MICHAEL HAUGE, author of the best-selling book Storytelling Made Easy, works with Niche Pressworks’ authors as their resident story consultant. He has made in-person and online presentations to more than 500,000 participants worldwide. He is one of Hollywood’s top story experts and consultants and has used those same storytelling principles to help speakers, authors, and business leaders generate millions of dollars in revenue.
In the words of Will Smith, “No one is better than Michael Hauge at finding what is most authentic in every moment of a story.”
Lisa Campbell was the kind of client any consultant dreams of—smart, energetic, eager to learn, open to suggestions, and lots of fun to work with. And most of all, she was determined to help people change their lives for the better by overcoming problems and challenges she had once faced.
When I first met her, she was already a highly successful business leader, with a powerful program for helping bookkeepers transform their businesses —and greatly improve their lives—by becoming specialized financial advisors for their clients.
But Lisa’s course required a major investment—and a great deal of trust— before potential clients would commit to working with her. She was very good at converting them one by one, but explaining her program to each prospect required an immense amount of time and personal interaction, and limited the number of people she could reach and persuade.
She suspected a book might help but wasn’t sure how. Fortunately, she began working with Nicole Gebhardt and Niche Pressworks, who knew exactly how writing a book could solve her problem. And because I work closely with Niche Pressworks, Lisa and I got to work together to find and craft powerful stories that would give her book, titled Beyond Bookkeeping, the kind of impact she wanted.
“The reason you must fill your book with great stories is simple,” I told her during our first coaching session. “Stories elicit emotion.”
After 40 years as a script consultant in Hollywood, the #1 principle I have learned—and what Hollywood filmmakers understand better than anyone—is that people go to movies because they want to feel something extraordinary.
When we’re captivated by great stories, we empathize and identify with their heroes—we subconsciously become them as they face whatever obstacles they must overcome. When they’re victorious at the end of the story, we feel like we are the ones who have saved the day.
Stories work the same way in business. Choosing to trust you, follow your advice, and hand over a lot of money to work with you are emotional decisions for your prospects. So by telling emotionally powerful stories about the problems that you, or your successful clients, overcame, and the rewards they achieved, your prospects will experience empathy with the heroes of those stories. They will feel like they have overcome their own problems and achieved the success they wish for.
In other words, your stories will give your prospects the emotional experience of working with you—and winning!
“I knew I had a story to tell and a message to get out, but only thanks to Michael Hauge was I able to establish my empathy and expertise, clearly convey my process, and keep my readers emotionally captivated.”
~ Lisa Campbell, Profit Coach
When readers first open your book or magazine or website, they’re asking themselves the same questions about you that an audience does when you take the stage: Who is this person? Is she an expert? Does she understand MY problems, and have a proven process for solving them? Can I trust her? Do I like her?
The big mistake most authors and entrepreneurs make is trying to answer those questions with a list of degrees, titles, successes, and accolades, instead of getting an immediate YES! to every one of them with a compelling story that proves their integrity and expertise.
Your background is important to weave into your book, but not by opening with some kind of lifetime resumé. Talking about yourself that way is boring (the opposite of emotional), and unpersuasive, because it offers no connection to your readers’ problems or needs.
When Lisa began working with me, our first task was finding the best autobiographical story to begin her book.
“The reason you’re so successful at enrolling clients in your program when you talk to them one-on-one isn’t just because you do a good job of describing all the steps of your process,” I told Lisa. “It’s because you give them a chance to know you, connect with you, and believe in you.
“We just have to tell your story in such a way that your book will create all those same beliefs and feelings.”
We wanted Lisa’s readers to experience her personality, intelligence, determination, and compassion. So instead of beginning her book with a recitation of her many accomplishments and accolades, she opened immediately with an emotionally powerful story about the specific crisis she faced that led her to discover and perfect her process.
Here are the very first words of her Introduction:
“Oh, shit! Did I remember to do that?”
It’s the middle of the night on July 31, 2014. I’ve been awakened from a deep sleep with the sudden realization that the tax return for one of my long-standing clients was due by midnight.
Notice how her story immediately creates emotion and empathy for Lisa by revealing her pain at having to sacrifice time with her family in order to meet the endless demands of her job—feelings that are painfully familiar to the bookkeepers that are her target market.
Her story goes on to reveal—with no bragging required—how Lisa’s desperation to change her work and life led to the process that allowed her to become a Profit Strategist—the very process her book and training reveal.
Because of the connection her readers now feel toward Lisa, they get to participate in her success. They have the emotional experience of living that new life for themselves.
This is why whatever ideas, advice, and instructions you plan to include in your book will be clearer, simpler, and a lot more memorable for your readers. They are far more likely to understand them and execute them properly when they can picture the characters in your stories taking those same steps and succeeding.
Bookkeepers are the target market for Lisa’s book. And even bookkeepers who love bookkeeping can get bored reading about bookkeeping. But because Lisa uses stories to illustrate her methods in every chapter, her instructions have proven to be straightforward, fun to read, and a lot easier to follow.
We wanted Lisa’s readers to experience her personality, intelligence, determination, and compassion.
Convincing your readers and prospects that you are the one who can lead them to the life they dream of is only half the battle. They’re like all of us, as soon as we get excited about how we can change our lives for the better, those familiar voices inside our heads start telling us why we can’t.
Those internal guardians who want to protect us from taking any risk start convincing us, “This might work for everybody else, but it won’t work for me. I’m different. I’m too old/young/dumb/klutzy/poor/busy/just not wired that way.”
To persuade your prospects to take the action you want them to, you have to address and overcome these objections. And unfortunately, facts and figures won’t get the job done.
Well-told stories will.
The ever-present voices in our head aren’t appealing to our intellect. They convince us to avoid risk and change by making us feel afraid. And stories, unlike statistics, can overcome those fears by making us feel capable, courageous and successful instead.
In selecting case study stories for Beyond Bookkeeping we targeted successful clients who overcame the most pain and fear to achieve the lives and careers they dreamed of. She and I knew these stories would elicit the most empathy and emotion, and would overcome the greatest resistance her prospective clients might feel.
Lisa’s book includes plenty of instruction, exercises, facts, and figures about her process. But these details and data are intertwined with, or embedded into, emotionally involving stories that keep the book captivating, inspiring, and fun.
Lisa and I targeted successful clients who overcame the most pain and fear to achieve the lives and careers they dreamed of. These are the stories that elicit the most empathy and emotion, and overcome the greatest resistance prospective clients might feel.
The entrepreneurs I work with—the consultants, marketers, speakers, authors, and business leaders—are never doing what they do just for the money. What they strive for is to change people’s lives for the better. They want to share what they have experienced, learned, and created in ways that will help people find courage, connection, health, happiness, and fulfillment. And this is perhaps the most important reason for sharing your stories. They will inspire your followers to live better.
As Lisa approached the end of her book, she needed one more personal story revealing how her life had changed since she was that panic-stricken, stressed-out bookkeeper waking up in the middle of the night.
So she finishes with a simple story that begins:
“As I finish this book, I’m thinking about what my day was like yesterday. I woke up at 7:00 a.m….”
She goes on to let us experience what her day was like, comparing it to the life she was living in the opening story. She concludes the story by saying:
“You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it. My hope for you is that this book makes it easier for you to believe in yourself, put the work in, and create the life you love.”
During the course of our work together, Lisa became a great storyteller, and her book is doing exactly what she had hoped. Her stories are giving readers the emotional experience of knowing her, trusting her, working with her, and achieving the lives they long for. Her business has grown, her workshops are filling faster, and her time is more her own.
When you transport your readers and your prospects into another time and place apart from their day-to-day lives; when you give them the emotional experience of becoming a hero, of facing and overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and of ultimately succeeding and transforming; those unforgettable feelings sustain. Your followers will take your stories with them, and they will draw on that inner courage as they live their lives.
Get Michael Hauge’s book Storytelling Made Easy and Lisa Campbell’s Beyond Bookkeeping on Amazon and through all other major online retailers.
Find Lisa Campbell at lisacampbellprofitcoach.com
Case Study: can a book help you transition careers? Tracy J. Edmonds gave herself a year to move from corporate executive to author, coach, and consultant.