Storytelling for sales is all the rage in marketing these days. Companies from Under Armour to Lego are leveraging humans’ natural affinity for stories to build their brands, sell products, and become household names.
And smaller companies, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs are tapping into the power of well-told narratives as well. (Face it: We all read Ryan’s daily emails as much to find out how he did in his last tennis match, as we do to glean his golden nuggets of business advice!)
But not all stories are created equal. And just “telling stories” isn’t going to help you build the brand and business you dream of. Your stories must be carefully curated to create the results you want.
Here are five tips to help you create, choose, and implement the right stories for your business:
Tip #1: Know what you’re selling. Stories come in different flavors. Some are fables with embedded lessons that can rival Aesop; others are purely meant to entertain or to inspire. There are lots of different possibilities, but each has a different result. You need to align that result with your business objective.
Tip #2: Don’t be a one-hit wonder. I spoke recently with Dr. Adrian McIntyre, a cultural anthropologist and storytelling consultant who works with entrepreneurs, small business owners, and corporate teams to develop high-performance communication and business storytelling.
We talked about how to use stories powerfully, and he stressed that you can’t just have one story that you tell over and over to the same audience. Treating your story as the verbal version of your logo isn’t going to get you far, says Dr. McIntyre.
Stories should be dynamic, and should change depending on the goal and the audience you’re sharing them with.
Tip #3: Don’t always be the hero. There’s a temptation for business owners to tell stories that put us in a good light. But one of the best ways to connect with your audience is to put other people in the limelight.
Share case studies and success stories that paint your clients and customers — or even a perceived competitor — as the knight in shining armor or vanquisher. By sharing others’ stories, you become a curator of great content, which contributes to your authority.
Tip #4: Avoid telling stories just for the sake of telling stories. Too many people share indiscriminately. You post what you had for lunch, the fight you and your significant other got into, your latest obsession with pork rinds… but to what end?
Know why you’re sharing, particularly if it’s a private or personal story, and make sure it fits your brand and objectives.
Tip #5: Make sure your story is properly aged. It is possible to share an experience before you’ve fully extracted meaning from it. Sharing tough times or hard events can be a great way to connect with your followers, but if you’re still in the midst of the valley of darkness, you may want to hold off.
Dr. McIntyre says that there must be a takeaway — a lesson learned, a change you experienced, a new realization… something that redeems the tale and turns it from “train wreck” into value for listeners.
A whole industry has sprung up around using stories strategically. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on “intensives” for experts to help you mine your past for stories. And if you’re a seven-figure brand, that might be your next step, but you don’t have to invest that much right away. Look around you for the stories you pay attention to, and then model what you’re doing accordingly.
Just as we’re hardwired to listen to stories, we’re hardwired to TELL them, too. And the best way to get better is to get started.
Lain Ehmann of #FastLain knows that Simplicity Sells. As a communication conversion strategist, she works with high-level entrepreneurs to create crystal-clear messaging and content that reaches their audience at the right time, in the right way.