How Andrew and Pete use stories to spark action

I saw the power of stories in action on stage at Atomicon yesterday. I obviously don’t need convincing about how stories prompt people to take action but it’s always great to see it happening live. Andrew and Pete‘s opening keynote for their epic conference Atomicon was a masterclass.

If you haven’t heard of Atomicon, it is a digital marketing conference hosted by Andrew Pickering and Peter Gartland aka Andrew and Pete. Their membership community is called Atomic and they kicked off the event with a talk titled: “What is an Atomic business and how do you become one.” Or at least, it was called that at first….

There was a problem:

Their members are always telling them they have no time. 

Do you feel the same way? You’re busy trying to get everything done in your business and so you have no time to work on your business. 

Andrew and Pete have been there. Their members have been too. How do you do everything you’re told you should be doing to grow your business? 

If everyone in the room at Atomicon had no time, how could they implement what they would hear about during the rest of the day?

What can you do to make more time for marketing?

⇒ Outsource.

⇒ But what if you can’t afford to outsource?

⇒ Well then you raise your prices.

⇒ But what if your existing customers don’t want to pay a higher price?

⇒ Find better ones.

⇒ How do you do that if you have no time for marketing?

You keep coming up against Catch 22. A continuous circle of negative reasons why you can’t do things which looks like this:

The catch 22 of not having time to do marketing

Andrew and Pete told a relatable story. One that their customers have all experienced. The struggle of trying to find time for marketing. The struggle of trying to find enough time at all. 

Because we don’t have time to market ourselves, we struggle to bring in enough money to be able to pay for other people to help us. We tell ourselves people won’t pay more for what we do. But if you’re working at capacity, you can’t take on new clients.

Andrew’s advice to “fire your clients” sent shivers down people’s spines. What if you can’t replace them with people who will pay more? And how are you going to find new business when you don’t have time for marketing?

It’s a relatable story. It’s also an emotional one. Running a business is stressful and scary.

We’ve all had this conversation about running our business at some point, whether we have told these four stories to ourselves or we have told them to a business partner, coach, family or friends. 

They are also stories about money which are the scariest of all for many people. 

We recognise ourselves in the story Andrew and Pete have told. 

Then they told another story. 

Do you like making sales calls? Or do you do anything to avoid them? Why don’t you like sales calls? If you’re like me, they make you feel icky. 

Andrew and Pete’s slide shows I’m not alone:

Andrew and Pete's slide about the catch 22 of sales calls

Again we’re in Catch 22 and the audience has that awkward feeling in the pit of their stomach as they think about the act of making sales calls. 

The guys have told another relatable, emotional, story. 

We’re all nodding along, laughing at the delivery, and recognising genuine situations and feelings we have experienced. It’s funny cos it’s true. 

Telling stories is a powerful way to get people to take action. People put themselves into them and become part of the narrative. They can see themselves taking a course of action.

Andrew and Pete told stories which conjure people’s fears; the Catch 22 cycle of stories business owners tell themselves which hold them back from taking the actions they need to grow their business so they do have more time and money. 

The moral of the stories? Face your fears. Take actions which move you forward even if they feel scary. 

They also told stories of Atomic members who had broken through these fears and got incredible results for their business by doing so. 

They didn’t just tell any stories. They didn’t make up a fictional tale. They provided social proof. They told stories about real people who had done these things. People who had gone on a hero’s journey: they had been challenged, they had feared taking it on at first, but then they stepped up to the plate and the experience transformed their business.

By telling these stories Andrew and Pete created new stories for their audience:

  • You are not alone
  • Fears can be overcome
  • Breaking through these fears will lead you to greater things

The stories they told inspired everyone in the room to be brave and take the actions they need to grow their business. Their stories gave the 300 people in the room the confidence to do what scares them. They sparked action.

Everyone was keen to learn how to break through their fears, whether that was sales (tackled by Victoria Fleming), going live on video (tackled by Ian Anderson Gray), or how to make time (tackled by Christine Gritmon). The day was filled with solid, actionable sessions on topics which hold small business owners back. Andrew and Pete’s talk gave people the courage to listen and focus on how they could implement what they were hearing about when they get back to the office.

By changing the stories they were telling themselves, everyone in the room became able to take action and build atomic businesses.

What stories can you tell to change your clients lives for the better?

Rachel Extance (photo by Jemima Willcox)

Rachel Extance helps business tell their stories so they can reach a wider audience for their work and ideas. A professional journalist, she knows how to write stories people find relevant and engaging. If you would like help to get your message across, need someone who can write articles for you regularly, or you would like actionable ideas for how to tell more people about what you do, get in touch by emailing rachel@extance.co.uk or contact her on social media.

6 thoughts on “How Andrew and Pete use stories to spark action”

  1. Hi Rachel, those pesky little stories we tell ourselves can really get in the way, can’t they? What were some of the key take aways that sparked action for the people in the room? Was there one aha moment that got you excited or out of a negative story?
    Thank you for showing us we’re not the only ones with these thoughts and our fears can connect us.

    • I think knowing we’re not alone is really helpful. Often we think it’s just us. We’re the only ones with these thoughts and fears. When someone tells a story which makes you think ‘wow, you too?’ that’s pretty awesome. It helps get you through that roadblock. There was lots more to the talk than this but I didn’t want to give it away. Relating a keynote word for word is a bit like when people do book reviews where they tell you the whole plot.

  2. Hi Rachel – great post. I can relate to the problem you describe a little bit too well. Good use of story yourself to bring me into what was happening in the room. I thought your conclusion was brilliant. I was wondering what you were expecting before the panel and whether/how the discussion challenged you. In other words – I thought your summary was great but I’m also interested in more of a first-person account /how it affected you 🙂

    • Hey Tyler, thanks for reading. Well I have, or have had, every one of the catch 22s Andrew and Pete described at some point. Time is one of my biggest ones. I’ve been working on making time as a priority this year. For me, as I think I say in the article, the stories helped gear me up to go out there with a positive frame of mind and want to make a success of things. I wanted to learn how to do things. I wanted to not just sit passively through the sessions but think about how I could apply what I was hearing about to my own business. Watch this space.

  3. I liked the way you repeated “relatable” and that seemed to be a key reaction for you. Knowing you weren’t alone in the struggle.

    Do we just need to get used to the catch 22 in all its myriad forms? Maybe take it as feedback that we are on the right path? 🙂

    • I think it’s really helpful to recognise that we create these feedback loops for ourselves. Not just in business but in life. “I can’t do anything about x problem, it’s too big for me” is a classic. We all have the ability to do things. We just need to set a goal and work out the actions that are needed to get there.

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