Are you building your brand with storytelling?
by Lucy Seymour on 12 November 2018
For millennia, humans have told one another stories; the oral tradition predates the written word by centuries. Whole cultures rely on storytelling to keep their heritage, creation stories and ancestries alive. It’s easy to become blind to the fact, but all of us tell and receive stories every day: from the bleary-eyed “How did you sleep?” conversation with your partner in the morning, to the “How was your day at school?” exchange with your children at the end of the day. Humans are programmed to make sense of the world through stories. So why would you exclude your business from this familiar, trusted format?Brands need to use storytelling to show prospects who they are and what they do. It’s no good writing a cold, overly wordy description on your homepage and hoping people understand your mission from that. You need to craft stories about your brand, showing colourful characters, interesting events and the rising action behind your product or service. If you aren’t telling stories – and don’t understand the role you play within them – you won’t be in a position to compete with more exciting, dynamic brands.
With so many new businesses starting websites and linked social media accounts around the world every day, can you afford to fade into obscurity? Here we explore the ways to keep your business at the heart of your story and how to communicate this with customers.
Sorry to break it to you, but you’re not the hero of this story. Too often businesses put themselves at the heart of their brand, shouting about the services they provide, the amazing features of their product and how hard they’ve worked to get it that way. At no point do they come back to the most important character in their story: the customer. The customer is the hero and thus must be at the centre of every story you tell. You are the guide. Your product is the ‘awesome thingamajig’ that will help them achieve their goal.
For instance, if your customer is Luke Skywalker, your product is his light sabre, and you are Yoda. Or if your customer is Katniss Everdeen, then you are Haymitch and your product is the bow and arrow. In the case of Harry Potter, you are Dumbledore and your product is the Sword of Gryffindor. It doesn't matter which story you tell, so long as your customer is always the hero.
As Donald Miller, creator of Storybrand explains:
“It’s a small but powerful shift. It honours the journey and struggles of our audience, and it allows us to provide the product or service they need to succeed. Our natural inclination is to make our own brand the hero… That kind of language creates a disconnect with your customers that’ll show up in your bottom line. According to Deloitte and Touche, customer-centric companies were 60% more profitable compared to companies that were not focused on the customer.”
Businesses are the helpful, wise guide to steer customers – or heroes – through their journey. They start their relationship with you as novices and, because of the training you provide, your dedication to them, and your willingness to impart knowledge, they come out the other side a fully formed hero. Remembering these roles is crucial to building meaningful and lasting relationships with customers: if you start focusing on yourself and your history instead of your customer and their needs, you’ll soon find they churn.
Every business has a story. And yours is interesting, not just to you – or your mum – but to anyone who might want to work with you. But like all the best stories, it’s all in the telling. This doesn’t mean you have to sit your prospects down and recite a long tale from start to finish about every pitfall you’ve come up against and how it all came out right in the end. Storytelling your brand isn’t as obvious – or dry – as that: it’s something that has to be engrained in everything you do, big and small, at your business.
Ways to incorporate storytelling into your brand include:
Not ‘About us’ which could encourage you to waffle on for 1000 words about where you went to university and your favourite holiday destination. An honest telling of your morals, values and what’s at the heart of your business – what did you notice was missing from the world? What void did you want to fill? Who did you want to help? How do you want customers to feel when working with you?
Give colour and personality to the people behind your product or service. Friendly photographs, video interviews and interesting information about them outside of work says a lot about the kind of people you want to employ at your business. Each employee brings a story with them to enrich your brand – so get sharing.
Meetings, different locations, training days and pets deserve a place on social media. This is one of the best ways to build your brand story – get onto customers’ newsfeeds daily with content that makes them smile, intrigues them or give them something to think about. If people are increasingly engaging with, liking and reposting your content – it’s because you’re telling a story about your business.
Your blog doesn’t have to include dry subject matter such as the latest feature updates or industry changes. Instead, use your existing customers to feature in your blog posts as mini case studies, set up a questionnaire and see the kinds of responses you get, reporting them in a post, or create a recruitment drive through your blog, showing what a great place your business is to work (do you offer great training? Run pet-friendly offices? Flexi-working hours?). Always link this back to the benefit for the customer — "we invest in keeping our staff happy, so that they keep our customers happy by delivering a great service."
Storytelling is an important part of your day-to-day interactions, too. Don’t force it: segueing stories in artificially will come across as pushy or contrived. But allow yourself to tell real stories to clients, should they occur to you as you speak. Share with them experiences you’ve had with other customers in the past who were similar to them, share advice based on your history and show them how you overcame obstacles using real accounts – they’ll appreciate your candidness.
Most businesses have an affiliation with a charity, and if you don’t, it’s a great way to do even more good in the world, as a team. Record fundraising events, silly photos, or embed a calculator to show how far you are from target. If team members are doing their own independent fundraising for a charity close to them, show your support for them through this page, too – it all counts towards building a clearer picture and helps prospects understand your values and philanthropic endeavours.
By sharing more behind the scenes, emotive and real moments with your prospects and customers, you’re building a story about your brand. You can show the funny moments, the joy that goes into working at your business, the collaborations you make – even sharing pictures of food & drink, social events and pets show personality beyond your service or product. Above all, celebrate your customers’ successes, becoming their loudest cheerleader.
Ask yourself, what kind of adjectives do you want people to associate with your brand? Friendly? Creative? Fun? Positive? Expert? Hardworking? These are the moments you need to share.