Living in the digital era means there’s no shortage of information, with the world’s data increasing exponentially each year. But despite living in a world with information at our fingertips, we’re lacking the one thing we, as humans, truly desire: connection.
Authentic, relatable connections between people, ideas, and beliefs larger than ourselves.
And the best way to do that? Through telling really great stories.
Luckily, we are storytellers by nature, and opportunities for stories are all around us.
But what about when it comes to using storytelling in your business?
Below, we identify three key stories you should be focusing on sharing and discuss how to begin clarifying them in your business.
1. The Founding Story
Every business has an origin that’s linked to a single individual or a group of people who faced a problem, had an idea, or thought of an innovative approach to something they faced in their lives.
Just think of Warby Parker, who makes awesome glasses at a revolutionary price. And it all started because one of their founders left his glasses on a backpacking trip but couldn’t afford to replace them, so he went a whole semester in grad school without really being able to see.
And that’s when he thought: There has to be a better way.
So that same guy, without a decent pair of glasses, set out with three of his friends to create an alternative that would look good, not cost a ton, and give back to those who don’t have access to proper eyewear.
And the story of Warby Parker was born.
It’s such a relatable, emotional story of losing something, being frustrated by the options, and knowing that a solution shouldn’t be so difficult. But whether or not you wear glasses, these emotions of loss, frustration, and wonder are human emotions that we can all relate to, whether we’re talking about eyeglasses or not.
So, we hear the story and think, yes, I know what that feels like and GO YOU for doing something about it.
The tendency of a lot of businesses is to include a list of facts and events on their About page and call it Our Story. But a list details—the day the business was founded, how much your team has grown, and a list of names—does not make a story.
And we don’t have to guess which version you’d rather listen to (Warby or a long list of names) because the power of storytelling is all in its ability to acquire and keep attention, without ever having to trick or pester someone for it.
Plus, the benefit of telling a really interesting origin story is that your audience gets to connect with the humanness of your brand, and that’s great because your customers or clients want to buy from people, not brands. Not only does it build a connection with your audience, but it also builds credibility. You’re the person who did something about that problem or followed through on that idea and now we all get to experience the value of your creation.
Thanks, Warby Parker.
2. Your Value Story
If you have a business that helps solve people’s problems, then you’re offering something of value to the world.
The problem is, your audience doesn’t know it.
But that’s where the Value Story comes in: The Value Story helps you take your audience on a journey from not knowing or understanding what exactly you do or why they should care, to a place where they feel like you completely understand them and know exactly how to solve their problems. (So much so that the only possible next step is to do business with you.)
But here’s the thing: You can not communicate your true value, in a way that emotionally connects with your audience, through features and benefits alone. Listing all the fancy features or details of your service or product will not translate your value in an authentic way. Because as Theodore Levitt, an economist and professor at the Harvard Business School, reminds us, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”
In other words, people aren’t buying what you sell, they’re buying what your product or service can do for them.
So to communicate that, you have to understand and communicate the transformation that your audience can experience by doing business with you. (Like the experience of easily hanging a shelf in a matter of seconds, thanks to that drill).
But to be able to tell a Value Story well, you need to know your audience and the problems they’re facing.
So when it comes to what you offer, what problem or frustration are you solving?
What issues is your audience facing that you can help alleviate?
What positive transformation will they experience if they use your product or service?
At West River, we host workshops and create content for businesses so they can market their businesses through brand storytelling. But what are we really offering?
We help businesses understand the value they offer and help them tell their story well so they can gain confidence and clarity in their business journey.
And that is an entirely different value than just a piece of content.
So, investigate what it is that you truly offer and then tell a story where you saw that transformation take place.
Like that time a client called us up to say she’d sold more in the last month than the previous six months, and she felt a lot of it had to do with finally knowing how to talk about the value of her service.
Think about those success stories in your business, the ones that truly communicate the transformative value you offer and share with others. If you do, your audience will be able to truly imagine, with great clarity, what it would be like to work with you and the benefits they would gain. And that’s a story worth telling.
3. A Customer Story
The customer story (which is similar to a testimonial but in story form) is one of the most powerful stories to tell because it comes with built-in credibility. While you can, and should, share the value of your own business, you should also invite customers to share their own stories of what it’s like doing business with you.
And this means you have to actually invite them into the process by asking for customer stories.
The best way to do this is to follow up with past clients via email and ask them for feedback about doing business with you in a way that prompts a story-driven response.
Start by asking what product or service they were using prior to doing business with you, how they found you, what made them decide to switch or try a new product/service, and what the experience has been like since. By asking the questions in this order, you’re prompting them to think in story form (beginning, when they didn’t know, the important climactic moment when they discovered a different solution, and the ending, where they’ve experienced some kind of positive change because of the value you offer).
And then once you have the customer stories, curate them and add them throughout your site, on social, or wherever you need to build some credibility.
So next time you’re trying to share about how it all began or the value you truly offer or what it’s like being your customer, think about using the power of a good story.
Storytelling is transformative for any business because it allows you to communicate with your audience in a way that’s more memorable and emotional. So, make sure you’re sharing your story.
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While you're here, grab our 6-step guide to developing your own unique brand message framework so you can be on your way to sharing what you do and why it matters.