business storytelling

Business Storytelling, as Marketing:

Business Storytelling takes courage. It asks you to step up and be unique, creative, and bold in a sea of advertising sameness.

Great businesses have been built upon storytelling

Great businesses storytelling has built great storytelling businesses – this isn’t a fad or a gimmick. It’s about pinpointing common truths and values that every human responds instinctively to and then we shine a light on those ideas and concepts. And when the story’s about your business – it’s about that dream, that desire, that inner pull that called you to action – to build a life doing something that you love to do.

Storytelling, as marketing

Storytelling, as marketing, is distinct from advertising because it encompasses so much more than a billboard or an ad or a coupon. Stories get into peoples’ heads and they stick. It’s something that we small business owners are really good at because we have interesting stories to tell. And people are interested in hearing them, right? You’re unique, you’re local. You’re a person in business doing cool stuff, not just some faceless company. And that is what makes for interesting stories.

Advertising isn’t dead

Advertising isn’t dead, it’s not evil, it is in fact, quite useful – think of all the jingles, the slogans, the corporate “mascots” that help you remember big brands. Those have their place. But they aren’t stories, they’re moments. They’re fun moments, sure, but anyone can outgrow a moment. Anyone can outgrow a jingle. And eventually – we no longer identify with a slogan.

Because advertising is not an experience.

Storytelling is an experience

Storytelling is an experience. People don’t outgrow stories, we love stories, because they’re part of the human condition. We’ve learned through stories for aeons. We’ve been writing down stories for generations ever since there was a written word. And before that we drew stick figures on the cave walls. Even at night when we go to sleep our brains are still telling us stories as we dream.

And when you understand the value that we place on a story, you start to understand that your business story, why you do what you do, and how your customers lives are better for it, is wonderful, engaging, and inspirational.

People are drawn to people like you

People are drawn to people like you, folks who are living and working their dreams. This is what’s meant by the term “attraction marketing”. You tell your story – share it online with your friends and customers – they in turn share it with their friends.

Now by doing that, they’re marketing for you, right? But more importantly, they’re vouching for you. Business storytelling plus the social media that makes it easily shareable equals very powerful marketing. Perfectly suited for small business. Because, the story itself resonates with customers on an emotional level and that attracts them to you and creates a deeper sense of loyalty.

As small business owners our stories are real

As small business owners our stories are real. We know our customers. This gives us a huge advantage over the mega-corporations who have to spend millions of dollars to invent stories. But since they do that, let’s take a quick 10,000 foot overview of those big business stories and then we’ll look at how that works even better for small business.

Companies Built on Stories

Let’s start with Walt Disney. Walt Disney built a company on nothing but stories. The Disney story reaches out and tells us, as children and as adults that “Anything is possible.”

George Lucas when he wrote “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” suddenly he was in a business based on a series of marvelous stories. Those stories resonated with millions of people –  all of us identifying with the hero’s journey of young Luke Skywalker.

Now, Hallmark makes commercials about love, family and human connection. Now these actually can make people cry because they’re done so well but they’re Commercials. And they tell a story that people recognize…that they see themselves in…that they feel.

A great one is DOVE’s Real Beauty Campaign. It celebrates real women – and the story told consumers “We think you’re beautiful just as you are.” Their products don’t make women beautiful – they don’t have to, because women are already beautiful. That’s an awesome advertising campaign.

Advertising, unfortunately, most often tells us what we don’t have – what we lack in our life:

You’re not pretty enough.

You’re not smart enough.

You don’t have the right clothes.

You don’t have good hair.

Your teeth aren’t white enough.

Your thighs are too fat.

Are you driving the right car?

Are you attractive enough?

Are you desirable enough?

I mean this is lunacy making and it’s intent is to scare us into buying their product. Ridiculous.

Storytelling? Business Storytelling reaches you intuitively. On many levels. Because a good story connects with you and makes you feel good about being human. It makes you feel good about your values, your interests. It makes you feel good about your life.

Social media, it’s not so much about the technology, right? It’s about the psychology and sociology of a tale well told. So, for now, let me leave you with 3 universal story plots out of many that will serve as idea starters for how you’ll tell your story.

Three Basic Business Stories

Now the first has gotta be the Hero’s Journey. You tell your audience the story of your journey, showing them how it started, the challenges that you had to work to overcome to build your business and then you share the wisdom that you’ve learned along the way. Indiana Jones, kind of a classic example of the Hero’s Journey.

Another one is Rags-to-Riches. This is a story about having it all, losing it all, and then sharing about how you fought to get it all back again. What’s important is that you create a successful business…again. And now you can offer advice and inspiration to others who need that. This story’s a little bit Cinderella, a little bit Great Expectations – good combination.

And the final one right now is Overcoming the Monster. You started out with the odds stacked against you. Maybe you had no money, no experience, you didn’t have a support system, BUT you believed in yourself, you believed in your dream, you believed in your business. Most importantly, you believed in your customers! So in this story you’ll tell how you overcame adversity and what life lessons you learned along the way and which ones you’re still learning and people love that. Think kind of David & Goliath and other stuff.

Many different business stories

So. There are many different stories. You’ll tell tons of stories – you’ll tell them from your point of view, from your customers’ point of view – you’ll tell stories about your employees. This’ll inform the type of stories you’ll tell – the ones we just talked about – Hero’s Journey, Rags-to-Riches, Overcoming the Monster and others. It also informed the medium that you choose for telling them on. In other words you might want to post your blog post on Facebook, put a video on YouTube, a series of custom created images that you’ll come up with for Twitter and Instagram. Anything and all of these things together in different combinations.

But as we go along, just let yourself loose, have some fun. We’re just telling stories. But telling stories, this is very, very important. It’s how small business will grow into the future. Keep our customers close, engaged and keep them referring us new business. So, my goal is to provide you with the tools, the knowledge and the inspiration to feel great about what you do and why you do it with everybody.

Of of the many stories you can tell, don’t forget to share the stories of your expertise and embrace video marketing to share those stories and increase your sales.

So. What’s your business? What’s your business story? How will you tell it?

I want you to be inspired. I want you to be fearless. I want you to go make your own magic and have a great time doing it.

Let’s do that!