Business Storytelling is Here to Stay

I recently had a client who wanted his website copy to sound less corporate. In my first draft, I used a story to illustrate his methods. It was still very corporate because his business is corporate and I also knew he wouldn’t want ‘nurturey’ (his term for how women do business). A draft later he had things back to his liking. He was happy.

That’s a story. Something happened. You have a reaction.

Stories work for many reasons but the big one is that we remember them better than we do a list (I loved learning that). Being remembered is good for business. We know it could be several months before you get that first contact. Why not be the business that pops into the customer’s mind first?

Stories also work because they form an emotional connection. We buy with our gut, not our intellect. That really means we’re buying with the left side of our brain, the sensory side, the part where stories live. It turns out, according to Jennifer Aaker, marketing professor at the Stanford graduate school for business, that we process sensory information 20% faster than cognitive information.

That’s impressive – we quickly absorb stories and we retain them. As women, we’re already in the lead because this is how we naturally communicate. Just listen next time, see if we don’t wrap our ideas into a story. Yes, we do numbers – and very well – but stories are us.

Storytelling for business isn’t a fad. Think of your testimonials. They don’t simply say you’re good in a list. Not even close. Can you imagine that happening face to face? We don’t talk in lists. We talk in stories. The ad industry has known this forever. They craft small stories using a picture or a video and words. They are not afraid of emotion. It’s their currency.

And we love reading print stories about business. Read more magazine articles to see how a pro does it. An editor will never allow copy into their magazine if it doesn’t tell an engaging tale. Happily enough, the classic sales technique of benefits over features follows the same storytelling principle. There’s the problem (your client’s), the fix (benefits your company offers), and the conclusion (naturally, a good one). If that sounds like the classic story arc you learned about in grade eight English, it is.

Tell your story according to your business style. It might be formal or casual. It might be one sentence, a paragraph, or a whole website. It might be print or digital. However you tell your story, make it memorable.

I originally wrote this for the Women’s Enterprise Centre. If you’re a woman, live in BC, and want help with your business, these are the people.