How Storytelling Makes More than Marketing Come Alive

If you have not already, you can expect to be hearing more about storytelling as a means for communicating your business message.

Storytelling is one of the cornerstones of sales and marketing, because great stories are memorable, and therefore, readily shared.

Every business interaction with a prospective buyer or customer is a potential story. That’s right, stories about your business are already being shared. Isn’t it time to take a more proactive approach to contribute to the conversation?

Stories are media, and media is media, regardless of the source. This is why every business must become a media company to better manage its story within the communities it serves.

What I’m going to share with you today is that your business can actually use storytelling as a means for accomplishing goals beyond marketing to shape future events that become signature stories.

See the Story Within the Project or Opportunity

During the early days of my landscape architecture and construction business our company was unknown. In order to establish our presence within the industry and local community, we set a goal to complete at least one award-winning project.

One day, we were invited to discuss the renovation of a residential landscape that was such a mess, all of the other contractors walked away from it. As our team considered potential solutions, I got excited because I was beginning to realize that if we could transform this project into an award-winner there would be a great story to tell.

In business and life, you can let chance write your stories, or you can design an ideal result and get to work to make it happen. That’s what we did. It’s a simple practice of starting with the end in mind, and then building the sequential events to manifest that reality.

To accomplish this, we repeatedly asked ourselves one question: Why?

When everything has a purpose it just makes sense. Isn’t that what your prospective customers are looking for from you?

For example, we suggested a gentle water feature and stream for the back yard to create a sense of movement and flow that would naturally guide the eye through the space to the desired focal points. Our client rejected this idea because their dogs would play in the water.

After further consideration, we realized a dry stream (without water) would work equally well. They loved the idea. As a result, whenever a friend asked about the stream built from smooth, water-worn stones, our client shared the story that explained its purpose.

Consumers are attracted to not only what works, but also why, because then everything intuitively makes sense.

Stories Transform Goals into Reality

To succeed with your project, you have to first live the desired result in your mind as if it were real. The story for creating that reality will lead you to the necessary solutions for making it happen. It will identify the challenges that must be overcome.

We did indeed win the highest award possible for that particular project, and many more thereafter, because we always had a story to tell. I’m convinced that first imagining the story that would then become the focus of our marketing is what made it possible.

Facts and even pretty photos are easily forgotten without stories that make emotional connections. Our story captured the drama and imagination of how our team worked to delight our client, and that connected with the panel of judges.

Of course, the panel of judges for your business and mine is every prospective customer that wants to know more about us. Your business may have great solutions, but if you can make them come alive by answering why, you also have a memorable story that resonates with the buyer.

About the Author:  Jeff Korhan, MBA, is the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley)  

He helps mainstream businesses adapt their traditional growth practices to a digital world. Connect with Jeff on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Photo Credit

How to Tell Better Stories

Carvings at the Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza

One of the foundational skills of social media and content marketing is storytelling. Like writing, this is one of those skills that takes a lifetime to master.

So, let’s not waste any time getting started with learning to tell better stories.

I recently visited the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan state of Mexico. What made the experience worthwhile was having a guide whose lifelong passion and profession was the study of this culture.

During our time together our guide offered to share with use one of two versions of the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza:

  • The popular version that would be familiar to many of our friends
  • The truth from his years of research and study as college professor

We all chose the latter. From that truth, it turns out there are important lessons about storytelling that will make your stories better.

#1 – The Best Stories Inspire New Thoughts

The best stories challenge the audience to think. This not only questions his or her personal beliefs, but also the status quo.

It turns out some people do not want to think. They just want someone to give them the generally accepted answer. Right or wrong, that information then proliferates on the social media channels and becomes accepted as truth.

It is important to tell the stories only you can tell. Tweet this

These are stories based upon your direct experience. The world is smarter when it knows your story. It clarifies and cuts through the clutter.

Of course, this is what I’m doing right now by sharing from my recent experience in Mexico.

Have you read or heard that the majority of small businesses are practicing social media and content marketing? At least in terms of mainstream brick and mortar businesses, nothing could be further from the truth.

How do I know this? From direct experience working with thousands of these companies over the last seven years.

#2 – Real Stories are From Direct Experience

You have to earn a reputation for telling stories that are well-researched and preferably based upon direct experience. This is what people have always wanted.

People always want to hear the news from the “man on the street,” the eye-witness that can provide details that no other can because they have been there.

It’s dangerous to tell stories these days when you do not have direct experience. Otherwise, you risk telling stories that are not true. Even well-known experts have found themselves embroiled in controversy as a result.

The reason for telling a story is to engage an audience. When you accomplish that they will want to go deeper. So be prepared to do so.

In fact, this is one reason storytelling is essential for social media and content marketing. It makes your business more relatable and memorable, thereby encouraging more more conversations about it within the communities it serves.

#3 – How to Make Your Stories Better

The image above from Chichen Itza is a carving from the Great Ball Court.

It shows one of the players with a scoop in his right hand for picking up and slinging the ball. He is also wearing a helmet and other gear to protect himself from the impact of the ball, which was estimated at a little over 2 pounds.

There were more crude carvings at other locations on the interior of the court that were estimated to have been completed 600 years earlier. That’s six centuries of refining a skill! Thus, whether written or graphically depicted:

Any story can be refined with practice to make it better. Tweet this

Tips for Refining Your Stories

1. List your stories – This creates awareness. It also allows for tracking where and when your stories are used.

2. Describe the purpose of your stories in a few words – This helps you focus on making your point, while also refining it over time. Ask: What is this story about?

3. Why is that purpose relevant? – If the story is not relevant to the audience it is valueless, regardless of how well it is told.

4. Can your audience recall your story in few words? – The value of stories is they are relatable and memorable. In a world that tweets and texts, it’s important to capture the essence of your story in a few words.

5. Decide what to leave in and what to take out –  Amateurs often include details that do not contribute to the story, thereby compromising its value. Shorter is nearly always better.

6. Use an image or graphic representation for greater impact –  This graphic succinctly captures the complete message of my book:  Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business. The Mayans and so many other cultures recognized that a picture does indeed tell a story.

7. Help your audience relive the story – Instead of retelling your stories with you as the central character, consider making them come alive for your audience – as if they were you.

8. Compare and contrast – Metaphor and other storytelling techniques that contrast and compare will help others relate to and understand your story. When I share how I used print content to launch my landscape business in the late 1980’s, it helps some people relate to this “new” form of marketing.

Now over to you.

Leave a comment to share your tips for refining your stories to make them better.

About the Author:  Jeff Korhan, MBA, is the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business and host of This Old New Business Podcast

He helps mainstream businesses adapt their traditional growth practices to a digital world. Connect with Jeff on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and Google+.