Business Storytelling: How To Build a Connection With Your Customers and Grow Your Business
Storytelling is a powerful tool that helps us convey our own stories based on our experiences and ventures. It allows us to forge powerful and long-lasting relationships with other people including our customers.
Even in business, we can use the age-old principle of storytelling. If you’re a business owner, your company has its own story to tell — be it your mission and vision, your value proposition, or your current campaigns.
Letting your audience know more about you can make them more interested in your business as well as develop a bond with your brand.
But to resonate with your customers, you have to be clever about how you communicate it. This is where the concept of “business storytelling” comes in.
It’s not enough to just put your messages out there with more words, you have to hone your business storytelling skills in order to capture audiences’ attention and make them respond to your call to action.
What is business storytelling?
The best storytellers give a story life and colour by moving audiences with emotion and inspiration. This is what you also want to emulate in business storytelling.
Business storytelling is more than narrating your business’s journey or describing the features of your products and services. It’s translating concepts and information about your business into something relatable for your target audience.
Similar to telling a good story, you also have to build context, organise a flow, and help them visualise what you’re saying.
You may have marketing campaigns and advertising materials ready, but how do you ensure you’re communicating these well to your customers? How do you get them to connect with you? You have to learn good business storytelling for that.
For example, if you’re selling a mobile phone, you can tell your customers all about its top-notch processor or high-quality camera.
However, that won’t really make an impact on them if they don’t understand why they would need such features in their lives. You need to build a relationship, so they’ll be hooked on whatever you’re conveying
If you would tell it in a way that shows how it benefits them, they’ll be more responsive and engaged. Remind them of the hassle of having a slow smartphone, and why getting the best processor would make sense.
Tell them the value of capturing memories with their loved ones, and how having a great camera handy would be worth it.
Using business storytelling for growth
Mastering the art of business storytelling will be a useful tool in strategic growth planning. Whether you plan to introduce new products and services or expand your operations to more physical locations, you’ll be dealing with several audiences.
Aside from your customers, these could also be your employees or potential investors.
Business storytelling unlocks a deeper connection with all of them, allowing you to achieve your goals faster.
Employees that understand why the business is moving forward will be more motivated to work. Investors who clearly see the vision of your company and how you plan to reach it will be more open to trusting you.
Customers, especially, are an important audience to engage as you scale up. Aside from buying your products and services, they’ll also become your brand ambassadors if your business is meaningful for them. You can help them realise your business’s value to them through good business storytelling.
Elements of Business Storytelling
To effectively communicate with your audience, you need to be aware of the important elements of business storytelling. These three elements below will allow you to resonate with people better. If your storytelling doesn’t meet these, your customers might feel indifferent to your brand or ignore you all together.
Your message and the way you convey it shouldn’t be too complicated. If a story is confusing or going around in circles, people won’t understand it at all. They might even stop listening to it halfway through.
In order to keep your story simple, have one main key message which you’d like your audience to take away from. You can create supporting messages under that but always recall your key message.
This will allow you to ground your story on one point and avoid any sort of confusion about what you’re trying to communicate.
This will be easy if you’ve determined a clear strategic direction for your business. You and your team members can align on the business goal and organise the things you want to say to your customers. Having a cohesive flow to your story helps your audience see how everything connects together as well.
A simple story also makes it easier for your customers to spread the word to others. If they genuinely appreciate your products or service, it’ll be easy for them to advocate it to their friends and family. This can give you more mileage and reach without having to exert much effort.
Humans are emotional beings. We do things based on our feelings, motivations, and aspirations. It’s in our nature.
We tend to be influenced or moved by stories if there’s an emotional connection with us. So in business storytelling, you need to find that emotional trigger for your audience. Identify what will spark the interest or tug the heartstrings of your customers then find a common ground with your business’s story.
When your stories evoke such feelings, customers will find it easier to become attached to you. They’ll see how your products and services can fill in a gap and benefit their lives.
A good example of this is social proof used in Better Proposals’ templates. They illustrate how the proposed solution helped a previous client, but the twist is, the reader gets the full story.
The social proof in these proposal templates isn’t just a bunch of numbers that show ROI and an increase in sales, it’s a story of a person (or company) that experienced more than one benefit and can now hire more people, enjoy more free time, scale their business or do something in those lines.
People will be wary of stories that seem too good to be true. It’s so easy to twist information, after all. No matter how good the story is, it has to be believable.
A believable story will foster trust towards the brand. This trust isn’t only important in creating an emotional connection but also in building credibility.
If many people trust your brand, then they’re more likely to listen to your stories, recognise your campaigns, and buy your products and services.
If you’re going to make product claims such as being the most preferred brand in a certain category, you need to back that up with proof. Keep documentation of your business performance to give evidence to your statements. You should also do proper research to ensure that you’re giving factual information.
How to engage customers and build connections
Customers encounter hundreds of advertisements, commercials, and marketing messages in a day. They can’t give their attention to all of them, so they’ll ignore those that don’t really matter to them.
As a business owner, you have to find a way to wade through the noise and make customers listen to you. The competition will be stiff, as you’ll be fighting for their attention against many other brands.
Simply getting noticed isn’t enough either. You have to engage your customers by having them react and do something. Take it a step further by making a lasting impression so that even if time passes, they’ll remember your brand.
How do you do this? You can incorporate the following tips in your marketing and communication plans to make your stories more appealing and meaningful for customers.
Tell stories that arouse curiosity
If a story piques someone’s curiosity, they’ll stay and listen no matter how long it is. You can do this with your business as well. Make your target market curious about your business, so that they’ll want to know more.
Instead of pushing your products and services onto customers, draw them in. Craft stories that will intrigue them. Don’t give out all the information at once; just give them enough to make them want to know more.
As an example of this, you can feature positive customer reviews on your marketing and advertising materials. You can collect testimonials that highlight your business strengths. When people see this, they’ll wonder what it is about you that made these customers enjoy your product or service so much.
Stories that reflect audiences’ aspiration
People are motivated by their aspirations in life. A person who wants to become a successful doctor will study well in school, apply to the best medical institutions, and work hard to get into the best hospitals out there. They will do whatever it takes to make their ambition a reality.
As a business owner, you can connect with customers by showing them how you can help them achieve their goals in life.
Identify the common hopes and dreams of your audience and place yourself as a reflection of that. When customers see your value in their journey, they’ll consider you an essential part of their life.
For instance, you run a university with young aspiring medical students as your target audience.
One way to encourage them to apply is by highlighting your science programs for the medical track. Make the most of your content marketing by featuring your laboratories, facilities, and instructors.
That way, they’ll understand how you can contribute to their future success.
Being more visual is also a good tactic to reflect your audience’s aspirations. Cliched as it may be, “show, don’t tell” is a powerful way to tell your stories. Without saying a lot, you can close the deal because customers realise on their own why they need your business.
In the example given, you can show accomplished doctors who have graduated from your university. Narrate their experience and how their life in university played a role in their success. This will enable them to visualise their own journey if they were to enrol in your university.
For customers, it’s important to feel seen and understood. They purchase products and services to fulfil a certain need or want. If your business doesn’t address any of those, your customer might stop purchasing from you and switch to a different brand.
Because of this, it’s important to emulate empathy with your audience at all times.
You have to show that you understand them and what they’re going through. If your stories deliver this message, your customers will trust you wholeheartedly.
To create customer-centric strategies and messages, do thorough customer research. Delve into who they are and what they care about. Conduct surveys, focus group discussions, and interviews so that you get real stories from them.
Business storytelling is a skill you need to master if you want your business to grow and flourish. Stories offer something personal and emotional. If you tell them well, you can forge a deep and lasting connection with your customers.
It will take effort to develop and tell powerful stories that resonate with your audience. It’s more than just spouting words out there. You need to give it flow and structure by doing customer research, crafting key messages, and finding the right communication strategies and tactics.
John Courtney is the Founder and Chief Executive of BoardroomAdvisors.co which provides part-time Executive Directors (Commercial/Operations/Managing Directors), Non-Executive Directors and paid Mentors to SMEs without either a recruitment fee or a long-term contract.
John is a serial entrepreneur, having founded 7 different businesses over a 40-year period, including a digital marketing agency, corporate finance and management consultancy. He has been ranked #30 in CityAM’s list of UK Entrepreneurs.
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