I’ve been fascinated by stories since I was a young girl. As soon as I was old enough to read, I could always be found with my head in a book. I read encyclopedias — remember those? Reader’s Digest. Anything in print that I could get my hands on. I wrote my first ‘book’ when I was eight years old.
Fast forward a few decades and everyone is talking about business and story. Lucky me! What I love to do most in the world, I now do every day and call it ‘work’.
I recognized some time ago that businesses needed to incorporate storytelling into their marketing efforts. I love what bestselling author, Daniel Pink, said a few years ago:
Once upon a time, business could ignore story. Doing that today though, could spell the end.”
(Daniel Pink, Forbes Magazine)
Use these seven steps to propel your storytelling to the next level and ensure your marketing efforts are far more successful and engaging.
1. Dive deeper
In my work, I come across what many organizations call their ‘story’, or often speak to individuals who share their Why story. Most of these narratives just don’t go deep enough — they’re what I call ‘storytelling lite’. It’s often superficial and more about the organization or individual rather than the audience.
Successful storytelling needs to dig deep — it needs to be authentic, human and imperfect. How many of us relate to stories where the endings are tidy, everything happens they way it should and so on? Not very compelling.
Your story must get real. It must create an emotional connection or it won’t work.
2. Get Personal
Have you heard the saying ‘The most human company wins’? People don’t care or connect to organizations. People care about other people. Your organization’s story must be told through the eyes of a real live human being. Use true stories about real people and you’ll experience a completely different response to your ‘business’ storytelling.
3. Align with a bigger cause
Your business storytelling also needs to be about more than just the company and its products or services. It needs to tell a bigger story — one that includes social change.
Consider Millennials who want to work for and do business with organizations that care about more than the bottom line. Look at TOMS, Warby Parker, Patagonia or similar organizations. Most people want to support businesses that are about the greater good.
4. Not all storytellers are created equal
It’s a mistake to think that all stories must come from the C-suite. The best stories come from people who are customer-facing on the frontlines. Studies from the Edelman Trust Barometer tell us that people trust people who are like them. This means employees, not CEOs or VPs.
It’s still important that the message is controlled by marketing or communications — utilizing trained storytellers will greatly increase your organization’s credibility.
5. Co-create story with your customers
Who are the most credible storytellers for your business? Customers. Bring them onboard to create stories that will resonate with potential customers.
Existing customers are a critical tool in your storytelling toolbox. Working with them to share your story will better engage your audience and scale your marketing efforts.
6. Provide a solution
Your audience will want to know right away — can you help me? Great storytelling solves a human need.
If your story doesn’t clarify for your audience how you make their lives better, they are not going to be interested. Remember WIIFM? Your business story must show how you guide the hero — your customer — to solve the challenge facing them and help them achieve success.
7. Get rid of the economic rationale
Every great story has a great ending. Telling someone at the end of your pitch that you can save them money or time is not likely to be compelling. There needs to be a stronger, emotional reason for them to make a buying or hiring decision. People make decisions based on what your product or service will do for them. Will it help to achieve recognition, fulfillment, community and other basic human desires?
Your story must paint a picture of how you can help them reach those goals — it’s never about the product or service. As the storyteller, your job is to find out what those needs are and tell a story that connects to your audience on an emotional level.
Lastly, your story must be true and it must be real in order to capture your audience’s attention and have them wanting to learn more.
If you want to learn more about how to uncover your real business story, the one that will capture hearts and minds, I offer a process to help you dig deep and find the gold! /how/