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How to Use Business Storytelling to Find Your Message

business storytellingLife coaches, health coaches, yoga teachers and the like, please gather round.

Your business is really more of an art form, isn’t it?  An art form with a real core message that’s ready to take flight.

And yet, getting your message out to the world is difficult. Really difficult.

Why? Why do other businesses have no trouble with business storytelling while you struggle to get started?

It’s because you’ve succumbed to the greatest lie of all time: self-promotion is inauthentic.

Time To Do Some Myth-Busting

Shameless self-promotion is a completely different animal than authentic storytelling.

When you’re able to take a step back from your business for a minute and start to focus on your art form you can see this a little clearer.

What’s going on here is that you, like so many other business owners, have been programmed by society to believe that promoting your message is self-gratifying.

So what have you been doing instead?

Scrambling around for clients and cash to continually fund the dream, and barely getting by.

What’s the Solution?

It’s realizing that what you actually have to offer is a way (uniquely your own) to advocate your truth, message, or solution to a problem particular to your clientèle.

All it takes is one: one reason, one platform, one mission, one why.

Many a holistic coach, health practitioner and the like have had trouble with this concept.

It’s because often times wellness experts are viewing their biz as more of an authentic art form, in the sense that they feel it would be inauthentic to promote it.

But that’s a double-edged sword.

If you don’t promote the amazing services/products you offer, no one will know that you’re open for business.

So what do you do instead? You follow a few simple steps discover your authentic business storytelling message.

Look at WHO You’re Serving

Maybe you’re a personal trainer and you absolutely love to work with women who are trying to lose the post-baby weight. Do you imagine that you’re going to find these women at a very public gym amongst in-shape men and women, while they’re still feeling self-conscious? No. So you start to understand your ideal client.

If they’re still feeling conscious about their body, they’d probably love to work 1-on-1 with someone (like you), but they’re not at the gym. They’re most likely with other new moms at Mommy & Me classes or at the local playgrounds. You just have to understand your ideal client’s mindset and go out and find them.

Discover Their Problems

Perhaps you’re a wellness/nutrition coach and you love working with women who are training for athletic competitions. You help them get the right nutrition in preparation for the big day. Now, maybe your clients are newbies when it comes to these competitions, so they’re not used to eating healthy. You have to understand where they’re coming from. You have to help them see that if they want to do well, they need to eat differently because of the nourishment benefits, etc. And you have to provide them with easy-to-follow plans.

What is Your Unique Solution?

Let’s say that you’re a life coach. You love to work with men, and specifically you love showing them how to get in touch with their authentic selves. But you know that there are plenty of other coaches out there just like you. Until you realize you’re a bit different. You’re kind of a clown, an underrated comedian. And you love using humor in your coaching.

Not only that, but you start to get more specific on why you target men. It’s because you want to help them become authentic to improve their romantic relationships. And you uniquely do this by using humor to break down their manly facade. In other words, you’re the humorous men’s coach.

And so! There’s actually an authentic way to do what you love, promote it genuinely and get the right people to know about it so they can eventually buy from you.

Your future tribe is ready and waiting to experience your unique solution.  And they don’t want to buy from anyone else but you.

Where is Your Tribe?

First, find out where your people are hanging out (whether online or offline) and tell them that you are open for business.

The problem comes when they’re not receiving what they crave so badly because they don’t know you exist.

In order to truly serve the people who need you most, you not only have to convey what you offer, but you also have to be fully on brand.

The simple definition of being on brand in the entrepreneurial world is being authentically you so that the right kind of people can find you.

Plus, when you find your target market, who love and respect what you do, they’ll never find a single piece of your promotional copy to be inauthentic.

Because they know and trust you.

And in order to get there you have to start by answering a really important question.

What’s Your Message?

This is the most crucial piece of information that most entrepreneurs end up missing, because it seems obvious.

When entrepreneurs start out on creative ventures they are bombarded with phrases like:

“Do this. Be like so-and-so. Try out this program…”

It’s overwhelming, and it puts most budding entrepreneurs in identity rehab.

They find themselves creating campaigns that have no real conversion rates because they’re not being authentic.

This is what happens when you lose sight of who you are, what your message is and who you’re serving.

So the trick to authentic marketing is to remember that you’re meant to solve a problem for your ideal customers. Don’t veer off course into the land of inauthenticity just to sell your art. It won’t work, and your ideal client will be able to sense that your heart’s not in it.

When you don’t understand this, you become like all of the other passion-filled entrepreneurs out in the world who pass on their gut instincts in exchange for what ‘everyone’ else is doing.

In order to stop feeling inauthentic and self-promoting with no conversions, it’s time to go back to the basics of business storytelling.

The Secret Formula is as Follows:

Your core values (mission statement) +
the problem you solve (with your unique art form/skill) +
your ideal customers (the people who like you) =
your message (your why!)

That’s it. Simple enough, but often times we overlook the obvious and replace with a complicated formula that solves no one’s problems.

When you have a clear authentic message and jump into your brand fully, as you are, then you’re in it to win it.

That’s the foundational step of building a thriving online presence.

Next week, I’ll talk about how to use your message as the foundation from which to build your thriving online legacy. But for now, I want to hear from you.

What is your message? What are your core values, what problem do you solve, and who are you solving it for? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll “see” you here next week.

About Diane Pauley

Diane Pauley is an online business coach for creative entrepreneurs. She helps solopreneurs brand their ideas, build an audience and launch a business online. She's currently in the midst of creating a program specifically for artists on how to use social media to get their work sold and appreciated online.


  1. Vicki Lesage says:

    So true about needing to fine tune your message! I’m an indie author and have that problem with my blog. When I first started, I tried different types of posts to attract different types of people. Some of the stuff I did brought in traffic but those people usually didn’t stick around and never bought my book (which is the main goal of my blog). Once I fine-tuned my message, I was better able to target the people who are more likely to enjoy my blog and one day buy my book. Incidentally, the content that works best for me is the stuff I like writing the most because it feels most like “me”. Obvious, right? But I needed to go through this little excerise in order to get there!

    1. Diane Pauley says:

      I totally get it Vicki! It’s almost like having hit-and-miss readers sometimes but what we really want at the end of the day is readership that sticks (& buys your awesome book of course!)

      The best thing which you’ve probably discovered by this point is to write targeted posts that have key takeaways or lessons to be learned.

      Which all comes back to really knowing WHO it is that you work with (write to!) & what they want to hear most. Oftentimes, it’s also what you enjoy writing (what you found out!). Maybe taking concepts from your book could help too!

      So glad this exercise helped you out! Would love to check out your site & even your book too if you don’t mind shooting over the link or feel free to PM me at: 🙂

  2. Diane Pauley says:

    Thank you so much for this Lisa!

    I absolutely adore Miss Franzen, indeed a queen of brevity.

    I love what you do, especially the specificity of it. Helping *golfers with their mental game.* You’ve definitely got something special there when you say, ‘show them how to fall in love with challenges.’

    Can’t wait to see how this pans out for you — keep me updated!

  3. Lisa Love says:

    Hi Diane,
    Thank you for this delightful and helpful post! I pulled this together after reading your blog and revisiting Alexandra Franzen’s website, who is also a genius in brevity:

    As a recovered perfectionist, I am a mindfulness coach who works with frustrated golfers who want to explore how to enjoy and express their talents by mastering the mental game, because I enjoy supporting people on their unique transformational journey. I use mindfulness practices and other mind-body/energy techniques to help others gain self-compassion, self-awareness, self-mastery and show them how to fall in love with challenges!

  4. Daryl says:

    I solve the problem of clients not having good writing/strong copy on their site! I’m aiming specifically at small to medium sized businesses that are looking for interesting content to engage their readers with.

    1. Diane Pauley says:

      Love this Daryl!

      Copy is everything. It’s the way in which you *communicate* your message.

      In a way you are that messenger — to help carry these businesses’ stories to the right clientele.


  5. Melissa A Rowe says:

    Thank you, Diane! This article was so concise and right on time. My next assignment is to use your formula to figure out my unique message!

    1. Diane Pauley says:

      You’re so welcome Melissa!

      I believe in brevity packed with a little *punch.*

      I’m so glad this formula may just come in handy for you — I’d love to hear out it turns out!

      I have a feeling your message will be right on point.

  6. Debbie says:

    Great post. I just forwarded this to my business coach as well as to a client who owns a athlete’s training facility (not a gym!). Identifying what makes you unique is the challenge of every entrepreneur and sometimes is right there in front of us but we don’t realize it!

    1. Diane Pauley says:

      Hi Debbie!

      Oh thank you so much for sharing the post; I truly appreciate that!

      Absolutely agree with you in that when we stop *trying* to be someone else & do what all of the *experts* are telling us to do — we find that we’ve always had everything we ever needed for biz.

      PS — I love that you have a biz coach! I am definitely an advocate that coaches also need coaches 🙂 Cheers to constantly growing!

    1. Diane Pauley says:

      Thanks Samir! Actually not quite — I’ve still got a few more secrets *up my coaching sleeve*!

      But I’ll be back next week to share some more tips.

      So stay tuned!

  7. Diane Pauley says:

    Hi Dr. Rie!

    Such wonderful points. Absolutely agree with you on the point of storytelling!

    I so love your definition of a *powerful* story — one for the books!

    It’s true; it’s all about getting to know who your client is and communicating in a way that they understand & feel heard.

    With authenticity AND integrity. Thank you!

  8. I agree that stories are really important in marketing.
    At its simplest, a story is an accounting of an incident or event — a way to share information. We need to do more than to tell a simple story, though, to connect with our clients or customers.
    At its most complex and dramatic, a story is a tool that we use to make sense of the world around us.
    For example, fairy tales teach us lessons; funny stories lighten the mood; serious stories remind us of what is important in life.
    We must tell powerful stories to communicate effectively with our audience.
    Powerful stories are:
     Emotional
     Unique
     Simple
     Shareable
    They also speak to the audience and show that we understand them and their problems.
    They are awesome marketing tools, when they are used with integrity and, as you say, authenticity.

  9. Kathleen says:


    I’m an artist and loved your topic today. It was very insightful. It gave me the lift that I needed!

    I look forward reading your other topics in the future!

  10. Carolynne says:

    Diane, thanks for this reminder. When I first started at ABM and was defining my niche and client, it was a struggle. As you said, the struggle is to keep narrowing it down and getting clearer on who I am serving and why? I came with a big idea and it was not easy to let it go for a slimmer, clearer, version. Thanks to the support from the folks here at Firepole, especially Sid, I did it.

    I really like the Secret Formula. I have printed it and pinned on my work board to it in view. I am about half way through the ABM course and know there is more fine tuning to come along the way. Having the Secret Formula in sight will keep me on task. I now see building an audience business as a journey that will require some tweaks along the way.

    1. Diane Pauley says:

      I LOVE this Carolynne! Thank you so much for sharing.

      It makes my day knowing that the *secret formula* is pinned to a wall as a gentle reminder that *your story* is enough!

      So glad that you were able to shave off the excess, in a sense, when narrowing down your ideal client.

      It’s difficult to do, but definitely worth it in the end. And growing a biz is about constantly learning, growing & tweaking. If we grew stagnant, that wouldn’t be good!

      But the bedrock foundation of our biz is what needs to be the most sturdy & steadfast, everything else can be tweaked along the way for sure.

      Everything else grows from there, it’s like a planting roots in one location & growing wings to fly everywhere!

      Your tribe, or audience, ends up being your everything. They are what keep you standing & sturdy online. Which is why it’s important to know you, them & your message — when all else fails your audience will always tell you what they need most from you.

      Hope this encourages you even more so!

      1. Carolynne says:

        Thank you Diane for added encouragement. In my life I am not sure I know what the word stagnant means. I thrive on change and growth. I feel honoured to be able to share my story with my clients and assist them to grow and spread their wings.

        1. Diane Pauley says:

          You’re so welcome Carolynne!

          That’s absolutely wonderful — we’re always constant learners!

          Love how you phrased your work with your clients – beautiful.

  11. Katharine ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thanks for this. I think if I read enough posts from everywhere, about finding my voice, client, etc., I may someday get it.

    I think part of the problem in the “life” business is that so many disciplines overlap in one goal. Health, organization, and education problems (and more) can all work together to create whatever a client might need sorted out. This seems to make my core value and problem goal both seem fluid to me.

    I mean, do I help that momma learn how to stop her toddler from screaming? Or do I start with her unhealthy diet that is making her short-tempered? Or do they both just need more exercise or does she just need education about the value of patience?

    You see, I offer and can deliver on all those fronts, and really, some people (like most of the world) need input in all those areas and more.

    I think my ideal customer would be a young mom, but lots of older moms might be reading over their shoulders, not to mention young dads and young women who are not moms, and all their moms and dads …

    And then I think my really-real ideal customer might just be an event planner who needs a speaker to speak to all these hordes. Ha.

    1. Diane Pauley says:

      Hi Katharine! I love your thoroughness on this post!

      Sometimes we can be so passionate about helping our ideal client & *all of the foreseeable problems* that it gets hard to cap it under one umbrella.

      One thing that I’ve learned is that it helps to get super detailed. Example: I’m a health coach & help women lose weight vs. I’m a health coach & help working moms lose the baby weight vs. I’m a health coach & help working moms lose 3 inches in 2 mos. BAM!

      Obviously I’m not a health coach & these measurements may not be accurate, but do you see the difference?

      Something else that may help you out is writing down what you do and keep adding *BUT REALLY* at the end of each sentence.

      What this does is help you hone in on what you actually help clients do *beneath the surface* but what they’re sold on & what they pay money for is the *surface* stuff.

      Let me give you another example: I help young moms become stress-free BUT REALLY I help them connect better with their children BUT REALLY I help them find time to take care of themselves BUT REALLY I help them remember who they are & fall in love with themselves again. See, much different!

      Only when you get really specific can you truly help one type of person & get them stellar results. Then you can branch out later on. Otherwise you’ll only be giving a bunch of people mediocre results because you’re being pulled in all directions. And I have a feeling you can deliver beyond-stellar results by taking your time!

      I truly hope this helps you out & again please feel free to personally contact me with any other questions you might have: Here to help!

      1. Katharine ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Yes, Diane, this does help. I’m going to “but REALLY” myself to sleep, tonight! And thanks for the invite to ask more, later.
        I will! 🙂

  12. Jessica says:

    The authenticity struggle is definitely not unique to health coaches and practitioners – although in my own business as well, I definitely find that my clients in that field struggle with it. I’m working with an artist who is also struggling to find that unique voice, that subtle characteristic that sets her apart from so many others trying to serve similar customers.

    And in my own business, I’m always redefining those core values and the people I serve: new business owners, people who are ready to take the leap to entrepreneurship who are a bit scared and know that some planning will remove that anxiety and set them free to become business owners – especially in the areas of professional services, retail, food and health. But my messages don’t always say that, so I am constantly working on making it clearer! Thanks for the post.

    1. Diane Pauley says:

      Jessica, thank you so much for this! I definitely understand where your client, the artist, is coming from. It’s a common thread to want to stand out in what can sometimes be a saturated market & the one thing that can do that is you & your story.

      I love that you are always re-purposing, that’s so important! To hone in continually on what you do best & who you work with — who really lights you up & excites you when you work with them!

      And I’ve found that sometimes the more specific you get on your ideal client, the closer they seem to resemble certain aspects of you & your story.

      Clarity will come; I’m sure of it! And again, if you have any additional questions, feel free to let me know — I love helping out fellow entrepreneurs!

  13. Diane, I absolutely love that secret formula. I’ve copied it down so I can use it to refine my brand and business. My core values are to guide and serve; problem I solve is getting published; for whom? unpublished writers. Now I just need to take all that and create my message.

    1. Diane Pauley says:

      Thank you so much Debra! So glad that the formula is helping you out so far in your own journey. It’s all about getting more clear on who you are so you really know who you’re supposed to reach in this world. I love that: guide + serve. It’s beautiful: you guide unpublished writers in the process of being published. You got this & if you ever need some extra guidance in creating your message feel free to give me a shout at:

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