The Power of Storytelling…Yes, Even in Business


‘That’s what we storytellers do . . . We restore order to imagination.
We instill hope. Again and again.’
– Walt Disney

For even the biggest curmudgeons of us as adults, it’s hard to watch Mary Poppins-with its catchy song titles, long, made up words, beloved nanny that makes everything a ‘snap’—and not smile at the thought that life is hunky dory.
But the story behind the beloved children’s classic is anything but, as illustrated in the movie, ‘Saving Mr. Banks.’

I’ll avoid a spoiler alert in case you want to watch it yourself, but let’s just say, life, for the creator of ‘Mary Poppins’ was not easy…A pivotal scene in the movie, has Walt Disney reasoning with P.L. Travers, the writer of the books to let go of some of her mundane and staunch thinking about the story and give him greater creative license with her beloved brand to paint a bigger picture that audiences will more readily be able to relate to…

‘That’s what we storytellers do . . . We restore order to imagination.
We instill hope. Again and again.’
says Walt Disney in the film.

The words in the film resounded with me, even in B2B context. (Funny how you can find inspiration for business, in everyday things and even a movie about Mary Poppins.) Because, often, this is what we try and reassure our clients, which may not be as content or strategy-oriented, about the importance of telling a story.

‘Story’ and ‘Business’ in the same sentence may sound very strange and like an oxymoron to some. But even in business you are still dealing with people. And people relate well to a number of different types of mediums (the average consumer views over 10 pieces of content in a variety of formats, before making a purchasing decision), including ‘stories’ about other people (people buy from people).

Stories in business can often include:
• Customer testimonials
• Inspiration & Case Studies
• Tips & advice for your industry
• News about your industry
• News about your company, how it is giving back, personal information, etc.
• Platform updates
• Promotions
• Information on members of your team.

Ironic to some, storytelling is more (not less) important when selling to businesses. The decision to go with a new technology, make a leap of faith in new processes, can be especially threatening and scary for someone in business with bosses and a board to report to, a family to support, and a lot to lose. Stories can put people at ease, show them a path, guide them on how they can enable a better future.

Poignant stories are inspiring, humanizing and authentic, a powerful compliment to quantifiable benefits. Stories in business are:

  • The heart of relationship-building. Connections with people begin with stories—think about a recent get together you attended, where you may not have known many people and the deepest connections you made were most likely with individuals with which you could relate that told you stories about their background, about what they do, about why they live where they live.
  • Describes the world of your audience, and how much you understand who they are, what they care about, and where they are trying to get in life. Stories are selfless; Its not about telling your audience what you want them to know—spilling out information on the specifications of your latest features—but instead about giving them something that is personally meaningful.
  • Endlessly evocative, interesting and “shareable” when it comes to social media and other online channels.

They are not: stretches or modifications of the truth—that is against what we stand for and not what I mean by stories—but instead, I am implying that it is important to show the human side of your brand to create a reason to believe.

Don’t believe me that stories are important in business? Consider that:

• 92% of consumers worldwide trust brand or product recommendations from friends & family more than any other form of advertising, up from 74% in 2007.
• 70% of Americans say they look at reviews before taking the next step to conversion.
• 72% of consumers surveyed say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

For many businesses a blog (whether it is called that or something entirely different) is a perfect path to regularly tell stories about one’s brand. That content can then be shared via other channels with social media, newsletters and other means. Websites with blogs are also proven to get 55% more visitors and 97% more inbound links (helping to boost traffic and SEO). Blogs give brands a method to speak to customers in an authentic way, addressing questions before they become barriers and giving real world examples from a trustworthy source: your fellow subscribers.

Through communication of personal, positive experiences, in the form of stories, we can:
• Nurture and convert leads
• Enrich existing marketing messages
• Emphasize subscriber benefits
• Overturn objections
• Communicate best practices
• Increase loyalty and reduce churn
• Provide authentic, inspiring platform to grow social audiences

How can you show your customers you understand their challenges and are prepared to address them? Or that you have helped other companies to succeed where they may have failed in the past? How can you encourage them to take that next leap of faith? Bring your customers’ stories, case studies and testimonials into the heart of your business. Show your brand’s human side. Take the proof of your success and give it a face.

Photo Credit Paul Hart

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