I have met people at events who have asked about my business name, Story Gem. ‘Why stories?’ they ask. It’s time I wrote a post to address this question. In February, we will concentrate on the theme of your story and why it should play a key part in your marketing strategy. So, if you aren’t sold on the power of storytelling in your business, or simply don’t know too much about it, then this one’s for you!
I’d like to kick this post off with a little side note about my own passion for stories. As many of you know, I began my career in the theatre industry where I worked as a Stage Manager for almost 10 years. I remember going to see my first real show when I was 16 years old. I was brought to The Point Depot, now the 3 Arena, to see The Phantom of the Opera for my birthday. There were more lights than I could count hanging over our heads. There were very fancy looking individuals wearing full tuxedos at the bar during the interval and that’s to say nothing of the spectacle onstage! I was transfixed.
One scene that particularly struck me was when the cast rowed across the stage in a gondola going down to an eerie underworld. I couldn’t get over how believable it all seemed. Theatre brings stories to life onstage in an incredible way. I have lots of memories of that one evening, now many years ago, simply because the story was brought to life for me so vividly.
Some years later, I was working on a play at a Dublin theatre which I found particularly moving. Although it was a long run, every evening at the climax of the final scene I made sure I had some time to truly listen to the lines from backstage. Every night the same lines touched something deep inside me and I had to stop still and let it wash over me.
From the Stage to the Page
Now, I’ve returned to the role of audience member, but my passion for stories is still alive and well. The thing is that great stories are not only found in books or on the stage and screen. The great Irish short-story writer, William Trevor, once said that he found ‘the un-heroic side of people much richer and more entertaining than black-and-white success’. Your small business can be a rich source of incredible stories that help your audience connect to you. You do not have to be a gigantic ‘hero’ type business to have something important to say. Everyday lives have always interested people, keep this in mind when writing about your business.
How Stories Work in Business
You may be thinking, ‘stories are all well and good for entertainment, but this is my business’. ‘It’s my livelihood and I need to rely on more credible strategies than giving people a laugh’. Sure, I completely agree with you. Your business does need to more than entertain, but stories are not only for entertainment.
The reason why storytelling is such a potent resource in marketing is because it works on the basis of emotion. Emotion resonates with us all as human beings on a visceral level. In turn, this builds strong relationships, trust and memories. These are three key ingredients in ensuring that your audience, or customer base gets to know you, like you and remember you – which results in more sales over a sustained period of time.
Creating Common Ground
The other element of stories is that they allow your audience to identify common ground with you. When you tell a story that allows people to say ‘I know what that’s like’ you have suddenly crossed the line between brand and customer, you are now operating on the human level – from one person to another. And that’s where we really ‘get’ each other.
You’re in Control
Not too long ago advertising spend controlled whose stories got covered in the media. If you were a small fish in a big pond, then getting your story out there was next to impossible. Thankfully, each of us have an array of platforms at our disposal to directly connect with the people who matter to us and advertising spend doesn’t need to factor into the equation.
As business owners and marketers, we now have the opportunity to choose how often we connect with our audience and in what way we do so. Given that people hate being sold to and bragged at about products and services, now is the perfect time to utilise storytelling, a medium which has been around for thousands of years, to build lasting relationships with our audience on our own terms.
What This Means for You
You get to choose what your story is, how you tell it and where. Isn’t it nice to have that level of control about how your brand message gets out there? But, as always in life, with privilege comes responsibility. It’s nice to have the freedom, but the onus is on us as business owners to make sure we get it right.
To do so, spend some time thinking – and brainstorming- story ideas that are relevant for your audience. At the end of the day, it always comes back to them. You could spin yarns all day long, but if they’re not relevant to the product or service you’re offering and how that can help people, it won’t hit the spot.
Get clear on what your brand story is. Who are you? What is your business about? We will explore these topics in more detail next week, so stay tuned for that.
Let your personality shine through! Again, storytelling brings us down to the human level. When you’re telling an engaging story you’re no longer a top executive in a suit, you’re the guy in the story who got sun-stroke while practicing yoga for the first time in India, maybe… Use language that is familiar to you, speak from the heart and don’t be afraid to let your audience glimpse your fragility. We’re all human after all. This personality which makes you unique, helps give your brand its uniqueness. Think of Richard Branson and how his personality lines up with the brand personality of Virgin.
Storytelling has been around since the earliest days of human existence. Our brains are wired to love stories. For me, it’s a no-brainer, storytelling can definitely raise your game in business and should be a key part of your marketing mix.