Telling Your Online Story

Many people see websites as a practical way to sell their products, ideas, courses or seminars. This is a perfectly reasonable use for websites, but today I want to add telling your story into the mix. While your product has definite value, it is unlikely to attract raving fans if you, the creator of that thing try to hide.

What do I mean? I mean clients who struggle over giving me a recent photo of themselves to use on the site, but finally produce a photo from 30 years ago, or solopreneurs who hide behind the use of the plural, “we” in all their information. So why are these things a problem? People interact online because they relate to the person behind the product. They want to identify with your story, the struggles that gave rise to your eBook, or the path you took to get your grandchild to be less shy. In the olden days, say 1995(!), people went into the shop and talked to the person behind the counter (mostly) and in the process looked around the shop and saw the story behind the grocery store, the independent bookshop, the seller of personal care products. Part of the buying experience came from entering the shop and interacting with the owner or staff.

Fast forward 20 years, and you are much more likely to buy products online, and more often from people who you have never met – and who may live a continent away from you. Their website gives you a taste of what their product is like, and something about the life and tastes of the seller – but it is still a long way from meeting the seller in person and having a conversation with them. To overcome that lack of personal contact, it is vital that as the site owner, you allow more of yourself and your story to appear. I may love your eBook about traveling to England, but if I can find no evidence of your ever having been to England, or any travel philosophy tucked into the sales page, I have no idea whether your experience of traveling to England match my expectations. I need to know whether you, as the author, have things in common with me in order to feel I can trust what you are saying, and buy the product.

I know this can feel scary, but it is an important part of the process. If you are uncomfortable with a ‘warts and all’ view of yourself, then craft your story from just the relevant parts of your past – you don’t need to go into gory detail, just hit the crucial spots that explain what caused you to create what you did, who you designed it for, and – if relevant – the problem it solves. It also helps to explain how it has helped you so the reader can get a sense of whether this product is right for them. If they want a quick fix and your system takes 90 days to work, then they will be disgruntled, and disgruntled customers go online and complain…

So think about your story when you come to write your “About Me” page. Write it offline so you can edit it, and never inadvertently allow something you would regret go out online. Remember, this is in part your sales pitch, so it can be a somewhat tidied up version of your life event, it doesn’t need to be the version your sister or best friend might hear. Do make sure that the story has a a beginning to set the scene, a middle where you describe the problem and early attempts to resolve it, then a conclusion where you give the final result and how well it works. (Yes, that is what you were taught in school, and I am a former teacher!)

So, what is the story behind your project – or product?