How to Use Your Signature Story to Get Ideal Clients - Christine Kane

Best Of Series: This is a repost of one of my most popular blog posts.
When I teach students how to get more clients using your signature story, I get pushback. The idea of revealing the bare truth about ourselves is something that solo business owners struggle with. After all, aren’t we supposed to be experts in the know?

My students ask me:

How vulnerable should I be?

How much should prospects know about my story, my “why?”

In other words:

If I share this stuff, will I still be seen as professional?

One of my signature stories happened ages ago. The setting was a freezing cold room with cinderblock walls in New York City’s East Village. I laid between the threadbare sheets, questioning my existence, pondering a degree in accounting.

You’d think I was primed and ready for a Spielberg-like spiritual breakthrough involving some angels. Or, at the very least, a spaceship.

But what happened instead?

A cockroach walked across my face.

(Yes, this really happened.)

Now, why on earth would I share this story?

Because it was a breakthrough moment for me. Plus, it shows that you can Uplevel your life or business regardless of the circumstances that surround you. Or crawl on you. (Plus, it’s pretty hysterical to me now.)

I constantly hear from students of the Uplevel Your Life Mastery Program that the “cockroach” story was what made them decide to sign up to work with me!

So, when it comes to your story, here’s the million-dollar truth:

You must tell your story.

It doesn’t have to include cockroaches.

But it does need to open your prospect’s heart and give meaning to WHY you do what you do.

As a solo business owner, your signature story builds trust and creates a memorable brand. It positions you.

signature story

There are three reasons for this:

1 – People remember stories.

Your prospect might not remember the first thing you said with your facts, features or data…

…but tell her about the time you got laid off the same day as your husband and that’s what propelled both of you to start a business?

THAT is what she will remember.

That’s because stories are visceral.

Stories are universal. They connect with our hearts.

2 – People need connection.

More than ever, we’re all seeking deeper connection beyond just a “thumbs up” button. (Though we still like those too!)

When it comes to your marketing materials, always think in terms of connection with your prospects and clients. And make sure you learn how to use your signature story as a part of your marketing. Your signature story builds trust. It tells your prospect that you’re real. It tells her that you “get” her.

3 – The C-V Cocktail

“C-V” stands for Credibility-Vulnerability.

Let’s start with Credibility.

Knowing how to position yourself is crucial in your marketing.

I teach what I call the “CREATE Formula” for positioning yourself as the go-to expert in your field. The very first letter stands for Credibility.

Your credibility speaks to your prospect’s head. This, of course, means your results, numbers, certifications, publications, sales, speaking dates, etc. Your credibility is a part of what attracts people to work with you.

But it’s only ONE PART of our little marketing cocktail. The other part is vulnerability.

Vulnerability speaks to the heart.

Both head and heart matter to your clients.

So, when it comes to your work in the world – whether you’re trying to get customers, clients, readers or patients – your story, your vulnerability has to be a piece of the puzzle.

Now, I’m not asking you to share about the time you drank too much at your cousin’s wedding and fell down the stairs and yacked all over her shoes.

Nor am I telling you to post on Facebook that you’re totally miserable today and you just forked your way through three plates of mac and cheese. (We all have bad days. But there are some things that do not serve to build your business!)

I am, however, proposing that you get very clear about the turning point in your life that started you on the path to doing what you’re doing right now.

So, here are some questions to get you started creating your story:

  • What were the circumstances in your “before” scene?
  • What was your struggle, your low-point?
  • What was the turning point?
  • What happened after that?
  • What made you do the work you’re doing?

In the comments below, tell me the basics of your signature story. Were you hesitant to use it at first? Do your clients respond to it?






  • Rachel

    ‘My story’ that seems to grab clients attention is my unusual path to the profession as a landscape architect. In high school, I took an aptitude test. The results suggested I pursue landscape architecture. I followed that lead and 22 years later, I still love my work. The End. Simple, yet unusual and the typical response is “Really? Wow.” Credibility and Passion.

  • Stacy Sauser Rojo

    Thank you for this post Christine! I am part of an amazing network and have been told over and over again to share our story and I never really have but your questions really break it down so here goes:

    I was a teenage mom and single for the majority of my life. With two kids to raise things were always really tight. I remember having to eat top ramen for days! I worked really hard at quite a few jobs, only leaving one to move up to the next one. At certain points in my life I held down 3 jobs at a time just to make the rent & put food on the table. I thought I was doing fine, I was making more than some of my friends that held degrees. Putting in my hours at an office job that was miserable but the money was great. Up until 2008 that is. I was laid off and out of work for the first time since high school. The market wasn’t the same anymore. I couldn’t find a job to save my life. I ended up unemployed for 2 long years! It was a roller coaster of emotions, but that’s another story for another day.

    Then it happened! I finally landed what seemed like a dream job. Great company with 90 years of stability. I even had my own office as the Executive Assistant to the President. But the pay sucked! During my interview we discussed my salary and agreed that since the economy was barely coming back I would start at the low end but work quickly up to what I was making (what I needed to make) over a short period of time.

    Even though most people would consider their rock bottom the layoff that happened in 2008, I consider my annual review of 2014 my rock bottom. I was given a whopping $0.25 per hour raise. It was at that point, after spending 4 years at this company, that I realized I was NEVER going to feel secure or achieve my life long goal of being financially free.

    I had always wanted to help others so I decided that even though I really didnt want to be away from my teenage daughter anymore than I already was, I was going to have to go back to school. I hated the thought of more school, being away from home more and having even less time for my family and myself but I thought it was the only way. About this same time I started doing Insanity and signed up for a free account on the company’s website.

    Later that week I was contacted by a coach who was super sweet and helped me even though intold her I was never going to buy anything. I just didn’t have the money. She didn’t pressure me, just added me to her support groups. In those groups my prayers were answered. I saw women not only losing weight, but making enough money to quit their full time jobs. Some even retired their husbands and paid off their mortgages! It was at that point I asked myself “Why not me.” And I jumped! I scrounged to come up with the money to sign up but my life has never been the same!

    I have since been able to quit my job and do something I am completely passionate about. I help others every single day live a healthier more fulfilling life. I get messages daily about how I’ve changed people’s lives. I am part of a group of primarily women that are uplifting and we empower each other to succeed! I didn’t have to go into debt or take extra time away from my home to do it either. I truly believe God heard my prayers and brought my coach into my life!! Its been an amazing ride so far and I only see it getting better!!

    Sorry for the novel but your questions helped so much! I’ll be using this as one of my upcoming blogposts.
    Thank you!
    xo – Stacy

  • Alice Osborn

    Hi Christine,
    Loved seeing your “cockroach” post this morning! It took a long time for me to tell my story without sounding like a victim, but it’s all in the way you frame it. I’m an author/writing coach/editor and teach writing classes, mostly memoir and fiction. I teach memoir/fiction writers how to structure their story through the Hero’s Journey, which always starts with a death or loss. My story is the day my parents estranged me, which directly led to my writing career. I took that death and remade myself into a mother, author, editor, wife, friend and community rabble-rouser!

  • Tracie Thompson

    I’ve wanted to be an artist basically always, so I’m not sure what “my story” would be. There have been so many turning points that my life seems to have shifted in a kind of squiggly arc rather than a 180º reversal.

    I do remember the moment at which I realized I hated my life in Florida, where I was born and raised. It was early November in Minneapolis, utterly miserable weather — snowing sideways, bitterly cold and damp, and I was looking at that scene while I waited at the gate to board a flight back to sunny Fort Myers. And I burst into tears because I did. Not. Want. To. Go.

    But it took another year before it truly dawned on me that I could, and should, move. I remember the moment vividly; I felt the determination slide into place and CLICK like the deadbolt on a door: “WHY am I still here and not in Minnesota?” Strangely, though, I don’t clearly recall what triggered the thought. I think it had to do with an incoming hurricane, but I couldn’t say for certain.

  • Mandi

    What are the ways that you get your signature story out there? Is putting it on the about page a good idea? One on one with clients? Speaking at events seems like a good idea, but I’m curious about the other ways, too.

  • Vicki Wahl

    Thanks Christine for all of your great advice! and the laughs!

    I went to your seminar last year in Atlanta – a big step for me. It was so inspiring to hear you and meet all of the amazing women and men there. Such great energy! It encouraged me to keep pursuing my own business and while I was working full-time as a graphic designer (as I have for 20 plus years), I was determined to keep working towards my dreams and goals.

    I had many journals of ideas and sketches over the years and finally as of mid 2013, everything came together and I started working on my business, which I thought over a year ago would be graphic design and my mixed media art (which I still do on a freelance basis until I can work full-time on my new business). It however became something I was even more passionate about. It was not only my creativity being used, but also what my heart really wanted to do – give back, make people smile and make a difference, hence thehugbox™ was born.

    I developed the concept, name, branding, logo, collateral, packaging, website, and established the social media. After all of that and the research, administrative work, buying product, etc. I had my launch back in June 2014. I am now in the process of taking all that I learned from your seminar and my work experience and applying it to my marketing strategy. I have already started to take your vulnerable/story advice ( and I will continue to work on putting myself out there. It was scary at first to be in the ‘public’. I’ve done musical theater, acting, singing and dancing, but with a group and in character – not quite solo like this. It’s a freeing and happy feeling and I am so excited that I have come this far and looking forward to growing my business huge! 🙂 And really make a difference!

    I just wanted to say thanks again! You are definitely a part of my determination and success. I look forward to all of your blogs! I am working on the blogging part too. 🙂


  • Marilyn Bousquin

    I love this post, Christine. “Turning point moments” are essential to my work as a memoirist and as writing coach. My own turning point moment sounds almost cliche. When I was in college, a professor who was a famous novelist, told me in front of an entire class that I didn’t have a voice. It was, of course, more complex than that, but it sent me on a quest to discover my voice. And what I learned along the way, as I delved into women’s psychological development and women’s literature and women’s history, is that you cannot separate women’s lives and women’s writing from a deep-seated cultural history of silencing that undermines women’s sense of self beginning at adolescence. Whenever I tell my “voice” story during a talk, it is ALWAYS the thing that women line up to talk to me about afterwards. So many women then tell me their story of “losing” their voice. At first, I thought it was too cliche to tell. Now I realize that it speaks deeply to other women and invites them to prioritize finding their voice through writing. So I tell it in great detail. As Bill Roorbach says, “To have a voice is to have a self, and to have a self is powerful.” Great article, Christine!

  • Michael Katz

    This is a great post, Christine, thank you. And so true. Not only do I remember hearing your cockroach story long ago, i remember you specifically saying that “it walked across my face.” Stories with specifics are so much more memorable than just information and yes, it made me feel a connection with you.

  • Miranda

    I love the cockroach story! and it taught me a lot about talking to clients. I don’t tell the following story when I’m working with my translation clients, but I have started telling it a lot, when people hear I’m publishing a book, sigh wistfully, and say, “oh, I’ve always wanted to… [fill in the blank creative project].
    1. I was working an office job in Paris. The kind where you sit at a desk all day doing things someone else has decided you should do. The job was fine. Not great, not bad, just fine. It wasn’t what I wanted, which was to be a writer, but oh well, I thought. Gotta pay the bills, right?
    2. For months I’d been dragging along, struggling to convince myself that fine was good enough, when one day on my morning commute I saw a man in the metro. He looked fine… not as in FINE, but as in, not great, not bad, just fine. And then he turned around and I saw his rear end. It was FLAT. Flat as a pancake. And I thought, “Oh my lord, if I continue to work in an office, I will end up like that guy, schlepping along in the metro with a flat butt.”
    3. That moment flipped a switch for me, silly as it sounds. I realized that at the end of my working life I would be devastated if all I came away with was a bottom shaped like an office chair and a job that paid the bills, rather than taking the risk now, when I was young, of finishing the book I’d started when I was in college.
    4. So I repeated that line of yours, “Leap and the net will appear” about a million times. And then I quit my job.
    5. After a lot of hard, incredibly rewarding work, a lot of learning, and a lot more fun than I ever would have had at that desk job, my book, A Fifty Year Silence, is coming out in January, and another 2 are in the works! Oh, and my office has a stairstepper desk and on an exercise ball, so thinks are looking hopeful for my posterior, too! 😉

    • Jeanne B.

      And now Miranda, YOUR story has inspired me! 🙂 Congratulations on your book being published!

  • Delia

    the cockroach story was one of the most powerful, resonant stories I heard you tell….it still resonates for me on my “worst” days. Thank you for being so honest and so vulnerable and such an example of ways to get past the cockroaches.

    I also appreciate that you said, ‘one of the signature stories’. I have several pivotal moments that are part of my why. It’s been interesting and such a learning process to consider what-to-share-when