A lot of us have had compelling events in our lives that have caused us to become the people that we are today. Sometimes those stories are replete with positive, exciting, really engaging stories. Other times they are downright scary. Things that we don’t like to talk about. There are also aspects of our story that we know could inspire someone, but we’re just not ready yet to go full throttle and market our story. Some people believe that you are exploiting your tragedy or your family by virtue of disclosing things that could very much be your drivers for success.
This episode is dedicated to the topic of marketing your story. I give you an example from my personal life, because this is something that I personally had to grapple with. I ultimately made the decision not to use my story to market my law firm, but not so much because I am now resistant to doing that. I’ve kind of gotten to a place where I’m actually very much at peace with my story.
There’s five strategies I want you to consider before you decide whether or not you’re going to market your story and how.
Tune in now!
In this episode we discuss:
- Coming to terms with your own personal story.
- Deciding if you’re going to market your story.
- Giving thought to knowing your story.
- Determining your boundaries in advance to avoid any negative or unintended outcomes.
- How if this opens unhealed wounds for you, don’t resist considering therapy to help heal.
- The usefulness of seeking out resources to help identify, understand and come to terms with your story.
- Telling your story in a manner that is relatable and touches on a human need.
Allison Williams: [00:00:11] Hi everybody, it’s Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.
Allison Williams: [00:00:25] Hi, everybody. Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. And this week’s episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast is dedicated to the topic of marketing your story. So I know that a lot of us have had some pretty compelling events in our lives that have caused us to become the people that we are today. And sometimes those stories are replete with positive, exciting, really engaging stories. And other times they are really, really scary. Meaning sometimes there are things that we don’t like to talk about and there are aspects of our story that we know could inspire someone, but we’re just not ready yet to really go full throttle and market our story. There are also people that very much believe that you are exploiting your tragedy or your family by virtue of disclosing things that could very much be your drivers for success. And I will give you an example from my personal life, because this is something that I personally had to grapple with. I ultimately made the decision not to use my story to market my law firm, but not so much because I am now resistant to doing that. I’ve kind of gotten to a place where I’m actually very much at peace with my story. But I didn’t necessarily want, at one point I wasn’t at peace with my story, and I wasn’t willing to put it out there.
Allison Williams: [00:02:01] And now my story is so much detached from what we actually sell in my law firm. It just doesn’t make the greatest sense to change our marketing, to include my story. But once upon a time, when I was a solo with an associate and a couple of staff people, it might have made sense for us to put my story out there. I just wasn’t prepared for it. So one of the things that I struggled with was the fact that growing up my father had been abused as a child and my father was, in my view, emotionally abusive to me. And I don’t often talk about that in the public public domain. I do talk about it in our closed Facebook group, the Law Firm Mentor Movement, but I don’t talk about it in the public domain because my father and I have made peace with my perspective on my childhood. He may or may not share the same perspective on it. We have had some level of conversation about it, but as a result of how he treated me, and my mother choosing to stand by his side while he did treat me the way that he did. And I very much see that as emotional neglect. My relationship with my parents has had its ups and downs. And I have gone through a lot of therapy to get to a place where I’m at peace with them, regardless of how they may view their past behavior or even how they may view my reaction to it, because there was a lot of telling me that, you know, not that big of a deal.
Allison Williams: [00:03:27] You had a house. You had you had nice clothes. You went to good schools. You were always taken care of. You should be fine with whatever happened or, hey, we did the best we could. Right. So there’s a lot of disagreement in the perception of what happened. But regardless, I made a choice to forgive my parents. So how they see it doesn’t really affect me anymore. How I see it is what matters. And I speak my truth and forgive them for my truth regardless. Now, as a result of my experience in childhood, I grew up drawn to the field of child abuse and neglect, and I very much advocate for children. But I was always a parent’s attorney. And when it took me a long time to realize about that, some might say, well, if you feel that you were abused and neglected as a child, why would you grow up and represent people accused of abuse and neglect? Why would you not represent the children? Why would you not represent the state? Why would you not go after the parents? And that’s because it took me a really long time to understand what was really at play. And for me, it wasn’t that I was trying to vindicate the wrongs of of, of my childhood. It was really that I was drawn to that area because I didn’t feel the level of love from my parents that would have allowed me to release those feelings, those negative feelings that I had toward them, some years back now.
Allison Williams: [00:05:00] We’ve now healed our relationship. But what I was really doing was fighting for the parents who I felt genuinely love their children and were fighting for their children, because at that time in my life, I didn’t know that my parents would fight for me. I honestly felt that if something ever happened and I were taken from them, I don’t know how hard they would fight for me. Now, I’ve subsequently come to revise my thoughts on that. I do believe that both of my parents would fight to the death to have me back, but I didn’t at that time, and because of that wound in our relationship, I was drawn to an area of law that very much encroached upon that relationship. And I believe that I was led to that area of law so that I could ultimately come to terms with, address, and move beyond and heal from that part of my life. So I actually did do that in therapy for many years and now I’m in a much better place. But I say that because I want you to understand that I was never at a place where I could have said to the world, Hey, everybody, I am a child who was abused or neglected. I grew up to become severely maladaptive in my views about myself, my views about the world. I became urgently fixated on success because in my household I felt that I was loved when I was successful and I felt that love was withdrawn from me when I was not successful.
Allison Williams: [00:06:28] And as a result of that, I became a very, very severe workaholic, working 60, 70, 80, 90 hours a week, skipping holidays, weekends. Living to work was my existence because my value as a human was exclusively associated with work. So if I wasn’t working, I didn’t matter. I didn’t deserve to be on earth. That was underneath the surface. I wasn’t aware of it, but it was underneath the surface. And that’s what turned me into a workaholic. That’s what led to my very severe depression. That’s what led me to become an alcoholic. That’s what I had to work through when I got into recovery from alcoholism. That’s what I had to work through when I got into recovery of a major depressive disorder. And that’s what ultimately led me to a place of healing and ultimate mental health that makes me the happy person that I am today. But I was not prepared to tell that to all of the people in the world who might ultimately refer a client and or who might be a client. So I had to grapple with that because while I never had anyone say to me, your story is so compelling, you’ve got to use it,
Allison Williams: [00:07:37] I remember going into different programs where people would talk about marketing from the perspective of use what you’ve got because you are what you are selling. Right? In a law firm, especially a solo law firm, but also in small law firms, you are selling yourself right. The service that you are offering is being produced by a person. That service cannot be divorced from a person. When you are the only person in the firm, I mean, certainly you can farm out contract labor. But even if an associate or a contract attorney is doing the legwork, the client is hiring you. So there’s no way to avoid you being a part of what they are marketed and what they are ultimately sold. And so I have to think about that from the perspective of powerful stories. And I know some amazing attorneys from across the country who have been very effective at using their story as a basis for why they do what they do, how they do what they do, how they approach the law differently than others. What is their unique selling proposition? And I just wasn’t emotionally healed enough to do that. And I remember feeling guilty, kind of like I was being a cop out and so much of professional development, so much of coaching, so much of business advice is around telling someone what they need to do and if they’re not willing to do it, giving them a label of your resisting and you’re not willing to, and that’s going to lead to your downfall.
Allison Williams: [00:09:14] And I don’t personally do that. I very much tell my clients what I see in them, and I help them to see where they are making choices that may or may not ultimately serve them. But at the end of the day, if they make a choice that they’re not emotionally ready to go down a certain line because it’s too painful, they haven’t processed through the information or even they’re not even clear on what their story is. I don’t force my clients to to go into places that may ultimately cause emotional upheaval to the point where it could cause emotional unrest or instability that would necessitate a therapist. So I’m very clear about my role not being a therapist. And so if we go into areas that are more intimate and personal, that could ultimately lead to the need for mental health treatment, I tell them that I give them that opportunity. And if they don’t want to go there, we don’t go there. Right. But I do want to cover this topic of using your story, because I think some people grapple with, is it time? Is it now? Should I, can I put this out there? So I very much want to go there and want to have you explore with me this topic of marketing your story. OK, so there are some things that you need to consider if you are going to market your story.
Allison Williams: [00:10:42] So there’s five strategies I want you to keep in mind that you need to have considered and processed through before you decide whether or not you’re going to market your story and how. OK, so strategy number one is to know what your story is. OK, now, knowing what your story is is not simply I had an abusive boyfriend and so now I help victims of domestic violence. It could be that. It could be that direct. That causal. That clear. But a lot of us have a story that we haven’t even tapped into yet. Right. A lot of us could very much be working in a practice area and never having given thought to it, other than to assume, well, I came out of law school, I needed a job. John Doe gave me a job. That job was something I enjoyed. I enjoyed estate planning. And so now I’m an estate planning attorney. After I left John’s law firm, I started my own law firm. And since I knew estate planning, that’s what I did. And that may on its surface seem very, very straightforward. Right. You did what you knew to do. But there’s a reason why you fell into that particular area of law and not others and why you did not resist that area of law, why you stayed with it and why that became what you want to spend your time, your energy, your gift on as a lawyer.
Allison Williams: [00:12:08] So I want you to really give thought to knowing your story. And for those of you that don’t know your story, I’m sure you all have heard of Simon Sinek. You know, he has the infamous TED talk on Knowing Your Why, right. And that what’s at the heart of what people purchase is the why not the what. And so he talks about knowing your why. But there’s also a book that’s kind of like the follow up to that. His TED talk became ultimately a best selling book. And then the follow up to that was the book, Find Your Why. And he wrote that with actually a member of his team. And it was a very step by step matter of fact process type of book. It’s not a conceptual theoretical. It’s actually a, here’s what you do first. Here’s what you do second. Here’s what you do third. And it basically is telling your story to someone that you know. And that person has to know you well enough to call you on your B.S. But they’re not so intimate that they are a critical figure in your life. So you wouldn’t do this with a spouse or a child or your best friend. Needs to be somebody who knows you though, well enough for you to actually have a candid conversation so they can reflect back to you what they hear. But you go through this process of telling stories to this person and then themes are picked out of the story.
Allison Williams: [00:13:36] And then you do that over and over again until you get to your why. Now, I am glossing. This is like a super, super, super high level gloss. So check out the book if you’re interested in doing the exercises. But the exercises are actually very poignant. And they actually helped me to get to the why of my story after I started working through some of that in therapy. OK, the next strategy for marketing your story is, decide your boundaries. OK, this is really important because when someone hears a very compelling story, their thought may be, hey, go blast it out to the whole world that you were raped as a child and now you work with rape victims and you may think, whoa, I’m not prepared to go that personal or I’m prepared to go that personal, but I can’t tell my story without telling the story of someone else. So I’ve met any number of divorcees who will say I was in an abusive relationship and I’m a man and I would love to go tell the world about my abusive relationship so I can help other men in abusive relationships because domestic violence against men is not talked about enough. However, if I do, I’m going to open up a wound. I’m going to piss off my ex wife. I’m going to upset my kids because she’ll take it out on them. And that is not a place I’m willing to go.
Allison Williams: [00:15:01] OK, so you have to know in advance what your boundaries are, because there may be ways that you can tell your story without telling your story, without unearthing all of the dirt. Who done what to whom, how, how it affected you. There are ways of telling a high level story of what happened to you without going into all of the minutia that will make someone who is still a part of your life, someone that you either may or may not have an ongoing relationship with or even just somebody who you have a positive relationship with, now, maybe you have decided to forgive and forget. You have worked through it. And if you open up this new wound, you’re going to harm a relationship. So you have to think about that in advance. But deciding on your boundaries does not mean giving in to no. It doesn’t mean saying that if any person has any thought about your telling the truth that does not support you doing so, you will rubber stamp their feelings. Sometimes depending on the relationship and the consequences of unearthing the story, you may very well need to harm a relationship. Other times you may say I’m not willing to harm a relationship and that’s OK. So you can work with marketing experts, a communications expert in this regard to find a way of telling your story without going too deep into your story. But that’s something that you have to know in advance what you are and are not willing to do in this arena.
Allison Williams: [00:16:30] OK, strategy number three, consider therapy for wounds that have not been healed. OK, so a lot of what drives people is either their urgent desire for success or the fear of failure. OK, whatever your thoughts are, whatever is leading you to a place where you say, I want to market this business and I’m drawn to this practice area because of something that happened to me, whatever leads you there has something to do with where you have been before. So if where you have been before is a place that caused you some level of emotional upset or harm and you did not work through that, it’s going to be really triggering for you to go around talking about your story, putting it on your website, creating video content around it, putting it out to the world. It’s going to be a real challenge to do that if you haven’t healed inside. So healing is always something that you should prioritize because it will enhance the quality of your life and the quality of your relationships, whether interpersonal, romantic, business or otherwise. All right. Strategy number four is consult a resource. So the resource I gave you earlier was Find Your Why by Simon Sinek etal. So I highly recommend this book because honestly, it is a great step by step process. Now, this doesn’t have to be the resource. It can be a resource.
Allison Williams: [00:17:54] But you may very well decide, you know, I don’t want to have, I don’t want to go through this exercise with another person. I really want to kind of process it out for myself. There are any number of journaling exercises that you can do in order to start working through what your story is. So I would highly recommend that you find a resource that works best for you, but getting it out of your head and onto paper is always the first step at really looking at what your story is and to be able to find a way to extract the information about your story, who was involved, what happened, how did it impact you, and to tell that story in a way that provides service to others. So you want to make sure that you’re not just picking a story, i.e. I had something happen and now X, without that causal link in between. Because it’s often the causal link that is the most powerful part of your story. That’s the part of your story where people say, huh. Oh, wow, I didn’t know that. OK, so that part of your story that really gets people to understand, because something happened, now you’re in this place. That is oftentimes where people will draw the greatest connectivity to you because they went through something similar. Even if the outcome for them was different and or even if they started in a different place.
Allison Williams: [00:19:19] OK, fifth strategy for marketing, your story is fashion your why into universality. So what I mean by that is that we know that there are any number of drivers to human behavior. Drivers to human behavior derived from needs that we have that are often not seen, that I’m sure we all have heard of before, that we probably don’t give enough thought to. So I’m going to just orient you to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And I’m sure we all have heard of it before, but we all have certain basic human needs. All human beings have these needs. And at different points in our life, certain needs will predominate over others. But regardless of what is the most dominant need, we all will have these needs at some time and we will all have them all to some degree. OK, so we all have a need for physiological needs, right? We all have breathing, food, sleep, homeostasis, elimination of waste. All those things keep our bodies alive. OK, then the next area is our need for safety and security. And security includes security of the body, but it also includes security of our resources. Right. What do we need in order to make sure we can take care of ourselves, our resources, our housing, our our property, our health. And health, by the way, also includes physical and emotional health. OK. Next up, we all need love and belonging. And love and belonging does not just mean romantic love, it also means things such as friendship, family, a sense of connection to other people.
Allison Williams: [00:21:03] Next up is self-esteem. So we all need self-esteem, right? And there’s positive self-esteem and there’s negative self-esteem. We all have self-esteem in one direction or the other. And you may globally have overall positive self-esteem. However, you may have elements of negative self-esteem. So you may have a positive belief about what you look like and a negative belief about your intellect. Or you may have a positive belief about your your knowledge and your skill set, but you may have a negative belief about your relational style, maybe your personality. Next up, and this is the area where I think is just the tip of the iceberg. The top of that pyramid. Right. So if we’re looking at these needs, we start at the bottom with physiological needs and then safety needs, love needs, self-esteem needs. And at the top is self actualization. OK, so this includes things like our creativity, our bringing things into being, our spontaneity, our problem solving, our morality. Right. So I want you to think about these different areas, physiological safety, love, self esteem and self actualization. And when you consider those different areas of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I want you to consider that when you’re fashioning your why into a story that will be told to the public, there is some need that all humans have that is embodied in your story. Your story can be about love. It can be about self-love or lack of love.
Allison Williams: [00:22:40] Lack of love is something that would be harmful to any person no matter their age, no matter their race, no matter their weight, no matter their their ethnicity, no matter their socioeconomic status level. We all have a need for love. That’s a human need. So when you are creating your story, you want to make sure that there is a strong tie to an element of… You got it, one of those primary needs. Now, physiological needs are not typically the things that make the great story. OK, because physiological needs keep us alive, right? So we all have to have a certain level of physiological. We have to have our physiological needs met or we won’t function as a, as an ecosystem, as an animal. But once you get past that, typically you start moving into areas where people can understand being really triggered. Right. Because if you don’t have breathing or you don’t have sleep, clearly you’re not going to function as a as an animal. But your intellect may still function. Right. So you’re not going to necessarily lose who you are as a person. You just may lose the ability to exist in a human body if you don’t have these needs met. But when you’re writing your story, when you’re telling your story, when you’re working through what your story is, the need to feel safe with others, the need for your resources is probably going to be something that most people can understand, like telling the story of someone becoming homeless.
Allison Williams: [00:24:13] Right. We all have heard those tear-jerker stories, how David Smith was homeless from when he was twenty eight years old. He hit rock bottom, lost his job, family wouldn’t take him in, and now he’s homeless. And then he rebounded and is now a multimillionaire. Right. That is a powerful story because we all could identify with how awful it would feel to not have those basic resources. And you can do the same thing with love, a story that shows a lack of love or an injury to a love relationship and then self-esteem, you know, a story that delves into the need for achievement and confidence and respect of others. When we don’t have those things, we feel less than as a person. And all of us as humans could relate to someone telling a story of I didn’t feel good about myself because I wasn’t achieving or I didn’t have respect by other people because I was doing something inappropriate in my life. And then finally, self actualization, when you get to the very tip, this is about reaching your purpose in life. And so a lot of story, especially in Lawyering, marketing, a lot of those stories will will go into, this is what I needed as a lawyer, because my purpose in life is to serve people who X, Y, Z. Now, your prospect may or may not relate to their purpose in life being tied to what you are ultimately saying your purpose is.
Allison Williams: [00:25:46] So your purpose in life may be to serve them. It may not necessarily be that their purpose in life is to serve someone that would connect them with you. So you want to be thinking about the universe reality of themes that will ultimately connect you to your ideal client avatar. All right. This is Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. And I want to thank you for listening and tuning in to another edition of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. We have these conversations all the time in the Law Firm Mentor Movement Free Facebook group. Please join us there to continue the discussion and I will hear you or see you, rather, on the next podcast.
Allison Williams: [00:26:40] Thank you for tuning in to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. To learn more about today’s guests and take advantage of the resources mentioned, check out our show notes. And if you own a solo or small law firm and are looking for guidance, advice or simply support on your journey to create a law firm that runs without you, join us in the Law Firm Mentor Movement free Facebook group. There, you can access our free trainings on improving collections in law firms, meeting billable hours, and join the movement of thousands of law firm owners across the country who want to crush chaos in their law firm and make more money. I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Have a great day.
Allison C. Williams, Esq., is Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law.
Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.
In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers. She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications and money management in law firms.
Law Firm Mentor Master Class: https://lawfirmmentor.net/masterclass
Contact Law Firm Mentor:
00:18:35 (37 seconds)
So you want to make sure that you’re not just picking a story, i.e. I had something happen and now X, without that causal link in between. Because it’s often the causal link that is the most powerful part of your story. That’s the part of your story where people say, huh. Oh, wow, I didn’t know that. OK, so that part of your story that really gets people to understand, because something happened, now you’re in this place. That is oftentimes where people will draw the greatest connectivity to you because they went through something similar.