Many marketers (myself included) talk quite a bit about storytelling. We say it empowers you to connect with your audience, and it’s the key to building deep, lasting relationships with them.
But the word storytelling is broad and, in my humble opinion, often misunderstood in a marketing context.
When I talk about brand storytelling, I’m not talking about telling the story of your brand. Counterintuitive, non? But there's a reason for that. Frankly, your audience doesn’t need your whole life story.
Have you ever been to a cocktail party (remember when we were allowed to have those?) and chatted with someone who corners you by the cheese plate, talking your ear off? And it’s all about them, them, them—you can’t get a word in edgewise. I’ll bet if you’ve experienced this, your eyes have darted across the room looking for someone you know to come rescue you.
When you approach brand storytelling as giving prospects your whole background, you become that guy lying in wait by the brie and manchego.
In contrast, great brand storytelling is about creating a connection. So forget that long-winded cocktail party guest, and instead think back to a meaningful conversation you had over canapes and chablis. There was likely give and take, a desire from both sides to get to know each other and find common ground.
Whether it’s musical theater or your rescue cats or the latest season of Great British Baking Show, when you find something in common to nerd out over, that’s when a magical connection begins to form.
So brand storytelling is about doing that. And when you’re trying to find common ground with a prospect, the best place to meet them is at their pain point.
Many people either started their own business or got into a particular line of work because they experienced pain themselves and wanted to solve it. So when speaking to prospects, it’s not an impossible mental leap to put yourself in their shoes.
Storytelling is about painting the picture of your shared painful experience. “Do you feel this way? Yeah, I used to feel that, too. And that’s why I created XYZ, so you don’t have to feel that way anymore.”
Is it possible to share what you do in a different way? Sure. But without the storytelling element, it becomes a sales pitch. And we have a hard time trusting salespeople with a baldly self-serving line because we know they’re thinking primarily of themselves and their desire to close the deal.
Storytelling makes it a two-way street. It allows you to show that your business isn’t just in it for the money. There's heart behind what you do. That increases your trustworthiness with prospects. And when they feel you really get them, they’re more likely to do business with you.
So when you're thinking about brand storytelling, ask yourself the question: Am I being the cheese plate guy right now? If the answer is yes, revisit your approach and keep a focus on finding common ground with your audience.