Narrative – The Art of Storytelling for Business
What does this word evoke in you?
Books, arts, plays, movies… these are probably the foremost things that come to mind when people hear the words “story” or “storytelling”.
People haven’t realised though that in every aspect of their daily lives – there is a story.
At the office, you chat with colleagues and peers… stories are told. During lunch with friends, amidst the jokes and banter… stories are told. When you get home to your spouse, kids, or loved ones, you’d want to know how their day went by… still, stories are told. Stories reside everywhere. They amuse, inspire, provoke and enlighten. They’re passed on and shared.
They captivate the mind so much. Why?
Because we’re human, and stories make life meaningful.
Storytelling is not a mere process or technique. It can be described as an artform because you need skills, vision, imagination and a lot of practice before you gain mastery. But once you get the knack for it, you’ll surely attract people’s attention, and yes, even those you’re targeting as prospects or clients.
Storytelling, when executed with compelling narratives intended for targeted audiences, can be an excellent tool for marketing and engagement.
As a business consultant, I know exactly how storytelling can be well integrated into your business and marketing strategy. Doing so can help your business create a bigger impact in this modern entrepreneurial world.
Just like my Sherpa podcast with the Storyteller… you can create magic with storytelling.
Telling Stories in a World of Business
Every business has a sales and marketing component to it. They should be, otherwise what’s the use of being in business at all.
At the core of every sales and marketing activity is persuasion. Everything is geared towards attracting, persuading and convincing the client that they should buy your products or avail of your services.
That’s the gist of it… but what they most probably lack is creativity.
Most are focused on communication and delivery of the concepts and messages they want to convey to the customer. What they focus on is mostly on the delivery of facts, statistics and data.
They lack soul. They lack inspiration.
They’d soon find out that facts alone won’t be enough to convince clients to buy.
You need to hit them at their core. You need to affect them at the emotional level.
If they’re already aware of the facts and the benefits of your products or services but are still reluctant to push through with closing the deal, then that emotional push would be the exact thing you need.
Storytelling can give you that push. When business information is communicated through a compelling story, it can generate the most stirring effect on their emotions. Your story will eventually persuade them to take intended actions. So, how do we tell stories from a business perspective?
Key Considerations in Business Storytelling
1) Your Story Should be Properly Structured
Do you know why people get bored with certain stories? It’s because such stories lack proper form, flow and structure. Just like a good movie or TV series, the stories they present follow a well-structured narrative, bring the audience from one major arc to another, until the breathtaking climax and culmination of the story.
The following is an example of six key elements of a dramatic arc:
- Inciting Incident – This is the exposition of the characters, background information of the main storyline, and the inciting event that sets up and pushes the rest of the story into motion
- Rising Action – Series of actions, events, conflicts, obstacles and challenges that push the story forward towards the climax
- Climax or Turning Point – The peak of the storyline, and all the excitement and emotions that go with it, culminate in this turning point in the story
- Falling Action – This unravels the part of the storyline that tells whether the main protagonist will endure and win
- Story – The culmination and ending of the story
Note that not all great stories follow the same formula, but this can give you a guide to point you in the right direction in storytelling.
2) Your Story Should Convey Your Company Value Across
Your company and brand may have certain values that each and every member of your organisation takes pride in. These should be clearly defined and woven into your story.
Whether you focus on innovative products or provide awesome customer service, it would be to your best advantage to leverage on these values and connect with customers and get these values across.
3) Your Story Should Help Solve a Need
Although your narrative leverages on emotional responses that impact your client at a personal level, your clients will most likely take a more favourable action if your story conveys a narrative that can help them solve a particular need. Your story can be cleverly woven to narrate a particular incident or situation where a particular problem was resolved through your products or services, directly or indirectly.
4) Your Story Should Get More Personal
A resolution to a problem that makes their lives better would definitely get their attention, particularly if your client relates to the situation at a more personal level. Stories that fail, focus on the corporation, and not the people behind the corporation, the superheroes who will solve the client’s problem. Anchor your story through real people – and you’ll get more personal.
5) Your Story Should be Delivered by Your Best Storytellers
Upper management or well-known personalities from your brand or company would create a great impact on customers if they can delivery your brand story well. However, not all of these personalities are great storytellers.
As a business consultant, I know that people in the frontlines – those who shed their blood, sweat and tears to give great value to clients – are more than qualified to be the best storytellers. Experts from marketing should still have a hand in controlling what elements of the stories should be disclosed or withheld.
6) Your Story Should be Colourful
The point in storytelling for business is to entice the proper emotions from your clients to persuade them to take action. You can provoke this emotional reaction much more effectively by designing how you get your story across as colourful as possible.
Share your customers’ pains and how you resolved them. Narrate your joys, achievements and successes that relate to your targeted audiences current situations. Good stories for business are not about you, but about your customers.
7) Your Story Should Have the Proper Format
When delivering a story for business, you must first have a clear understanding as to the appropriate format you should package your story, depending on the platform where you intend to delivery this story.
A social media post might not be appropriate when delivering a more detailed customer case study. It would be better to post this on a proper page on your website, then just create links to it from social media. Your format should be easily digestible, readable, consumable and shareable.
8) Your Story Should Entice Your Audience to Want More
The secret to blockbuster TV series’ success? They leave viewers at the edge of their seats with cliffhangers. Excited and clearly enticed, they have no option but to wait for the next episode to air. You can do the same with your business storytelling. Leave people to want more and entice them with teasers and sneak previews of what they can expect from your next offering.
9) Your Story Should Have a Blockbuster Ending
Terrible, lackluster endings will kill all your storytelling efforts. It will just leave your audience frustrated enough to refrain from hearing or reading more of your stories. Shallow endings will generate the emotional responses you desire and the corresponding actions you want your customers to take. Carefully study how you can make your endings a blockbuster hit.
On With the Story
The current environment where most clients operate in this modern world is socially interconnected, fast-faced, and multi-faceted. Stories play an important part in getting these clients’ attention, particularly those inundated with myriad forms of content on a daily basis.
Engaging your targeted customers in an engaging, informative, entertaining and extraordinary manner would be powerful enough to instil your branding and marketing messages deep into their consciousness.
Faced with various situations that relate to your stories, they’ll remember you.
When they need something they’ll ask for your help, and depending on how your stories made an impact on them… they’ll probably ask for more.