By Rachell Newburn

Everyone loves a story; we’re hardwired to engage with a moving story and to crave the resolution of conflict within it. Yet, time and time again, marketers rely on telling their customers that their company is “the best” or “the biggest” or “the greatest.” These words fail to engage people. Customers can truly connect with a company through a story that embraces conflict, demonstrates vulnerability and admits to setbacks and flaws.

A story is not a list of capabilities. It’s not a list of accolades.

It’s not wrapped in corporate lingo. Even most mission statements and company histories fail to tell a compelling story. The key to a good story is to highlight the hero. Heroes are flawed and vulnerable, which make them relatable to everyone. Mythologist Joseph Campbell once determined that we have been telling one story over and over again since the beginning of time. Stories start with an ordinary person in an extraordinary circumstance. The hero usually resists, gets help from a mentor and faces numerous setbacks along the way. When the hero eventually reaches his goal, he comes back to being an ordinary person.

This hero’s journey applies to business stories too.

Your customers want to hear about why you started your business and the painstaking steps it took to reach success. Nobody necessarily cares about your business, but they care about you. So show them — don’t tell them — through the power of storytelling.

Before you do anything in your business, you need to write your story.

Your story will help you define your mission, define corporate culture, give you a market edge, boost sales/leads, and strengthen loyalty. Keep in mind that there’s no one way to tell your story. It can be accomplished through:

  • Narrative: Tell why you started your business and what you are trying to achieve
  • History/Founding stories: Why do you run your business differently than your competitors?
  • Case Studies
  • Happy Client Stories
  • Vignettes
  • Crisis Communications

Every aspect of your business will benefit from storytelling. It’s in every conversation you have, and it will drive your web page, social media, multimedia, public relations, customer service, fundraising and community involvement. Franz knows storytelling works, but recognizes that it is hard to pivot to it when everyone else is engaging in traditional marketing and PR.

Here’s how to get started in creating your story.

1. Conduct a storytelling analysis of your materials and efforts.
Take a hard look at them and determine how much of it is storytelling and how much is traditional marketing.

2. Stage a story gathering initiative.
Gather your employees and ask them: Why are you here? What drew you to this business? What are we hoping to accomplish? What are you seeing out in the field? What are our clients saying about our product? Often, the best stories will come from the most unlikely person. Start gathering your stories and explore the ones that speak to you.

3. Write a narrative like your company is a book.
Start with the hero/conflict idea. What’s the hero trying to do? What are the setbacks? What are the successes? Where do we want to see that hero end up? What’s the final chapter for your business?

4. Formulate a plan about how to use your story.
Will it be told through a social media campaign? Or other marketing channels?

5. Test it out.
Start with your founders, then move on to employees, customers, and the public. See what resonates with these groups.

The goal of these exercises is to get comfortable with the storytelling process. Try it on for size; you’ll like the fit.

Many thanks to Franz Wisner of the Bestsellers Group for leading our January Biz Ed. Franz’s presentation taught attendees to overcome meaningless marketing jargon and instead focus on storytelling as a way to connect with and inspire customers. This article is based on Franz’s presentation.

Anderson Burton Construction

"Through the managed growth process that we learned through Collaboration, we were able to grow our business from a $500,000/year company to a $13+ million/year company." - Joni Anderson, President of Anderson Burton Construction

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