Storytelling in Business 101: How to Get Started & Succeed

People sell, stories sell, facts sell, great imagery sells, and thus, storytelling in business has become a popular and effective method of marketing.

Harvard Business Review went as far as stating that storytelling has “irresistible power,” noting “we humans have been communicating through stories for upwards of 20,000 years, back when our flat screens were cave walls.” The same article also noted that storytelling “evokes a neurological response.” If you are new to storytelling in business or haven’t been getting results with storytelling, here are few basic things you can do to improve your efforts.

  1. Re-visit what makes your brand unique.

Why should people care about your business? What is your competitive edge? What does your brand offer that the competition lacks? Take a closer look at your brand and ask yourself questions that an outsider might want to know, such as:

  • What makes me worthy of doing business with this brand?
  • What value does this brand offer?
  • How can this brand save me money and solve my problems?
  • How is this brand different from its competitors?
  • Why should I care about this brand?
  1. Make sure you understand your target audience.

I’ve seen a lot of businesses not be successful in marketing in general because they don’t understand their target audience. Oftentimes they think their target audience is everyone, which really can’t be the case. Forbes offers six steps to decoding your target audience:

  • Who are they?
  • What’s their most pressing issue, problem, or desire?
  • Where do they get their info?
  • What benefit of your product solves their problem?
  • What sets off their BS detector?
  • Who do they trust?

 

  1. Craft stories that speak to pain point of your target audience.

Let’s say you sell carpet cleaner. Your target audience might be moms of children ages 15 and under who live in New Jersey. A pain point for them would likely be cleaning the house and you have a product that can make cleaning easier! Your carpet cleaner works fast and works well! It makes cleaning easier. In your storytelling, you’ll want to craft content that speaks to that audience, perhaps using a mom in your storytelling.

Whenever possible, be sure to include actual customers in your storytelling (since they are your target audience after all); I also think this makes storytelling more authentic and believable. In telling your story, you might use data or dialogue. At the end of the day, it’s important to capture attention, build trust, and close the sale (like authors Paul Smith and Mike Weinburg suggest in their book ‘Sell with a Story’).

  1. Don’t just tell with copy or photos, use video.

Video is truly a powerful way to communicate. According to HubSpot, including a video on landing page can increase video conversion by 80 percent and 92 percent of mobile video consumers share video with others. You don’t have to spend a lot money on your video marketing – just learn the basics of it and grab a good camera or even an iPad to record. A video-editing tool like iMovie is powerful and free with Apple products.

 

 

Additional Resources

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby – an older book. Does not focus on storytelling in business but rather storytelling in general. There’s a lot to learn from this book.

Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire by Paul Smith

Hooked: How Leaders Connect, Engage, and Inspire with Storytelling by Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu – this books breaks down the art of storytelling and offers greater insight into how to craft your stories.

Marisa Sanfilippo is a journalist turned award-winning marketing professional who has more than six years experience developing and executing marketing campaigns for small and medium sized businesses. Her work has been featured on Huffington Post, Social Media Today, Business.com, Patch, and other publications.