Originally published on AllBusiness.
I hate how grown-up we’ve all gotten in the world of business. We put on these professional personas and end up taking the human factor out of doing business. And yet, we understand we have to make human connections to sell.
It’s a conundrum.
Recently, I was visiting the Team page of a company called Nav. Rather than having the typical stiff suit-and-tie employee headshots, each staffer is superimposed into a funny photo, often as a character from a popular movie. So it appears like Inigo Montoya, Speed Racer, Frodo, and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer work at the company. Fun!
I love this example of how brands are humanizing themselves rather than hiding behind a wall of corporate stuffiness.
Let’s get back to being humans who work for companies, shall we?
Where the power of storytelling comes into play
Stories. From childhood on, we’ve been drawn to them. They’re how we relate to the world. Fables teach us lessons about life usually under the filter of cute animals. Myths provide allegories using powerful gods and goddesses. Even video games have story lines to keep us engaged and playing.
Telling the story of your brand makes your company stand out. You likely have dozens—if not hundreds—of competitors selling similar products or services at similar price points. So how do you convince even just one customer to choose you above everyone else?
You could have a superior product . . . but that may not be apparent until after the purchase. Instead, you can tell your story. Hook that customer with a tale that resonates with them.
The story doesn’t even have to be about your product or service. Or why you started your company. For me, the story I tell most often is behind the name of my content marketing agency, Egg Marketing. It’s a curious name, and there’s a story behind it.
When I launched my marketing firm in 2006, I wanted a unique name but was stumped. Watching the film Funny Face, I noted the name of the bookstore that Audrey Hepburn’s character worked in: Embryo Concepts. I liked the idea of an embryo giving life to something, but thought Embryo Marketing was too grotesque a name! With a few iterations, I landed on Egg Marketing and have been hatching good ideas ever since!
When people ask me the story behind my brand’s name, it allows us to put business aside for a minute and just have a conversation. Usually, they chuckle at the story, and that paves the way to a more personal interaction after that.
Finding your brand’s story
Maybe you don’t feel like your brand has a story; in fact, it has many. The key is uncovering them. Consider the stories about:
- How you started your business
- Why you sell what you do
- The difference you’re trying to make
- How you have helped a customer
- What makes your employees unique
- What you have learned along the way
If this is the first time you’re delving into your stories, it may help you to write them out. Keep them relatively short; aim for high-level details rather than the minutiae.
Remember that people want to be touched by a story in some way, whether that’s to laugh or even tear up. You want to emotionally connect to your audience so that your story resonates. And they want to relate to it! If you’re talking about how you’ve helped a customer, start with the problem that customer had (likely your audience has had the same issue).
Use your story in the right places
Once you’ve practiced your story (I’ve told mine so many times, it slides off my tongue), know the most strategic places to leverage it.
The power of storytelling works great in your marketing. Tell your story on your website. Maybe in a blog post or email. Find ways to weave it into your social media posts.
When you’re in sales meetings, use that as your pitch, rather than how amazing your product is. Know your audience ahead of time so you can tweak your tale to have the biggest impact.
Pay attention to how people react. If they’re looking at their phones, you’re not hitting your mark. Rewrite the story until they put their phones down and pay attention. You want to be the one they remember, even if they hear a dozen sales pitches that day.
Consider, too, the timing of your storytelling. If you have a big pivot in the direction your company is going, be transparent about the story behind it. I have a client that has transitioned from creating children’s interactive stories through apps to actually helping brands tell their stories, same as I’m telling you to. That transition is a story in and of itself, and it’s one I’ve helped tell through a soon-to-be-published blog post.
We’re all human. We work at companies or run them. Why do those two things have to be mutually exclusive? I believe that by opening up our stories to others, we can better relate and connect, which is great for business.
What’s your story?