What Every Small Business Needs To Know About Storytelling
Why did you start your business?
Was it tough?
Did you make mistakes?
At the heart of every business is a great story.
You don’t need to be Richard Branson or Bill Gates for people to be interested in hearing it.
In fact, telling the story of your business can endear you to your customers, improve emotional engagement with your brand and build loyalty.
As with all marketing, there are pitfalls. Have you ever read a brand’s story that’s so over the top, it makes you cringe? Or one so fact-laden it’s like reading a history book?
Your storytelling should be clear, concise, emotive and authentic. Read on, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know.
Build it around a structure
Any good story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. It also needs clear characters, a plot, context, challenges and objectives. These are elements of a story that readers won’t realize they need until they’re missing. Consider the two examples below:
1) “Founded in 1980, we started with nothing. We bought our first batch of stock with a $100 loan and now we have just opened our 10,000th furniture store.”
2) “Tom and I started with nothing back in 1980 while living underneath a bakery. We lied on our loan application so the bank would give us $100 and we used it to buy our first batch of stock. We walked door-to-door for weeks until we sold every piece. We used that money to buy more stock. Then we opened a store. Twenty eight years later and we have just opened our 10,000th store. We celebrated with a cake from the same bakery we started from.”
Which story is more compelling?
The second version has characters. It has a start, a challenge to overcome, and an outcome. You are the characters in your own story.
Ask yourself the questions below and sketch them into a skeleton structure:
● Who are the characters?
● When does it happen?
● What happens?
● Why does it happen?
● What challenges did you face?
● What happened in the end?
This will form the backbone of your storytelling.
Have an outcome
There’s nothing worse than a story that doesn’t have an end. The viewer has engaged with your build up, they’ve bought into your characters, but you don’t end it. It can leave them feeling frustrated.
Whatever your outcome is – whether it’s that you’re opening your first store or you’ve partnered with a charity – make sure it’s clear, concise, and hopeful too. The outcome of your journey should set your stall for the whole purpose of your business. It’s why you’re here today.
For example, if you’re basing your business story around conservation, say what you’ve achieved and what you plan to do next:
“We wanted a percentage of every purchase to go to protect forests around the world. And we’re proud to say that with your help, we’ve contributed to the planting of over 100,000 trees. But we’re not done yet. We won’t stop until all our forests are thriving.”
Tie your story into your whole business
Consistency is the key with storytelling.
Your outcome and objectives should feed into everything you do. It’s the reason you’re here and if customers can understand that, they can understand how you meet their needs and why you’re the company they should engage with.
Make sure that your logo is on every piece of material you produce. Use the same fonts and the same colors. Keep everything consistent. This way, when your customers see your brand via a different channel, they immediately know what they’re looking at it. This goes for the story itself too. Know it inside out before you start telling it. People will be able to identify inconsistencies quickly and if they do, you lose credibility.
Be authentic, be fallible
You have a unique opportunity when telling your business’ story to communicate something genuine to your customers.
Tell the truth.
It can be tempting to over-exaggerate because you don’t think that your story is that interesting. You may have made a ton of mistakes and you don’t want people to think you didn’t know what you were doing.
But we have some news for you. People love reading about the mistakes you made along the way. It makes you a human being. They might relate to you more because they’ve made them too. Or you’ve brought up a mistake they can now avoid.
Perfection isn’t believable. Imperfections are.
As Richard Branson said:
“The story of every successful person is a story of second chances (not to mention third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances!) Nobody gets everything right first time, and it is how we learn from our mistakes that defines us.”
Be honest and genuine.
Talk about your failures and your challenges and what you did to overcome them. It’s the most compelling part of your story.
Involve your customers
Business storytelling is a great way to endear customers to your brand.
They develop an emotional response to you — make the most of this. Get them involved in your story.
Better still, weave their stories in with yours and let them shape your future. In doing so, you bring them into your brand and build a long-lasting loyalty.
You can do this simply by asking them to share their stories with you. Or their mistakes. Let’s say you’ve just launched your first start up. You could ask your customers to share their experiences of starting a business. You’ll likely find there are many. Maybe you have overcome personal hardship to launch your business. Allow people to share their challenges and how they overcame them. Publish their stories and share them on social media. Create a world that encompasses you and your customers.
Storytelling story is a vital part of your branding. It can create a stronger relationship between you and your customers, which in turn creates a loyal consumer base and deeper engagement with your brand. But you don’t need to be a big name brand like Warby Parker or Pepsi to warrant a strong company story — even basic dropshipping businesses can craft a strong story for their brand.
Indeed, look at the dropshipping websites for sale on Exchange and you’ll find that many use a company story to set their business apart from the rest.
A good example is that of Cole & Coddle, whose About Us page shares a heartwarming story about a young couple who started their business when they became parents. It’s beautiful and moving, and it’s a fine example of how a brand story can boost a business.
No matter how prosaic your business or its origins, storytelling can enhance your brand, and it’s well worth starting today.
These are the foundations of business storytelling and when done well, can really help you build a connection with your audience. In doing so, you build long-lasting loyalty and provide a compelling reason for customers to keep coming back to buy from you.
Kayleigh Alexandra is lead writer at Micro Startups, a labor of love through which she explores the exciting world of micro businesses and the people that are working within it. Head over to her blog today for all the latest on enterprise, SMEs, and solopreneurs today. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.