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Business Storytelling Lesson Learned From altMBa

Feb 12, 2016
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Business Storytelling

Over the past four weeks I was blessed to be a part of altMBA3. altMBA is a course designed by Seth Godin for people looking to make a ruckus. As a marketer, Seth is someone I have looked up to for years. Not just from a professional standpoint, but a personal one as well. His ability to see the world through other lenses and empathize with others' viewpoints is remarkable. The altMBA is all about teaching you how to do this. It’s about stepping outside of your constraints and towards the change you want to see. It’s about digging deeper to find the real answers to why we do what we do. I can honestly say that the last four weeks has changed and shaped my future, not just as a business owner, but as a person.

As a marketer, my first job is to tell a story. As humans, storytelling is wired into our DNA. While we may not do it as much, or as well, as we used to, stories are a powerful way for us to connect with the past, present and future. The days of blasting ads to a broad audience in order to get exposure are long gone and the businesses that are going to make a ruckus are the ones who tell the right story, to the right person. 

In order to do this, we have to change our perspective and take a different approach to marketing. The best thing about the altMBA is that it shifts the way you think about yourself and others. The course is designed to challenge your worldview and to help you see the world through other perspectives. Below are three key lessons I learned that I believe are extremely important when telling your story online.

The Power of Empathy

We live in culture where “self” is king. When it comes to marketing your business online, over self-promotion can actually hurt more than help. Instead of focusing on promoting yourself, what if instead you focused on telling a story that your prospects and customers need and want to hear? In order to do this, you have to step out of your world and into theirs. This is where empathy comes in. By asking questions about the people you want to reach and taking the time to understand their worldview, you can then share your message in a way that connects with them. We have to put our preferences aside and look to the needs of others. Let’s be honest, this is a difficult thing to do! But keep in mind, your story is for your customers, not you! They have the ultimate decision on whether or not to connect with you. So use empathy to understand their worldview and to tell a story that connects.

One very important thing to remember, your story must be authentic! Just telling people what they want to hear is not what I am saying at all. If you lie or tell your story in an unauthentic way, people will find out and then you’re done. Be true, tell YOUR story in a way people can embrace it. “All marketers are storytellers. Only the losers are liars.” – Seth Godin 

Leverage Your Constraints

Understanding what your limits are will help you find new ways to grow. For me, time has always been a huge constraint. Like many small business owners, I’ve tried to do it all. During the altMBA, I finally came to a realization that I can’t. Now, by understanding that constraint, I am adding people to my team so I can scale my business. So what constraints are you facing? Are you doing too much? What can you hand off? Where can you leverage a constraint to help you grow? Taking the time to not only write down your constraints, on paper, but also looking at how to work through or around them, will be time well spent. For an in-depth look at how to process your constraints and work through them, check out this great article from Dr. Bill McNesse.

Understanding your constraints helps you get to really know your business. There are many limits we can see, but even more that we can’t. By looking at these “hidden constraints” we begin to see ourselves and business more clearly. An authentic story comes from an authentic journey. Taking the risk to better know how and why you do what you do, will help you craft a better message.  

Trust the Process (And the People) 

Trust the process. This was a line my coaches used when one of us started to question what we got ourselves into. When we try new things and they aren’t what we expected, we get nervous. It’s human. Too often we bail before the process ever gets to fully develop. This is where having people around you that can encourage you to “stay the course” is key.

Marketing in the past was mainly about exposure. The broader exposure you got, the more likely you were to succeed. Today, because of the internet, everyone has exposure. As a result, there is more noise than ever before. When working on creating your story, it can be awkward. The process is very personal and causes you, the business owner, to really look at who you are and what you are doing. But, in order to create a story that cuts through the noise and resonates with our audience, you must push past the resistance and go there.

I can honestly say that the altMBA is one of the best decisions I’ve not only made for my business, but for myself as well. The lessons I learned drove me to understand the “why and who” of my business rather than the traditional “what and how.” I understand myself better. I understand my clients better. As a result, I can continue to craft a story that resonates with them and helps us both succeed in reaching our goals.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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