Stories Are Not For You, But For Your Customers

We can spend quite some time on our stories. We can agonise over the key message, the formulation of the words, the grammar and the syntax. We can theorise about the tone, plan the audience response and review it over and over again. And living in close proximity to our stories, we can come to care for them. Sometimes, we may even come to love them.

So it can be challenging for us when we put our stories out into the world. But there are two important things to remember:

  1. A story really isn’t a story if you don’t tell someone else
  2. Your story is not for you … it is for your customers

I was reminded of this while watching Seth Godin’s excellent presentation to the folk at Google.

There are a lot of people who write, but many keep their work to themselves. Even marketers will have (brand) stories that they keep in their bottom drawer but never show to the outside world. And while there is a sense of satisfaction in authoring a story, it does not come close to the quiver of excitement you get when your story is read for the first time (or for the online world — referenced, quoted or blogged about).

The funny thing is, though, that these bottom drawer stories (if they are compelling enough) simply will not remain hidden. They will seep into your other work. You will find themes or issues or a turn of phrase leaping out of an Annual Report or Exec Summary and think "I like that!". Later you will remember where it is from.

I think that a good story (whatever its focus) will take on a life of its own. The story will find a way to escape your bottom drawer and get out into the world. The basis of a good viral campaign, for example, is not a fancy piece of technology or a great product even — it is a good story. It is the story that your customers like to tell others. It is the story that makes those customers feel part of something — to have a secret, an affiliation, something to share. It is the story and the feeling that are important.

Most of all, a good story knows that it is meant for your customers, not you.