How to Differentiate Your Brand Through Storytelling with Seth Erickson | MP 106

On this marketing podcast, J Seth Erickson talks about How to Differentiate Your Brand Through Storytelling.

How can you hack neuroscience to create memorable marketing? What power is unlocked in marketing when you incorporate storytelling into your advertising? Why must you speak to the pain points of your clients?

In this podcast episode, Sam Carvalho speaks about how to differentiate your brand through storytelling with Seth Erickson.

Podcast Sponsor: Heard

An image of the Practice of the Practice podcast sponsor, Heard, is captured. Heard offers affordable bookkeeping services, personalized financial reporting, and tax assistance.

As a therapist, the last thing you probably want to think about is doing your own bookkeeping and taxes. Heard is here to help with that. Heard is the financial back-office built specifically for therapists in private practice. They combine smart software with real humans to handle bookkeeping, taxes, and payroll.

Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned clinician or are in the first year of your practice, Heard will identify areas for growth and streamline best financial practices for your business.

When you sign up with Heard, you’ll be matched with an accountant who will help you track your income and expenses, file taxes online, and maximize tax savings. You’ll also receive financial insights such as profit and loss statements and personalized monthly reports. You can say goodbye to poring over spreadsheets and guessing your tax deductions or quarterly payments. Focus on your clients, and Heard will take care of the rest.

Pricing begins at $149 per month for solo practices and can easily be tailored to fit your business’ financial needs. Sign up for a free, 15-min consult call today at Sign up now at

Meet Seth Erickson

A photo of Seth Erickson is captured. Seth created an agency focused on helping brands attract their dream clients through the power of telling engaging stories, Storify. Seth is featured on Marketing a Practice, a therapist podcast.Seth created an agency focused on helping brands attract their dream clients through the power of telling engaging stories. Storify helps clients understand the neuroscience and psychology of storytelling which has led to massive success for small and large companies, including one client that generated $4.3 Million during Covid with a cold email campaign.

Seth’s bestselling book ‘How to Hack Humans’ has received 2 awards and shows businesses the secret method used to get the most ADHD customers to pay attention.

Visit Storify and connect with Seth on LinkedIn.

In This Podcast

  • How to speak to your customer’s emotions
  • Speak to the pain points
  • Create Netflix-style marketing material
  • Seth’s advice to private practitioners

How to speak to your customer’s emotions

  • Emotions move memories from the short-term to the long-term.

The neuroscience of emotions shows that if you want to be more memorable in your client’s mind, then you need to speak with emotions in a way that will resonate with them and where they are currently at in their lives.

  • People don’t take action unless there’s an emotion involved.

People like to think that they are more rational and logical than emotional, but they’re mostly wired the other way around.

Most of the processing that happens in our brain is happening in our subconscious. Our subconscious can’t talk to our consciousness, but what it can do is push a feeling. (Seth Erickson)

Speak to the pain points

If you want to help someone, show them that you know how you can help them.

Most companies just play it safe [and say], “We can help with stress” … yeah, but so can 10 other clinicians. You got to be able to pull out that emotion [because] pulling on that emotion will spur them to take action to say, “Yes, I really need to fix this problem”, and it will stick with them after they leave your website. (Seth Erickson)

Show them that you understand where they’re at, that you know the struggle, and that you have some tools and services that can help them to overcome the pain.

Create Netflix-style marketing material

How can you get clients to peruse your social media platforms and “binge” your content like a hot new Netflix series?

You need to craft a narrative that tells the story of the customer, where they are at in life, to show that you can identify with and empathize with their current situation.

Use storytelling to draw people in and show them where you stand.

It’s especially relevant in the field of counseling and mental health because it is such a personal service, and so I think if the audience can relate to their clients on that personal level through storytelling, it will already attract the client because it puts them at ease and makes it relatable. (Sam Carvalho)

Seth’s advice to private practitioners

Storytelling is an easy way to be unique without making crazy websites or strange colors. The science today shows how memory retention is activated when people tell stories, so tell the story of your business.

Books mentioned in this episode:

Podcast Sponsors:

  • Level Up your business between the 12th and the 15th of September with the Practice of the Practice!
  • When you sign up with Heard, you’ll work directly with financial specialists to track your income and expenses, file taxes online, and grow your business. Sign up now at

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

Check out these additional resources:

Meet Sam Carvalho

A photo of Samantha Carvalho is captured. She is the Chief Marketing Officer and Designer at Practice of the Practice. She is the host of the Marketing A Practice Podcast and helps therapists successfully market and brand their private practices.Sam Carvalho is a graphic designer living in Cape Town, South Africa, with over five years of experience in both design and marketing, with a special interest and experience in the start-up environment.

She has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs take their practices to the next level by enhancing their visual branding. She loves working with a variety of clients on design-intensive tasks and is always up for a challenge!

Follow Sam on Instagram to see some of her work. To work with Sam, head on over to

Thanks For Listening!

Feel free to leave a comment below or share this podcast on social media by clicking on one of the social media links below! Alternatively, leave a review on iTunes and subscribe!

Podcast Transcription

[LEVEL UP WEEK] I think it’s time that we speak about you and your goals for a minute. Hear me out. For a while now, we’ve been speaking about how to market your practice, how to grow your practice, and how to be a better boss and encourage a company culture. But isn’t it time to start making it happen? I’m serious, I’m challenging you to just do it. Take that leap of faith, put yourself out there and level up in your practice. Think about it. You’re probably entering that phase where you start to set yourself up for 2023. You’re thinking about what your goals are going to be, what you’re not going to do and what you hope to achieve. But regardless of where you are within your private practice journey, I’m challenging you to make these last few months count to dig deep, to make next year the one for big changes within your business and more, importantly within yourself. So if you’ve been looking for a sign to either start your own private practice, grow from solo to group, or become a next level Group Practice Boss, this is it. You’re certainly not alone because Practice of the Practice is doing something we’ve never done before. We’re so convinced that now is the time for you to grow, that we’re dedicating all our resources to help you do it. We’re all in, every single one of us and we’re inviting you to go all in and level up. From September 12th to September 15th, we’ll be running Level Up Week to help you decide what will work best for you in your private practice journey. There will be webinars. Q&A’s with experts and a chance for you to meet your accountability partners, facilitators, and community. So if you’re ready to make a change and level up register at and follow our Facebook and Instagram pages at Practice of the Practice for live updates and event details. Lastly, before I jump back into this episode, I just want to say that I really hope to see you there, even if it’s just online. Remember that leveling up week isn’t about us. It’s not about me or about Practice of the Practice. It’s all about you and growing your practice, whether it be your first solo practice or growing you from Group Practice Boss to reaching a national audience. Make September, 2022, the month that you start your journey and level up. [SAM CARVALHO] Welcome to the Marketing a Practice podcast with me, Sam Carvalho, where you’ll discover everything you need to know about marketing and branding your business. To find out more about how I can help you brand new business visit If you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram at Samantha Carvalho Design. Seth Erickson ran a Webby award-winning digital agency, but something was horribly wrong. His clients had pretty websites, but it was like having a beautiful storefront in the middle of the desert. The business ultimately fell apart, and he was forced to shut down the company. Years of depression, a broken marriage and binging YouTube videos let him down a dark path until he finally discovered a book that gave him the breakthrough he was desperately needing. He created another agency called Storify, but this time it was focused on helping brands attract their dream clients through the power of telling engaging stories. Seth’s best-selling book, How to Hack Humans has received two awards and shows businesses the secret method used to get the most ADHD customers to pay attention. He’s on a mission to reduce the massive start of failure rate and create a positive change in the world by empowering companies to communicate more effectively. Hi, Seth, thanks so much for being with us today. [SETH ERICKSON] Yes, thank you for having me. [SAM] We obviously dug a bit into your story there already, but can you tell us a bit more about your backstory and how you got to where you are now? [SETH] Yes. In 2015, we had the biggest year ever, almost did a million dollars in business. Everything was great except every time I asked my clients, “The new website we built you, this thing we did for you did it bring in new customers?” They were like, ‘No, but we’re really happy with the website.” It was like, okay, so you paid me a lot of money and I don’t feel like I’m actually helping you. That became a problem and I went on a walkabout, if you will, trying to figure out like, okay, what is the next iteration of this company? Because just pushing pixels around the screen and making things really pretty makes people happy but I want to move the needle in their business. I actually want them to be able to say, yes, what you did grew our business or helped us do X, Y, or Z? [SETH] So we ended up having, in 2016 our worst year. We had three of our biggest clients all end up leaving us for various different reasons. One of them got a new marketing director. They wanted to come in and clean house and bring in their own people and another company was a startup, they didn’t get their next round of funding. Then the third company said, “Hey we’re good for this year. We don’t need any, any help.” So about $50k a month or $60k a month in revenue just dried up within a month, so then I had to go through the hard process of figuring out well, what are we really doing here and then also dealing with the financial struggles and ended up letting people go. Because of that that’s the part where the depression came in because I was upset about having to let go of like 23 employees. I felt like they were part of my family and I couldn’t support them anymore. Then I felt like a giant failure on top of that. So it was a really difficult time, and at that stage I was like, I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore. Should I even be doing an agency? So it was like I went from a really high, high to a really low, low because we were crushing it, we were winning contracts left and right, and then all of a sudden it was nothing. Then I started to second guess everything I was doing, which actually in the long run was a good thing but that year a friend of mine said, “Hey, we’ve worked together a lot and you seem to be a storyteller.” I was like, “Okay, what does that have to do with anything? He gave me a book called Winning the Story Wars by Jonas Sachs. I read that book, the guy was running a digital agency and he started talking about the power of storytelling and how important it is to have narrative in your content, in what you’re doing and how you’re talking to people and I started to go, “Huh, that’s really interesting.” Once I read that book, then I said, “Well, I got to learn everything I can about storytelling.” So I read books like A Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, I read Story by Robert McKee. I read several books by Lisa Kron. I read StoryBrand like a lot of people have who are familiar with storytelling and the thing that actually hooked me was that some of the books were talking about neuroscience and how does the brain actually react when it hears stories and what’s going on there. From there, it was a process of going, okay, I think there’s something here in this is really interesting, and it’s also science backed. So it’s not just me giving my opinion that stories are amazing. Obviously, we know that stories are amazing because there’s a thriving movie industry in about every country, and there’s lots of authors and books but I was like, well, how does this apply to agencies and marketing and how do we implement this in a, the story concept into shorter formats and things like that? So we started applying what we were learning to our clients and luckily we had clients that were gracious enough to say, “Yes, I’ll give that a try because we weren’t charging them hardly anything.” We started to see things like bounce rates dropping on websites. We started to see open rates on emails go up. We started to see clickthrough rates on emails go up. Then that tangible thing that I was looking for of like, am I actually moving the needle in your business started to happen. At that stage, it was just me and one other person, because I had kept one developer and we said, “Hey, we got to start rebuilding this business because we’re actually helping people the way that we wanted to help people. That brings us to 2020 and then we decided to launch Storify agency and then two months later the pandemic hit, so it was perfect timing. Luckily, we still had some clients that were coming to us and we were saying storytelling is the way, this is what we got to do. They started applying it and people were not only happy with the websites we were doing, because we always did great work, but they were happy with the message and how they were able to differentiate themselves from their competition and not just say the same standard platitudes that everybody else is using. [SAM] Amazing. I mean, I think that is literally the power, power of storytelling right there. [SETH] Yes, it’s kind of meta. Like I’m a storyteller talking about a story [SAM] That’s awesome. So Seth, can you speak into how the audience can speak to their customer’s emotions to become the most attractive company in the industry? [SETH] There’s two things to understand about emotions. This comes from the neuroscience perspective. One is that emotions move memories from short-term to long-term, so if you want to be more memorable to your customer, engaging those memories is how your concepts and ideas get stuck in their head. So an easy way to think about this is like any experience you’ve had in life, generally, it’s either going to be super positive or super negative, but you’re going to be able to recall that experience because it had an emotion or emotions attached with that experience. So part of part of that understanding you take that and then you couple that with people don’t take action unless they have an emotion. This goes back to the whole thing about like people are always like, we’re super logical. Well, we’re not. Most of the processing that happens in our brain is happening in our subconscious. Our subconscious can’t talk to our consciousness but what it can do is push a feeling. So you may, anybody here may have experienced this thing where you’re like, yes, I hung out with this person, but there was something off about them, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. That’s your subconscious picking up on all these cues and going, there’s something weird here, in this experience with this or this interaction or whatever. What happens is we get a feeling, the concept of the gut feeling, good or bad. That’s the subconscious processing information, pushing it back, and then your brain logically goes, okay, I have a positive feeling and logically here’s why I have a positive feeling. So the point there is that when you tell any story, you want to touch on people’s emotions and speak to the pain or the pleasure. You can go, you can say are you suffering from this? Or would you like to go away from this suffering? Here’s your options. It’s two ways that you can handle that. But a lot of companies don’t speak to that. They just talk in very business terms, so everything is just very straightforward. There’s no emotional language used in the content that they’re using. So with the story, you can start to play with that emotion by, like I said, pulling out a pain point and saying are you struggling with this? Then once you have a pain point, you can go levels deeper. I talked with a mental health specialist who deals with stress and anxiety, and she’s like lots of people know what stress and anxiety are. I said, yes, but do they realize how it’s affecting them in other ways that just feeling stressed? She said, what do you mean by that? I said, well is it affecting their relationships with their spouse or their children or other family members? Is it affecting their relationship with coworkers? That’s a level deeper than I feel stressed. There’s sort of knock-on effects, if you will, that are happening because of this. Maybe you’re not sleeping well at night, maybe you’re gaining weight, maybe, so if you want to get to the emotional core, you have to drill down. You take your problem and then you, what I call it, you stick your finger in the wound. That builds the emotion because people start to identify and say, “Oh, yes, I do feel that way,” or, “Oh, I never thought about that, but that is happening right now.” You’re moving to that emotional side. But again, most companies, they just play it safe. They’re just like, we can help with stress. It’s like, yes, like, so can 10 other clinicians. You got to be able to pull out that emotion. Again, that pulling out that emotion will spur them to take action to say, yes, I really need to fix this problem. It’ll stick with them after they leave your website or stop reading your material. It’ll move into the long-term memory and get stuck there. So it’ll make you more memorable as well [HEARD] As a therapist, you’re probably too preoccupied with your caseload to want to think about bookkeeping or tax filing. Heard can help you out with that. Heard is a bookkeeping and tax platform built specifically for therapists in private practice that helps you track and improve your practice’s financial health. Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned clinician or in the first year of your practice, Heard will help you to identify areas for growth and streamline best financial practices for your business. When you sign up with Heard, you’ll work directly with financial specialists to track your income and expenses, file taxes online and grow your business. You’ll also receive financial insights, such as profit and loss statements and personalized monthly reports. You can say goodbye to pouring over spreadsheets and guessing your tax deductions or quarterly payments, focus on your clients Heard will take care of the rest. Plans begin at $149 per month for solo practices and can easily be tailored to fit your business’ financial needs. Sign up for a free-15 minute consult call today at [SAM CARVALHO] How can the audience get their clients to binge on their marketing material like a good Netflix drama? [SETH] Well, again that’s crafting a narrative that tells the story of who they are and what’s going on with them and showing the customer that you understand where they’re at because again, you’re talking about their problems at a deeper level. You’re not just saying you’re stressed. You’re starting to craft that narrative of because you’re stressed, you may be fighting more with your spouse and you may feel distant from your children and you may wake up in the middle of the night not feeling well or your thoughts are running through your head like a freight train. Part of that, too, is to use visual language or visual concepts, like I just said, thoughts running through your head like if freight train. It evokes like, it takes that thought and makes it a little bit more concrete and visual and that starts to pull the user in more. Or I think the one we used with the clinician I spoke with was do you feel like you’re standing in a house that’s burning down around you and you can’t escape, That’s pretty scary. [SAM] Lots of visualization name there. [SETH] Yes, so people can go, “Oh, yes, I could totally identify with feeling like I’m in a house that’s burning down and I can’t escape.” It’s not a far-fetched concept to start to pull the imagination into the story that you’re telling. So that’s essentially it. I mean, if you tell a story, it’ll suck people in. That’s literally what every movie is, every book is, every TV show. I mean, not all of them, obviously, you’ve got educational stuff, which doesn’t necessarily use storytelling in the same way. But we as humans love stories because we’ve been telling stories since before, we were painting on the inside of caves, before we had a printing press or an alphabet. We needed to use stories to pass information from generation to generation to help people survive and so storytelling has always been with us since the beginning. The brain locks onto stories because generally it’s used to pass information and quite often information that is helpful to the survival of humanity. Obviously, not all stories do that, but the brain still picks it up and it just comes down to this is how we’re wired. [SAM] I think it’s especially relevant in the field of counseling and mental health because it is such a personal service and so I think, if the audience is able to relate to their clients on that personal level through storytelling it will already just attract the client because it already just puts them at ease and makes it relatable. [SETH] Yes, and I think people who work in mental health are, I think are perfectly lined up to say, okay, here’s the things, here’s the commonalities that I’m always hearing from my clients. Then just reiterating that back on in your marketing message, on your website in your advertising is going to help make that connection easier. [SAM] So how can the audience avoid being just another boring brand and competing for attention, price, and market share? [SETH] Really that comes down to using platitudes. To give an example, we’re cutting edge. We have the best healthcare service. We have, anything that anybody in your industry can say, you’re just copying what somebody else says, or they’re copying what you’re saying. Then what happens is, and this happens in every industry, there’s always like the standard problem that people are saying. When customers come to your website or are looking at information about you you’re saying the same thing that five other people are saying, and because of that, you don’t stand out. Sometimes it just comes down to, I like that one, the doctor looked nice, or that one had a blue brochure or blue website. I remember that one. You don’t want to leave that stuff up to chance so that customers again don’t remember you or you don’t stand out. I’ll give you an example. We just did a website for a major construction company here in the US and in the construction company, every construction company says on time, on budget, which 30 years ago somebody came up with that, and that was really important because construction projects weren’t running on time and they weren’t running on budget and somebody said, “This is going to be our thing.” Then that person made a lot of money, and then other people came along and copied them but now everybody says on time, on budget. So when the construction company came to me, they said, “How do we say something different, because everybody else says the same thing and we’re all doing it?” What I talked to them about, which is what we’ve been talking about this whole time, is what is the real problem that your customers have? It took a little bit of digging, but I don’t know if this is because the construction companies in California or the whole country’s like this, but when somebody says, I want you to build me a building they’ll get plans drawn up, the construction company will give them a bid, it’ll be millions of dollars, and then when the client signs off and says, okay, I want to hire you to come in and build my building immediately from that point, the client is not allowed to step foot on the construction site. They’re not allowed to walk the building to see what’s going on. What it does is it ends up leaving the client in the dark. Depending on the construction company, some people might be really great at communicating, other people might not be and quite often these clients that do these multimillion-dollar projects might hire a different construction company every time. So they wanted to, the website is, if you want to check it out, it’s; what they wanted to do was tell the story about how you’re never going to be riding in the backseat. You’re always going to be upfront with us, and we’re going to be completely transparent and yes, we’re going to do things on time, on budget, but that’s like a secondary or tertiary concern. What you need to know is where your project is at every minute, have somebody that you can connect with, get pictures every day so that you’re not sitting there stressed out going, “Is this thing going to get done? Are we running over budget like?” So that’s just an example of telling a different story in an industry that just uses a lot of platitudes. I would expect or I would bet my life on it, that mental health organizations deal with the same thing where they’re all like just saying the same stuff. I don’t know what it would be, but I’m sure if you’re somebody who’s working in that industry, you could probably tell me five things that everybody says they know. [SAM] Definitely. I love that because I think again, that’s going to make them stand out from the crowd and they zeroed in on their unique selling point and what they can offer that’s different to everybody else, and then formed a story around that. So I think that’s really powerful. Seth, if people wanted to get in touch with you, what is the best way for them to do that? [SETH] visit our website Storify is You can also connect with me on LinkedIn. I have a quite a few people who send me messages and contact me through that platform. Then other than that, I mean, you can check out the book, How to Hack Humans, which is now in print in paperback hard cover, but I just released the audiobook version was it last week or two weeks ago. I actually narrate it had a lot of fun. [SAM] Amazing. [SETH] So yes, those are some of the best ways to reach out. [SAM] Awesome. We’ll definitely have links to all of that in the show notes. Seth, if every private practice owner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know? [SETH] Oh, so many things, so many things. Yes, I think storytelling, people talk about like you need to be unique, you need to be different, and storytelling is a very easy way to do that without making some crazy website that costs a hundred thousand dollars or using crazy colors or just generally shouting at people to get attention. Obviously, I’m a storyteller, so it’s like when you’re hammer, everything looks like a nail. But scientifically speaking what I’m saying, has been proven out not just by all the stories that we have for thousands upon thousands of years, but also the science today is saying, yes we can see the brain lighting up, we can see these things, we can see better, memory retention when somebody tells a story versus when they just use facts and figures. So yes, look into storytelling, whether it’s my book or you want to read Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, or if it’s Storybrand. There’s a lot of great information out there and once you start using it and applying it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to become an amazing storyteller overnight, because just like anything, it takes practice. You got to try it a few times and get your feet under you. You may tell a story and it may not be great, but it’s a start of getting better. So there’s a few different thoughts, I’ll cobble together. [SAM] Awesome. No, that’s great. Thank you so much for being on the Marketing a Practice podcast and for telling amazing stories and for giving so much value to our audience. [SETH] Thank you for having me. [SAM] Thanks again to Heard for sponsoring this episode. Remember that when you join Heard, you’ll work directly with financial Specialists to track your income and expenses, file taxes online, and grow your practice. Sign up now at Thanks for listening to the Marketing a Practice podcast. If you need help with branding your business, whether it be a new logo, rebrand, or you simply want some print flyer designed head on over to If you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram at Samantha Carvalho Design. . Finally, please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast on iTunes if you like what you’ve heard. Talk to you soon. Marketing a Practice podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you market and grow your business and yourself. To hear other podcasts like Beta Male Revolution, Empowered and Unapologetic, Imperfect Thriving, or Faith in Practice, go to This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or any other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.

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