Telling your origin/“why” story? Here’s a break-down of how to do it.

“It also does one more thing,” I trailed off, making a face — because I knew this could go one of two ways.

“What?” she asked.

“Well, it means they’re probably going to picture you naked. Which I actually don’t think is such a bad thing.”

Before I’d even finished the sentence, she burst into peals of laughter. PHEWF!

In planning the marketing for her first ever product launch, my client Ashley knew SHE was going to be the face of it. And she knew that this meant she’d need to be able to talk about her product — shampoo and conditioning bars — in a way that’s not only clear and cohesive, but also captivating. She was sure she wanted storytelling to be a part of this. But how? And which story or stories?? And when do we get to the part about nudity????

Before deciding that you want to craft your business story, you should always ask my favourite two questions,

(A) Why am I doing this?

(B) What do I want people to do differently as a result?

For Ashley, the answers were:

(A) Why am I doing this? “So that I can talk about in a way that makes people want to buy it without feeling like I’m being salesy.”

and

(B) What do I want people to do differently as a result?

“Actions for three sets of people.
For potential clients: sign up to the early bird list.
For press: write about the product or feature it.
For potential suppliers: want to stock the product.”

To cover all of that, we needed a story that could:

1) Be instantly engaging
So they keep listening

2) Excite the listener’s brain
So they remember it

3) Give her (as the owner and creator) credibility
To build trust in the product

And, most importantly,

4) Show this product as the answer to the problems/pain points of the target audience

and

5) Show this product as the conduit to the desires of the target audience

Side note: whenever I read the word “conduit,” I always imagine it to have the sound effect of a short, reedy line played on a violin. A random one-off synesthesia.

As I like to bang on about, including those two points in your marketing is EVERYTHING. By doing so, you can instantly draw in your potential clients.

Here’s the story we came up with:

“Standing in the shower one morning, I looked down and thought, “I don’t know if I can do this.”

I’ve been running my salon for 10 years and really wanted to develop my own products. But that day in my shower, I saw all the plastic bottles piled up — and with a family of five that includes three teenagers, that means a LOT of bottles. I realised, I really don’t want to add to the plastic garbage in the world.

So I started thinking about shampoo and conditioning bars — like bars of soap but for your hair. They’ve been around for a few years, so why don’t more people use them?

I started researching. I went around all the shops I knew that sold the bars and bought as many as I could. Mostly, they’d be displayed in a big bowl on a table in the store, “help yourself.” I know zero packaging is good for the planet — and that’s important to me. But also, I felt kind of grossed out by it. Like, I’ll be taking that into the shower with me, and I don’t know who’s already touched it…

I brought the bars home and started testing them on my daughter’s hair, because it’s untreated and she’s got a lot of it. We found that the shampoos often stripped her hair of everything — leaving it literally squeaking (we couldn’t stop laughing!) and the conditioners left her hair dry and stringy.

I knew there was a gap in the market. The bars that were available seemed to be aimed at people who prioritize being environmental over having great hair. But I feel like, why does it have to be a choice?

I found a family-run lab in Sioux Ste Marie who used only sustainable, vegan products. Together, we’ve created shampoo and conditioning bars that leave your hair looking and feeling incredible. Then, I teamed up with a talented designer who’s created beautiful branding and packaging — all cardboard, so it can be instantly recycled (although it’s so pretty, you might not want to throw it out!).

We’re calling them Proudest Pony Shampoo and Conditioning Bars. We have different products for different hair needs and all of the bars embrace the natural oils that make your hair feel clean and moisturised and leave it feeling buttery soft.

I’m so excited to get these beauties out into the world!”

Let’s break down which part of the story hits which of those goals above:

1) Be instantly engaging

“Standing in the shower one morning, I looked down and thought, “I don’t know if I can do this.”

Wherever possible, you want to start a story right in the action. In casual conversation, you have a little more leeway for beginning with the context. But if you’re telling the story in any kind of performative way (which includes web copy, newsletters or any kind of pitch or presentation), you want to start right in the ACTION. (More on why that is, here).

2) Excite the listener’s brain

“But that day in my shower, I saw all the plastic bottles piled up — and with a family of five that includes three teenagers, that means a LOT of bottles. I realised, I really don’t want to add to the plastic garbage in the world.”

Here we have the two core pillars of any good action scene, which are the answers to the questions:

“What did it look like?” and “How did you feel?” (more on these, here)

This is how you make your listeners’ brains excited. Now they are imagining standing in THEIR showers and (if they’re Ashley’s ideal client) feeling bummed out about the number of plastic bottles they have.

3) Give Ashley (as the owner and creator) credibility

Ashley often gets mistaken for being much younger than she is. Being a twenty-year-old who’s brand new to business might help you if you’re deisgning a new app or fashion line, but when it comes to environmentally friendly hair care that actually works, not so much. So we included these lines to show she’s got some life experience under her belt:

“I’ve been running my hair salon for 10 years”
and
“with a family of five that includes three teenagers”

If you’re the parent of teenagers, (a) you can’t be twenty, and (b) you must be pretty effing powerful. Anyone who’s ever raised/met/been a teenager knows that parenting them is NOT FOR COWARDS.

4) Show this product as the answer to the problems/pain points of the target audience

Quite a few here. Ashley’s target customer is someone who cares about the planet but also really cares about the way they look. They have their own style and they love beautiful things. They also have a sense of humour and personal boundaries! Maybe they even tested out bars themselves — or heard from friends who had — and wrote them off.

“I really don’t want to add to the plastic garbage in the world.”

“I know zero packaging is good for the planet — and that’s important to me. But also, I felt kind of grossed out by it. Like, I’ll be taking that into the shower with me, and I don’t know who’s already touched it…”

“We found that the shampoos often stripped her hair of everything — leaving it literally squeaking (we couldn’t stop laughing!) and the conditioners left her hair dry and stringy.”

“The bars that were available seemed to be aimed at people who prioritize being environmental over having great hair. But I feel like, why does it have to be a choice?”

All of these directly address the potential client’s various pain points and, as a bonus, include a couple of funny bits to keep it light-hearted (something which would appeal to her dream clients).

5) Show this product as the conduit to the desires of the target audience

Her dream buyers care about the environment. They like small, indie businesses but who produce high-quality goods. They like things that look nice. And they really care about having nice hair.

“I found a family-run lab in Sioux Ste Marie who used only sustainable, vegan products.”

“shampoo and conditioning bars that leave your hair looking and feeling incredible.”

“talented designer who’s created beautiful branding and packaging — all cardboard, so it can be instantly recycled (although it’s so pretty, you might not want to throw it out!).”

“We have different products for different hair needs and all of the bars embrace the natural oils that make your hair feel clean and moisturised and leave it feeling buttery soft.”

Buttery soft. I mean, who doesn’t want hair that feels like that??

So that’s how we hit all the goals — but we also found a BONUS GOAL:

6) Damn the competitors without naming them

This is something my friend and mentor Jonathan Fields calls “naming the Dictator.” What I learned from his is that, while actively calling out a competitor is a pretty trashy move, there is a way to talk about your product that will make your client think trashily about their competitors of their own accord.

Contrary to what your first instinct might be, Ashley’s competitors are not other people who make shampoo and conditioning bars — because, right now, her clients aren’t using those. Her competitors are ALL BOTTLED SHAMPOO BRANDS. Even if she didn’t mind being trashy, she wouldn’t have the five hours it might take to list every single one that exists. So how can she make her clients want to choose her product over theirs?

By trash-talking the bottles themselves:

“that day in my shower, I saw all the plastic bottles piled up — and with a family of five that includes three teenagers, that means a LOT of bottles. I realised, I really don’t want to add to the plastic garbage in the world.

I can tell you from personal experience that, anytime someone who cares about the planet hears and has heard that story is in the shower, they will look at all the plastic bottles and think of the possible future that has no bottles and just Ashley’s bars.

Plus, there was one more goal that I had for Ashley:

7) Have a version of the story that’s just a few lines long, but still evocative, relatable and connects with her ideal client.

One of the things I love about sharing Ashley’s story is that there’s a really short version of it she can tell:

I’ve been running my salon for 10 years and really wanted to develop my own products. But standing in my shower one day, I saw all the plastic bottles piled up and I realised, I really don’t want to add to the plastic garbage in the world. So I decided to make shampoo and conditioning bars.

THIS is the part people will remember the most. And it’s a lovely reminder that your “origin story” (or “why story”) doesn’t have to have a long narrative arc. It can literally just be one action scene.

When it comes to talking about what you do, I always suggest starting with describing the pain point you solve and the desire you deliver.

But when you pop those puppies into a story (or a scene!), you can get allll sorts of other work done — and all in way that doesn’t feel like selling, because you’re just describing what happened.

Stories are sticky. They activate completely different parts of our brains and a well-told story stays with us long after we hear it.

So next time someone asks you what you do or how you got into your line of work, try telling them the story.

And if you’d like some help figuring out the best way to do that, it is LITERALLY MY FAVOURITE THING TO DO. Let’s chat — you can book in a free, no obligation 15 minute call right here: yesyesmarsha.com/call.

Thanks so much for reading! Wanna share YOUR origin story? Tell us all in the comments below! Don’t forget to throw in your url :)

If you know anyone who’s struggling to tell their business story (or just struggling to talk about what they do in a non-salesy way), you share this with them by clicking one of the round buttons below, or click here to share on Facebook.

Either way, you RULE!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS if you’d like to get more things like this, along with free email coaching on storytelling and business, AND get my epic guide for the magic bullet when it comes to telling captivating stories: Pop your details in below and you can get ALL of it when you join the Yes Yes Family. It’s FREE! And I’d love to see you in there:

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