Storytelling and small business

Hey Doctor Digital, I recently saw an article that said storytelling was the new black, and an essential part of businesses ‘special sauce’. I have visions of reading Golden Books to my customers - clarification please!

Doctor Digital Says

Only a customer with a heart of stone wouldn’t want to experience having Scuffy the Tugboat or The Pokey Little Puppy read to them, but business storytelling is a different way of doing something we all already know and are emotionally tuned to. Gather round, get comfy, once upon a time, there was a little business that could...

When done well, business storytelling gives a compelling reason for consumers to buy from you. A good brand can inspire trust between your business and customers, employees, and suppliers. If you own a small business (or a large one), knowing how to tell your business story needs to be a crucial part of your operations. A brand story has a strategic purpose aimed towards drawing people in, but it still relies heavily on normal storytelling conventions. As humans, we are hardwired for stories, it’s the way we have always transmitted information between us since our knuckles became less hairy. Even in the digital age, storytelling is what connects and reflects our own humanity.

A story has to have a beginning a middle, and an end. It needs a protagonist, sometimes an antagonist, it must draw people in, give them a satisfying outcome, and from a business perspective have a clear purpose. This is where strong established values in a business are handy, already knowing the mission, the why, the motivators and the macro reasons your business and brand exists makes storytelling easier and able to be more satisfyingly formulaic in terms of your customer getting to know the hero (your brand/product/service).

When you hear people like me talking about experience over mere transaction in terms of building brand and customers, the outcome of experience is storytelling. How can you make the experience of interacting with your brand something so memorable and compelling that your customers will want to re-tell that story, adding in their own flavour, and encouraging others to have the experience too.

Here are five pointers to get your small business storytelling leaping off the page:

  1. What’s your point? We’ve all been in conversations with someone who has meandered around and by the time they get to the punchline of the story we can’t even remember what it was about. Don’t be that storyteller. Structure your stories with a clear narrative arc - what happened, to whom, when and why and the moral of the story is [insert happy ending of customer satisfaction]. Get to it quickly and succinctly, with empathy and pathos.
  2. Make it real. Authenticity is the key, and your people want to hear a story that is real and relatable. You don’t have to do the most interesting thing ever, you just have to make what your story is credible, warm and engaging. Bring us in and show us the real you, that makes your customers feel trusted and intimate.
  3. Call to Action. Remember point number one - what do you want your customer to do, what is the call to action, the finish line of storytelling is always to leave people wanting more, and let them know how to get that more.
  4. Keep your characters consistent. Everything begins and ends with brand values and the purpose of your business. These values need to be signposted regularly and consistently along with your visual look and feel as part of your storytelling. We don’t want to think we are hanging with a trusted friend only to have your brand go all Dirty John on us. Any transgression from your key story themes will create cracks in the safety and security we look for in brands, and that quickly becomes a horror story.
  5. Choose your own ending. Asking your customers to be part of your story not only gives you authentic user stories, but brings them viscerally into your brand, they are a support character and will continue on the journey with you as a trusted companion. Ask your customers for their feedback, their experience with your product or service, interview them and make them part of your story.

The great part about your brand story is that in a sense it is never ending. Each day can add a new chapter, new characters, and before you know it, you will be able to reference your own early stories to measure your growth. And all the businesses and their brands lived happily ever after. The End.

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