Personal Growth

How Are You Telling Your Story?

Denise Strother is an inspiring entrepreneur who has used storytelling to transform her business.

Two years ago, I was fortunate to connect with Denise after a session I delivered for the ERA President’s Circle symposium. We talked about how to define and build a strong company culture. We talked about the power of storytelling.

As the CEO of ERA Strother, Denise immediately decided to take action. We’ve stayed connected online and a couple weeks ago, I was prompted to reach out following a brief Twitter exchange about the impact that storytelling has had on her business.

Denise has been working in real estate in the Fayetteville, NC market (near Fort Bragg) for more than 20 years. She started as an agent, and now her business has 5 locations and 130 agents…and it’s growing. Here’s a little insight into her winning strategy.

Tell your story to employees.

Denise recognized that more specifically defining the unique and compelling ERA Strother experience would benefit her business. Tired of wasted marketing dollars and bringing in new agents that just didn’t fit, she committed to taking some corrective action. The jump-start was immediately pulling the leadership team together for a meeting to initiate the process of deciding how to better tell the ERA Strother story.

The outcome: a clear definition of the culture. “Bold. Fearless. Authentic.” “Delivering a positive real estate experience, with a genuine care for people.” The team started telling the story and it had an impact: Retention has improved and turnover has dropped. People come to the company knowing what to expect. “It’s the law of attraction,” Denise says. “Like attracts like.”

The leadership team hasn’t stopped meeting since. Every Monday they come together to consider how to continue the conversation and more effectively connect to the people they care about — each other and, of course, their customers.

Tell your story to customers.

ERA Strother has also mastered telling their story to prospective customers. It’s a competitive market, with a large population of military clients around Fort Bragg. To get an edge, Denise realized she had to stand out from everyone else. Her buyers have changed, too. More sophisticated, informed and progressive, they want to partner with real estate agents that think, look and act like them. They also demand expertise.

Denise hit a home run by using video to connect in a powerful way with prospective buyers. She knows today’s buyer is interested in more than a home. They want a lifestyle. Denise delivers compelling community insight through her YouTube series, Open Door with Denise. The videos demonstrate what life is like in local communities by spotlighting local businesses, culture and people.

Here’s an Open Door segment featuring an interview with the local community theater director.

YouTube: “Open Door” with Denise Strother

Denise also does a regular, local radio spot, The Real Estate Minute, further demonstrating her expertise and differentiating ERA Strother from the competition.

Social selling has been a game-changer for the company. The team is active on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Denise has seen first-hand how social media opens doors that you just can’t reach face-to-face. She puts it this way: “If people don’t understand that social media is important, they can just get on the turnip truck and go on into the field. Because they’re going to get left behind.”

The key to her social success: engagement, authenticity and service. She knows that companies fail on social media when they just push out information. People want the conversation.

Overcome your fear of the unknown. Take big leaps.

There is no doubt Denise is a natural on camera. But, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t initially reluctant to make the move into social media and storytelling in such a public way. She was going to do new things that her competitors weren’t doing yet — she was going to be out front. She had to prepare herself for criticism, and power through to her own success.

Her advice to other entrepreneurs: “Take risks. Be yourself. Don’t change because you’re fearful someone will shoot bullets at you. They’re going to do that anyway. I was always afraid I’d get too far out there, and people would put me down. But if you have the passion, go ahead and step out. The bullets will stop coming when you succeed.” Even if the bullets don’t stop coming, does it matter? You can’t win with everyone. Denise knows this. She is winning with enough people to make a very meaningful impact. That matters.

Open yourself to new opportunities.

When I called Denise, I was excited for an update on her real estate company’s success. I didn’t expect to learn that through this experience, an entirely new business was launched.

When people started connecting with ERA Strother’s real estate videos, they also started asking for help telling their own stories. Denise seized the opportunity and a new company, Breezewood Productions, was born. The new venture provides artist development, creative and production services, publicity and video production in all segments of the music industry. Now she is helping other people get above the “white noise”‘ and be bold.

I can’t wait to see what’s next!

How we tell our story today matters more than it ever has before.

How are you telling your story? Who else is helping you tell it?

Ryan Estis helps progressive companies embrace change, attack opportunity and achieve breakthrough performance. Delivering more than 75 live events annually, Ryan provides high-impact keynote presentations and professional development in partnership with the world’s best brands. Learn more about Ryan.