“Story is what makes us human, not just metaphorically, but literally.” ~ Lisa Cron, Author of Wired for Story
Stories make the world go round. We build relationships because of the stories coming from the people around us. Then we create new stories together — like the ones that exist among business partners or team members.
Life is a story and so is business. In fact, everything in your company adds to your story. Marketing is no different. Investors read the story that your profit and loss statements share. Employees read the story that your management team delivers. Your potential customers read the story that your marketing distributes. For the best storytelling experience – you need the right side of the brain.
The Right Brain On Top
From a business perspective, the right brain, seen as home to the artistic parts of our mind, has come into vogue. According to Daniel Pink, author of a Whole New Mind:
“The future belongs to artists, creative thinkers and dreamers….Gone are the days when lawyers and doctors and computer programers excel without incorporating design, story, sympathy, empathy and meaning in their work.”
Story and connection matters. But what exactly does that look like for the small business owner who is trying to market their goods and services?
Dr. Gabrielle Lusser Rico, author of Writing The Natural Way, says the right brain:
“. . .expresses word images, rhythm, recurring pattern, and metaphor, all of which charge a passage emotionally.”
It’s the emotion that establishes a connection and helps you tell your story and sell your product.
To Make The Most of StoryTelling
Your people need to feel one thing. Your audience wants to know that you understand what they’re going through. You have to start with the pain that they are in or the pleasure they’re hoping to find.
When you look at effective commercials for any well-marketed, resort hotel — it’s less about the actual hotel. What gets our attention is the personal meaning. It’s about the escape from a hectic work schedule and feeling catered to for a change. It’s about adventure, disconnecting and being refreshed. That’s what the hotel is selling, not a room (feature), but an experience (benefit).
Every effective product or service carries a benefit. And it’s your job to design and expose it to your audience.
So What’s The Benefit of Your Product?
What’s the experience from using it? How does it change your client’s life? That’s the story your people want to hear.
Instead of leading with logic and a long list of features (left brain), lead with the story (right brain) by listing the benefits — highlighting the experience. Consider the latest 13 in MacBook Air. Apple refers to it as:
“The ultimate everyday notebook. Powerful enough to carry you through the day. With so little to actually carry.”
That’s the benefit. To be effective, benefits are delivered in the kind of language that lets you feel what you gain from your purchase. But that same computer is also:
“Designed entirely around flash storage…available in up to 512 GB” encased in an “aluminum unibody design” weighing less than 2.5 pounds.”
That’s the feature, the stuff you want to know after you get excited about the experience — not before.
Talk To Your Clients
Listen to their stories with your product or service. Don’t worry about taking notes. Record it so that you can engage with them and have fun with the conversation.
When you play back your recording, you’ll hear their language and it will give you the phrases to use in your marketing. For more on this, consider Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell The Way Your Customers Want To Buy by Kristin Zhivago.
Paint A Picture
In addition to that, your marketing message, you need an image that enhances your story. Dr. Rico says the right brain:
“Makes designs of whatever it encounters.”
It takes the data and details and constructs a bigger picture. When it comes to selling a product or service most of your people want to understand that big picture. They want to hear it in words and see it in photographs or even videos.
The image has to be relevant. So before you put together your beautiful, breathe-taking marketing pieces, get clear about the core message and benefits. Then gather pictures that fit your core message. They have to enhance the story you’re telling or they don’t need to be there.
A Quick Reminder
If you’re unclear about what you really want to say and what your people really need to hear from you, then you’ll end up with a bunch of meaningless photos, meaningless phrases and wasted effort.
Take the time to listen to your people and craft a story that matters to them. Lead with the benefits. Yes, you need the lists, the details, the features, at some point, but let that left brain activity come after your story.
Emotional Customer Photo via Shutterstock
So totally refreshing to read an article like this. It helps get me more in tune with what I really need to do. As daily tasks get the left side of my head all cluttered, the right brain seems to take a dormant attitude. Reading this just caused a stir to the right.
Rahul Varshneya @rahulvarshneya.com
Fantastic post. I think every entrepreneur needs to know and practice this. Although, a bit more practical information on how they can implement this by giving some examples would be useful.
Sarah L. Webb
This is a great perspective on marketing.
Another thought on storytelling is the be authentic and share your own personal stories that relate to your business. Tell the story of why you started your business. Tell the stories about how you learned important business lessons along the way. These stories can become part of the overall brand narrative. It’s what we do at The 8 Factors with things like “Lessons From My Father.”
People want to feel like they’re connecting with other people, even if it’s through a website or social media.
Fantastic post, Jamillah. Story telling is one of the very best ways to market your business and sell products/services. If you master this skill, then everything else becomes much easier. Thanks for sharing this piece with us.
You write: “Life is a story and so is business.”
Uh really? So, I can just pick up and pen and write up in advance how life is going to turn out. Who knew?
Michael, well it’s obviously not THAT simple. Think of it as a shorthand way of speaking. The point is to communicate to others what your business is about. The public, potential customers and even potential employees need to know enough to be engaged and passionate about your business.
Can you be successful even without telling your story well? Of course — but I bet the business will be MORE successful if you can get people caught up in the vision of your business.
Michael, every individual and every company has a unique story. Your story will resonate with your clients if it is told in an interesting, passionate manner. Give it a try.