The human appetite for a good story is still as strong as it was a thousand years ago. The medium may have changed. We no longer etch out symbols onto stone walls – instead, we binge on Netflix. But the premise is still the same. We crave a good story. Stories help us understand the world; they inspire us, they frighten, delight, tickle and awe us.
Stories are the backbone of our communication. And they should be the backbone of your business too. - Tweet that!
Why incorporating storytelling into your business works
Gone are the days when companies could bombard their customers with information. With the rise of digital—and in particular, social—media, we’ve witnessed a transformation in how consumers interact with brands. A two-way conversation is the norm. People want to know about you, your customers and staff – they want to know what you stand for and believe in, where you’re going and why.
And the best way to communicate all this? By telling them a story of course!
How do I tell a story?
Before I embarked on a career in copywriting, I wrote stories. In fact, I still do. It’s why I get out of bed at some awful hour. It’s why I consume so many biscuits. Some stories have been bad, some good and some have been so terrible they will never see the light of day. But I have learnt something from my fiction writing. The formula. Most stories—although certainly not all—follow a formula or a set of rules. This is commonly understood in fiction writing. But these rules, or steps can apply to business storytelling too!
The Simple Business Storytelling Formula
Step 1. Your Protagonist
Who is the star of your story? What are they like? What do they do? My advice is to make your ‘star’ or protagonist similar to your target market – someone they can relate to and someone who faces the same problems as them.
Step 2. Your protagonist’s world
Describe the world your protagonist was stuck in. What was it like? What problems did they face on a daily basis?
Step 3. New goal
At some point, your protagonist has just had enough. They form a plan and decide to change their world.
Step 4. Crap on your protagonist (sorry for that analogy)
Getting your protagonist to reach their goal is not going to be easy. If it were, it would have already been done, right? So, talk about the struggles, the battles and the stakes. Make them appeal to your target market, reflecting the struggles they face too.
Step 5. Discovery
As your protagonist goes through the process, they learn so much more about themselves and the world they live in. This enables them to have their light bulb moment that pushes them through the final part of the story.
Step 6. Success
Success doesn’t have to mean your protagonist has fully reached his or her or their goal. But they can keep working towards it, improving each and every day.
Well, that all sounds very nice but surely this formula can’t be applied to businesses can it? Of course it can!
When and where to use stories
Today, I’m going to be talking about the ‘Who am I?’ story.
You usually read 'Who Am I' stories on About Me/Us web pages, or any materials that feature the story behind your business.
Using my formula above, I’m going to give you an example of an ‘About Me’ page, that showcases a great story.
Step 1: Your Protagonist
Sarah is a Mum of three very boisterous boys. She works part-time, cooks, cleans, runs after the children, and spends her days trying to get Frozen lyrics out of her head.
Step 2: Describe your protagonist’s world
Sarah is extremely busy - what with her job and ferrying the boys around to football matches and swimming lessons, she has very little time and constantly has to organise her family.
To help organise her week, Sarah uses a family calendar. However, it just isn’t big enough or detailed enough to fill everything she needs to get done!
Step 3: New goal
Eventually, Sarah gives up writing on a calendar, and creates a personal organiser, using a template she designed herself on her computer. She finds this system so much easier. She is far more productive, and she also has more free time than she did before.
So she has an idea! Wouldn’t this new organiser be beneficial to other parents as well? Sarah thinks so. So, she sets her sights on building and marketing her calendar design to help other Mums and Dads.
Step 4: Crap on your protagonist
Between her job, children, housework and trying to bring a new product to market, Sarah struggles. She doesn’t sleep. She dedicates every single crumb of free time to developing her new product. It’s tough and tiring. But she knows it will work.
Step 5: Discovery
Through her tireless work, Sarah has learnt so much about business, everything from marketing to accounts. But she’s also learnt that she was far more capable and determined that she ever thought possible. Her confidence has grown drastically.
Step 6: Success
Her product is out there, and parents love it! Sarah is gaining such good feedback, and her business is going from strength to strength. She’s quit her job and now does the thing she loves – helping other Mum’s and Dad’s organise their lives, so maybe they too, can find the time to follow their dreams.
Why this works
Firstly, this helps build trust. The reader understands who Sarah is, what she wants, and can see her absolute passion.
It also enables your target market to relate to you, and more importantly, root for you. This means they’re far more likely to be loyal, and they will pay a higher price for your product or service.
Customers like to get to know you. You’re not just a faceless company. You’re a person, with hopes and dreams, goals and fears. And that’s a powerful thing!
A word of warning!
Your story has to be real. You can’t just make up a good story, because ultimately, your customers will find out. And if you’re found out, you can wave bye-bye to their loyalty.
So, what do you do if you don’t have a story?
Bah! So, your story isn't that exciting. That’s fine. I'm in the same boat. I started writing bad novels from a young age and through my love of words, I started copywriting. Not so thrilling is it? But there are tons of other ways you can incorporate storytelling into your business. So, join me next week when I’ll be talking about how to create the best customer story!
If you have any hints and tips on how to craft a business story that readers’ love, I’d love to hear about them! Just comment below!