Utilize the Power of Storytelling to sell your Home (or anything else)
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately pondering my life and future. This has led me to a lot of interesting websites and online resources. There is one website in particular that I believe is one of the best in the world and I’d like to take a few minutes to tell you about it. I’ll reveal that website in a moment, but first, let me share with you several stories that recently impacted me.
The first is about an amazingly successful woman named Aimee Mullins. She has 24 legs. Like most people, she was born with two. But unlike most people, very early in her life she had to have both legs amputated due to a medical condition. Her doctors suggested that an early amputation would give her the best chance to have greater mobility throughout her life and not be confined to a wheelchair. Mullins has lived with no lower legs since she was one year old.
She grew up in an ordinary family in the ordinary town of Allentown, Pennsylvania. However, her life and achievements are far from ordinary. As a child, Mullins had no input into the decision to amputate her legs, but as she grew up she refused to accept the label most people gave her – “disabled.”
Instead, she recognized and purposefully decided that prosthetic legs would actually give her super powers that others could only dream of. Mullins redefines what it means to be disabled. As she puts it in her motivational speeches, “Pamela Anderson has more prosthetic in her body than I do. Nobody calls her disabled.”
In fact, Mullins used her “superpower” to run track for an NCAA Division One program at Georgetown University and broke three world records in track and field at the 1996 Paralympics. She became a fashion model and an actress, and landed a spot on People magazine’s annual list of the 50 Most Beautiful People.
Since Amy Mullins has shared her story with the world, millions have tuned in to hear how she has utilized what she calls “The Opportunity of Adversity.”
Let me tell you another story. This story is about a fashion model named Cameron Russell. In a presentation, Russell tells the audience, “Looks aren’t everything… Image is powerful, but also, image is superficial.” Within thirty seconds of taking the stage, Russell changes her outfit. She covers her revealing, tight-fitting black dress with a wraparound skirt, replaced her eight-inch heels with plain flat shoes, and pulled a sweater over her head.
“So why did I do that?” She asked the audience. “Image is powerful, but also image is superficial. I just totally transformed what you thought of me in six seconds.”
Russell goes on to explain more about her journey into and through the fashion industry. She admits she won a “genetic lottery”: she’s tall, pretty and an underwear model. But don’t judge her by her looks. She tells her story in a way that tries to break down the stereotypes of the fashion industry and lets you know that what you see in the images of her are not really who she is.
Since sharing her story, it has been viewed more than 15 million times.
The next story is one about Magic Johnson. Not the beloved sports hero Magic Johnson, but rather the business man Magic Johnson and his business partner, Ken Lombard.
Magic and Ken were scheduled to meet with Peter Guber who, at the time, was the CEO of Sony pictures. Upon meeting Guber in his office, the first thing Ken said was, “Close your eyes. I’m going to tell you a story about a foreign country.”
Guber nodded in agreement as his eyes remained shut. “Well, what if I told you a promised land exists that already speaks English, craves movies, has plenty of available real estate, and no competition? … This promised land is about six miles from here.”
Lombard and Johnson were pitching Guber on building movie theatres in underserved urban communities, but knew Guber wouldn’t be interested if he knew from the start that this was their idea.
Lombard knew, first, he’d have to create a desire for Guber to own such a location. For this, he needed to tell the above story. He’d need to take Guber on a journey, so he could see, and imagine, before he judged and ruled out.
Through the power of storytelling, Lombard and Johnson cast themselves as the heroes of the narrative who would help Guber navigate the waters to reach the Promised Land. It worked! In the first four weeks of opening, the first Magic Johnson Theater was one of the top five highest-grossing theaters in the Sony chain.
Now, before I wrap this up and reveal to you what I believe is one of the world’s greatest websites, let me tell you one last story.
Meet Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn. They founded the site SignificantObjects.com, a website dedicated to the power of story. Significant Objects was a social and anthropological experience devised by Rob and Glenn. The two researchers started with a hypothesis: a writer can invent a story about an object, investing in the object with subjective significance that would raise its objective value. In other words, they could buy crap, tell a compelling story about that crap, and because of the romanticism of the story, create a desire for the object to sell it for far more than they purchased it for. They curate objects from thrift stores and garage sales. The objects would cost no more than a buck or two. The second phase of the experiment saw a writer create a short, fictional story about the object. In the third step, the object was auctioned off on eBay.
The researchers purchased $128.74 worth of objects. The thrift-store “junk” sold for a total of $3,612.51. The men had discovered that a powerful story had raised the average products’ prices by 2,700 percent. For example, a fake banana cost 25 cents and sold on eBay for $76 after the story was added. An old motel key cost $2 and sold for $45.01, after a story was told about the object to make it “significant”—hence the name of the site, Significant Objects.
Through the experiment the researchers concluded, stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given object’s subjective value can actually be measured objectively. Or simply put, when someone likes a story about an object—or your home, if it’s on the market and you’re selling it—that emotional connection is expressed by the buyer in his willingness to pay a higher sales price. This of course, earns the seller of the object a greater profit for the object that is being sold.
“So why tell you these stories?” Because each one of these stories reveals a secret that I use when working with real estate clients to realize higher bottom-line profits. If you want to turn adversity into opportunity, for example, you craft a story. Every home has its flaws; there is no perfect home. But through the power of story, as Aimee Mullins demonstrated, how those flaws are seen and viewed to the outside world can be changed. The thesaurus definition for the word disabled is: broken-down, confined, decrepit, handicapped, helpless, hurt, incapable, laid-up, lame, maimed, out-of-action, paralyzed, powerless, weakened, worn-out, wounded, wrecked. But as Aimee Mullins exemplifies, even with no lower legs, none of these “definitions” are true. She believes her prosthetic limbs are her superpowers and give her options. Longer prosthetic to make her taller for balls and black tie events, spring-loaded prosthetic legs for running at incredible speeds, shorter prosthetic for every day… she has options we do not. And while I can’t ever imagine wanting to trade my lower legs for no lower legs, through the power of hearing Aimee’s story, I wouldn’t fear it. With every adversity there is opportunity. The Power of Story helps real estate clients to see that same truth, when looking at or selling a “flawed” home. We can turn it into a positive…
If you want to transform the look of your home, as Cameron Russell revealed, image is only surface deep. In the same way Russell completely transformed her image within 30 seconds of taking the stage, I, through a process called “Scientific staging”, can transform the image of a clients’ home. In her full presentation Russell talks about, in preparation for a photo shoot, of having a team of hair and make-up stylists, photographers, fashion coordinators, people to help her pose, etc., all working to tell a story through her newly created image. And, in real estate maximum profit works in exactly the same manner. Through the creation of a new image, we’re able to tell a home’s story. And, from Rob and Joshua’s research at Significant Objects, on the power of story, we know this is a path to higher profit.
The reality is, we all love stories. They have the power to entertain us, suck us into a message, and help us envision the impossible, even change our minds about deeply held beliefs – as Lombard proved to Guber about building theaters in urban areas. This is why I spend so much time on TED.com, listening to and studying stories. Sure, I enjoy them, but also, for my clients, my job is to tell them effectively. Their profit, and the speed of their home sale, depends on it.
If you love great stories that really make you think, I believe the site TED.com is one of the best websites in the world. You can find Aimee Mullins’ TED Talks by clicking the following links – The Opportunity of Adversity and My 12 Pairs of Legs. Cameron Russell’s TED Talk is found at this link – Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. You can also find many other inspiring and inspirational talks by visiting TED.com.
I guess my point is – never forget – the story you tell about your home, in more ways than you can imagine, has impact on your bottom-line profit. So don’t shortcut this step, and be certain that no agent you may hire to help you, shortcuts this step either.
About the Author:
Hi there! I’m David Carpenter, a REALTOR in New Braunfels, TX and an associate with NPL Group. Real Estate is my passion! I believe consumers deserve a better experience when buying and selling real estate and I strive to make your experience better than you will get anywhere else. I truly enjoy writing useful articles for home buyers and sellers to help simplify the real estate process and provide a visual guide through one of the most complex times of your life. Feel free to contact me directly or leave a comment in the comment section below.