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Archive for November 16th, 2012

Tapping into compassion — the secret ingredient to marketing success

I attended a presentation the other night by Layne Gneiting titled Creating Your Story: Lessons from a Traveling Teller. In his talk, Gneiting, whose business is inspiring people to take epic journeys, shared stories of his adventures during a 2-month bicycle trek through eight European countries that included Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal. He concluded his presentation with 10 tips for better storytelling.

Ten Tips for Storytelling

  1. There must be a portal of entry for your audience. Take your listener into a new world.
  2. Every great tale involves a risky journey.
  3. Every good story has a crisis.
  4. Your story must have imagery: taste, smells, sounds.
  5. A good tale has lively characters, interesting people.
  6. There has to be a guide, something or someone that whispers a direction which the hero takes – or doesn’t.
  7. You must have suspense, where you reveal … and conceal.
  8. There must be a portal of exit, where you take your audience back out of the story – with a lesson.
  9. There must be transformation – the main character must change.
  10. Leave a pearl in the audience’s lap – a nugget of wisdom.

It’s a great list that is useful for a couple of reasons: First, as authors, we’re all storytellers on some level, even if we write nonfiction. Secondly, when we pitch or talk with others about our book, the best way to engage them is with the story of the book, as opposed to trying to get them to “buy” it.

However, my takeaway from that evening was not related to Gneiting’s presentation. Rather, I was moved by another story I heard. A member of the group who is a teacher related details about an incident that occurred in her classroom earlier this year. The school had arranged for a few members of the Kansas City Royals to come and visit, and all the kids were understandably excited. One “problem” student, however, was not allowed to attend because he’d been acting up that day, getting agitated to the point that he threw his desk. Her message was that she’d been criticized by another teacher for not letting the kid attend, although the other teacher “didn’t have all the facts” before making her criticism/observation. My teacher friend felt she’d been unfairly judged, and she was encouraging us to take a more tolerant view of others, even in situations where we may have serious disagreements.

Now, I’m not a lifelong teacher, but I did work as a sub in a number of charter schools the first year I moved to Phoenix. Invariably, when I walked in the door on the first morning, one or more of the faculty or staff would come up to me and point out this kid or that kid, telling me I needed to be aware that he or she was T-R-O-U-B-L-E! Also invariably, that “problem” student wound up being my favorite. They were usually just smart and bored, but sometimes had a learning challenge, too. In my limited experience, I found with each of these kids that they really just wanted someone to acknowledge them for who they were – especially when they didn’t fit into the cookie cutter mold of what a “well-behaved” child looks like.

So as I listened to this story the other night, my empathy immediately went to the student, the boy who’d been so angry he threw his desk. I know I wasn’t there, but my instincts tell me that that boy – this angry, troubled kid – was the one student who most needed to go meet those ball players. He needs someone to look up to, and someone to believe in him.

This wasn’t the first time I’d found myself interpreting a story or situation differently than the storyteller or the rest of the room seemed to. Maybe it’s just in my nature to root for the underdog. More likely, though, I think I was blessed with an instinctive sense of compassion that allows me to see the whole picture when others often only see a limited portion from their personal perspective.

A few years ago, I read a book called Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends, by Tim Sanders. In it, Sanders offers the three actions that, when implemented fully, will make any business owner truly successful:

  1. Be a resource.
  2. Be a connector.
  3. Be compassionate.

Though they’re all powerful points, it was the third one that stood out for me.

What does all of this have to do with marketing? Well, marketing is about relationships, and relationships are the cornerstone of human life. When we act from compassion (aka, love), we are better able to understand the feelings and motivations of the other – which means we are better able to relate to them.

What an amazing world it would be if we’d embrace compassion like we’ve taken to social media – but even as we grow more enlightened as a people, the business world is still largely wary of authenticity and emotion, let alone emotions as sappy as love and compassion. Nevertheless, putting people first will always get you further than putting the bottom line first, so I challenge you to go out there and unabashedly demonstrate love!

Laura

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