The top brands in the world have great business storytelling examples that are shared repeatedly throughout the internet. The big issue I’ve always had with this is it’s hard for business owners like you and I to relate to them.
We get it – we just don’t know how to implement it in our own business.
The thing is, storytelling is not a magic pill – it’s a piece of the puzzle. There are many factors that make up this puzzle, including:
- where your ideal client is in the buying cycle
- knowing what you’re selling
- where you can share stories so they have the greatest impact
The quickest way to identify the answer to each of these is to know WHO your ideal client is. It’s this step that will make everything else that follows so much easier.
One of the greatest compliments was a tweet from someone who said: “it’s like you’re inside my head. How do you know that’s what I was thinking?” That’s when you know what you’re creating is of the highest interest to your most aligned client.
For example, my ideal client’s name is Lisa. Last year my client list included a Leeza and a Leisa.
So who is YOUR ideal client? And where are they hanging out?
I won’t go into it here because you can find much of that in the ideal client post, but I would encourage you to look at a typical day in their life to determine where is the best place to target them – ie. where are they hanging out?
For example, here’s a snapshot of my ideal client’s typical day:
7am: Scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed
8.30am: Go for run while listening to podcasts via the iPhone
2.30pm: Reading blog posts on the iPad at school pick up
5pm: Watching videos while making dinner
7pm: Scrolling through the Facebook newsfeed and blog post reading after the kids are in bed
All that gives you clues as to where to find your most aligned clients AND when to find them, ensuring the stories you share gain maximum return. You know that you need to be:
- Scheduling Facebook posts at 7am, 2.30pm and 7pm.
- Hosting a podcast, because you have her undivided attention while she’s jogging.
- Writing blog posts that will educate and inform.
- Creating videos? Well, you may find that one questionable, because she’s cooking dinner, she has kids – how invested in what you produced is she really? She’s more worried about getting that bolognese sauce just right, I imagine.
How long should your business stories be?
Now, you might be saying that Twitter is where your ideal client is hanging out but how can you tell a story there?
Storytelling doesn’t have to take pages of copy. Twitter has challenged us to tell our stories in 140 characters or less. But we’ve been telling succinct stories for longer than Twitter. One of my favourite stories, because it’s just so powerful is this:
“Baby shoes for sale. Never been worn”.
It tells a complete story in seven words.
Juxtapose that with the book, Shaking The Foundations, I wrote on a high profile Tasmanian businessman and his wife. It’s used to market his multimillion dollar construction company to other multimillion dollar businesses and is pictured here in a bookstore.
Initially, they wanted a book that detailed the chronological order of their business – they built this building and then this building and this funny thing happened on a building site. But the book changed significantly when we sat down in that first meeting.
The crux of the book is about a humble young Tasmanian couple who started a small construction business out of the back of a panel van at the same time they began growing their family in 1972. They worked hard at building the business and always imagined their son would take over one day.
However, when their son developed schizophrenia at age 21 after dabbling in marijuana, it shook their foundations (hence the title) and made them question why they had spent two decades building a business that now had no foreseeable future.
It was the most defining moment for their business and one that would dramatically change the course of their business – for the better. It’s a story of resilience, of love and doing the things in life we’re called to do.
The key to it is that it tells a vulnerable and captivating story. They don’t shy away from some of the more confronting stories like how his wife battles chronic depression, how he went through prostate cancer and how one project lost them $1m. The stories within this book humanise this multi million dollar company, while building authority. He paints a picture of a business that cares about its people and one that’s passionate about what it does. If you want to cry (and laugh), read this book.
It’s an example of: “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.
5 business storytelling examples
So let’s look at five business storytelling examples for where you can share a story that can sell people into your idea, on becoming part of your community, on your paid offering, or joining your email list – it’s all selling:
Your Website – About Page, Blog Posts and Testimonials Page
Whether you have a bricks and mortar business or an online business, your website is like your shopfront. So you need to think about the experience you’re giving someone when they step into that shop.
People want to do business with the person, rather than the logo, so don’t simply have a third-person professional bio on your About page – share your story of how you come to do what you do.
As you may have figured out from your Google Analytics, your About page is one of your most visited pages on your website, yet few people revisit it regularly – or have a clear call to action.
Include other people’s stories through testimonials and case studies. This is your opportunity to provide proof you’re able to generate results for your clients.
If you look at these blog posts you’ll see they receive a heap of shares, because they’re more than simply information – they include stories. This is one example of a blog post that has a 24% conversion rate from casual blog reader to opting in to my email list (so not a landing page!). There is no hard sell, but rather a gentle invitation to start implementing by using the free Client Pathway Map.
And, while the storytelling isn’t as strong here, this blog post has at a crazy 76% conversion from casual blog reader to email subscriber.
And lastly, your sales page. Wrap your copywriting into a story. This is how you can have your ideal client imagining themselves having possession of the product or using your service. People walk away feeling like they gained value even if they didn’t buy, which makes them want to come back for your next offer.
I love the storytelling on this sales page for Susan Hyatt’s retreat, that even reaches this hilarious Beyonce refund policy to reduce refunds.
ACTION: Ensure you get your message across, make your lessons easier to understand and provide proof of your strategies through stories in your blog posts.
You can find inspiration for social media and storytelling here, because I know it’s a big topic of interest to people.
However, I want to share one specific example today.
This is a photo from a client who was sharing a behind the scenes of what she, as a nutritionist for people who have gone through weight loss surgery, was cooking for her own lunch. She simply shared the recipe.
It ended up a viral Facebook post, reaching over a million people and had more than 150,000 shares on Facebook. This was also featured in their latest weight loss cookbook, which we were just about to launch. And it resulted in their book going to No. 1 in its category on Amazon within the space of a couple of days.
That’s not typical results. But it shows that sharing on social media the behind the scenes – even while working with a client so people can see what the experience is like – can be a huge pull to someone thinking about investing in you.
ACTION: Think about the everyday stories from your life that will add value to your followers’ lives. Oh, and make sure you have your systems set up in case that thing happens to go viral.
There are many different storytelling techniques you can use in email marketing, but one favourite is the cliffhanger ending or open loop. Think of soap operas like Home and Away and Neighbours where they end the episode with you wondering whether Alf dies or not. Or, if you want to put it into global terms, think about Game of Thrones and its ever evolving cast list.
The producers and scriptwriters create an open loop. Our brains have to close that loop, so we tune in to watch the next episode to see if Alf is OK or who is the next Game of Thrones victim.
You can use that same strategy of hooking people into an ongoing story in any of your marketing, but it works particularly well in email marketing to get people into the habit of wanting to open your emails and click your links.
This email worked particularly well for me as it garnered an above average open and clickthrough rate. It opened by closing a loop I’d previously opened about a personal story:
and led them through a story on the importance of systemising your business, so your business doesn’t suffer when life throws you a curve ball (like nearly losing your husband). It then transitioned into opening a new loop, which could only be closed by clicking through to watch a video.
ACTION: Think about how you’re enticing people to come back to your emails or click a link to learn more on a topic. Do you have the opportunity to tell a bigger story that runs over a series of emails that has subscribers excited for the next email?
Media and Public Relations
A few years ago I worked on the campaign to launch a master plan for a $250 million Living City redevelopment for Devonport, the city I lived in in Tasmania. It was about turning the city, which had its back to our greatest asset – The Mersey River, around.
They’d tried to do this five times over the space of 30 years and it had always fallen down at the point where the council had to endorse the plan. By pulling out the right stories and allowing people to imagine their life in this city and then want this newly shaped city for themselves with new hotels and conference facilities, a Food Pavilion that highlighted the region’s paddock to plate theme, and an iconic tourist bridge, it was featured on all three major TV nightly news programs plus front page of the newspaper two days in a row with positive news – not to mention the social media engagement.
The result was aldermen on the council unanimously adopted the plan – a hallmark moment for the city. The aldermen had never unanimously agreed on anything!
ACTION: What story can you tell that allows people to get a sense of what it would be like working with you? How can you make them feel part of the experience before it even happens?
Sales call, speeches or conversation
Whether you’re doing a speech to a room full of people, a webinar version online or having a sales conversation with a potential client, you can always start with a story that people can relate to.
If you go back to my blog post on why storytelling is important, you’ll see I sold my expertise on why you should listen to me in the first four dot points within the post. That was using storytelling (and some major creative license) to sell you on the idea I know about storytelling and that you can trust me because I’m just like you (unless you’ve never had weapons of mass lactation, of course).
If I’d started the post by letting you know I’m an online marketing and social media coach who helps people… your brain would have went to sleep. In fact, it would have started thinking about whether Buzzfeed has some new funny cat photos posted yet.
Those short stories were used as part of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style introduction to sell my expertise in a more creative way during a recent local networking event where I was guest speaker. That speech led to two new clients from that audience who were drawn into the speech from the first sentence.
ACTION: What story can you tell that sells your expertise while keeping audiences captivated during your next online or offline speech?
As you can see, using everyday stories in your online marketing can go a long way to achieving the goal you’ve set yourself.
One of the comments business owners often make is that they – or their business – is too boring. They can’t see how they can find and share stories themselves.
When I work with clients in The Online Marketing Mastermind, one of the core areas we focus on is pulling out as many of your stories, client stories and demonstration stories that will move people to action.
I’ve put together a shorter version of my full Storytelling Map for you to download and start working on to craft YOUR stories.
Download your copy here
If you’d like to dive deeper into the stories you have to sell more soulfully without pushing, but can’t wait until The Online Marketing Mastermind opens again in February 2018, be sure to book a time for us to chat to see how I can help here.
Where will you share YOUR stories to attract, nurture and convert your most aligned clients?