Using stories to differentiate your small business

A good story is one of the most effective ways to get attention – no matter if your audience is a small child, a group of friends in the pub or your clients. We all know how to tell a story, but what makes a difference is being able to tell a good story and tell the story well, making it relevant to the audience. And marketing is just about that – telling a good story so it is remembered and shared for a long time.

Airbnb let’s their customers tell their personal stories about belonging and feeling home anywhere in the world, Dove tells stories about real beauty and  Nike tells stories about achieving the impossible.

Why storytelling works?

  1. It’s easier to remember facts when they’re told in a story
  2. Stories create emotional connections
  3. Stories command attention
  4. Stories affect behavious
  5. Stories help to relate to people in real terms and using their context
  6. Stories create memorable impressions and images
  7. Stories allow your listeners  to put themselves into the described situations

How to create a good business story?

There are many storytelling formulas that can help you create a story with a structure that works best for your message – and they do work very well in any context:

1. Setup – Confrontation – Resolution

One of the most simple and oldest ways to structure your story. Start with setting the stage, then present the problem faced by the character(s) and build up the tension followed by resolving the problem – using examples of your services or products.

2. Before – After – Bridge

Set the stage with a problem, ideally one that you can help solving and then describe a situation where this problem doesn’t exists and explain how you got there or present the solution that helped to solve the problem.

3. Why – How – What

Start your story with a Why (why you do what you do) followed by explaining Howyour business will achieve your Why. Then explain What specifically are you going to do to bring your Why to life.

4. Incident – Action – Benefit

Open your story with a relevant personal experience and describe the actions you took to describe what needed to change. Then connect the change to the benefits. This Dale Carnegie storytelling formula work great if you are sharing a client testimonial or any other story.

5. Introduction – Lowest point – Happy ending

Start with introducing the character, describe how things went wrong using emotions and facts to get your audience’s attention. And then, at the lowest point of the story turn things around, tell how things improved and end the story on a high note.

6. Departure – Initiation – Return

Also known as the Hero’s Journey, this formula focuses on a hero being called to go on an adventure where he/she meets a series of challenges but eventually completes his/her mission and then returns helping others with the new found power. The hero in this story can be your clients experiencing difficult situations until they eventually find a solution through your business.

7. What is – What could be – New bliss

Start your story by describing the present and then contrast it with a much better future, making the current situation unattractive. Go back and forth between the present and the future, then end the story with a new state where your services or products are adopted.

How to tell a good story?

1. Understand your audience

It’s one thing to tell a story and another to get others to listen to your story. Stories are only effective if they are relevant to your audience and go beyond basic demographics – focus on their personality, individual interests and emotional drivers. Make your stories easy to relate to and personal to the listener to ensure they remember it for a long time.

2. Put listeners in your shoes

Stories create memorable impressions and vivid images and help your audience to understand the meaning of your message. Engage your listeners in your story so they can put themselves into the situations that you are describing, create an emotional connection and help them visualise.

3. Be authentic

Tell authentic stories about real people, causes and brands others might know. The more credible your story, the more interest and response from your audience. Any data or positive outcomes are powerful ways to get your point across. Check your facts before making statements and be prepared to be questioned by your audience.

4. Keep it simple

The best stories are the simple ones. Don’t overcomplicate your story, focus on a few key outcomes and make it short and simple enough to be remembered and re-shared by your listeners.

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