Research indicates that 78 percent of CMOs think content is the future of marketing. And two thirds of marketers think branded content is superior to PR, direct mail, and print advertising.
Woa! Looks like content is catching on like a wildfire, but producing content is not the problem; producing content that can make your audience stop and turn is the challenge.
Here’s where business storytelling comes to play – because well, who doesn’t like a good story?
In the fight for mindspace, business storytelling is a powerful weapon. Do it right and you may register yourself in your customer’s mindspace for a long, long time. Realizing this, many business have started to tap into business storytelling.
Remember – Facts tell, Stories sell.
The key to business storytelling is undeniably creativity; storytelling is an art after all, but then it is also a science because strategic storytelling is the key to converting your audience into customers.
Here, I have listed some ways you can do effective business storytelling and standout from others.
- Choose to tell the story of a comeback rather than a straightforward win.
People should leave with a sense of inspiration and admiration for your company after you are done talking. So, never choose to say something on the lines of ‘We won X prize this year for best service, and we signed contracts with 15 new companies…’
Instead tell them a story about how you failed first, learnt from that mistake and then made a comeback in a big way.
Think about speeches by famous people like Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, J.K.Rowling; they don’t count their victories in their stories, they count their failures and tell you how they chose to raise from these failures.
You must craft your business story in a similar fashion, if you want it to stand out from everyone else’s. When people give you their time, it is your job to make the most out of it, engage them and make it worth their time.
Keep these in mind:
- Choose a story where you turned a disgruntled and an unhappy customer into your most loyal customer now, rather than telling them how many new customers you land every day.
- Choose to tell the story of how you took a terrible decision and the valuable lessons you got to learn from that, rather than a glorious and unnaturally perfect account of yourself.
- Choose to tell the story of the struggles you had to face to turn your business into a success, rather than quoting your annual profits.
- Use statistics in a subtle fashion, don’t overdo it
If you don’t already know, stories are the most powerful way to cut through the clutter and pierce right into your customer’s mind.
Here’s why – stories are known to activate more parts of a listener’s brain than statistics (more about it here), hence the chances of your audience listening to you when you are telling a story is much higher than when you are quoting stats.
Many times, the story, and the narrative, is buried under a thick layer of statistics of victories like profits, market share etc. If you want to sweep your audience of their feet, please don’t throw your KPIs at them like most businesses do.
Instead, choose to tell a story and use a few real-time and simple stats to corroborate the story, so that your audience knows that you are not making up some non-existent miracle.
Remember, stats should only act as the proof of your message and not the crux of your message.
- Do away with exaggerations and romantics
True, I did say that your story has to be engaging and interesting to capture your consumer’s attention in the previous points, but it doesn’t mean you should forget that you are telling a business story and not script-writing for a movie.
Unnecessary exaggeration, uncalled for romanticism, and crazy plot twists are a no-no. Businesses should not sell fluff, it will add no value and many times will backfire on you. Remember, your audience won’t be a bunch of teenagers!
Choose to keep your stories simple and precise, yet powerful.
Key points to remember:
- Choose an engaging story, but keep the storytelling simple and elegant.
- Maintain a clear order and flow; for example, make it chronological.
- Don’t include your speculations and personal introspections in these stories, unless you have a reason to.
- A business story is not a business catalogue – no information overload please
Did you know that an average person views approximately 5000 marketing messages per day? (source). Quite a lot to process, surely!
What will happen if you do an information dump, instead of crafting a simple marketing message? You will be pushed into the abyss of nonsense (not exaggerating!)
Figure out the necessary, and only the necessary, details you need to tell your consumers and fit them neatly into your story, so that you are delivering just the necessary amount of information to get your audience hooked and not overloading them.
When you put enough effort to craft a neat, crisp and a compact story with enough information, you will stand out significantly from others who don’t bother to do so.
Points to remember:
- No technical lingo.
- Turn the product details into interesting, and cool features.
- Simplify everything into a common man’s language – follow the problem-explanation-solution structure in your storytelling.
- Follow the 7 : 1 ratio
This simple rule is to make sure that you don’t oversell yourself and turn your business story into a too-obvious sales pitch. People can smell a sales pitch from a mile away and once they realize that, they are not going to pay attention to anything you have to say.
At Hiver, when we craft our business stories, just like the 1/3rd rule of photography, we follow the 1/7th rule of self-promotion i.e in the content for every 7 key points one point would be a sales point like – ours is one of the best tools out there, or here is an analysis of our product with our competition, or any other typical sales line.
This helps us ensure that we are neither overselling, nor underselling our product; it also ensures that we do subtle and elegant self-promotion, without beating our own drums.
“Tell me a fact and I will learn, Tell me the truth and I’ll believe, but tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever!” – Indian proverb.
About the Author – Niraj Ranjan Rout
Niraj is the founder of Hiver (hiverhq.com), an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool.