Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
Recently, I’ve attended a couple of business conferences with an agenda rounded off by a ‘motivational’ speaker. I’ve heard a fair few of these keynotes during my career and the people who stand out for me all do one specific thing - they tell stories.
Storytelling is increasingly used in marketing and communications today in order to deepen the relationships we have with our customers. In fact many large companies use storytelling to support their employees through times of change. A quick search on Google and you can even find entire marketing agencies devoted to the art.
Think back to when you were little and your parents or grandparents read you a bedtime story; how captivated you were, how emotionally involved you were - hanging on their every word - and how entertaining the whole experience was.
My favourite fairytale as a child was “The Princess and the Pea” by Hans Christian Andersen. I remember reading it over and over, feeling overjoyed when the girl was recognised as a true princess (sorry if I’ve spoiled it for anyone) and becoming so involved that I frequently tried to re-enact the stack of mattresses you can see in the image* opposite!
Can we read another chapter?
At this moment in time I’m betting there’s a strong likelihood you’re thinking about your own favourite childhood story - yes? If you’re not, then think back to a momentous time in your life. It’s unlikely you remember the memory in facts and figures. You’ll remember your emotions, thoughts, the words of others and vivid imagery.
"The Princes and the Pea" will stay with me forever, so applying this technique to your business communications can also have the same result for your business messages. We all have stories to tell.
A brighter brain
Whilst researching this blog, I came across an interesting infographic which demonstrates how storytelling affects the brain. Now I’m no psychologist but it seems to me that when we hear a story, our brains actually light up!
The graphic tells us three key things:
Stories are easy to remember and relate to
Storytelling creates an emotional connection with your reader
Storytelling has the power to make your customers think like you
You can use storytelling to connect with your customers on an emotional level, to leave them with a lasting impression of your business and establish a common ground.
‘I’m no good at telling stories’
Yes you are. You probably tell stories to colleagues, friends and family every day without thinking about it. What happened on the drive to work, what you got up to at the weekend, what Shirley said to Dave at the water cooler and how he reacted.
You just need to make the link between the story and your business.
If you’re struggling to know where to start, here are a few tips:
Use case studies - think of these as short stories about how you’ve successfully worked with clients. What was the brief, how did you approach it, what was the outcome and how did the customer feel/react at the end?
Ask for testimonials - they’re stories told by your customers about how great your product or service is and are wonderful for building confidence in your business. If you don’t currently have any testimonials on your website, then get cracking! If you’re worried about asking for them, then be brave - you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Draw on your own personal experiences - good and bad. As long as you’re comfortable sharing them, bad experiences can show a vulnerability and will create trust. It may be wise to leave Shirley and Daves' names out of it though!
Look to the future - use examples to demonstrate how the future could be for them if a customer used your product or service. How will it enhance their life, how easy is it to use and how much time will it save?
That's the end of the chapter. Good luck with your storytelling. Sleep tight!
*Image courtesy of childhoodreading.com