Why Your Story Matters


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This is a guest post by Johnny B. Truant. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

One of the first things I’ve started saying to my new clients is: “Tell me your story.”

Which seems like a strange thing to say, considering that the blogosphere is rife with people telling their stories. Person X blogs about their new cat, Person Y blogs about where they went to dinner last night, and honestly, readers could care less about both of those people.

There are two types of bloggers out there. The first type talks about themselves in diary fashion, writing ad nauseam about cats and dinners. (If you want examples, of what I mean, surf Blogger.com randomly. I’d guess that 99% of personal blogs on Blogger are written for Grandma’s interest, if anyone’s.)

The second type of blogger writes about business, and only business. You might actually say they’re hyper-focused on business because they don’t want to be confused with the I-write-about-my-cat crowd. What’s your blog about? Why, it’s about circuit board repair. Today we’ll be continuing our exploration of the many different kinds of solder.

Most of the people who hire me as a coach are blogging about finance, or human resource management, or fashion, or any number of other specific topics. Usually, these people are trying to sell something, and turn their blog into a living. Usually, they’re very good and knowledgeable about what they do — and in a fair world, they’d be considered authorities that people interested in that speciality topic should listen to.

But, despite all of this, they’re not really getting anywhere, and the root problem always boils down to the same thing:

They don’t stand out. They’re one of a million people doing what they do.

The internet is a big place. You want to write about finance? So do five million other people. I don’t care how much you have to say about the very best no-load index funds; I can find similar opinions in dozens of other places just by typing a few words into Google. This speciality thing of yours? It’s a commodity.

If you want people to stick around — and read your thoughts on finance instead of those of any one of the other financial blogs — you’ve got to realize a fundamental blogging truth:

Readers don’t form a loyal bond with the information in your blog. When things work, it’s because they’ve formed a loyal bond with YOU.

And that’s where your story comes in.

How to sell with stories

I’ve been fortunate in my blogging career, and saw a lot of success very quickly. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I owe that success to the fact that I instinctually understood two principles:

1. Blogging is selling


2. Stories are a great way to sell

Let’s say you run a charity blog. Or it’s a “movement” blog, trying to generate momentum for some thing or another. Or let’s say you do run that circuit boards blog, but you’re not selling tech consulting or an e-book. You’re just trying to establish some expert status, by getting a lot of readers and followers.

None of those blogs are about selling, right?

Wrong. All blogging is selling.

I sell blog and website setups, coaching, and information products (including one on how to sell using stories, ahem) on my blog. I also refer other trusted folks through affiliate promotions. So you’d look at my blog and think, “This guy sells stuff.” But in the above examples I just gave, the tendency is to totally miss the fact that you’re selling simply because money isn’t changing hands. And that would be a mistake.

You’re selling yourself as an expert. You’re selling someone else on the idea of promoting your cause, or talking about you. You’re selling readers on finishing the post, leaving a comment, or coming back. Want to guest post? Well, I personally had to sell Daniel on accepting this one, and that’s true of any guest post, or JV, or anything involving another person… which is everything.

The problem with selling is that it’s ultimately one person trying to get another person to do what they want. If you’re selling right, what you want that other person to do is something that will benefit both of you, and if that’s true, selling becomes far easier. But you’re still selling. You still have to overcome resistance, or maybe just inertia. That person flitting by your blog? They have other things on their to-do list. Why should they read your stuff?

If you engage them first with story, you disarm people. You catch them in a tale first, and instruct later.

When I was promoting my course Question the Rules, which is an instruction manual for being a punk rock entrepreneur, I didn’t try to lay out the course’s benefits up front. Instead, I told the story of my days as a punk rock kid. What did that kid learn? And how is it exactly like what an entrepreneur has to learn when working outside of the nine-to-five, straightlaced life?

People would read that story and instead of thinking, “This guy is trying to sell me something,” they thought, “Hmm, I’m not unlike him. I guess I am kind of a punk rock entrepreneur.”

The guy writing about circuit boards might talk about why electronics fascinated him as a kid, and why he’s so passionate about circuitry. Try to make the readers feel just as passionate, rather than merely try to interest them in the technology.

The finance blogger should eventually spill his “origin story,” and talk about how he used to work in a brokerage, but got tired of the greed and corruption and yearned to get out there and tell the real, no-BS, no-hype truth about how real people should manage their money for maximal returns.

Your stories should have a point, of course. But the most important thing is that you should tell them.

Give it a try. As you get the hang of it, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the way your stick times and readership numbers increase.

About the Author: Johnny B. Truant is the creator of Storyselling 101. He coaches, sets up websites for clients, and writes about ninja sharks at JohnnyBTruant.com.

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26 Responses to “Why Your Story Matters”

  • HP van Duuren

    Thanks for Sharing Your Story,

    O.K. a little of my Story…,

    Since I love writing at one time I wrote a tiny little ebook, and was wondering if it was possible to sell it online.

    Although it wasn’t easy to sell online, (possibly because there are also a lot of free ebooks online) I did manage to sell some of them anyway, and in de process to promote it, I created several Specific Blogs, and while doing that I discovered an easy way to monetize those blogs by (pre) selling Topic Related Products through
    Affilate Marketing.

    That way creating
    a Home Business Lifestyle!

    Nowaday’s I also have (besides – several other theme specific blogs – a Writing Lifestyle Blog) a Home Business Lifestyle Blog where I write about things like for example Blogging
    and Affiliate Marketing.

    Hope that it Matters 🙂

    All the Best,
    To your Happy – Blogging – Inspiration,

  • Sheila @ Avaguide

    This is why I separate my business blog from my personal blog because if I want to talk about my products and services I go to my business blog. Then if I want to talk openly about my interests or about myself, I do it on the other.

    • Johnny B. Truant

      See, I wouldn’t separate them. I don’t, actually; I’d pull business points out of the personal stuff. But different approaches works for different people and I’m certainly not claiming to be “right” in some absolute sense!

  • BlogTipss

    Great Pos Jonny. I let people know my experiences and I like listing in other people success and experiences storys about internet marketing, blogging etc…

  • Mary E. Ulrich

    Johnny, you have a talent for using the story to make good points and make them interesting. But it is your personality and humor that is unique and draws people–your writing style (punk rock or otherwise). I’ll bet you could even write about cats and your dinner and still sell…oh yea, you did in this post.

    This sentence struck me as your core truth: “Readers don’t form a loyal bond with the information in your blog. When things work, it’s because they’ve formed a loyal bond with YOU.”

    Thanks for sharing a little piece of “YOU” in each post.

    • Johnny B. Truant

      I mostly agree… my style is unique, and so part of it is that style for me. But authentic personalities draw people like them, and stories take it further. Basically, you don’t need my style unless you want to draw my people. You draw your best people, right, Mary? I’ve seen it! 🙂

  • Terry Dunn

    You know, Johnny has a habit of getting right to the heart of every problem. Like someone poking you where it really hurts. We’ve all been told how stories work. But sometimes you need to be shown.


    • Johnny B. Truant

      This is almost testimonial material. 🙂

  • Bamboo Forest – Tick Tock Timer

    I think telling stories is very effective but it’s certainly not mandatory for a blog to reach a very high readership.

    And yet, it’s probably impossible not to tell your story from time to time as you blog. So then, I guess it really comes down to how often you tell your story when you blog and what’s optimal? And it sounds like ‘telling your story’ would be defined as sharing your personal life in a way that’s relevant to the important message you’re trying to convey to your readers.

    I think the most important thing is to *be interesting*. And telling stories is often quite interesting. People enjoy them.

    That said, I can definitely see how telling stories is conducive to people feeling a deeper connection to the author which can lead to more business.

    • Johnny B. Truant

      Oh, it’s definitely not mandatory. Plenty of stuff works. This is what works in my approach.

      But also check out my reply to Matt Gio above… I actually don’t worry about traffic!

  • Ivan Walsh

    Your story is the only thing people can’t take away from you.

  • carolee Sperry a.k.a. The Blogging Biz Mom

    See, now another blogger suggested that you never use the word “you” or “I”.

    I didn’t agree, and talk about myself all the time 🙂

    I let people know my experiences, what I’m testing out, cool Internet tools I find , yadda, yadda….

    How else do they know you’ve been on the journey unless you talk about it?

    • IM Secrets Revealed

      I think ‘I’ and ‘you’ are very powerful words and they make you really connect with the audience. Ppl enjoy reading more if they know that writer has experienced it on their own.

    • Johnny B. Truant

      Different styles for different people, I guess. I’ve never accepted blanket advice like “don’t use ‘I’ or ‘you’… and I got that same advice in high school, about writing dry essays and reports. Screw it.

  • Matt Gio

    I love this post. I have been practicing this with my blog. Not on purpose either. My blog topic can be extremely boring for some people. I think that’s why I have a low subscriber count. People simply don’t have an interest in swimming pools and hot tubs like I do. At least not enough to read it everyday.

    So I like to spruce up my posts with stories and humor to hopefully get some regular readers. I sometimes reach outside the box a little to attract people that just like helpful and entertaining information.

    • Johnny B. Truant

      Interestingly, when people start implementing this, it’s actually fairly common for subscribers and comments to go DOWN, so you may be doing it more right than you know. It goes down because you’re getting fewer casual readers, but the people who stay are REALLY solidly connected to you. If someone is already selling, what typically happens is for raw traffic to go down, but for sales to go up. And I’d rather have raving fans and sales than impressive numbers that mean nothing.

  • jason

    I agree. Stories are a great way of getting the reader to identify with the author. Without them, it is difficult to relate to anything.

  • Web Marketing Tips

    now a days we are getting long posts on dailyblogtips. Interesting …. Is,t??

  • IM Secrets Revealed

    Good Post Johny,

    I have seen few great Bloggers making money on their blog just by telling their own story. To know that the successful person whose blog you are reading was once at your stage really connects well with the people.

    I do story telling kind of stuff for few of my posts and I really support you that they work very well indeed.

  • Jason

    A good story teller can rule all that is around her.

    Not only is this probably the best way to grab honest attention but it is unbelievably liberating. Even if you already love writing, this can ease those days where you’d rather just kick back and watch some TV. Make it fun.

  • sebastien

    Shouldnt the title be “why your story matters”, with an S?

    • IM Secrets Revealed

      @ Sebastian
      Do you think article is good and informative?

  • Mike @ Blog Success Resource


    It is good to see your guest post here, I always liked your sense of humor on wrap up posts!

    You are so right, all of us have stories to tell, stories do make selling easier, even though I know it, I am not good at story telling online as I am in person so learning slowly and hopefully it will stick or…..

    • d3so

      I agree. Sharing your story helps you connect with your audience and in turn you gain their trust.
      Though, I’ve noticed nowadays most people are taking the NO BS professional approach with a mask on. It disgusts me.

      • IM Secrets Revealed

        I could see many ppl using URL shortening Tinyurl and Bit.ly services. But I wonder if someday these websites are shut down. All the effort you took to build those links will be of no use.
        If you really want to make money in Internet Marketing then you got to respect it and treat it like a real business.
        Unmasked Url’s, not utilizing your thank you pages, error pages etc. could easily let you loose large portion of your profit.

      • Johnny B. Truant

        Well, right. Phony authenticity is just as inauthentic as normal inauthenticity. We just have to learn to suss out the bullshitters.

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