How to tell a good story for your business

We see stories wherever we look, and the bigger corporates have understood the benefits of telling their story for years, as part of their marketing strategy. As a small business, we often forget about this little gem. But it really helps us connect with our audiences and instill trust.

Stories help us understand the world around us. They are a way to help your audience understand more about you, without being overwhelmed by the details about your products. They help show the ‘authentic you,’ so that your customers will be more interested in what you have to say about your products.

Why should you tell your story?

By nature, people are nosy and curious – they like to know about the person they are buying from.

Marketing your business is a real challenge in today’s online world, and there is so much competition, so you need to be able to stand out in the crowd.

Storytelling creates a fabulous connection with your audience. Sharing your experiences helps to encourage and help others and brings your brand to life. It conveys the purpose of your business and what you stand for and helps make your products more appealing.

Content marketing

Content marketing is what helps you to sell your products. You need to release the magic that you put into your products, be it artwork, crafts, photography etc. You are creating a story around you and around your work.

It’s an incredibly competitive out there, so your unique storytelling is what will set you apart from your peers. You might think, if your products are very visual (such as paintings or photography) that your pictures will sell themselves – surely, if people like what you do, they will buy it. Of course, this may be true for a small percentage of your audience. They will see something that resonates with them, or you may sell something that they are particularly looking for and have searched for. But sadly, when people are looking online, it’s easy to scroll past something that would actually resonate with them if they knew more about it…and about you. This is where the importance of storytelling comes in. People remember stories, you want to convince them to love your work as much as you do. They need to feel your passion and understand the reasons why you do what you do – this creates a real connection between you and your audience.

Know your audience

The first thing to think about is your audience. Do you know who your target audience are? I’m not going to go into detail about how to identify your target audience and building a buyer persona, but if you click on these links, you can see previous blog posts where I have gone into detail about this.

How to identify your target audience

How to create your buyer persona

It’s really important to know your audience, so you know how to approach them and what kind of content will make them look at your products.

How to tell your story – the monomyth

There are lots of ways to tell your story. In this blog, I’m going to look at the Monomyth, which is just one concept.

Joseph Campbell, an American author, who worked on mythology produced the idea of the Monomyth.

He said that most myths contain some common elements – heroes start out as lowly mortals; they receive some sort of call to adventure and divine assistance to get started. They encounter obstacles along the way, go through a transformation and return to where they started as a hero, changed for the better in most cases.

An example

I’m going to use Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ as an example.

Bilbo Baggins was just a normal hobbit, with a peaceful life, living in the rural Shire. One day, the wizard, Gandalf, calls on him to persuade him to join Thorin and his twelve dwarves to recover their stolen treasure, which is being guarded by the dragon, Smaug.

So, although he initially resisted, Bilbo embarks on a fantastic adventure, where he stares death in the face and returns a stronger, wiser hobbit, and is the hero of the story.

When you are telling your story, the Monomyth is a great way to structure it. If you do this well, you will get and keep your audience’s attention. There are lots of people who have different concepts about the Monomyth, but I like the remarkably simple version and its structure.

The Monomyth

Let’s start at the beginning…your calling

Like Bilbo Baggins, at some point you felt the calling to do what you do. It might have been a slow realisation that your hobby could be more than just a passing interest. It might be that it’s been a lifelong passion that you felt you could no longer ignore. It could be that you express your beliefs and interests through your work and that you’re getting a message out there.

Whatever it is that brought you to where you are today – these are the things you should use to introduce yourself to your audience.

Talk about what inspires you…is there a meaning or reason behind what you do?

The idea for this part of the Monomyth is to excite and enthuse your audience. You might feel that your reasoning behind what you do is quite mundane, but to your followers, it will be interesting.

The obstacles

The next part of the Monomyth is the obstacles.

  • People love to hear how you overcome obstacles or opposition
  • Your audience what to talk to you and hear about your processes – for example, if you make something or paint, how do you start on a new piece? People love to see a work in progress too, so showing the process in a step-by-step series of posts is a great idea to engage your audience.
  • Talk about the difficulties and how you overcame them.

Good old Bilbo faced danger and adversity to fulfil his mission. What were the obstacles that you faced? You may not have had a great tragedy in your life, (I hope you haven’t), but everyone, no matter what they do, meets adversity or resistance at some point when creating their work.

Some ideas might be…

  • Dealing with health issues
  • Figuring out how to make or do something that was very technically challenging
  • Coming up with funding – how do you fund what you do?
  • Struggling to communicate what is really happening behind what you do
  • Struggling against a system that puts you at a financial disadvantage

For example, we’ve been experiencing one of the worst global pandemics in years and the world basically shut down. How did that affect you and your business? I know it had an affect on my business and on the businesses of several friends.

Did anything you have experienced during lockdown, or during the pandemic, that inspired you and your work?

You might have a story about going into a dark place, where you really struggled to do anything. How did you cope with that? What did you do to pull yourself out of the abyss? I know this sounds a bit dramatic…but you get the picture.

Emerging triumphant

At some time or other, when you are in a creative mode, frantically getting everything down or done that you can, you emerge from your whirl of creativity. This is where you want to sell your products.

It could be that you have an online shop, a physical location, or sell on social media. However, you do it, this is the time to start asking for a sale, via advertising or posting about your actual products.

Make sure that you use a good product description to help your sales.

The returning hero/heroine

Finally, you have success, and like Bilbo Baggins, you are the hero/heroine of the story. When you sell something, share your victories with your friends and family – no matter how big or small. Celebrate your wins! Write about it on social media, on your website or in your blog or email. Be proud of what you’ve achieved…and don’t forget to thank your audience.

You’ve worked hard to get that achievement and you need to show your passion and excitement for your success.

Conclusion

That’s the Monomyth – in a nutshell! It is just one way to tell your story, but it works well as a structure and can give you something to aim for. Put yourself at the centre of your story and share your journey.

Your audience will love to see you progress and will enjoy celebrating your wins with you. Storytelling is a great way to develop your personal brand and to portray the ‘real you’ to your audience. Good luck!

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5 reasons why it’s important to share your story

The past couple of years have been tough. The pandemic saw, and is still seeing, so many businesses struggling to keep going, and people having to be at home, so mental health issues have rocketed. Whether this applies to you or not, we are all struggling with one thing or another. But there aren’t many people who stand up and speak about their struggles.

I think it’s because of that age-old thing of ‘stiff upper lip’ – you just don’t talk about it. It could be that we are afraid of being judged, or afraid of rejection…or just simply feel ashamed.

However, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good story, be it personal, emotional, funny, or otherwise. I loved listening to my dad tell me stories of when he was a young soldier in World War II – he used to tell us more about the funny side when we were young, but as we grew up, we heard some of the harder side of his experiences. Telling a story helps our audience to put themselves in our shoes – it appeals to our emotions and our sense of empathy.

We all know about pitching our products and we can do that until we’re blue in the face, but your audience won’t really care unless you give them a good reason to listen. Placing your product at the centre of a story, showing them how it can benefit their lives, not only helps your audience understand more about your product, but it also gives you an extra layer of emotion that makes you stand out more on social media.

Social Media

Most of us are on our phones or devices the minute we wake up, checking messages, emails or just scrolling through posts. It’s often the first thing we do when we wake up and the last thing we do before we go to bed. For those of us in business, our social media account posts are carefully planned and crafted to appeal to our target audience. And even that can be daunting – we worry whether our posts are good enough – will they appeal to the right people? Will people think that they’re rubbish? We compare ourselves to others and fear and doubt can even creep in with our businesses.

We also tend to only share the good things, such as cheery pictures of nights out, a lovely meal, family time – all smiling, date night with our partners etc. etc. But we don’t share our back stories – the stories that make us, US!

This, along with everyone else, gives out a message that we are only allowed to share the good things; things that go well. Having said that, I have noticed that some people are starting to share some of the more private parts of their lives. Now, I’m not saying go out there and share every intimate detail of your life – not at all. But share things that can help your audience.

Share a problem that you’ve solved, share that you’re feeling crap today, or that you feel you’re not doing a good job on something. Sharing this kind of information makes you real…people can empathise – some will have had the same experience, and it can help to build more meaningful relationships.

Telling your story is showing the authentic you – an essential part of who you are.

5 reasons why we need storytelling

  • You CONNECT with your audience. You’ll find people who have been through the same thing or feel the same way. You’ll find those who totally get where you’re coming from and who you are. They will share their experiences with you and so it’s a way to start building trust with your audience. When you share your stories, it pushes you to step outside of your comfort zones and to reflect on where you’ve been and how far you’ve come.
  • Sharing your story defines your identity to your audience. Sharing your interests, be it political, emotional, funny, or serious issues, it shows you. You can also share your hobbies, as you may find others that have the same interests as you.
  • By sharing your own stories, you are helping others to have the space to share theirs. For example, if you share a particularly painful experience, such as miscarriage or mental illness, you’re letting others know that this is safe place to talk about it, that you understand and that there is space for healing. You’ll be helping others by telling your story.
  • Sharing a story also heightens the awareness of that subject. It might be something as simple as sharing your weight loss journey, or how you came back from an addiction or homelessness. These things are powerful, and if you can show how you overcame these issues, you are going to be helping someone who is still going through that same thing, and give them hope for their future. This also starts to create a community of likeminded people, who will feel less alone with their problems, and feel they have someone they can share with.
  • This can also be applied to business. Sharing a story of how a particular product helped you to overcome your problems. For example, if you sell weight loss products that you have used yourself and had success with, tell your story. If you have a product that has changed your life in some way, shout about it and how it helped. If you’ve used a business to provide a service that has seriously changed the way you do business, or has helped you get more clients, talk about it. If you provide that service and have testimonials that show that, share them as well as your story.   

Every single person in the world has a story to tell. It might be a personal story; it might be a business story. But if you get out there and tell it, you’ll be surprised at how much engagement you will get.

If you love stories, read one of my stories about how a business assignment to India changed my life. And if you’ve written a story about an aspect in your life, I’d love to hear about it.

What makes storytelling so powerful?

From a very early age, we are brought up on stories. I remember my Dad making up stories at bedtime, full of action and adventure, and I was always in there somewhere. Why do we tell stories to our kids? It brings us closer to them, it’s something we can share and it’s something they look forward to. It’s really no different to telling stories as an adult to help your marketing. Storytelling is a very powerful marketing tool.

Why is it so powerful? 

Stories have been used throughout history to give messages to future generations. They convey culture and values that both unite and divide people. History books are full of stories and legends…there are even stories in the bible. And what makes them so powerful? They connect people with fact, ideas, spiritual growth and develop a sense of community. The stories we have in common are what ties families together.

The same can be said about business. Stories not only connect the reader with the writer, they build relationships and familiarity in a way that factual articles and bullet points don’t. Good stories draw the reader in and make a point, which other forms of communication can’t. They enable your reader to learn about you and your business on their own, so it’s important when you decide to tell a story, that it matches the message you want to get across to your audience.

Make it unforgettable and meaningful     

The reason why your audience remember a story is because it strikes a particular chord with them. So, if you know about a certain problem that your target audience has, try and write about it in an engaging way that talks to that particular audience, so it speaks to them and they have that ‘aha’ moment. Use words and examples that help your audience remember what you have to say, using persuasive language, whilst being friendly and helpful. It isn’t easy and I don’t have a formula, but repetition of your main point, looking at the issue from different angles will help people remember your message.

Emotion plays a part

Emotion also plays its part in storytelling. I’ve laughed and cried when reading a book or watching a film on TV. This is because the writers of those kind of scripts know how to tap into the part of us that makes us human. Getting inside the heads of your target audience, and working out what they feel passionate about, will help you influence them with your writing. This, in turn builds a bond or a rapport between you and your readers.

The most powerful stories I’ve ever heard have come from motivational speakers at conferences at the company I worked with in the UK. Stories that tell about a struggle the speaker has overcome…very personal information that they shared and held captive an audience of hundreds of people. The most powerful stories you can tell will be life experiences…maybe a time when you failed at something and how you got back up, dusted yourself down and started again. It could be about a mistake you made that you managed to eventually find a solution to. These stories build connections with your audience and get them on your side, and often it’s something they can relate to.  

How to tell your story?

Once you have decided on your message or the important point you want to get across, it’s largely up to you how you write it. But it’s important to think about how you are going to present it to your target audience. If you know your target audience well, you will know what kind of media they prefer. 

They might like to read your stories, they might like to watch you on video or listen to you speaking animatedly on a podcast. You might want to tell your story through a presentation, combining all three elements. It’s up to you. Whichever way you choose, you will be engaging with your audience on a personal level, influencing them to your way of thinking, connecting with them to gain their trust and giving them inspiration to carry on.    

If you post on social media, I’m sure that you’ve used quotes from famous people. These are used to make us laugh, cry, entertain, educate and always have a moral in the story or a meaning that resonates in the quote. Quotes are a form of a short story and that’s why they can be so powerful. Often when I post a quote, people will say that it speaks to them. Some might say ‘I really needed to hear this today’ if it’s motivational or addressing a common issue. What I’m getting at here is that to tell a story, it doesn’t have to a long rambling tale, it can be short and snappy and to the point.

Whichever way you choose to tell stories to your audience, give them a meaning, be sincere and your readers will be inspired to engage with your content and your brand. Give your story context, maybe some conflict, educate them or make it emotive. You are sharing your reality, or something you have been through – your audience will love you and will love and engage with your content.

What sort of story do you like to hear from an influencer in your life?