By the time I sent the email of doom, I’d been running my agency for 6 years.
We were a weird little mutant in the digital space.
We did no marketing, no cold-calling, no face-to-face selling and no advertising. In 1997 – when I’d accidentally started the business – I’d learned that I hated sales.
So I didn’t do any.
For a while, I suffered from imposter syndrome … like I was a bad businessman who’d be ’found out’ at any minute.
But then again, work kept rolling in without me ever doing it … and by the time I sold the company, in 2018, we had clients around the world.
I don’t say that to impress you, just to emphasise the power of what we did instead.
We told stories.
Not just through our words, but through our work, our relationships, and our actions.
I didn’t call it ‘storytelling’ at the time – it wasn’t any kind of a strategy – it was just how I was wired.
There was no selling. I told stories to clients and prospects, noticed how they reacted and learned what worked.
Yep … that last part turns out to be pretty important.
Not all stories are created equal
Some grab attention; some don’t. Some resonate, some don’t.
It’s like business. Some companies struggle, forcing their way through stony ground, in need of constant “selling” to add growth. Others spread like bamboo, strong and straight and fast. Needing nothing.
Telling a powerful story is like that … like riding a bike downhill.
Remember that? The thrill of it. The speed of it. The sheer effortless bliss of it.
The sense that you were working with reality, not against it.
Let me give you a real-world example.
In early 2020, I met with Luke, the UK Entrepreneur of the Year.
Over a few sessions, we crafted a story he could use to build his brand. Two months later, he was asked to be the keynote speaker at a conference, and we turned it into a speech.
The reception was fantastic.
“Dude, you’ve taken my story and brand to the next level.”
His words, not mine.
To state the obvious, we didn’t change him or his business. We didn’t make anything up. This wasn’t a deal or a secret formula or a one-time-only offer. It was the strategic decision to create a long-term asset.
The word ‘strategy’ is often abused, but I’m choosing it deliberately here. Luke was investing in his long-term goals … in a story that built attention, connection and trust.
Building, not selling.
It started with a simple story, but in the two years since, he has leveraged it across podcasts, books and radio.
In December 2021, a documentary crew filmed the standing ovation he received after giving his speech to a group of business leaders.
Okay. You may not seek that kind of personal recognition, but you can see the value that comes when we combine story with long-term strategy.
Because you can change your story.
It’s worth reading that again and letting it sink deep into your brain.
You can change your story.
In fact, if you are serious about building a business that can survive the Attentionapocalypse, you may have to.
Because the world doesn’t care what you do, it’s changing anyway.
P.S. I may hate sales, but I will always love Ned “Needlenose” Ryerson! For me, the exclamation mark is part of his name.