Storytelling is an art. A great story gathers people and draws them in. A great story connects with the emotions and moves people to respond.
But when companies and organizations try to create content, their stories often fall flat. Marketers must take their cues from master storytellers. What can we learn from Hollywood about telling a great story?
I created a 5-minute whiteboard video that explains the storytelling formulas you can use to create better stories. If you haven’t watched it, definitely start here:
Now that you understand the story formula, let’s think about what types of stories your business might tell.
In her book Stories that Stick, Kindra Hall talks about four types of stories that every business needs to tell:
The value story seeks to close the gap between the solutions you offer and the people who need it.
To communicate value, it’s tempting to bury people in information about your product and its features and benefits. But as soon as you make them think, it’s an uphill battle. Typically, sales don’t close because the buyer doesn’t take time to process that complex information, so they never see or understand the value.
Value stories help buyers understand value automatically, without a lot of thinking. You still need to communicate data that proves your point, but you wrap it in a story that makes it easy-to-digest.
Like the story formula in the video above, your value story should explain:
The founder story can help you connect both customers and employees alike. Every business has a founder story. According to Kindra Hall:
“Behind every business, there is a story of the who and the how it all began. A story from before the business was even a twinkle in the founder’s eye… a story from the moment the founder realized this might actually be a business.”
The founder story is not intended to sell your product or solution. The purpose is to sell the founder – to help people feel an emotional connection to the people behind the company.
Once again, this story is about describing the before, the explosion, and the after.
The explosion might be a specific moment like:
This story can be told by the founder, but it can also be told by others in the company. In fact, a good founder story is so compelling that happy customers might share it when telling others about your business.
Purpose stories are great tools to rally the troops, reminding your team why you do what you do. It’s about seeing the bigger purpose behind how it improves lives.
Purpose stories can be used with new employees, or to align the team around a sensitive subject, or to fuel motivation when times are tough or when people are growing complacent.
The story should be built around a very specific message that you want to convey. What do you want people to think or feel when they hear your story? Then develop your story with pieces that will help support that goal.
The customer story is quite simply, a testimonial on steroids.
Similar to the value story in #1, but the key difference is that the story is told first-person from a real customer. The value of your solution is still communicated, but it’s communicated directly from the customer.
These are the most credible stories, because it comes from a real person, not your marketing department.
Perhaps you email 20 clients and say “would you mind writing a testimonial for me?” This is okay, but it will rarely yield as powerful of a customer story as if you ask some specific questions.
You want to use the before > explosion > after framework as prompts to help your customer tell a more interesting story. Here are some potential questions you might ask:
“Could you describe the situation you were facing before using our product? How did you feel about that? How did it affect your average day?”
“I’d love to hear more about a key moment in your buying journey. When did you finally realize you needed to make a change? Or describe the experience when you tried our product for the first time?”
“What is different today? What problems have you eliminated? How do you feel about that? How does it affect your average day?”
Customer stories work best when you make it as painless as possible for your customer. For example, at Spire we help our clients tell customer stories by setting up short calls where we ask the questions, listen well, and transcribe it into a written story.
Telling these stories effectively will transform your content and your marketing. But sometimes you may need a little help discovering these stories and telling them really well.
Spire is here to help. In our Story Discovery Session, we will help you identify the key parts of your stories with a “brand script” exercise. Then we will help you generate ideas for your best stories in the categories above, and map a plan for how you can start telling them. Contact us today to schedule your Story Discovery Session.