told in a certain way. Here is a quick overview of the formula: Be the voice of wisdom and experience. Click To Tweet

1.Start with a main character. Every story starts with the name of a character who wants something. This is your client. Make your main characters likable so the listeners will root for them. To make them likable, describe some of their good qualities or attributes. Generally, three attributes work best: “Marie was smart, tough, and fair” or “Johan was hardworking, caring and passionate.” For privacy reasons you do not need to use their real names (“this is a true story, but the names have been changed to protect confidentiality”).

2. Have a nemesis character. Stories need conflict to be interesting. What person, institution, or condition stands in the character’s way? The villain in the story might be a challenge in the business environment, such as the recession of 2008 or higher tax rates (the government is always a classic nemesis character).

3. Bring in a mentor character. Heroes need help on their journey. They need to work with a wise person. This is where you come in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. The hero does not succeed alone; they succeed because of the help you provided. 

4. Know what story you are telling. Human brains are programmed to relate to one of eight great meta-stories. These are: monster, underdog, comedy, tragedy, mystery, quest, rebirth, and escape. If the story is about overcoming a huge problem, that is a monster problem story. If the company was like a David that overcame an industry Goliath, that is an underdog story.

5. Have the hero succeed.  Typically the main character needs to succeed, with one exception: tragedy. The tragic story is told as a cautionary tale. Great for teaching lessons, but not great for attracting clients.  Have the hero go from mess to success (it was a struggle, and they couldn’t have done it without you).

6. Give the listeners the moral of the story. Take a cue from Aesop, the man who gave us fables like The Tortoise and the Hare (the moral: slow and steady wins the race). Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.

Six Ways to Put Stories into ActionAfter you build an inventory of stories that demonstrate how you take clients from mess to success, you are then ready to deploy the stories. In storytelling, context is everything. You should never randomly tell stories, but instead use stories at the right strategic times.

Here are six perfect opportunities to persuade with a story

1. During an Initial Call to Get a Meeting.  Never lead with the story. First have a conversation with the prospect. Ask about their goals, what they are doing right, and what they see as the roadblocks they hope you can help them get past. At this point ask: “May I tell you a true story about how we helped a client get from where you are now to where you want to go?”  

2. To Close a Client During a Meeting. For many companies, business development is not a one-step close. During an initial get together you gather information and in the subsequent meeting you propose a course of action. This is the time to add a case history story of a client that was in a similar situation.

3. On a Website and in Collateral Material. Get rid of those dry case studies on the website. Instead, convert them to the more persuasive story format of the six-step formula. This also applies to your marketing collateral. Don’t just tell when stories will sell. In your brochures and information kits replace drab case histories with persuasive heroic success stories (remember your role is as a wise mentor).

4. During a New Business Presentation. Oftentimes, you may be asked to make a presentation to a group.  Because humans are hardwired for stories, this is a perfect opportunity to make your pitch memorable.

5. During a Speech or Media Interview.  Occasionally you may receive an invitation to make a speech or give an interview to the media. Illustrate your message with a pithy story.

6. To Train Employees on Core Values.  Stories can also be the gift to your business that keeps giving. Reinforce core values with employees and new hires through sharing the inventory of stories.

Bottom line: Nothing is as persuasive as storytelling with a purpose. The right stories can work wonders whether you are using them in a one-to-one meeting, in a presentation that is one-to-several, or in a speech or publicity that is one-to-many. Start today to build an inventory of persuasive stories.

Henry DeVries, CEO of Indie Books International, works with consultants to attract high-paying clients by marketing with a book and speech. As a professional speaker, he teaches sales and business development professionals how to build an inventory of persuasive stories. He is the author of “Marketing with a Book” and “Persuade with a Story!” For more information, visit www.indiebooksintl.com

Once is Not Enough

Repurposing Writing to Grow Your Business and Career

By Cathy Fyock

Jeff is a busy executive who has always wanted to become a published author. He’s seen his colleagues’ work published and envied their newfound recognition as authors and thought leaders. Jeff knows that having a book can be a way to stand out from the competition, get speaking engagements, create new revenue streams, and move his business to the next level by providing him with a first class business card.

Jeff is typical of so many business professionals today who know the value of publishing, yet don’t understand how to leverage the value from writing.

The good news is that Jeff can repurpose this writing—that is, he can create content once and use it for many different mediums.

As a professional or thought-leader, you are constantly selling your intellectual property (IP). There’s no reason that IP can’t be repackaged for many different media, like speaking, writing, training, consulting, coaching, and so on. If you can create the content for a major presentation, for example, you can reuse that content for a post on LinkedIn, an article in your professional journal or trade publication, or rewrite it as a component of your book.

Even when you’re focused on the material itself, be aware that you can publish that written material in many forms and formats: blogs, articles, books, training materials, and whatever others make sense for you.

Let’s say that you’ve just written a weekly post of 350 to 800 words. That’s a short piece of content, but even so, there might be numerous purposes for that short bit of IP. The blog post could become part of your next book. It could be incorporated in a new training program. You could tailor it for a specific industry publication—or generalize it for multiple industries. You could write it for staff, and then change it up for managers or senior leadership.

Your writing can take you where you want to go. Click To TweetTo begin, here are some steps to follow to discover content that is ready for repurposing.

  • Review materials that you’ve created: presentations, articles, blog posts, workbook materials, or templates, and determine what is relevant and offers value. Create a folder—electronic or paper—that organizes these materials.
  • Analyze where you have used these materials, and what other purposes they might serve. As suggested, a short article published in a trade publication could now be published on LinkedIn. A presentation could become an article. An article can become a chapter in your book.
  • When moving from one genre to the next, you’ll need to see what works and what doesn’t. For example: when converting training materials into a book, you’ll need to flesh out the stories or the narrative that wasn’t written. When turning a short blog into a longer academic article, you’ll likely add research and cited sources and beef up the content. If you move from a blog to a training session, you’ll need to consider how to make the material interactive and engaging to make that material “sticky.”
  • Similarly, but in reverse: a new exercise you develop for a client program could be repackaged and used as a series of shorter blogs, or incorporated into your book. Or, if you’ve already published a book, you could extract chunks of that writing for short blog posts.
  • Is the material current or relevant? Is it evergreen? While your original content was certainly current when it was published, does it still hold water today? If, for instance, your blog post featured Lance Armstrong or Bill Cosby as examples of strong character and leadership (as they once seemed to be), you might need new examples. While most material will retain its relevance, some will become noticeably dated over time—especially if it involves technology or anything else that changes quickly.
  • Does it reflect your own current thinking on this topic? While you may have felt strongly about an issue at some point, more recent events may have changed your perspective or adjusted your thoughts. When your material is published, you want it to reflect your most current philosophies and ideas on the issues—or, so far as possible, the ways you always have always thought and will continue to.
  • Does the material’s thesis fit with your business strategy? If you’re repurposing material to support your business or career, your material should be closely aligned with your business strategy. In other words, whatever you write should serve your business in some direct way: it should bring in customers, raise your position or credibility, or provide you with media attention. Your writing can take you where you want to go, but only if the writing and the thesis which defines it points in the same direction.

If you’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into your writing, then repurposing your writing is a great strategy to ensure you’re squeezing the maximum value out of your own work so that you can realize the benefit of being a published professional.

Activity: Have you been repurposing your writing? Consider the last article, blog post, or chapter you’ve written. What other formats could apply to this writing? Could it become an article, blog post, book chapter, white paper, eBook, special report, workbook, handout, or something else altogether?

Cathy Fyock is The Business Book Strategist, and works with thought leaders and professionals who want to write a book as a business and career growth strategy. She is the author of eight books, including her most recent, Blog2Book: Repurposing Content to Discover the Book You’ve Already Written.


The Write Stuff: Tips For Successful Publishing

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Consider this: “ABC Company, a strategic provider of advanced business technology applications to facilitate organizational utilization of gamechanging convergent networks, announced today the release of its unprecedented Widgetiser solution, which is guaranteed to revolutionize existing technological infrastructures overnight.”

This is a fictitious example of an all too common press release. On any given business day, I receive five to ten press releases and an article or two. Only a small percentage ever make it into print. Although the practical restriction of limited space in a printed medium is one reason, the reality is most submissions were doomed from the start – much like the above exercise in verbosity. When you seek publicity, understanding how publishing works is the first step towards successful placement.

Target Your Submissions: Submitting content to a periodical is not like shooting a shotgun, where pellets disperse in a general area with the hope that enough shot will strike the quarry to take it down. Rather, getting published is more like firing a rifle, where a single, carefully aimed bullet has a good chance for success. True, not every shot will result in a meal, but the chances are much greater than just blasting off a shotgun in all directions.

With email, the temptation is to fire off hundreds of missives at every angle. Doing so, however, reduces your thoughtfully composed prose to spam, earning it an acrimonious end. A carefully targeted approach is a better way to go.

Know Your Target: My first article submission, some three decades ago, was published. This gave me a false sense of success; I assumed getting published was easy. The reality was I knew the target publication, Radio Electronics. I’d been a subscriber for years; I faithfully read each issue and understood the content and style of the articles they used.

Tap Online Resources: Virtually all periodicals have websites, which often contain useful information for the aspiring writer. The first step is to check their website for direction. My publications’ websites, for example, contains guidelines for writing and submitting articles and press releases, including the preferred length, the method of submission, writing style, and so forth.

Limit Communication: In today’s publishing world, some editors will respond to emails about submissions, but most do not. Contacting them when you shouldn’t will just irritate them. Only reach out when needed and according to their online submission guidelines.

At best, hope for a brief response. Today’s editorial staff must do more, in less time, and with fewer resources. Don’t take it personally if your message is ignored or you receive a terse reply. Make the best of any communication and move forward.

Know Your Subject: My first article was, “All About Pagers.” I knew the subject well, working for a paging company and with several years of experience. One would think that my composition would have flowed easily. Not so. As I began to write, I quickly realized how much I didn’t know. Fortunately, I was in a position to find the missing pieces, thereby filling in the gaps. The result was an accurate and informative submission that resonated with the editors. Writing about things you don’t understand is quickly spotted and easily dismissed.

Follow Directions: The quickest way for your press release or article to be ignored is to assume the rules don’t apply to you. Editors more readily use material that complies with their guidelines and needs less editing. They don’t make rules because they can but to make the process easier for everyone.

If they request your submissions via an email attachment (my preferred method), then do it. Other publications avoid attachments and prefer the text be in the body of the email. Also, if a piece is too long, it will be edited for length.

The reality is, when an editor is nearing deadline or pushed for time, content requiring significant editing will often be delayed or deleted. Increase your chances of being published by simply following directions.

Don’t Miss Deadlines: Deadlines exist for a reason. Without them, a publication would never make it to the printer. Be aware and follow submission deadlines (they are usually posted online and may be printed in each issue). If you promise an article by a certain date, don’t miss it. If you desire your hot news item to be in a specific issue, get it in on time; sooner is better. Weekly papers and especially magazines have a much longer lead-time than most people imagine, so be aware of it and adhere to it.

Third Person is Preferred: Writing objectively in the third person gives your piece increased integrity; it’s more credible. First-person is never acceptable in news releases as it comes across as self-serving, bragging, or unnecessarily introspective. Always write press releases as an impartial third party. Articles generally work best in this same style. Notable exceptions are first-hand accounts and how-to pieces – such as this column. If you have any doubt about which style to use, don the hat of a reporter and write in the third person.

Proofread Carefully: Too often, I receive press releases and articles that contain serious errors. Some haven’t even been spell-checked. This is a sure way to lose credibility and frustrate an editor. Make their work easier by double-checking yours. It is nearly impossible to successfully proof your own work. After all, you know what you intended to write, so that is how you read it, easily overlooking errors and mistakes.

Expect to be Edited: It’s tough to work hard on a piece only to have someone else change it. Similarly, it’s easy to become enamored with what you wrote, desiring it to be published verbatim. This is unrealistic. Even the most experienced authors have their work edited. This can be for many reasons. A common one is length, another is style, and a third is content suitability. Sometimes a piece is given a different slant to make it better fit a publication’s focus or a section is removed because it doesn’t work well with the issue.

Although some publications have a reputation for twisting, manipulating, or even corrupting an author’s work, most make a good-faith effort to retain the writer’s intent and present their work in a positive way.

Avoid Hyperbole: The more spectacular the language, the less believable they become. Words such as “leveraged,” “solutions,” “unique,” “revolutionary,” “leading,” and “premier” are overused. Avoid them in your writing. Exaggerated copy and unsubstantiated claims only serve to push away readers and wary editors. Yes, clever wording has its place, but when it surpasses the message, something is wrong and communication doesn’t occur.

There’s no guaranteed way to get your news item or article published, but implementing these ideas will increase the chance of that happening – and decrease frustration when it does not.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

The Power of a Template

By Athenée MastrangeloAthenee Mastrangelo

Does it feel like you’re always busy typing up letters and emails?  Does it sometimes feel like you’re sending out the same emails?  If you answered yes, what do you do?  Do you retype the entire email over and over again, or do you go back in your Sent folder and look for that email you sent out a few weeks ago so you can copy and paste the content?  Why not simplify the process with a template?

Why reinvent the wheel when you can have your own library of frequently used items?  Templates are not just for contracts; you can use them for emails, spreadsheets, to do lists, and just about everything.  Most word processors already have templates in place for you to use.  You can use theirs or create your own from scratch – either way you’ll save a ton of time in the end.  Let’s look at a few different ways of using templates:

Email Templates: Find yourself responding to the same emails over and over again?  Being Secretary/Treasurer of her network group, Jessica has to send out weekly emails and most of those emails contain the same message each week.   So for each of those emails, she typed up the message and saved it as a Signature in her Mac Mail.  Each week when it’s time to send out these emails, all she has to do is pick out the right message AKA Signature, personalize it and hit Send.  No time was wasted creating a message, typing it all out and making sure it has no typos.

If you don’t have the Signature option with your email service you can either store your templates in the Draft folder or you can create a folder named Templates.  All you have to do is copy and paste the message, personalize and hit Send.

You can use email templates for basically anything.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Meeting Agendas & Minutes
  • Requesting a meeting
  • Office Memo
  • Confirming receipt of someone’s resume -or- Replying that the position is already filled
  • Weekly Status Report
  • Driving Directions to your Business

You can also use your email Signature to promote events or specials, once the promotion is over just remove it from your Signature.  Want to wish them a great holiday season?  Rather than retyping it over and over again, just add it to your Signature!

Document Templates: It’s common for most of us to use templates for contracts or forms, but get creative – there’s so much you can use it for.  Some examples:

  • If you work in the HR department, set up templates for responding to applications to let them know (1) They are hired, (2) The position is closed, (3) Informing them of their next step
  • Are you in sales?  Have an introduction letter with important information and links to your website
  • Do you have to reply to customer complaints?  Use a template, now all you have to do is personalize it
  • If you’re applying for a new career use a template for your cover letter and resume, all you have to do is go in and personalize and you’re ready to go
  • Spreadsheets are also a great way for using templates, for example: expense reports, travel expenses, proposals, invoices and so much more.

To make sure you can easily find your templates; store them in a folder called Template.  Tip:  Always have a backup folder with all your templates, just in case you mistakenly use and changed one from the Template folder.

Presentation Templates: If you prepare presentations for your company, having templates will not only save you time, but more importantly will keep your presentations consistent and professional!  Make sure you:

  • Keep your logo and text positioning in the same location
  • Use the same colors, font, and sizes if and where possible – it looks less cluttered and is much easier on the eyes for your participants

If there is more than one person creating presentations for a company, having templates is a must for keeping your company’s branding consistent.

AutoText – another great tool! What is AutoText, you ask?  It’s a tool inside your word processor or email service that automatically replaces your text as soon as you type it in.  It’s frequently used to replace typical typos, for example ‘recieve’ will automatically be replaced with ‘receive’.  Most of these tools let you add your own set of AutoText words and phrases.

Here are just a few ways you can use this tool to save you time:

  • Let’s say you’re always typing in ‘Executive Assistant to the General Manager of This Company’.  Rather then typing that same phrase repeatedly, have ‘EXGM’ replaced with ‘Executive Assistant to the General Manager of This Company’ – that’s 4 key strokes instead of 60!
  • What about names with symbols?  Most AutoText tools will replace the letters ‘TM’ with ‘™’  But if yours doesn’t you can instruct it to do so.  Plus you can do it with your company name – just have ‘YCN’ replaced with ‘Your Company Name™’
  • You can do the same with entire paragraphs – let AutoText do the work for you!

Word of caution:  When creating these replacement letters in AutoText, make sure they are not existing words or abbreviations – it can get quite messy!

Your Next Action! Over the next few days and weeks pay attention to the things you frequently type or send out.  Then take some time to set up your own set of templates. Remember, you can always go online to find some great pre-created templates.  Download them, personalize them to your needs and you’re good to go!

Athenée Mastrangelo helps busy professionals use technology to stay organized, productive, and connected.  She is available for workshops, online training, and individual consultations. Clients include Marriott, United Colors of Benetton, Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs. Connect with Athenée at www.ActionChaos.com or 407-435-2170.

The Top Three Business Writing Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now

By Dawn JosephsonDawn Josephson

Most businesspeople have great ideas, but when it comes to putting those ideas on paper, they ramble on for pages and end up looking less than professional. But in today’s communication age, with email trumping the phone and deals being done via text and social media, writing skills are of paramount importance. In fact, when your writing gets to the point quickly and effectively, you can enhance your credibility, position yourself as a leader, and ultimately increase your bottom line.

Following are the top three business writing mistakes that plague most business writing. Overcome them today to boost your professional presence.

Mistake #1 – Not knowing the specifics of your audience: Just as you would tailor your message depending on whether it was going to employees versus prospects, you also need to tailor your message to specific demographics within the larger identified group. For example, if you’re writing promotional materials for your product or service, and the majority of the people who do business with you are older, well-established professionals, you’ll want to highlight the product or service’s safety features, reliability record, or guarantee. However, if your main clientele were younger Millennial types, you’d want to emphasize the product or service’s trendy image, quick results, or easy to use/understand features. If you have an equal number of clients in both demographics, then you may even need two separate sales messages. One generic message rarely cuts it these days.

Therefore, before you write a word, really think about who’ll be reading what you write. Get into their heads. Talk to their precise needs, issues, or worries. And then craft your message specifically for them. The more you know your reader, the better you can reach them with your words.

Mistake #2 – Writing to impress rather than to express: The more successful a person is, the more often he or she thinks that big words and long documents impress people. In reality, just the opposite is true. People who try to write with the hopes to impress others with their knowledge only accomplish one thing: They lose the reader!

To make sure you’re expressing rather than impressing, examine each piece you write and distill its core message or purpose down to one or two sentence. If you can’t do that, then either your writing is not focused, or it’s so drawn-out that not even you can understand it. If that’s the case, then go back to each paragraph within the document and try to condense each down to one or two sentences. String those new sentences together, and then pinpoint your piece’s purposes. That’s the core message you want to express! Rewrite the document with the core message in mind, using common, everyday language. Remember, true genius is when you can explain your idea in such a way that a five-year-old child can understand it.

Mistake #3 – Talking down to your reader: Have you ever reread your own writing and said, “It sounds all wrong!”? That’s because the tone of your writing was likely wrong. Determining your writing’s tone is important, because a follow-up letter should not have the same tone as web copy.

Most businesspeople try to use an excessively formal tone in all their writing as a way to show their expertise. But realize that excessive formality often comes from a writer who is insecure with his or her authority. By using an overformal tone—complete with many technical terms, references to research studies when it’s not warranted, and referring to the reader as “one” rather than “you” (as in “one can see…” versus “you can see….)—the writer attempts to mask his or her insecurities. Most people don’t want to do business with someone who is insecure, so keep the tone of your writing conversational and approachable.

Write it Right: When you write better, you earn more. So no matter what you’re writing—whether it’s a sales letter, an email, or a press release—make sure you avoid these three business writing mistakes. Remember, your ability to write clearly and succinctly will make your writing stand out, and will enable you to reach new levels of success.

Dawn Josephson is a ghostwriter, editor, and writing coach who helps business leaders and professional speakers create engaging and informative books, articles, and marketing pieces.