May 06, 2023

Master business storytelling: Captivate and convert your audience

Stories breathe life into your business, forging deeper connections with audiences and clients while making your message unforgettable.

Expertly crafted stories sway decisions, spark action, and drive conversions.

However, many businesses fail to leverage the power of storytelling. They stick to presenting facts, figures, and features while neglecting the emotional connection that a well-told story can foster.

Why is this?

Many business owners don't fully grasp storytelling or how to employ it effectively. They underestimate its potential and miss out on the benefits.

Some common misconceptions they have are:

  • Storytelling is just for entertainment.
  • Their product, service, or industry is "too boring" for stories.
  • Uncertainty about how to incorporate storytelling into their existing marketing efforts.
  • Concerns about authenticity or appearing as though they are trying too hard

Well, I'm here to tell you that you can overcome those misconceptions and become your business's expert storyteller.

Here's how step by step.

Step 1: Understand What Storytelling is and Why It's Important

Storytelling is the art of conveying messages through narratives. In business, it's not about spinning tall tales, but about sharing your brand's story, values, and mission in a way that resonates with your audience.

Why does this matter?

Because as Roger C. Schank says, "Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories."

Storytelling allows you to make your audience feel something. Every good story charts a change in the conditions, attitudes, actions, or feelings of the characters. You should always keep this in mind when writing stories about your business.

Step 2: Define Your Core Narrative

Your core narrative serves as the backbone of your business storytelling. It's the overarching messaging that informs all your other stories.

Common pitfalls here include not having a straightforward narrative or having one that doesn't align with your brand values or audience expectations.

Take TOMS Shoes as an example. Their core narrative is centered around giving. For every pair of shoes sold, they donate a pair to a child in need.

This straightforward, powerful narrative drives all their storytelling efforts and aligns perfectly with their brand and audience.

Step 3: Learn to Embrace Conflict

Businesses often shy away from conflict, but conflict is often the engine of a compelling story. It creates tension, arouses curiosity, and propels the narrative forward.

In your business story, the conflict could be a challenge your company had to overcome, a problem your product solves, or even a controversial stance your brand takes.

Embracing conflict will keep your audience engaged and invested in the resolution.

Step 4: Show, Don't Tell

One of the golden rules of storytelling is to show, not tell. Instead of simply telling your audience about your brand's qualities, show them through stories.

For example, if your brand prides itself on exceptional customer service, rather than saying, "We have excellent customer service," share a story about a time your team went above and beyond for a customer.

This proves your claim and makes it more memorable and impactful.

Step 5: Make Your Customer the Hero

In your business stories, your customer should always be the hero. Your brand plays the role of the mentor, guiding the hero toward their goal.

Why is this important?

Because people are naturally self-interested. We're drawn to stories where we can envision ourselves as the hero, overcoming challenges and achieving our goals.

By making your customer the hero, you're crafting a directly relevant narrative that appeals to your audience.

Consider the classic "before-and-after" stories used in weight loss marketing. The customer is the hero who transforms their life, while the brand is the mentor that provides the tools and guidance for their journey.

There's a reason this technique is still used (with effectiveness) to this day.

Step 6: Keep It Authentic

Authenticity is vital in business storytelling. Your stories need to be true, relatable, and aligned with your brand's identity.

Authentic stories resonate more deeply with audiences and build trust in your brand.

Don't fall into the trap of creating a grand, over-the-top narrative that feels disconnected from reality.

If you don't take anything else away from this article, remember that the most potent stories often lie in the everyday, human moments your audience can relate to.

Additional reading and resources

If you're interested in learning more about storytelling in business, here are a few books I've read over the years to enhance my understanding of how story drives narrative, growth, and sales in business.

  • "The Storytelling Edge" by Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow A comprehensive guide on how to transform your business with the power of storytelling.
  • "Building a StoryBrand" by Donald Miller Clarify your message and create a compelling brand story that engages customers.
  • "Made to Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath Learn why some ideas thrive while others die and learn how to craft messages that stick.

Wrapping up

When you break it down to first principles, storytelling is simply a technique for guiding your audience through a series of steps toward an outcome.

In business, storytelling is not just a skill; it's an art. Sure, you need to continuously refine and adapt your storytelling techniques to meet your audience's changing needs and expectations. But like any art, storytelling can be mastered with practice, understanding, and creativity.