Ready to Craft Your Business Story?
Want to use business storytelling to connect with your customers but not sure where to start? You’re in the right place. The Outsource Your Marketing team regularly works with stories to create marketing campaigns, storyboard videos or craft memorable ads. Know how we do it? We start with the same worksheet we’re sharing in this article.
Let’s get started by reminding ourselves why we respond so immediately to stories, and what they can achieve for your business, then we’ll go step-by-step through the worksheet.
What is it About Stories That Make Them Powerful?
Stories take a number of disconnected events and put them together in such a way to offer a solution to a problem or demonstrate the ‘right’ way to go about a task. Let’s look at a very simple example:
In this narrative, five seemingly disconnected events – the lost wallet, the struggling café, a chance meeting, a kind gesture, and a community rallying – come together to highlight the power of kindness, community support, and the unexpected ways in which our actions can impact the lives of others.
How Does Business Storytelling Work?
People don’t browse online to receive your promotional emails, shouty pitches, or pop-up promotions. They’re looking to make connections with people, organisations, like-minded groups and – yes – brands that strike a chord with them.
Stories are all about making emotional connections. Just think for a moment about those big brand ads that have become a feature of the UK Christmas season. The major stores compete to pull at our heart strings, make us shed a tear, and remind us that Christmas is about emotional connections.
Business Storytelling Worksheet
- Decide on Your Theme
- Introduce Your Characters
- Determine the Setting
- Who’s Telling the Story?
- Work Out The Plot
- Where’s the Problem?
- What’s the Outcome?
Whilst telling complex stories takes skill and experience, most people are able to create effective stories once they have to structure in place to do so. At Outsource Your Marketing we normally allocate an hour to this worksheet, and we’ve come up with some amazing business stories as a result!
1. Decide on Your Theme
Theme can be a difficult word to navigate; alternatively, you could use ‘message’. What message do you want to give your readers, or viewers? Maybe it’s as simple as you wanting them to see your product or service as the best solution to their problem. Or maybe, like in the Christmas ads, you want a more emotional response that speaks to the values and ethos of your business.
2. Introduce Your Characters
This is all about choosing characters that your readers or viewers will relate to. Think about your existing customers or draw on your customer profiles. Take a look at the ‘cast’ available to you and think about the kind of stories they could tell on your behalf. What are the kinds of challenges your customers have to face, and how does your product help them?
3. Determine the Setting
Now it starts to get interesting. You need to find a wraparound for your character, or characters. That could be a temporal wraparound – a looming deadline, or it may be a location, such as a workplace, or home environment. Once you settle on an environment, the story starts to come to life.
4. Who’s Telling the Story?
You’ll need to do some A/B testing here. The most obvious perspective to focus on is the person representing your customer; the story is told from their viewpoint. But there are alternatives. You could choose a third-person narrative in which your hero’s predicament is observed and commented upon by someone outside the action.
5. Work Out the Plot
The plot is made up of the actions that connect to tell your business story. Business storytelling plots start by establishing the norm for a character, then move to an incident, problem, or anxiety, before moving towards a resolution.
Use these questions to work through your plot:
- What’s the setup? This is the introduction to the story. Maybe Miranda sees that her staff are being ground down by work and want to find a way to energise them.
- What’s the problem? Miranda gets told there’s no budget for this kind of activity, even though she explains a couple of good people might leave.
- What is the solution? She does some research and comes across an app that helps teams to work together in creative and motivational ways.
- What is the way of success? Miranda’s boss is sceptical, but she gets a free trial and the team agree it’s made a difference to the feel of the workplace.
- What’s the resolution? The boss decides to invest in the app, and the team arrange a thank you cake for Miranda.
6. Where’s The Problem?
Problems make people act decisively, creatively, and sometimes take risks – which is why they’re excellent plot devices. We know from blockbuster films that the more intransigent to villain, the deeper we connect with the protagonist.
7. What’s the Outcome?
Outcomes in business storytelling are normally about how effective the product or service is, but within the context of customers’ lives. The business story allows you to explore how your product or service touches the lives of others, solves their problems and – ultimately – makes their lives better.