How sharing stories helps you build trust with your audience

Neurological studies have shown when you read or hear a story, your entire brain lights up. You experience the story as if you are living it. 

Here’s a little story from my weekend to get your neurons firing. 

On Monday I came back from a long bank holiday on the south coast of England. 

My partner and I spent the last day on the beach, and it was a warm and breezy one. The coastal air, feeling even warmer after bracing a sea dip, made my hairs stand on end as it met the cold droplets on my skin. I sat on the edge of a rock, scrunching my bare feet in the warm sand, and watched a Mum and her young son at the water’s edge. As soon as a wave got close and his little toes touched the cold water he’d turn around and run, scuttling off away from the sea in fits of giggles. The joy on his face was palpable. It was impossible not to laugh with him. 

The power in a story, like the one I just shared, is its ability to spark empathy. 

As you read along, it becomes no longer just about me. It’s your feet in the sand, your hairs standing on end, your giggly joy. 

In her Ted Talk on How your brain responds to stories — and why they’re crucial for leaders, Karen Eber explains “there’s this term, neural coupling, that says as the listener your brain will light up exactly as mine as the storyteller…storytelling gives you this artificial reality”. 

It’s this neuron firework display that accounts for our tears when Bambi loses his mother. The thing that makes you squirm when James Caan’s character gets a hammer to the ankles in Misery. *Have breakfast before you look that one up on Youtube*

So how does this apply to the stories your accounting firm tells?

Stories show your audience they’re not alone in their experiences. 

Your potential clients are out there in the world having all kinds of highs and lows. They’re worrying about the future and the security of their venture. They’re thinking about their loved ones, their team, the economy, their community, their savings. All while experiencing the excitement of a new client, a milestone achieved, pride in a team mate doing a really great job.

They need stories to know you get them. To see how other people have walked in the shoes they’re walking in now. To know you understood their needs and had the experience to guide them. 

As accountants, business owners and leaders, it’s tempting to think sharing results-based data with your audience is the thing that will encourage them to trust you and work with you. And you have some really impactful data on your hands. You’re saving clients quantifiable time and money and that is something to shout about. It’s the proof in the pudding, right? 

Right. But if data alone was enough to change our behaviours, the world would be a very different place. For starters, we’d all be eating healthy and exercising the recommended daily amount. Afterall, we have A LOT of data to prove its effectiveness and to tell us a human being can’t live on donuts alone (to my constant disappointment). 

Results are powerful, and they’re made even more powerful with the backup of a story. When data is supported by a story, you have the ability to go deeper than logic, and tap into emotion and empathy. This means the very act of telling stories helps you build trust with your audience, making it a powerful marketing tool for your accounting firm. 

On a daily basis you’re interacting with walking, talking, feeling humans. Because of the people-centric work you do, you already have an abundance of impactful stories. 

You can relate to what they’re going through, firstly from your own experiences running a business. Secondly, because you support clients going through similar things all the time. Even more so if you specialise in helping people in a specific industry or a specific type of business.

You’re not lacking in stories. Sometimes we just need a little help to unearth them. We’ve started running storytelling sessions with our clients for exactly this reason. 

A storytelling session helps you uncover, collect and share your stories

These sessions help to alleviate some of the fears accountants have about sharing stories, like:

  • You don’t have time to collect all your firm’s stories
  • You’re not sure know how to tell the stories well 
  • Your clients don’t want you telling their stories – this is a quick myth to bust – in our experience, it’s not the case. 99.9% of the time, your clients are so pleased with the support they’ve had from their accountant, they’re happy to shout about it. 
  • Your clients won’t want to be named – again, often not the case. There are private details it’s common sense not to share, but otherwise clients are happy to be named and have their success story shared. 

We pull out all their best client stories in the most primitive way – by talking them out! 

A storytelling session is run by a Client Marketing Manager and a Content Writer from PF. We invite you and your whole team, or a pre-chosen selection of your team to share your stories with us. With prep and guidance beforehand, we ask each of your team to share a client or team story, allowing you to talk it out as we document it. After the session, we’ll share with you the bank of stories we collected so you have all the material you can use in your marketing. 

We create space for teams to share stories relating to:

  • Services – The impact a service has had on a client’s life
  • Relationship – The impact a relationship has had on a client’s life
  • The sales journey – How a client came to know you, choose you and trust you 
  • Team experience – because stories build trust with potential hires too!

These will help you (or allow PF to help you):

  • Keep a bank of stories you can pick from to use in blogs, social posts, guides etc.
  • Identify the most relatable and powerful stories to share on your website 
  • Help you create more engaging videos by providing you with powerful stories you can tell
  • Hear stories from the whole team, some you may not have heard before because you weren’t directly involved in the client’s journey 
  • Use your favourite team stories to encourage new hires
  • Get clear on where you need input from your clients. Rather than just asking for nice words to use as testimonials, you’ll know which stories to prompt them for words on. 

We recently ran our own storytelling session with the whole team at PF. In our session, Jamie shared a story about one of our clients who didn’t believe they needed to review their brand or build a new website. 

After doing some initial work together for three months, the client came back to Jamie having realised they were focusing on the wrong clients. As a result, we reviewed the brand and website and worked together to build something that truly reflects who they are and who they love to serve. Take a look at the new website to see how it all came together. 

You don’t need to have a PF sized team to benefit from one of these sessions. It’s just as helpful for a solo owner as it is for a larger team. 

To explore what a storytelling session could deliver for you, drop a note to your Client Marketing Manager, or fill in a diagnostic and tell us about your firm. We look forward to hearing the stories of how you’ve helped business owners in all the amazing ways they never knew you could.