As an entrepreneur, we hear it all the time: You need to use stories to engage your audience.
But how do you make sure you and your company tells the stories that connect and engage with your audience? Well, it starts with understanding how storytelling works.
Stories sell because as humans, our brains are hardwired to recognize stories as a pattern just like we recognize colors, numbers or shapes.
Psychologists Melanie Green and Tim Brock have performed extensive research on storytelling and have found that any time we enter a fictional world via a story it “radically alters the way information is processed.” Stories help to shorten the level of effort required by our audience to arrive at a decision.
With so many stories being told, as marketers and business owners, we need to tell better stories. To capture attention amid the endless feed of quizzes and cat memes, we need to come up with a variety of stories that connect with our audience and do more than just tell our founding or “I quit my job” story.
1. Demonstrate you get it.
Every product or solution was created to solve a problem that either we ourselves were having or one experienced by our customers. Sharing that story of how things came to be can be extremely compelling as your customers can see themselves in your shoes.
Stories that tap into the customer’s key pain points or challenges help to say “hey, we’re just like you” and level the playing field. For instance, Hard Rock Cafe’s founding story of how Americans Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton opened their first restaurant after not being able to find a U.S. style burger is something most people can identify with.
2. Showcase the everyday heroes.
Everyone loves a hero. That’s why the bulk of fiction novels and movies today rely on “the hero’s journey” to tell their story. While effective, the hero’s journey shouldn’t be about your company, but instead, flipped around to focus on your customers.
Highlighting your customer’s successes with your product or service helps to break down objections and boost your credibility. Instead of you telling the story, make your customers the everyday hero.
Adidas’ #mygirls campaign was a great example of showcasing the everyday hero, in this case, girls and women who are into sports. The campaign drove home compelling messages around being active and self-esteem while clearly articulating that Adidas supports all athletes.
3. Give the inside scoop.
Stories should help to make you and your company more likable and human, which is why giving the inside scoop is so effective. Sharing stories that are unexpected about business failures, challenges or even design processes helps to create interest through transparency.
Anyone can tell a story, but not everyone is willing to pull back the curtain and share the good, the bad and possibly even the ugly. Look at how you can create that feeling of intimacy with your audience with insider details.
This is likely why the podcast Startup, which chronicles ex-NPR producer Alex Blumberg’s journey of creating a podcast network is one of the top-rated business podcasts. It provides an inside look at what it takes to get a startup off the ground with candor and honesty.
4. Demonstrate values and character.
Your company is built on a set of core values and a mission, but it’s easy to forget these things when it comes to storytelling. Instead of playing it safe, share stories that take a stand on what you know to be true or practices in your industry that you feel need to change.
Taking a stand doesn’t meant the company has to be controversial, but it does mean you need to authentically stand for something. Putting your stake in the ground only counts if it is true and isn’t the product of a publicity stunt. Stories may sell, but consumers are savvy enough to know when something isn’t quite right.
There are plentiful examples of companies that put their values first and make that very clear in their storytelling – from Apple to TOMS and Zappos. With each of these companies you know exactly where they stand, and I’m willing to bet you know at least one or more of their stories.
Stories are a powerful tool for creating connection with your audience and helping to sell your products or services using an emotional appeal. For your stories to stand out, you need to do more than tell the same tired or clichéd stories as your competitors. After all, a great story will beat a boring white paper, PowerPoint or press release any day, so use them wisely.