Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.
Julia: Everybody, I’m excited to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Susan. I’ll let her introduce herself in just a second. But the way that Susan and I know each other is because we got StoryBrand Certified at the same time. We got to hang out in Nashville, and then a few weeks later, in our mastermind group. We’ve stayed in touch, but we actually met every other week for a year, year and a half, two years. It was really crucial to my business.
Susan, tell us about you, your business and where you’re located too.
Susan: I’m located on the south coast of the UK, which you can probably tell from my accent.
Julia: I think you’re our first UK interviewee, so you should be honored.
Susan: Amazing! I’m honored. Awesome! Thank you. My business is The Business of Stories, which actually started in 2016. It was the beginning of 2019 that I became a StoryBrand Certified guide, and we were really lucky, because we got to go to Nashville. I’m so glad that we got the whole Nashville experience, because that was amazing.
Julia: For sure! So you started your business before StoryBrand. And for those of you who are not familiar with StoryBrand, some people start with StoryBrand. How did you get into marketing?
Susan: In 2015, I decided to do something completely different. So up to that point, my background had been very much in media. I worked at television stations, radio stations, and I worked with celebrities, not people that you’ve heard of. I did work with the guy who was the very first presenter of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Chris Tarrant in England. I actually remember him coming to me and saying, “Hey, we’ve got this idea for a television program.” It wasn’t called Who Wants to Be a Millionaire then, and he told me the idea, the concept. And I said, “I don’t think so. I’m not sure. I don’t know if that’ll work.”
Julia: That is funny!
Susan: But thankfully, he didn’t listen to me. But yes, very much background in media. I also used to do all sorts of events. Beginning of 2015, I decided that I really wanted to do something different, and I wanted to create a community for women in business. Now, this is back in 2015, so there wasn’t hundreds or millions of Facebook groups. Facebook groups weren’t even really a thing then. So I put a lot of money into getting an all singing, all dancing website built with a forum for people to go on and ask their questions, and I was really excited about the whole idea. My thinking behind it was, I’d always worked for myself, I’d always worked from home doing various things, and various skill sets I’d picked up over the years and things I knew I was really good at. And I thought, if I create a community of women in business, I’ll find the value that I can give them. I wasn’t 100% sure what it was gonna be, but I just knew that if I got a group of women together who were all in business and saw what their questions were and helped them get answers to their questions, I would find my thing. I would find the role I really wanted to play. And so I started this community.
Apart from the fact that it was just as Facebook groups were becoming a thing, somebody literally turned around to me and said, “Can we just have a Facebook group?” I was like, “What? I spent thousands of pounds on this website with a forum.” And they were like, “Yeah, but we don’t wanna log on to your website.” Anyway, I started building the group as a Facebook group, and it grew very, very quickly. We got up to about 1,500 members very quickly. It was called The Business of Mums, and it’s the mums who were in business or wanted to start their own business. And basically, what I did was I asked them what they were struggling with, I saw what their questions were, I either helped them myself or I went to find people who that was their field of expertise, I invited them into the group, and I asked them to help these women with the challenges that they had. And while I was doing this, I was offering coaching, because the group was free. But the idea I had was that I would offer coaching, and I would help women who were very new to business, and wanted to just help with the basics. But nobody was buying it. Nobody was particularly interested in the offer that I was putting out.
Looking back now, it’s because I didn’t really know my value to them. I didn’t know what it was that I could help them do. I wasn’t painting a picture of success because I didn’t really know what success looked like. Because I knew very little about marketing at that point, I went along to a local marketing agency, and they took my money, and said that they would market this group for me. Which again, looking back, that was so the wrong thing to do on both sides. I thought the problem was marketing, and they were a marketing agency, so they did what they do. But for all of those reasons I just said, my offer wasn’t clear, my value proposition wasn’t clear, my ideal client wasn’t clear, it didn’t work. Nothing helped. So now, I’d invested money in a website, I’d invested in a marketing agency, and nothing was working. The group was amazing and it was active, and lots of engagement, but I wasn’t making any money out of it. I remember sitting at the kitchen table one evening with a very large glass of wine. I was very tearful, and I said to my husband, “I’ve got a great group, but I haven’t got a business.” I went to bed that night thinking, I can’t continue. This is a hobby. I’m having fun, but I’m not contributing to kills and I’m not earning any money.
So I went to bed that night thinking, I think I’m gonna have to just close it down. And then I woke up the next morning, and I thought, I’ve gotta do something different. I’m gonna go into the group, and I’m gonna tell them my story. I’m gonna tell them why I’m here. I’m gonna tell them why I started this group. I’m gonna show them who I am and why this was important to me. So I went into the group, and I actually shared quite a lot of my story. I shared the journey, the ups, the downs, I’d been a single mum for years previously. I talked about just how I got through that, and what got me through the tough times, and how my daughter was the one that got me up every morning, and gave me a purpose to keep going. I talked about when I had a mare. You call it something else, I think in the states, but chronic fatigue. I had that for several years. So I was also trying to deal with health issues, and just navigate trying to run my business, be a good mom, keep a roof over our head, and get up every day, and do what I needed to do. And then I talked about why I started the group, and what I was hoping to get from it, and what it meant to me.
The response I got blew me away. I even feel emotional now all these years later. Because when I first put my story out there, I actually panicked a bit, because I thought, are people gonna leave the group thinking, “What is she doing giving us advice when her life’s a mess?” But they didn’t. Quite the opposite. In fact, women started messaging me very soon afterwards, and literally within minutes, saying, “Thank you so much for sharing.” Some of them started to share some of their stories, because they saw the connections, maybe it was the health thing, maybe it was being a single mom. People messaged me, and just said how connected they felt with me, how suddenly, I wasn’t just a name in a group, I was a human with a story that was meaningful to them. People started messaging me saying, “So how do we work with you, and what’s the coaching that you offer? That’s what really blew me away. And I thought, wow! Because people connected with me on that emotional, really deep level, they’re open to talking to me about working with me when they don’t even really know what I can do for them. But they’re open to have that conversation.
That really was the moment, although it took me a little while to actually make the shift, and turn my business from The Business of Mums to The Business of Stories, because I just kept talking about the power of story, and I just kept telling everybody, you’ve got to share your story. And then people started saying to me, “Well, I don’t know how to, can you help me? You did it so well, how did you do it?” At first, I thought, “What do you mean? It’s your story. How can I help you?” But I did start helping some women. The difference that it made was phenomenal. And within a year, The Business of Stories was born.
Julia: And that is the title of Susan’s book that she published last year.
Susan: Yeah. It was the end of February!
Julia: Yeah, it’s crazy! I’m just going to read the tagline, it’s harnessing the power of storytelling to demonstrate your value, attract your ideal clients, and get paid what you’re worth. I just wanna point out that Susan just literally told us a story about all of those things, and I was glued. You’re a great storyteller. Writing the book, where did the ideas come from? How did you decide, like, let me write this down in a book?
Susan: Over the years of working with clients, I thought that what I did with them was very intuitive. I thought that you had to be me to do it the way that I do it. I couldn’t really explain it to anyone else. There was just something about, I would get a client on a call, would start chatting, I’d ask them questions about their stories, and out of that, would come what they stand for, what their values are, would come out of the stories. I would often say to people, none of that’s on your website. Nobody knows any of this stuff that you’re telling me about you. That’s fascinating, and nobody knows it. So for years, I just thought it’s me and a client one-to-one, there’s no other way of doing it. But more and more, I wanted to work out how I could work with bigger groups, how I could help more people. So I set myself a challenge, would’ve been end of 2021, to try and get what I do out of my head and into some kind of process. I thought it would probably be a freebee, it’d probably be like a lead magnet, that here’s what you need, here’s the steps. So I started to document what I did.
I already talked quite a lot about finding the sweet spot in the middle of your personal story, your business story, and your customer story. There is a point in the middle where all three of those stories merge, and that’s where you wanna be when you are deciding what stories to share in your business. Because storytelling is strategic, it should be strategic. It’s not just about randomly chucking stories out there for the sake of it, we wanna be really thinking about what stories are the stories that are really gonna resonate with the people that we want to show up, that we want to connect with? So I started to get this process down on paper as I was working with clients, I was trying to document what am I doing? How does this work? And then as I started to work through that process, and I had a Venn diagram, the three circles, and I had the personal business and customer. And then I thought, well, what’s the intersection between them? I started to think about that, and I thought, the stuff that comes out of our stories, and our why comes out of our stories. People say to me, I don’t my why, and I say, “Okay, tell me your story, and I’ll tell you your why.” I actually talk about how we have two whys. It’s a personal one and a professional why, so I talk about that.
Another intersection was your value. It’s the value to the people that you help. What’s the value to them? Again, that comes out of your customer story. And then the third little intersection is your people, and that’s where you really drill down to, who is the absolute dream, dream client that I really wanna work with? But what’s interesting is that all of these things come out of exploring stories. So when I have a group program that people go through, and very, very common that we get to week six, week seven, and people say, “I’ve realized that my ideal client is not who I thought it was.” Or, “Actually, I’m gonna be even more specific about who it is.” People get really, really clear on who they’re talking to. And you know that the more clear we are in who we’re talking to, the better our messaging is gonna be, and then they know what story to share because they know exactly who they’re talking to, and they know what stories are gonna resonate with them. And then everything starts to fall into place and then the magic starts to happen, and it’s very, very cool.
But yes, as I was documenting this process, I just literally went to bed one night thinking, I think this is a book. I think I could turn this into a book. I woke up the next morning, and we know the power of the universe. Right, Julia? We know what it does. I woke up the next morning, and a ping email came in from somebody that I’d known for ages saying she’s just about to start a 90-day, get your book out of your head and onto paper program.
Julia: Oh my gosh! That’s awesome!
Susan: So I joined it, got my book out of my head into a nice structure with chapters, and then I just got on with writing it.
Julia: That’s amazing! I’m so excited! Susan and I have known each other for years, and so I feel like you’ve talked about these ideas for a while. And so the fact that now we get to see a book, that’s awesome! I know I’ve seen things on Facebook, we’ll talk about Facebook in a minute, but what have you found to be the most valuable for people? I know you have gotten rave reviews, people are talking about your book. What is the most helpful thing that people have found in it?
Susan: People say the fact that it’s super practical, so many books out there talk about the importance of storytelling, the power of storytelling, they might talk about a hero’s journey, lots and lots of content and advice through storytelling in marketing, but not many people know how to do it. And there’s not many books that are the real how to step by step, very practical, do this, then do this. It’s full of exercises that people can do. It comes with a workbook. There’s templates, there’s suggestions, and there are a ton of examples, because I know that I learn best from examples. Tell me the theory, but then show me, bring it to life.
Julia: Well, examples in themselves are kind of stories.
Susan: Every chapter starts with a story.
Julia: I think about your story that you share with your Facebook group, people immediately related to it. And so, if I can relate to an example, that makes a deeper connection. That’s awesome!
Susan: Yes, totally! And every chapter starts with a story, and the story is to bring to life whatever it is that I’m talking about in that chapter. So there’s lots of real-life examples and stories. And also, whenever I teach something or suggest a template or a structure, I give examples of that. And also with the book, comes bonus content you can download online with more examples. So really, really practical. I wanted people to be able to work through it and really learn a new skill, be able to implement it, use it, practice it, take action. Even if they never come to me, never do one of my courses or my programs, if all they ever do is the book, I want it to make a difference. This was never to me about just calling myself an author, or giving them out business cards, like some people talk about. If I was gonna do a book, it had to be a book that was gonna make a difference in the world.
Julia: What has surprised you about the process or post the process? What was surprising to you about the publishing world?
Susan: What was surprising about the publishing world? It’s slow. It can be frustrating at times. I’m not a patient person. Patience is not one of my strengths. I thought when I finished writing the book that I was done. There were parts of the process I loved. I loved to send it out to my test readers. It was nerve wracking, but a really, really good part of the process. And actually, I did it a lot earlier. If I’d been left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have sent it out to test readers until I thought it was perfect. The program I went through actually makes you send it to test readers after your first draft.
Julia: Oh, wow! Holy cow!
Susan: You literally get it out of your head onto paper, then you’re allowed to go through it once, just tidying it up, then you send it to test readers. It was so helpful, really constructive feedback, even things like, what do we do? I’ve done this exercise, what do I do with my notes? Am I gonna be using this again? Just practical things that just help me make a good book even more easy to work through and useful. So that was a really helpful part of the process. But yeah, it can be slow, it can be frustrating.
For example, at the beginning of December, I went to London and recorded my audio book. Again, I thought, “Oh great, I’ve done it in time for Christmas.” It’s quite a long editing process. And then January, a couple of weeks ago, they sent me the files, and asked me to listen through, and I felt like they’d taken out my pauses, and the subheadings and sections were merging into each other too much. So I sent it back and said, “Can you put my pauses back in, please?” So they’re currently doing that, then I’ll have to listen to it again. Then apparently it goes to somebody and the publishers to listen to. So God knows when the book is coming out.
Julia: Wow! That’s crazy! I had no idea. That’s wild. Before we finish and wrap up, right before this, I was observing, Susan, you’ve been using Facebook for your marketing. Tell me a little bit more about that, because I’ve seen a lot of traction on your posts.
Susan: I always was very much on LinkedIn, LinkedIn is professional, it’s business, I don’t have to look up people’s cat videos, we’re here to talk business. That’s where my audience is, that’s where I need to be. And I have had success on LinkedIn, for sure. I still do LinkedIn, however, I started working with a coach back in March last year. He pushed me to do more on Facebook. And up to that point, Facebook for me, had been very much personal. I actually didn’t post very much on there, because I don’t post my dinner or anything like that. I actually didn’t post very much at all. But I thought of it as family, friends, not somewhere that he would go on and talk business, but he pushed me to use it more and more. And he said, “You will get so much traction on Facebook. People will love it.” And he was right! Most days, I’ll post on both. Sometimes the LinkedIn one does much better than the Facebook one, but the majority of the time it’s the Facebook posts that gets the best traction. I think I’ve had up to 200 comments on a post on Facebook, because it’s a topic that people want to know about, it’s engaging, people love storytelling, so I’m lucky I’ve got a great topic to talk about. But Facebook is working really, really well for me.
Julia: That’s awesome! I think that’s really interesting because most people, including myself, are like, Facebook is dying.
Susan: Oh really?
Julia: But when I look at what you’re doing, I’m like, it’s not dying. It’s working for some people. It’s not gonna work for everybody. Quick questions about that, are you friending anybody who asks you? Because it’s your personal Facebook, right?
Susan: It’s my personal Facebook. I don’t send out friend requests, but I get a lot of them. But I figured that a lot of people, it will be because they’re reading my book, and then they’ll come find me. In fact, I think I put at the end of the book, come and find me on social media. So I do have a quick look at their profile, and as long as they’ve got their own business, I accept that. Unless they look really dodgy. Most of the time, they look fine, they’ve got a business, I accept them. And really, more and more, I use Facebook for business. When I say that, I just wanna make that distinction, I’m not using it for advertising so much. I still am doing what I teach really, which is make it human, make it personable, make it interesting, tell stories, give people glimpses into what’s going on, talk about the highs and the lows, and that’s what I’m doing. And I think that’s why people are engaging so much, because they like what’s coming up in their thread, and they’re stopping and they’re reading it. My book will be a year old at the end of February, and it still is regularly in the top 10.
Julia: Right next to Seth Godin’s!
Susan: Right next to Seth Godin. Yes!
Julia: You should be so proud! For example, one of Susan’s recent Facebook posts was about the internet being out in her home, and it really had nothing to do with actual storytelling other than it being a part of a story, and people were engaging with that. So I think that even that counts.
Susan: Yeah, totally! And anyone who’s followed me for a while will know that me and tech, it’s a mess! And it often goes wrong for me. And so now, I make a bit of a thing about it. I’m due to do some lives tomorrow, and Thursday, and next week, who knows if I’ll make it live because I’ve tried before and failed miserably? But the more I make a thing of it and make it just part of my story, the more people find it endearing and engage with it, and laugh with me. And that’s what we want, right? We want connection, we want people that we like. I always think if you feel like you could go for a drink with someone, and you’d have a laugh, then they’ve done a good job with their content.
Julia: For sure! Susan, thanks for sharing about your book. Everybody, you can find it on Amazon, you can find it in retailers anywhere online. It’s The Business of Stories by Susan Payton. Susan, if people wanna connect with you, where could they go to do that?
Susan: My website is thebusinessofstories.com. They could find me on LinkedIn (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/susanpaytonuk), or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SusanPaytonUK/). Or if anybody wants to email me, I am firstname.lastname@example.org. Because I do a lot of free, live free trainings, free masterclass, so if people want me to let them know when I’m next doing one, they can just send me an email, and I’ll let them know.
Julia: Perfect! Susan, thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m excited for you and I’m excited for everybody to get their hands on your book.
Susan: Thank you so much!
Julia: Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have, if you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and want to give us a rating or a review, I promise we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.
Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week and I hope you will be too.