Did you know that 55 percent of people are more likely to make a purchase if they love a brand’s story?
People love a good story.
We share them in our day-to-day lives with friends, family and work colleagues. We read, listen and watch them for entertainment. They can even inspire and motivate us to do great things.
But can you leverage them in the business world?
Yes, but not just anything will do. Telling stories for the sake of telling them won’t bring success. Being rote, mechanical, inauthentic, devoid of emotion or passion is the surest way to tune people out.
See, great storytelling is an art form. It requires imagination, repetition and a pinch of skill. No matter if you’re crafting a complete digital marketing strategy in 2022 or producing a smaller video on your company’s employee culture, there are no shortcuts to good storytelling.
So, what is the secret to telling a story that captivates your audience and inspires action? We’re happy you asked. In this blog, we’ll share:
- Why your business should tell stories
- The key components of an engaging story
- How to source your content
- Structure of a story
- The business storytelling process
- The Mike Agency origin story
Why should your business tell stories?
People are constantly being bombarded with information on the internet every single day. Some of it is deliberately misleading, too, sowing confusion and fatigue.
There’s only so much data that a human brain can or wants to process.
That’s why stories are such a powerful tool, especially in business. They engage your viewership at a deeper level, cutting through the sludge to deliver a message that resonates long after they hear it.
Storytelling can give you a competitive advantage. Well-crafted stories help your company stand out from the crowd; suddenly, you’re more than just another monolithic entity.
It builds trust with your target demographic too. People don’t care about companies, but they do care about the people within. By telling your story and breaking down why your business does what it does, people can see the human element to your organization; this inspires action and customer loyalty.
What makes for a compelling story?
We hinted at it earlier, but not every story is created equally. The best ones can hook in audiences and keep them engaged throughout. They do this by meeting the following criteria.
a) A clear purpose. Don’t you hate it when you’re reading/listening/watching something and it’s not evident why it was made? A great story makes its purpose clear from the outset. Your goal as a business is to help the audience understand what you’re talking about and why you’re choosing to tell this particular story.
To avoid confusion, ask yourself these key questions: Who is telling the story? When and where is the story taking place? What challenges are faced?
b) Being genuine. No one likes an imposter. Trying to be something you are not is the quickest way to lose consumer trust and disconnect them from your story.
Honesty and simplicity are the best policy. Being transparent and showing any challenges and failures humanizes your business and makes you relatable. The proof is in the numbers – for example, 66 percent of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand.
An easy way to craft an authentic story is to give a behind-the-scenes look into your business, showing how things are done or highlighting unique aspects of your company culture. When appropriate, you can also draw inspiration from your memories and life experiences.
c) Having substance. Behind every great business, there’s story with a clear lesson or thought-provoking message. These energize people and prompts them to take further action with your brand, depending on your particular call-to-action (see further below).
d) Consistency makes the difference. ‘As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.’ Much like the path of the sun, your story should be consistent across all your communication channels – use the same colours, logo and verbiage everywhere; this sets expectations for your account and builds brand awareness.
e) User participation. While there is a time and place to tell your own story, avoid always making it all about you. Try incorporating your audience by using testimonials, personal stories, polls and open-ended questions; this is an excellent way to spark emotions and elicit a response.
f) Make it memorable. No matter what you set as the purpose of your story, whether to educate or sell a product, you should always strive to leave an impression. A forgettable story translates to a forgettable message. Experiment with different storytelling formats to see what works best for your business.
Sourcing your material
It shouldn’t come as much of a shock, but the best storytellers also tend to be the most successful and well-known brands.
While everyone can technically tell a business story, not everyone within an organization can tell it effectively; this usually falls on the shoulders of marketers, content writers and PR professionals, as they’ve honed their storytelling skills to the nth degree.
That being said, they still need to source the right content for their stories. Instead of looking towards business leaders in the C-suite, it’s a good idea to mingle with front-line employees in service, product or sales since they know what customers actually want.
Structure of a story
According to Hubspot, there are three essential structural components to a good story, no matter what you’re trying to achieve.
- Characters. This is the essential bridge between the storyteller and the audience. The more your audience can relate to the protagonists’ actions, the more likely they’ll follow through on your call-to-action.
- Conflict. The lesson of how the character overcame a challenge; this is a crucial component as it draws out an emotional reaction from the audience and connects them to the narrative. Without it, there is no actual story.
- Resolution. This is the bowtie to your story, providing context around the characters and conflict(s) as well as a call-to-action for the audience. The best story resolutions are straightforward, honest and emotionally satisfying. They tend to show how users’ personal lives will change.
The storytelling process
Trust the process. No matter what kind of story your business is crafting, there’s a system that needs to be followed.
1. Understand the market
A story with a purpose needs to speak to someone. Do your homework on the target market and define all your buyer personas – those who will be reading, viewing or listening to your story.
2. Establish the main message
No matter the length, every story needs an underlying message. What is the point of your story? Are you selling a product or service? Advocating for an issue? Refine your message until you can articulate it in a single statement.
3. Decide on the type and format of your story
The type of story you choose to tell your audience depends on the reaction you want to elicit. If you want them to act, your story should show how a successful action was done and how users might achieve something similar.
If you’re looking to educate, show a trial-and-error experience, with a problem and appropriate solution – leave room for alternative approaches.
While you’re at it, you’ll need to decide on a story format. Will you deliver something written, spoken, digital or audio-based? It all depends on how much time and money you have to allocate. Written stories, such as this blog, are the most accessible method of storytelling for businesses. Conversely, digital stories such as video and animation have a lot of emotional resonance but are expensive to make.
4. Include a call-to-action
This is the action you’d like your audience to take after interacting with your stories; it is closely linked to your objective. It can be anything from donating money to encouraging newsletter subscriptions.
5. Craft and share it
At this point, you want to flesh out your story by adding in details and sprucing it up with some creativity. Once that’s done, you’ll need to share and promote it to get as many eyeballs as possible on your content. You have many channels available to you – social media, email and if it’s a video, on YouTube. The more places you share your stories, the more opportunities you create for engagement.
Business storytelling in action
The story of the Mike Agency begins during the colourful, decadent decade of the ’70s, when co- founder, Frank Cianciulli, and president, Mike Soragnese, were born. Little did they know then, but they’d one day come together to create one of the most recognizable marketing agencies the world over (it’s getting there).
Years later, Frank had become a very successful entrepreneur, while Mike was thriving as an account executive at a creative marketing agency. They’d spoken about coming together to start an agency, but the timing never felt quite right.
Then, in 2012, it finally happened. Basing it upon their shared values of passion, integrity, discipline and fun, Frank and Mike began the Mike Agency. This was to be a place where marketing professionals could build deep connections with one another and provide clients with the very best.
At first glance, the name “Mike” may just seem like an easy way to remember their shared name or a stroke of ego. But in reality, it was a tribute to their grandfather and everything they wanted the agency to stand for. Family is everything to them – they wanted to embed it into the company culture and make it the bedrock of all future success.
The Mike Agency has been a dream come true for both of them and the best is truly yet to come.
There’s no getting around it, businesses need storytelling to be successful. Consumers are unlikely to buy something just because you want them to – they have to have a compelling reason why.
Good stories can do that. They have the power to attract and retain customers.
However, a business story is never fully told; it’s a continuous process. As your company grows and evolves over time, so does the narrative.
- Consider your audience
- Know your core message
- Bring in details from your own life experiences
- Assume you can’t tell a good story
- Make it all about you
- Include too much irrelevant detail
Where is storytelling used in business?
Storytelling in business is used to promote a product, service or just the brand itself. It can come in various different forms and from many different places, whether its a written piece (i.e., blog post, book) or an audio story (i.e., podcast). Use the power of stories to share positive customer experiences, the origins of your business or highlight your company culture.
Why is storytelling important in business?
Consumers don’t buy a product or service just because you tell them to – they need a compelling reason why. Engaging stories have that power. They establish a connection between the audience and the brand, building trust and increasing the likelihood of a transaction. However, telling good stories is a process that takes considerable time and effort.
What are the 4 P’s of storytelling?
Stories that connect with audiences are built upon four key foundational pillars – people, places, plot and purpose.
- People. Who is in the story? Engaging characters help audiences become emotionally invested in the overall narrative.
- Place. Where does the story take place? Location can visually communicate a lot in a short period of time. It is important to adequately describe the setting so that you can ground your stories within reality and help the audience relate to it.
- Plot. What is the conflict and the journey? Like a builder of a building, a business storyteller needs to plan/layout everything in advance to ensure their story is coherent and maximizes audience impact.
- Purpose. Why should anyone care about this? If your business creates a story without a purpose, it will fail to attract the attention of your audience. Make sure your message is clear.
How can a business improve its storytelling skills?
The art of storytelling is a trial-and-error process. Not every story will resonate with your audience – but those that elicit a strong emotional reaction tend to do best. To increase the chances of success, businesses should try incorporating empathy into their story writing, with evocative vocabulary and relatable experiences.
Do you need a little boost with your digital storytelling? As storytelling experts, the team at the Mike Agency knows what it takes to build engagement with your audience. Contact the Mike Agency today to speak to one of our digital marketing representatives and schedule a free consultation!