12 Most Breathtaking Stories to Tell Your Customers
If you know anything about me, you know that I am huge proponent of applying the notion of storytelling to business. I’m not the only one.
The “story” concept is hot right now. Annette Simmons, (The Story Factor), in many ways, introduced it as a concept for business. Peter Guber, (Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story), developed it further. Dan Portnoy (The Non-Profit Narrative: How Telling Stories Can Change the World) brought it into the realm of non-profits. Facebook has used the concept as a theme for status updates. Coca-Cola uses the concept to explain its history. Advertisers, while not necessarily using the word, have been using the concept of stories to sell products since the early 20th century. Why all the hype?
Stories help us understand something about ourselves. In the eloquent words of master film instructor, Robert McKee (Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting), “Story isn’t a flight from reality but a vehicle that carries on our search for reality, our best effort to make sense out of the anarchy of existence.” When you tell people a story, they process it in a way that relates to them — in a way that helps them make sense of their lives. In business, when you tell a story, you are positioning yourself in your customers’ minds. You are conveying something magical; you are telling your customers how you relate to them.
Now, the concept can be rather convoluted. “Story” is kind of an abstract notion when applied outside of the realm of business. It can mean many things. It can be synonymous with “branding.” But, to give the concept some distinction, let’s think about it in a slightly different way. Let’s think about it as a series of narratives you can use to convey what you mean to your customer.
1. Who we are
This one’s all about characterization. Talk about the leadership team. Talk about your employees. People want to know that a business is made of people. What are their names? What are their passions and interests? And what is the common denominator in all of them that shapes the character of your business?
2. Why we’re here
This, in a nutshell, is your mission statement. Why do you exist? I’m not talking about, “to maximize profits and return to shareholders.” I’m talking about the place you serve in the market. What need do you meet? Why are you in the particular business that you’re in? How would the industry be different without you in it?
3. What we do
Don’t confuse this one with, “What We Sell.” (That’s the next one). This one’s all about how you improve the lives of your customers. In other words, what are the benefits of what you sell. If you are a chiropractor, “what you do” isn’t fixing people’s backs. It’s helping people live a more natural, pain-free lifestyle. What are the benefits of what you sell? What difference do you make? What do you do?
4. How we do it
This is where you talk about your product. This is what you sell. And it’s important to use as evidence to convince the skeptics. It’s easy to make the promise that you help people live a more natural, pain-free lifestyle (what you do), but the claim has little substance until you explain that you’re a chiropractor (how you do it). How do you create value for your customers? What features give birth to the benefits of the products you sell? How do you do what you do?
5. Where we’re from
This one’s about setting. As we all know, place is a huge part of story. What would Avatar be without Pandora? What would To Kill a Mockingbird be without Maycomb, Alabama? Setting is powerful. Where does your business come from? What aspects of the town, city, or region in which it was born gives it definition?
6. Who we’ve helped
This is a place for customer testimonials. It’s your story — told in third person by your customers. Use text. Use pictures. Use video. Whatever the medium, if your customer conveys satisfaction about having done business with you, you are telling a powerful story. What customers have you convinced to tell your story for you?
7. Who we’ve worked with
This one’s about collaboration. It’s about heroes uniting. It’s The Avengers. It’s The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s NKOTBSB. (Okay, maybe that’s pushing it). But people love this kind of story. It’s about characters setting aside their differences to work as a team for the greater good. Who have you partnered with? What joint ventures have you formed?
8. How we’ve changed the world
This is a story about a higher purpose. What has your business done for the greater good? Beyond your customers, how is the world better off by you being here? How have you “put a dent in the universe?” What’s your legacy?
9. How we started
Everyone loves a good origins story. This one is about how it all began. The place, the time, and all the circumstances surrounding your birth. Who was involved? How did they end up forming your organization? How does it relate to who you are today?
10. Challenges we’ve overcome
What’s a great story without conflict? You need a hero that has faced struggles and overcome them. What struggles have you faced? Maybe they’re ethical dilemmas. Maybe they’re problems with team members. Maybe they’re economic downturns. Either way, the story of overcoming challenges is one that resonates with your customers.
11. Where we’re going
This is the cliffhanger. It’s the story that gives your customers an inkling of what’s to come. What’s your vision? What are your plans for the future? What are you developing? What’s the sequel?
12. Choose your own adventure
Somewhat of a combination of #6 and #11, this one’s about outsourcing where you’re headed to your customers. Do surveys. Get feedback. What are your customers telling you? What are their ideas? How can you incorporate them into the next chapter of your story?
When it’s all said and done, there is one thing that all of these stories have in common. You are the hero. That’s the kind of story you want to tell. Yes, you may come from humble beginnings, and you may face inner struggles that challenge your resolve. But, in the end, you always emerge triumphant. Against all odds, you come out on top.
People identify with the hero. They see themselves as the heroes or heroines of their own lives. All the better if they see you in the same light. Always be the hero of the story you’re telling.
What’s your favorite story to tell your customers?
Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story
The Story Factor (2nd Revised Edition)
The Non-Profit Narrative: How Telling Stories Can Change the World
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting
Featured image courtesy of Thomas Hawk licensed via Creative Commons.