Not long ago I went to a networking group and introduced myself to someone, as I do, as a storyteller. Oh, they said, so you go into schools and things? Talk to children?
I think this is a common misconception when it comes to storytelling, especially in the B2B world. Although many marketers are fast cottoning on to it as a powerful part of the mix, there are still a lot of assumptions being made. So, let’s get those cleared up for a start!
1. Storytelling can only be used when being really creative or “fun”. It’s not for corporate marketing or serious issues.
Storytelling is perfect for complex, serious messages – in fact, it can help humanise subjects that are otherwise very difficult to talk about.
2. A story has to start with ‘once upon a time’ and end with ‘and then they lived happily ever after.’
This is almost true but not in the obvious way that you think.
Not all stories are fairy tales. Stories are often used with so much subtlety you don’t ever realise that’s what’s happening other than you feel a connection to what is being said.
3. Storytelling can only be used for nice ‘lifestyle-type’ products.
Just take a look at the Maersk instagram account if you want to see a real-life example of this; compelling storytelling about shipping containers, who’d have thunk it?
So how could you use storytelling in your business?
The quick answer is anywhere and everywhere but here are a few ideas to get you thinking
First, there’s the obvious:
Customer case studies
Case studies are the perfect medium for telling a traditional story of plight, resolution and happy ever after. Even better if you can get the customer telling the story themselves. Brilliant if you can film them doing it. Check out the video success stories used by Google Ads for inspiration
Social networks are ready made storytelling platforms. Whether you are using words, video, visuals or photos, billions of people every single day are storytelling, often without even realising it. Make sure you pick the right platform for your target audience (think about where they are hanging out most) and adapt how you tell your story to suit e.g using images, words, video etc. Dove‘s Instagram account is a fab example of combining powerful imagery and cleverly written captions.
On your website
Everyone loves a back-story so how about switching up your about us section and telling the world how you came to set up your business in the first place. The reasons why you do what you do, the passion, the motivations, your values, your learnings; these are the things customers really buy into. They want to hear you are human just like them rather than a faceless business. Storytelling helps you do this perfectly. Check out how I’ve put this into action myself
Being creative, in less obvious ways is a winning strategy so how about considering the following uses:
Industry awards are a great way to get a stamp of recognition and validation for what you do; all of which helps a customer trust in their decision to buy from you. So how about using stories in award entries?
I’ve written several winning nominations that tell stories of a hero (often the business owner or marketing manager) and their mission to do something different and push boundaries for the sake of their customers. It’s a great way to bring what you do to life, even if it’s quite complex and maybe not particularly sexy.
Storytelling enables you to have fun which I always think for the judging panels reading 100s of entries, if nothing else, will make for a refreshing change.
Pitches, bids and tenders
Although not the most obvious, storytelling works incredibly well when pitching for work. Again, there is often an assumption, especially in the corporate world, that bids need to be heavy, serious, long. Yes – you do need to make sure all criteria are met but there is no mandate on how you write.
If you are pitching to any business, they want to be able to quickly understand why you are going to help them achieve what they are after better than the next person.
If you are in a very competitive market, being able to show a different side of your business which will appeal to their emotional side (and I’m not talking about warms hugs and kitten here), will help them feel more connected to what you are doing; even it is on paper pretty much the same as your competitors.
Start telling your story today
There are tonnes of other ways you could use storytelling; events, presentations, PR, even in your packaging.
I’ve been seeing a lot of small brands, like Smol, who supply laundry tabs through your letterbox, including a short narrative about their story when they send out their product.
This is a great way of reinforcing your values and reminding customers why they buy from you; encouraging them to both buy again and spread the word about you.
Knowing where to start is often the hardest part. I’ve put together 10 easy steps to writing your first story in my free guide. Good luck and happy storytelling!