“Many business professionals today understand that they need to be doing this. They just don’t know what it means, because … it is a somewhat esoteric or abstract notion: storytelling.” – Carmine Gallo
Storytelling in business is often regarded as a buzzword, but it’s far from it. Storytelling in business is just like storytelling in film, theatre, literature, and communication — it’s an integral part of our lives. Stories have meaning beside simple entertainment value. Stories connect people with other people, businesses, brands, products, and their dreams. And businesses cannot succeed without this connection.
From pitching to product development to marketing to culture and talent, storytelling takes place everywhere. To pitch an idea you need to tell a story of the problem you’re solving. To develop a product you need more than a solution to a problem, but to create a world where this product exists. Few are converted by simple facts and figures. To create a successful marketing campaign and branding you need a cohesive story of the brand with a company vision that spans all channels and campaigns. To attract and keep the best talent, and to manage those employees to success, you need to create a culture to motivate them and make sure everyone is on the same page. And what is the answer to it all? Storytelling.
Storytelling has always been an integral part of our lives. But stories are more than just entertainment. Starting back in the ancient times, people have used stories to communicate, learn, and connect with each other. Stories allow people to share knowledge and emotions, identify truths, find themselves and their place in communities, and make sense of the world they live in. And thus people are conditioned to look for stories in order to make decisions — in order to find value.
For example, when you contemplate buying a smartphone, you look at reviews, because reviews are stories. They are not just facts about features. They are stories about the experience of people who’ve used that smartphone.
And when it comes to businesses, it is the same story. When people think of a business, they are trying to identify reasons why they should interact with this business, regardless of the form this interactions takes place in. Thus to identify these reasons, people look for stories. Stories that will answer the most important question — why should they care.
And thus the challenge of each business is to use storytelling in order to answer the most basic question for any product: why should people care — why should their customers, employees, or investors care. Too often businesses focus on the product, the idea, or the business, but the focus should be on the people instead. And stories do exactly that.
When there’s an idea there’s a story. Thus when developing a new product or growing your business to the next level, executives must use storytelling to be as effective as possible. This can come as a surprise to many — what does storytelling have to do with product development?
When thinking about developing a new product, entering a new market, scaling, building relationships with investors, or deciding on a new course for the company, many would make a mistake of thinking of these things in black and white. Simplicity is good, but business development requires more than problem-answer approach. And since “Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships,” businesses need to show the value that they will create for customers, markets, and all stakeholders in exchange.
That exact value is created through storytelling. The story of value places around the relevant parties in the world, where your business or product/service will revolutionize their world and their lives. If you are thinking of entering a new market, think how the product will change specific aspects of the customer’s life. If you are developing a new product, think beyond just having features that solve an issue to how it adds value to people’s lives. If you are building relationships, whether with investors or partners, think how you will positively affect them beyond earning them money. Your strategy — your story — needs to pack a punch and make people go ‘WOW’.
Marketing and Advertising
Your story needs to carry over to your marketing strategy. Storytelling in marketing is discussed by many more often than in other parts of business. After all, marketing is storytelling, or at least it should be.
Yet, a lot of businesses, especially small businesses, fail to integrate storytelling in their marketing campaigns. People want to connect with businesses, with brands. Thus advertising needs to be more than just cheap tactics such as flashy pictures, humour, sex appeal, and a lot of graphics. People choose simple story-based ads over expensive action-driven ads over and over again because those exact ads, or rather, those exact stories, make people feel, make people relate, make people care. And it goes beyond advertising.
To drive conversions you need a good branding campaign, and a good branding campaign needs transparency. Tell people what your business’s struggle was. And then, tell them how you pulled through. That is a story right in front of you: protagonist (you, your business) is on the journey only to face a challenge that needs overcoming. Create this story, and people will start caring about you and, in turn, about your product or service.
But it doesn’t stop at just creating a story. You need to keep it consistent across all channels: ads, social media, content, vision, website, design, PR, product, and most importantly, your employees. This story with its unique vision needs to be everywhere.
Employees are the brain and the heart of the business. The success of the business is dependent on the quality of its talent. And storytelling helps you nurture that talent.
In fact, stories are needed for a successful corporate culture because if done right, corporate storytelling will increase employee performance. But what exactly does it mean to use storytelling for engaging employees?
Employees are people too. Like anybody else, employees need motivation. What’s better motivation than believing in something — believing in the company you are working for. The story, the company story with its mission and vision, needs to resonate with employees. Top talent is not attracted by just high salary, perks, and free snacks in cafeteria.
Talent is attracted to the company as an entity — with its history, values, and mission. And what better way to share that than through stories: the ultimate medium for communication.
And it goes beyond simply having a successful vision. The success of storytelling cultures in the companies Southwest Airlines, KPMG, and Apple shows that making your employees a part of the company’s broader story and training your stuff through storytelling increases productivity and the quality of their work.
Go and share stories with your employees and, most importantly, let your employees share stories. Let them be an integral part of your company.
Stories are everywhere, even if we don’t notice it. To succeed in the business world in the age where everyone can be an entrepreneur, it’s not enough to simply have a product or a service that solves an issue. It’s never been as important to be creative as it is now. Fortunately, there are a variety of automation solutions — such as amoCRM, automated sales solution — that let your imagination loose and create the story your business deserves. And don’t be afraid. After all, “We are all storytellers” – Jimmy Neil Smith.
David Beriev is a marketing specialist at amoCRM. amoCRM is an easy-to-use, yet powerful CRM solution for teams who make data-driven decisions and love their customers. David is passionate about helping businesses gain competitive advantage through innovation and creativity.