The Power of Storytelling
Stories are valuable and important in all aspects of our lives, including business. Storytelling helps provide a clear picture to potential customers of what you stand for, what your values are, and how you can help them. Stories can achieve all of these things without your audience ever realizing that you’re doing it.
When you weave stories throughout all your advertising and marketing efforts, the fact that you’ve done it before means you can do it again for them. Stories build trust, connect you emotionally with your audience, influence your business culture, build brand awareness, and even spur innovation.
Tips for Telling Your Business Story Well Without Being Too Nervous
For some people, it feels uncomfortable to talk about their story. They feel as if they’re not being humble. But, the truth is, the story is always all about your audience and not you. Therefore, if you lead with your audience and focus on your audience in all your stories, you can be humble no matter how much success you’ve experienced and helped your audience experience.
- Understand Your Audience – Like with anything else you do in business, it’s essential to understand your audience completely. If you already have customers, start with them, and then work your way out toward your audience as you research exactly who your audience is, what their pain points are, and how you can solve their problems.
- Know Your Brand – If you don’t know your brand, then no one else can ever know it either. You’re the creator, but you must know all the ins and outs of your brand, what you stand for, who you are, and what you do for your customers in a deep way. Remember, you don’t create widgets; you solve a problem for your audience. For example, you don’t create clothing washers; you create time and reduce stress with your appliances.
- Be Human – You hear so much about keywords, title tags, and other SEO information. But, while all that is great and you should concern yourself with it, it’s more important to be concerned first with being human. Write like you talk; talk without memorizing. Focus first on your audience and what they want before you worry about what search engines want.
- Invoke Some Humor – You know your audience best, so keep that in mind as you add humor. But, everyone likes to laugh. It will make the stories a lot more interesting. Even with serious topics, a small laugh can reduce stress and connect you with your audience in a new way.
- Know What Tone to Use – The tone of your stories will be informed by the knowledge you have of your audience, as well as your understanding of your brand. Brands all have a tone or a voice. Look at social media networks. Facebook has a different tone than Twitter and different from YouTube. Understanding this will be helpful as you tell your stories.
- Know Your Values – Every business carries the values of their creator and their customers with them. It’s important to know your own values so that you can ensure that your business stands for those values. If you stand for something important that can be weaved into your story, move your audience toward action, and make your business appear more real, then show it.
- Be Yourself – Don’t try to put on a false persona as you create story content for your brand. It’s important that you are simply yourself. The more you can humanize your business to your audience, the better.
- Be Relatable – If you’ve done the work to study your audience, you’ll know just the right words to use to best relate to them. If it helps, post a picture of one of your clients with a few facts about them spelled out, so that you can write all your content toward that client without naming them.
- Inspire Your Audience – As you craft your story, find ways to be an inspiration to your audience. If customers have overcome something, explain it. If you’ve used your own products or services and done something awesome, say so.
- Listen and Engage with Your Audience – It’s more than likely that your audience will want to comment on your stories or ask questions. Therefore, you need to listen to what they’re saying and respond in a timely manner. Engaging about the stories is an important part of telling the stories.
The fact is, your stories are true business assets that you can collect, curate, and share in many ways. You can share them via social media, in blog posts, advertising, and more. In fact, in every piece of content you create – whether it’s video, images, live talks, or something else, you can include bits and pieces of your brand story which naturally includes the stories of your clients and customers. It’s the best way to get the word out about your brand.
What Makes a Good Story?
The first question you probably have is, “What makes a good story?” Well, all stories have a beginning, middle and end. In English class when you were in school, you learned about this, but you likely haven’t thought much about it since. A complete story has an opening scene, crises, tension, climax, closure, and conclusion.
- Context or Opening Scene – You have to set up your stories with some background and explanation of what is happening. Explain the problem carefully using words that pull at the heartstrings of your audience and makes them want to act.
- Crises, Conflict or Problem – If there is no problem, you have no customers. Describe the problem in full detail in your storytelling. Craft the story so that your audience relates and feels the experience of the people in the story.
- Climax or Turning Point – This is usually the most exciting part of your story, where your feet meet the pavement. The solution to the problem has been found. It’s a eureka moment that comes along to make a huge difference.
- Closure – This is the part of the story where you tie up all loose ends and where all problems have been solved. Explain to your audience exactly the problems solved and where things go from here.
- Conclusion – Finally, you want to wrap up the story showing how everything has been resolved using your solution. This is the happy ending where all the customers have experienced success using your solution, and a good place for a call to action (CTA) to those digesting the information.
Even though the stories you are telling are real-life stories, they should still follow this basic structure. If you use this structure, your stories will come alive and feel more natural because they’ll have a beginning, middle and end. Let’s look at some different ways that you can incorporate storytelling into all the content you create.
Tell Your Customers’ Stories
The story of your business has more to do with your customers’ experiences than it does with you. Whenever you can, weave testimonials throughout all your content and message. The fact is, your customers will relate so much better to real people than to a faceless business entity. That’s why real testimonials from real people will help tell your story in multiple forums.
The best way to tell your customers’ story is to collect testimonials. Make it a habit of following up with customers with a survey, an open-ended question, or even a phone call. You want to find ways to get your customers to tell you what life was like prior to using your product or service, and how it helped them.
Use Random Customer Facts
An interesting way to incorporate your customers’ stories into your marketing efforts is to collect random facts about your customers to share in quote format with your audience. For example, “Did you know that 9 out of 10 of our customers like to donate to causes that matter to them?” You can find out random facts with surveys, polls, and analytics.
In any article, blog post, or social media update that you make, you can quote your customers. One idea: Make graphics with your customers’ comments about your products and/or services, and include a picture of them. Then share these on social media, on your website under “client profiles”, and even in paid ads.
Host a Facebook Live event where you interview a customer. You can call it a case study. You can ask the customer questions, but you can also allow the audience to ask them. You can take the recording and use parts of it for advertising and marketing later, thus repurposing the content you create.
Your customers’ stories will increase conversions and connect you in a better way to future customers or clients. People tend to trust people who are like them.
If you’ve done a good job targeting your audience, your current customers’ stories will make a huge impact on them. Seeing the proof in your customers’ stories will make them feel connected to you in a new way. They’ll trust you more, like you more, and even feel as if they know you better. All the keys to success.
Tell Your Brand Story via Social Media
You can use a lot of tools of the trade that enable you to tell your story via social media. Software like Hootsuite.com can help you schedule the information you want to pass on to your audience in an organized and planned manner. Use these tips to ensure that you get the most from social media.
Choose a Face for Your Brand
Yes, you’ve spent a lot of money on logos, banners, images, colors, fonts and so forth, building what you thought was your brand. But the truth is, people make up your brand. It could be you as your brand, or it could be a series of customers that make up your brand. Putting a face to the brand will make you more accessible to your audience.
Use Each Network Fully
Whatever network you’re going to use for your brand, learn to use it fully or hire someone who knows what they’re doing. For example, on Facebook, you can go to your status window, click Offer, Event, then click Add Milestone to Your Page to start adding in the different milestones for your business. Then when people look at your page and profile, they’ll see your story in chronological order. Each social network has its own secrets that you’ll need to learn.
Curate Appropriate Content
You don’t have to create all of the content that tells your brand’s story. You can collect blog posts, articles, white papers, and more from other people who have experience with your solution or with your problem, to share with your audience. You don’t have to create all the content yourself.
Use Branded Imagery
Even though the images you create aren’t everything, they are important. You want all images watermarked, and when possible you want them to link back to your website or blog. You want people to make no mistake that it’s your business and your brand, no matter which social network they’re reading your story on.
Putting your brand on images isn’t difficult today. You can do it with native software already on your computer. But, you can also use software like Canva.com, or you can hire a graphic designer to help you.
LinkedIn and other social networks allow you to add video to your profile. Did you know you can even use a video for your picture with your profile on Facebook? Video is a great way to tell a story fast in a way that feels more personal. Keep these videos shorter than three minutes at the most.
Tell the story of how you started your business, what keeps you doing it every day, your accomplishments and failures. Share with your audience about people who inspire you, and even what goes on behind the scenes. You’ll make your audience feel special, and your customers will feel like VIPs.
Tell Your Personal Story
While your customers really do care more about how everything affects them, it’s also important to tell your story. But, remember to do it from their perspective. What do they want to know that will make them trust you more? What can you say to them in relation to your business that makes them want to spend money with you?
You can build amazing relationships with your audience by explaining to them about why you founded your business. But, you can go even deeper by revealing some important personal facts about yourself too. This is especially true if your business is more of a one-on-one type of business such as a business coach, a counselor, a consultant, a service provider or some other type of business where one-on-one work is done.
Share Your Family
Depending on your business, this may or may not be appropriate. Of course, you need to be sure that your family is okay with this approach, but most of the time all you need to share is a picture of you on vacation with your family, or a picture of your daughter’s school work.
Share Your Plans
You don’t have to go into detail, but you can hint about and discuss some of your plans to do with your business, and also to do with your home life. For example, if you’re moving to another country near a beach or in the mountains due to your business success, this is important information that will surprise and delight your audience.
Tell Them about Your Values
Share your principles and ethics as often as you can. You can do that by simply sharing situations that happen to you and how you deal with them on social media. Try adding a selfie or two to the mix to connect even more with your audience.
Share Your Passions
If you volunteer or have a passion, even if it has nothing to do with your business, consider sharing it on social media. Again, include some pictures and selfies of you doing the things that you love to do. It will humanize you to your audience.
Share Things You Learn
This is a powerful way to connect with your audience. Especially if you can relate what you’ve learned to your business, and how the things you’ve learned will help you with creating products and services for them that solve their problems. Showing them that you’re on their side and that you understand them through the things you’ve learned, will go far to helping them become fond of you.
You can go as deep as you want when you share your personal story, but do try to find ways to relate it to your business in some way. Of course, it doesn’t always need to be directly related if you’re a coach, consultant or another type of business that works one-on-one with others. But, find a way to tie things together so that it all makes sense.
They’ll love seeing pictures of your fur babies or your human babies and love knowing about your life. The most important thing to remember when sharing your own personal story is to be authentically you, but find a way to connect each thing you say with your brand and your business.
Share Stories about Your Vision
Even though you have a successful business now, sharing your vision and what you see in your future will be comforting to your audience and your customers. It will signify that you plan to be around a long time and that you’re someone they can trust.
With your vision in mind, you can share with your audience the things you plan to change or improve about your business, in a way that makes them feel like it’s all for them. Plus, the more you can share stories that show exactly what makes your business special and the right one to work with, the more your audience will convert to customers.
When you can also explain how your vision matches your values and the values, hopes, dreams and needs of your audience, you’ll have a winning story that gets results. These types of stories will help your audience realize how worthy your business is of their patronage. Plus, hinting about new products or services is a great way to build buzz among your audience and customers.
Learn Storytelling Techniques
We talked a little bit about how a story works. It has a beginning, middle, and end. Is your story a hero’s journey, a rags-to-riches story, or some other kind of story? Using one of these techniques will help you navigate the story in an organized way.
- Persuasion – When you think about it, regardless of what type of content you’re producing when it comes to stories, they are supposed to be persuasive to your audience. The stories are supposed to be a way to help your audience connect to you in a new way so that they make a purchase decision.
- One-on-One – Even when you are telling a story that you know a lot of people will see, you should approach each story as if you’re telling it one-on-one to one member of your audience. Even if you’re giving a speech to a room of 1000, approach it like this and your talk will be that much more persuasive and effective.
- Use Different Archetypes – We talked briefly about different approaches such as the hero’s journey and rags-to-riches stories, but depending on your business model you might be able to use fighting evil, the journey, voyage, and return, or perhaps even tragedy and overcoming.
- Create Suspense – Keep your audience on the edge of their seats by developing your stories with some measure of suspense. You can tease new stories, especially if you decide to do a live webinar with a case study. You can hint at what will be included, and get your audience begging for more.
- Show Don’t Tell – This is another thing your 9th grade English teacher probably told you. You want to be careful that you’re not talking “at” your audience. Bring them into your world. Show them visually, and with words that excite the imagination. Construct everything you say in real time, with each scene that is happening and that will happen being treated with equal importance.
- Remember the Climax – Your audience will be very disappointed in any story you tell if you forget to build up to the climax of the story that will lead to everything working out great. It’s an important element, because the drama adds to what your audience will remember. Use statistics and facts to really drive home your point.
- Remember the Takeaway – Ending each story with a positive takeaway is an important aspect of storytelling. The power of storytelling lies in the lessons learned once the content is consumed. It’s not just about the information; it’s about the actions that people take after consuming the information.
The truth is, humans are all geared toward learning best from stories. That’s why there are so many books, TV shows and presentations that rely on storytelling to capture their audience’s attention, persuade them, and then get the desired results.
Digital Tools to Help Make It Faster and Easier
No matter what type of business you have, storytelling will expand knowledge of your brand, humanize your business and intrigue your audience. But, you probably are thinking right now about what a lot of work doing this is. But, the truth is, much of this can be automated.
Set up your autoresponder to send every customer a survey or questionnaire on November 1st of every single year. That way you won’t have to remember. If you’ve connected your shopping cart to your autoresponder, it makes everything easy. A few good ones to try are Drip, AWeber, and ConvertKit.
You can, of course, use Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, YouTube, and even Skype to do your interviews, but one of the best bits of software to use is Zoom.us. Zoom makes it simple to get a good video, plus it has a lot of other interesting features to help you tell your story better.
The BlueJeans software allows you to turn Facebook Live into an interviewing and webinar platform. You can make it look a little bit like the old Google Hangouts on Air and have more control over Facebook Live using this platform. You can make your Facebook Live have a double screen so that viewers can see you both at the same time.
A good way to share stories is verbally. If you don’t want to appear on camera, you can do a podcast instead. There is a lot of software you can use for podcasting such as FreeConferenceCall.com or Audacity to record. Once recorded, you can repurpose the story into a text document, a blog post, quotes for Facebook posts, and memes.
This is bar none the best website builder out there. You can use free templates or you can use premium templates like StudioPress.com to build your site. Plus, there are many free and premium plugins for WordPress that can extend the functionality of your website.
There are numerous examples of survey-taking software out there, such as Zoho Survey, SurveyGizmo, and SurveyMonkey. This will make it simple for you to conduct surveys and use the data you collect. You can also use Google Drive’s Forms to create a questionnaire and survey completely free that will work just fine too.
You can create landing pages easily using WordPress, but there are other ways to do it that are faster. A template-driven system like ClickFunnels, Leadpages.net, or Instapage are all good choices to create high converting landing pages (and sales pages).
Your brand is really the feeling your business evokes with your customers and audience. If it’s hard for you to keep things in order, try using mind mapping software like Bubbl.us or iMindMap. If you don’t want to hire a graphic designer (or can’t), you can use Canva.com to help you build out the visuals of your brand – including banners, eBook covers, social media covers, memes and more.
Some people can visualize the stories they want to tell better when using storyboard software. A good one to try is Storyboard That. Teams can even work on one story together with their collaboration features.
There is a lot of project management software on the market today, but two have got it right out of the gate. They are Asana.com and Basecamp.com. Both work well to help you keep everything working smoothly.
Try these tools to help you create amazing stories for your audience. The more you can share your stories, the more you’ll connect with your audience. And the more you connect with your audience, the more likely they are to trust you and eventually purchase from you.
Getting Started with Storytelling
Now that we’ve covered why storytelling is so important for a business, you probably want to get started. You likely have a lot more information available than you may think to get started right now, incorporating storytelling into everything you do. Telling the story of your brand helps your personality shine, builds relationships with your audience, and keeps your audience coming back for more.
Send a Survey to Your Clients Every December
We briefly mentioned this earlier. Each year in November or December, make it a habit of sending out a mailing to your customers that include a survey that has at least one open-ended question, so that you can collect their stories and testimonials.
Also, send a survey to your audience that hasn’t purchased from you to find out why they’re on your list, what they hope to learn from you, and the one thing that keeps them up at night. Try to keep it to about three questions so that it’s short and sweet.
In both cases keep the survey short, allow for open-ended answers, and provide an incentive for quick responses which will help you get more answers. Remember to include a release box for them to check that gives you permission to use their story.
Pick the Top Three to Five Stories to Share
For the customer group, choose the top three stories to share with your audience throughout the year. Set up an appointment with them to interview them on video. To make interviewing easy, you can use software like Zoom.us or you can use Facebook Live if you have the right Facebook Live add-ons.
Write questions for the customers and allow them to submit questions they’d like to answer. Then, perform the event live. This can be called interviews, case studies, customer profiles, or whatever you want to call it to make sure your audience understands what you’re doing.
Have them each write a customer profile, submit a headshot, and give you links back to their websites or business information. Set up the interview, set the date, and go forth with it live. Then have it transcribed, created into an entire page on your site about this client, along with their video from the interview.
Depending on how many customers you can choose for this, spread the information out throughout the year. Ask them to also share with their friends, family, and audience. Incorporate parts of the story, and important quotes or takeaways in other materials too – such as blog posts, social media updates, email marketing messages, and even paid advertisements.
Create Client Profiles
While mentioned above, let’s get into more detail about client profiles. Even if you’re a small business, having client profiles included on your website is a great way to help spread your message.
When people visit your website, and see pictures of successful clients, links back to their websites, blogs, or work (depending on your niche and what they do), your audience who hasn’t purchased yet is going to automatically trust you more due to the real people who are backing you up.
Make the profiles attractive with headshots, the customers’ logos if relevant, and include their story in text, video, and images. You can even add to it by including links to the product or service the customer used to get the results they got. Add your own thoughts if you want to; praise the customer for their contribution to their own success when applicable.
Tell Your Brand Story along with Client Stories
Now that you have these client stories, you can use bits and pieces of them to add to your brand story. Express how proud and humbled you are by your customers’ success. For example, if you are not just a promoter of your products or service but a user too, you can connect your customers’ experiences to yours.
Be More Relatable
Your stories will help people understand how you relate to your customers. It will help your audience realize that you’re the go-to person for this product or service. Plus, that you understand them.
Connect with Your Audience
Through the stories, they’ll feel connected to you in a new way. You can capitalize on the interviews, customer profiles, and the questions and answers that arise out of them, thereby getting closer to your audience.
Weave your brand story throughout everything you do. That way you’ll drive home how important your experience is, and how your solutions are the answer to their problems. Because it’s all about their problems and your solutions.
When they see the clients’ stories along with your story, it will give them the enormous confidence to make the right decision – which you know is a choice to convert, buy, like, share, comment and so forth.
Make Your Customer the Star of Your Stories
Conversely, you can make the customer the star of your stories. Part of the art of persuasion is to know how to get people to do what you want them to do. One way to do that is to tell the stories of people in your audience who have experienced success using your product or service.
Collect customer photos, snippets of stories, examples of success, and stories of their personal lives. Make them feel super-special. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work. Instead of conducting an interview, you can put out a call to your customers to submit stories, videos, pictures of them using your product or describing what your service did for them.
Curate the content that they send, then make them the star. Find ways to incorporate their stories on each platform that you use, such as social media, your website, and even physical products like books. If you collect enough stories, you can create an anthology that will likely sell quite well.
When you tell stories in your marketing, audience education and so forth, you’ll encourage engagement from your audience. People like stories. Humans are made to understand stories more than any other way of explaining concepts. Use stories in all aspects of your business to spread the message that your business stands for.