The Importance of Storytelling in Business

Reddit co-founder Alex Ohanian giving a TED talk TED / James Duncan Davidson

"People do business with people".

A well-known adage, this concept has been proven many times over in business, demonstrating that consumers, clients and customers prefer to work with – and buy from – companies that engender a personal and human response from them. 

Indeed, humanising your company's approach to the market can allow you to better connect with your customer base, resulting in improved relationships and higher levels of trust. How can this be achieved, though?

There are few methods more effective in building and communicating a customer-first philosophy than the adoption of storytelling in business.

This process is integral to the organic development of company identity and can be utilised throughout all your branding, marketing and communication practices.

What is Storytelling in Business?

First, though, it is essential to understand what storytelling is in this context. It is a way to share values, discuss challenges, express experiences and – most importantly – pass on learnings to others. 

This is, in fact, a necessary process for us as a society. The act and art of storytelling has become a global heritage, something steeped in the oral tradition of passing down memories and morals from generation to generation for many thousands of years. Due to its inherent presence in our lives from our early years, storytelling is hard to ignore. We tend to gravitate towards well-told stories, and automatically seek out emotional connections with those tales, either looking to identify with or empathise with their core messages. 

Therefore, it is obvious to see why storytelling is such a powerful and valuable communication technique for business. Companies can convey the values of their brand in this way, as well as depict how their products and other offerings serve a higher purpose in consumers' lives.

Here are some of the ways that storytelling can be utilised in business:

Branding

Business storytelling can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your branding. It allows you to cultivate an ongoing account of the purpose behind your companies, how it applies to your consumers and – importantly – why it should matter to those customers.

Storytelling can, in effect, be used as an extension of your mission statement, taking your original 'story' and developing it across the other areas of your company's branding. Indeed, it can even shape your entire brand strategy by focusing on the communication of feelings and experiences rather than facts and figures.

Stories always appeal to people's emotions, and this can be further emphasised by coupling moving imagery with appropriate vocabulary to create emotional, emotive messaging.

Marketing

The art of storytelling can naturally be adopted in your marketing techniques, too. You can create captivating written and visual content to portray stories relating to your company's background, as well as your impact on society, internal practices, product uses, testimonials, and future goals and aspirations. Each of these categories makes for great narratives and can be shared through carefully curated campaigns, utilising various forms of media. 

Blogs, in particular, can be an excellent marketing outlet for brands to leverage in order to share their stories. Focusing on key themes that are important to your business, blog posts released in increments can explore various experiences, keeping readers coming back for more information on a recurring basis.

Other forms of written content marketing such as newsletters, social media posts and eBooks can also achieve this effect.

Video

Utilising video in marketing campaigns and messaging works very well within a storytelling approach. This content category allows businesses to leverage both images and language to support their story, making it easier to communicate within a shorter time period.

Indeed, consumption of video continues to grow in popularity and preference among today's consumers, actively captivating their attention faster, and for longer, compared to other non-visual content. As millennial and Gen Z audiences become more wary of traditional marketing and advertising methods, developing both smaller attention spans for content and ad fatigue, video is becoming of greater value in this area.

Companies can now also use social media platforms – as well as their own websites, apps and platforms – to share these storytelling videos and evoke the desired response from viewers.

Customer Experience

Consumer reviews, feedback, testimonials and experiences can all be used to create captivating stories as part of a holistic storytelling plan.

In addition to garnering significant attention from other potential consumers, such an approach creates a feeling of inclusivity among content audiences, and proves that your company truly puts its customers first. This can, in turn, positively impact customer loyalty, and therefore significantly influence your business results.

Finally, by sharing customer experiences, you are encouraging consumers to share their thoughts and experiences with your business of their own accord, either within their circle or online with other audiences. Positive experiences, reviews and comments can have an advantageous impact for your company, while customer complaints and issues – if addressed correctly by the company – can prove your accountability to your consumers and demonstrate your commendable response to buyer grievances.

Internal Communication

Storytelling is not only important for your customers and audience; it is also an integral component of effective business communication with your employees, stakeholders and associates.

Communicating your vision statement, values, objectives and their relating stories to your internal team is key in ensuring employee interaction, satisfaction and retention. Likewise, shareholders must also engage with your corporate and customer stories to heighten their involvement in, and contribution to, your business overall. 

This can be achieved through several forms of communication, including email, company newsletters, physical office bulletins, informal meetings, and one-on-one discussions.

Corporate Culture

Finally, storytelling can be used in another way to enhance your company culture as a whole, impacting existing employees at all levels of the corporate ladder, as well as new hires. In addition to delivering stories to employees, business owners can seek to obtain the feedback and experiences of their team to be used in the anecdotal process. Completing the cycle of storytelling, this allows team members to feel more involved, included and valued, going a long way to building and maintaining a healthy business culture

Employees should be encouraged and incentivised to share their own thoughts and stories, particularly those that align with the values, objectives and principles of the company. This can be done through employee advocacy schemes as well as obtained during face-to-face meetings and check-ins between staff and management.

Unique stories collected in this manner can then be used to praise and appreciate employees, as well as effect change where needed. Moreover, sharing positive stories with new workers can help better prepare them for the company's environment and approach, making their adjustment to the corporate culture smoother and more organic.

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Storytelling has the power to influence consumers, employees, stakeholders and managers positively. By demonstrating your company's motivations, purpose and practices through the art of telling tales, consumers can more easily understand and relate to them, earning their loyalty and money in turn. 

This approach allows buyers to feel the human touch of a brand, and ultimately encourages them to do business with the people who make the corporation come to life – affecting positive growth as a result.

Do you use storytelling in your business? Share your thoughts and tips in the comment section below.