Myths and tales have long been companions to humankind through good and bad times. Before writing transformed the world of our ancestors, stories were passed down from one generation to another by word of mouth. Probably the oldest story known to us is about four thousand years old – The Epic of Gilgamesh. It recounts the trials and heroic deeds of an ancient king of Mesopotamia, which have captured popular imagination long enough, for the story to stay alive.
Today, books, movies or friends can easily keep us awake late at night just by using the irresistible power or storytelling.
But where does this compelling power stems from? Mostly from the narrative – it provides us with models to relate with and through which to interpret the world.
A good narrative can make you connect to a situation unlike those you have already experienced. No matter how extraordinary, you get hooked because of the power of symbols that affect you beyond your conscious level. You feel for the characters and identify with them. Without realizing it, you start to compare yourself to the heroes of the stories, assessing the path that you might have taken if you were in their shoes.
And that’s called art – to describe a whole new world with words only. However, captivating storytelling does not happen overnight. This precious business tool is a skill usually mastered through a long trial-and-error process. Being the heart of marketing and brand building, it’s crucial to develop it in order to set your brand apart from all generic varieties out there and turn sporadic customers into loyal ones.
And yet, why is storytelling so important for business?
In the first place, it can simplify complex ideas to communicate them better to your customers. Take green energy, for instance. It is a pretty hard topic to explain to typical consumers who are not experts in the area. Developing real-life stories that describe how users can benefit from it, can make the service more needed and desirable.
Stories also connect people through emotions. They create a sense of community beyond language, religion, ethnicity, or political beliefs. Emotions make us humans. Thus, customers would rather invest in another human than a company. In fact, some of the most admired and successful companies use exactly this strategy which results in good financial long-term returns.
Finally, storytelling truly inspires and motivates if the brand manages to send a transparent and sincere message that taps into people’s emotions. Creating an exciting narrative eventually drives action and fosters brand loyalty.
To use successfully the art of storytelling in your business, you really need to set the stage right:
- Know your target audience well
- Create a core message with a clear focus (i.e. educational, inciting action, etc.)
- Develop a call-to-action (i.e. subscribe to a newsletter, buy a product, etc.)
- Choose means of communication (i.e. articles, presentations, podcasts, videos, games, etc.)
Once you’ve laid the foundation, you are ready to craft your story and share it with your audience. To make it memorable and moving, there are several components to include and elaborate on:
Painting a picture of the characters in your story and creating a life around them will help acknowledge their impact on the role they play. This will generate the ultimate bond between you and your audience. If your customers can relate to the characters, then they are most likely to follow through the story and complete your call-to-action.
The character should go through a key unexpected event which will leave the audience on the edge of their seat. Once the character manages to overcome a challenge and learn an important lesson, this will provoke emotions and help the customers get more attached to his or her experiences. So, if you are not able to create a conflict and build suspense, probably there’s nothing to teach your audience and the end product would not resemble a story.
Lead to a closing
Each story has an ending, usually an enlightening one. It should clearly wrap your message by giving meaning to the characters and situations they went through, thus leaving your audience with a clear call-to-action.
Lastly, don’t forget to be authentic when telling the story of your business. You should not be afraid to give all the details – the struggles, setbacks, successes and other situations that helped you build and develop your brand. This is how people will grasp the passion and dedication that were invested into creating your business, your message will better resonate with them and they will be more likely to support you all the way ahead.