When was the last time you were truly moved by a brand’s messaging or copy?
Unfortunately, it probably doesn’t happen very often.
The truth is most brands focus on the sale and don’t really know how to tell a story.
And, honestly, it’s not a natural instinct to use storytelling when speaking about business. But storytelling can be very powerful—even in a business context.
When done right, it can create an emotional connection between you and your customers. They’ll feel like they know you. And in today’s crowded digital landscape, that connection can be the difference between success and failure.
You may remember Oprah introducing her show’s topics with personal anecdotes and stories. That was part of her famous ability to connect with her audience. People felt like they knew her, and it helped her build a massive following, which led to great success.
But you don’t have to act like Oprah to use storytelling for your business. You can use it in your own way.
So how do you tell a story that resonates with your audience?
Understanding your readers
First, you need to understand your audience. Ask yourself:
- Who are they?
- What are their pain points or struggles?
- Why are they looking for your product/service?
- What’s important to them?
- What are their aspirations?
The more you know about them, the better you’ll be at speaking to them and showing them you understand.
Once you know your audience better, it’s time to craft your story. And remember, a good story isn’t just a series of facts or features. It’s bits of story that are weaved into your messages. Think of it as an emotional journey that takes your audience on a ride.
So think about what emotions you want them to feel. Do you want to inspire them? Make them laugh? Make them feel safe or reassured? Go after that emotion in your story.
How to use storytelling
How do we use this in your copy or messaging? Here are a few ways:
Start with a hook
Just like a good book or movie, your copy should start with a hook that grabs attention. This could be a bold statement, a surprising fact, or a relatable story. And while it’s not the extent of the story, it’s a way to lead them into your story.
Turbo Tax grabbed attention with a counterintuitive statement: “Don’t do your taxes.”
In an About Us page for a client, I led with a bit of story: “Toby is the kind of person who’ll ask how your kids are and talk about the latest basketball scores before getting down to business. His clients aren’t just clients. They’re friends.”
Use concrete details
Don’t just tell them your product/service is great. Show them with details that paint a picture in their minds.
An example from Lululemon describes their leggings as “…so weightless and buttery soft, all you feel is your practice.”
Your audience can tell when you’re not truly genuine. So try to be as authentic and true to your brand as possible. Don’t try to be something you’re not.
BarkBox uses: “Monthly dog goodies for good doggies.” It ships snacks and toys for dogs, but customers love the toys most. So they focus on fun, instead of trying to tout health or convenience.
Also, make it easy to read
Your story may be great, but if it’s not easy to read, your audience won’t stick around. Use short paragraphs, subheadings, and bullet points to make your copy easy to scan.
I like to think this website is a good example of this. Hopefully, you agree.
A few steps to get you started
I realize it’s not easy to get into the storytelling mindset. Here are a few first steps to get you started:
1. Tell your brand’s story – The easiest first step is to tell your own story. Help customers relate by telling them about your humble beginnings or how your passion led to your business.
2. Tell a customer’s story – Go beyond recounting the facts or how many dollars they saved. Talk about emotions and the effect on their lives instead.
3. Tell an employee’s story – If there’s an employee (or two) who exemplify your brand’s values or motivations, let your customers get a peak into their lives as well.
4. Let your customers tell their own stories – It’s one thing for you to describe their experiences. It’s another for customers to describe it themselves – in writing or on video.
Once you’ve gone through these steps, think about story hooks, surprising facts or concrete details as well.
In the end, you’re just trying to show you’re human.
Your business is too. After all, it’s an extension of yourself with a human team behind it. By using stories, you help make that clear and make your business more likeable.
(Note: Copyright for the above images are held by their respective brands.)