Storytelling is the real secret to marketing success

Stories can be used to rally employees, inspire stakeholders, motivate vendors and attract customers

Simon Spikerman

You started your business with a dream. Now you need more people to buy in.

How will you persuade them?

While it’s nice to believe that we’re purely logical beings, people actually buy for largely emotional reasons. One of the most effective ways to appeal to emotions is through the power of story.

We’re wired to respond to stories. We remember them, we share them, and sometimes we’re changed by them.

So what are some of the secrets to storytelling that you can apply to your business?

Secrets of Storytelling

Remember that dream you had for building a business in the first place? When those thoughts play out in your mind, what you’re actually seeing is a story.

At its core, every story shares certain key elements. For starters, there’s a protagonist with a personal objective or desire. As the story unfolds, the protagonist struggles against the forces that block that desire. Stories conclude when the protagonist achieves the goal (or fails to do so), and in the best stories, the protagonist learns something on the journey that changes him or her forever.

The bigger the obstacles, the more we’re engaged by a story…especially if we identify with the protagonist.

When you think about your business, you probably imagine yourself as the protagonist, and your desire is growth. Your challenge or obstacle is to convince people to buy from you. But to succeed in telling the story of your business, you need to make your customer the protagonist.

Think about the customer’s problem…the one your business solves. Your customer’s desire is to overcome that problem, but he or she is struggling. As the story unfolds, ask “What is the worst that can happen if the problem isn’t solved?” Then have your business provide the solution, solving the problem and saving the day.

Let’s take an example.

Your business makes pens. How do you make a story out of that? Start with the customer. Let’s say your pens are really durable and work well in harsh desert conditions…so many of your customers are military personnel, using your pens to write home. Now you have a story.

A young soldier is deployed for the first time. He’s writing a letter to his wife and kids, but his pen keeps running out…in frustration, he throws the pen across the tent. The crumpled, half-written letter drops to the floor.

A more seasoned soldier picks up the crushed paper, unfolds it and hands it back to the young man, along with your company’s pen. He urges the young man to try it. The solider takes the pen and begins writing and it works beautifully. The young soldier smiles up at the older soldier. Next, we see the young soldier’s wife at home, reading the letter, tears in her eyes.

As you read that story, did you see it playing out in your head like a movie?

Video is the most powerful way to tell a story, because we’re visual beings and video engages so many of our senses. Done well, a video that tells a story can move us to action.

But video isn’t the only way to tell a story. Storytelling can take endlessly variable forms: businesses without the budget for video can start with website copy, blogs, even networking activities and sales presentations.

Stories can be told anywhere, at any time, and they are the most effective way to make connections that count. Use them to rally employees, inspire stakeholders, motivate vendors, and attract customers and referral sources…and watch your dream grow.

What’s your story?

Simon Spykerman is the ceative director at SpykerMedia, a video marketing agency.