I’m not an independent television producer, but I would wager that right now the holy grail among TV people is to produce a show that turns into a binge-watching sensation on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or one of the other up-and-coming video streaming services.
To me, the binge-watching phenomenon puts an exclamation mark on a recent cultural movement: We’re looking for stories that rouse our passions.
There are many ways to use storytelling in your business today and several places where you can tell your stories: Website, social media, in person, printed materials, and in ad or marketing campaigns.
Further, there are many stories you can tell, including:
- Your personal story,
- Your company story, and
- Your product or service stories
Can you imagine how successful you would be if your prospects binged on your stories with the same passion they have for their favorite Netflix series?
Before I get into story elements, I want to give you one, extremely practical tip: Use the concept of “story” on your About Us page. This is where you can get up close and personal with your customers and prospects. Let it all hang out here. Create a relationship. Don’t be aloof. Don’t flash your credentials and expect people to bow before you.
Every good story shares these fundamental building blocks:
- Conflict, and
Let’s look at how these can be used in a business story-telling framework.
The characters in your stories will vary. Often it will be you telling your story. Other times you can set up your product or service as a sort of character. It can be employees. Some stories will have several characters.
Let me give you an example. If you developed a new, stronger widget, instead of going over the new specs in a dry narrative. Tell a story about how the stronger widget has been able to function in more challenging and difficult conditions, saving the day for AAA Industries.
An important element of characters is developing them. You want people to relate on an emotional level to your characters. This is more difficult when your product becomes a character, so you certainly need to develop the human characters in your stories. But even with a product or service, if you describe the time, money, and effort required for its development, it will give your “product character” value.
In some stories the setting will be very important, other times it will be less so. Nonetheless, always provide a setting. Where does the drama occur? In my stronger widget example, the setting would have been very important.
When you’re telling your story or the story of your company, the setting is crucial. People want to visualize the location of you and your company. Some companies will benefit from a bucolic pastoral setting, others will benefit from a setting that puts them in office suites that overlook New York’s Central Park. By the way, in those two examples I’m referring to the feeling or vibe prospects and customers would get from those kinds of settings; if you’re in Omaha, don’t say you’re on Madison Ave.
You have two powerful ways to use conflict in your stories:
- Personal conflicts (trials) in your life and on your path to creating your business, and
- Conflicts that are addressed by your product or service.
As entrepreneurs we’re always looking for a problem to solve and what is a problem if it isn’t some kind of conflict? Someone wants to accomplish a goal and something stands in the way.
Let me give you a simple example that everyone will relate to: How many times have you seen fast food places picture hungry people out late going to a drive-thru window? Those sudden late-night hunger pangs are the conflict.
This leads us to our final element.
In my fast food example, the 24-hour drive-thru window is the resolution. Your product or service resolves some conflict for your customers. If you’re a local clothing store, you’re solving people’s need to look good or maybe even boost their egos.
The beautiful thing about resolving your stories is that they give you the ideal place for your call to action. Further, if you’ve done a good job pulling people emotionally into your story, there’s a good chance they will follow through with your call to action.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for more technical and straight-informative content, but don’t expect that kind of content to make sales for you. After your storytelling pulls prospects in, they may want to dive more deeply into the technical stuff, so have it ready. In fact, link to it from your storytelling content.