The Power of Storytelling in Business

The Power of Storytelling in Business

I’ve got a new favourite Disney movie – Moana. I watched it over the weekend and couldn’t help but smile.

Moana the movie highlighted the power of storytelling.

Through the use of stories in the movie, ancestors and customs are remembered and knowledge is passed down from generation to generation. It is because of the stories Moana hears from her Grandmother that she does what she does…
…and realises why she feels the way she does – she's not crazy after all!

Moana and her Grandmother Source: Disney

…I won’t say any more in case you haven’t seen it yet (seriously do yourself a favour and get it out!)

We are used to stories, we use them in our mind every day, and many of us had them read to us as kids. So when we hear a good story our guard is automatically lowered.

If It’s Good Enough For Them

Think of the iconic brands – Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, Facebook are 4 that come to mind – they have all built a loyal band of brand evangelists over time.

How? They all use storytelling.

Pretty simple concept really.

There is no blatant promotion of the brand. Instead there is deliberate and purposeful placement of the brand within a storyline, often showing someone achieving something great (we all want to be great, don't we!) or as part of a bigger message. The recent Equality Nike ad is a great example of a bigger message.

But I don’t have their Budget or Resources!

No you don’t, but you do have a story…don’t let your own limiting beliefs stop you sharing it! There are people out there that need to hear from you.

Stories Get Me Every Time

Now to the reason I’m writing this article. It’s because on a recent experience I had…

Not so long ago…(ha ha – sounds like the beginning of a storyline…Once upon a time…)

I was at the ‘Handmade in the Hunter Markets'. It was a lovely setting, the stalls were set up in the rose-lined gardens of Kevin Sobels Wines, the sun was out, it wasn’t too busy and everyone was relaxed and enjoying the stalls in the beautiful countryside. 

One of the stalls was selling clothes pegs, the signage stated Worlds Best Pegs. I was intrigued and started chatting to Jen, the stall owner.

Here’s a quick run down of our interaction to show you how Jen’s story turned me into a paying customer.

Turns out Jen is the creator of the peg, a pharmacist by day and peg maker at night. (First connection to Jen's story – I used to tell people I was a peg packer when I didn’t want to tell them I was a police officer) She had an online store and attended markets on the weekends.

The pegs were modelled on pegs her grandmother used and had for over 50 years (she even had a couple of the originals to show me). (Second connection – my Granny means the world to me and has lots of ‘old' things she still uses, so the grandmother reference drew me further in – even though my Granny used and still has some wooden pegs)

She makes all the pegs by hand because she can’t find a manufacturer to replicate what she wants. This is what sold me! Let me paint you a picture. These pegs are made with wire and PVC tubing. Both have to be cut, then the wire is pushed through the PVC, and this is then twisted by hand into a peg! That’s no mean feat! All of this is done by hand, Jen’s hands to be precise! (Third connection – Jen makes each peg by hand! Who has time for that?)

At no time during our conversation did Jen push the pegs, she just told her story and highlighted why they are the Worlds Best Pegs. They don’t break down when left outside or break when you use them like plastic one’s do. (Forth connection – I leave my pegs outside and a lot of them have perished and broken.)

Did I really need more pegs right now? Truthfully, no…but

The next words to leave my mouth were, “How much are the pegs Jen?”

It wasn’t really going to matter what she said, I was already getting my purse out.

I was completely sold by her story.

All that was left to do was choose the colour I wanted – I ended up going with yellow if you want to know.

Stories Connect The Dots

I didn’t go out looking for pegs that day, but I was drawn in by a story.

Stories let us connect the dots, we find comfort and similarities in them, and we begin to trust. Most of this happens sub-consciously, you feel yourself in agreement – even if you’re not showing it outwardly yet – and the yeses are starting to sound in your mind. The dots are being connected and you want to know more.

Why Do Stories Hold Such Power

Stories literally change our brain. Paul J Zak, Ph.D. the Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate Unitversity spent several years seeking to understand why stories move us. You can find his results here.

Zak said,

Stories that are personal and emotionally compelling engage more of the brain, and thus are better remembered, than simply stating a set of facts.

So the more our stories connect emotionally, the more likely we are to hold someone's attention, and create enough curiosity to get them to take the next step.

How Does This Relate To Your Business

The experience I shared above shows the power of good storytelling. Content marketing is effective, so how can you incorporate it into your business growth strategy?

Start simple

Look at your current model and analyse any content you have. This could be your blogs, your Social Media posts, your sales copy – anything that you use as a way of attracting leads and converting clients.

Are you focussed on the features and delivery method of your product, or
are you focussed on the outcome people will achieve from using your product?

Here’s the thing…

…people aren’t interested in knowing they are going to receive 13 hours of video, 3 checklists and a workbook – god that sounds like work and a far bit of it too!

What they are interested in, is the shift they will make when they buy your stuff. They’ve got their sights set on where they want to be.

How To Craft Your Story

Here's the formula we use :

This is where you are right now,
this is where you want to be, and
this is how you can get there
(with the how you can get there being your product)

One of the most effective ways to tell your story is using metaphors or case studies. This keeps the story at least 1 step removed and still creates an emotional response, without creating a defensive stance. Case studies can be either successes or failures – people respond differently, some go toward an outcome while others move away from the consequence.

Click here for the 8 steps of a Customer Journey to turn a prospect into a raving fan

A captive audience is far easier to sell

We play out stories we hear in our imagination. To the human brain, imagined experiences are processed the same as real experiences. What this means is stories create genuine emotion, which in turn create a behavioural response.

This response, coupled with the trust and familiarity you have created with your content (story) is how you build a loyal band of paying clients.

Imagine that! Your very own brand evangelists, helping spread your story.

What are you waiting for, grab your pen and paper – or open up a blank document on your computer and start creating…

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About The Author

Elly Hurley

Elly is a Co-Founder of Nudge Marketing, a marketing training company owned and run by women showing small business owners how to grow their business by driving traffic, generating leads and building automated marketing funnels to sell their services and products. As a Certified Digital Marketing Professional, Ontraport Certified Consultant and an NLP Trainer, Elly offers a holistic approach to business - possessing both the technical and behavioural knowledge required in this digital age. Visiting Facebook HQ and signing the wall is on her Bucket List.

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