Tell your business story, one blog at a time
Since pre-historical times, people have been using the art of storytelling to communicate. Cavemen drew pictures on cave walls depicting great hunts and deeds. As language developed, oral tradition started, where people would tell and retell the same stories over and over again to communicate their history and values. And then to help our forgetful minds, we found ways to preserve these stories on stone, paper and eventually electronically.
There are lots of stories that provide pure entertainment value, but most stories strive to teach us something, whether it's an actual lesson, or our history, or perhaps the human condition. If you think about some of the movies that you've seen which, years later, you can still recall and enjoy - there was a lesson in there that stuck with you.
Do you remember, "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." Sure you do, that's from The Wizard of OZ! Dorothy has an experience after her home is struck by a tornado and it teaches her to love and value the people she has in her life.
Ok, how about, "Houston, we have a problem." Of course you remember Tom Hanks delivering that classic line as Jim Lovell in Apollo 13. The simple understatement of the line is even more profound considering most people who watched the film were familiar with the story it was telling, and knew that the astronaut's troubles were just beginning. But we love that story and that film because of the fantastic triumph of the human spirit it portrays.
And what about, "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." You know that one. The Godfather, right? What's the lesson there? I don't know, maybe, don't mess with the mafia?
The point is, those were great stories which touched us and taught us something. We enjoyed them and related to them and remember them to this day.
What if you could do that for your clients?
One of the most effective purposes for a business blog is storytelling. You can tell stories about your clients and your products or services, but one of the best ideas is to tell stories about your actual business. But what do those stories look like? Here are six different kinds of stories you can tell, as well as some general tips on great storytelling.
Stories About How You Got Started
Some of the classic stories are posts about your business history. You probably already have a summary of how you got started on your About page, but taking the time to dive into some specific stories will be fun for you and really interesting for some of your fans and followers.
Even if you're a startup, you can share some of the interesting stories of the challenges you faced early on, or what experiences in your life led you to decide to get into this industry in the first place. What inspires you?
If you're fortunate enough to come from a second or third generation business, draw from the rich history of your family and share some insights from your parents or grandparents.
Why was The Social Network so popular? It gave millions of people insight into how Facebook got started, real or otherwise. Your business history might not be movie material, but it's still interesting!
Stories About How You Work
If you're in the consulting business or providing some other kind of service, potential customers are always going to be wondering what it's like to work with you. You can address those concerns early on by providing rich, authentic stories.
A classic example is to offer a case study from a specific client and project. You might detail what issues and challenges were faced and how you dealt with them. The focus needs to be on the style and technique that you used so that someone who is unfamiliar with you can get to know, like and trust you.
For instance, some time ago I sat down with a potential client with whom I had exchanged several emails. He had found me online and was looking to hire someone to help his new business and website with SEO and social media. We met at a Starbucks and after we'd only been talking for a few minutes, he asked the typical question, "how much will this cost?" My immediate response was to say that we were no where near ready to talk about pricing. I had quite a few more questions for him so that I could understand what his business, what he hoped to accomplish, and what, if anything, I could actually do for him. Strangely enough, that blew him away. You see, he'd already talked to literally 25 other SEO guys, and every single one of them had simply tried to sell him some package. As soon as this client spoke with me and understood that I was there to help him, not necessarily make a buck, he was sold. Not only did I gain his business, more importantly, I also gained his trust, and he has been a valuable client and brand evangelist ever since.
That was brief story and if I simply took a little more time to add some additional details and fill it in a little more, I would have a great blog post!
Stories That Teach
Some of the best stories are ones that include a lesson. Aesop was a master at weaving simple stories with lessons that the reader should take to heart, like the problem with lying. Similarly, use a story to help your readers understand something.
You can tell positive stories, but it is often more effective to tell stories where you've made a mistake of some kind and how you worked through it. Just like a good Comedian who tells jokes at his own expense, a business that can admit to making mistakes but demonstrate how you resolved those mistakes not only educates, but also reaffirms that you're human too.
Many of my own blog posts and articles are reflective of this. For instance, I had been having issues for a long time where, when I would get ready to share a blog post on Facebook, Facebook would try to use the wrong image or the wrong description, and sometimes no image at all. After tolerating it for a while, I finally did some research and found that if I enabled and used Facebook's Open Graph tags, I could specify exactly what image to use for that post and Facebook would grab it every single time. Not only was that easier for me going forward, it also meant that if someone else came along and wanted to post one of my articles to their Facebook wall, it would look perfect for them too. I subsequently turned that experience into a successful blog post: Designating Images for Social Media Posts.
Stories That Communicate Vision
It's been said that the leader of a company should have three conversations with employees every day, and that one of those conversations needs to be about vision. Why are you in business? What do you hope to accomplish? The same is true with your blog.
Share stories with your clients about decisions you've made or partnerships you've fostered that help continue to move your vision forward.
Michael Hyatt's blog started as an email newsletter that he sent internally. You see, Michael subscribed to the belief that as a leader, it was his role to communicate regularly with the people at his publishing company. Eventually, he implemented a blog and his thoughts and communications were found to be of tremendous value to everyone, not just his own people.
Stories That Demonstrate Values
Similarly, it's important that as a business, you communicate what your values are. Your values may include integrity or honesty or several others, but those values do not mean the same things to everyone. It is your job to communicate what your values are, and what they mean, both to your employees and your clients.
What does Integrity mean to you? And how does that translate into your business?
Stories That Overcome Objections
Finally, use stories to address common objections head-on. In every business, your customers will have typical objections to your products or services that you often discuss with them. Maybe it's the price, or perhaps it's a concern that it won't be right for them. Businesses will often offer guarantees to help assuage such fears, but a story or two about how you made good on such a guarantee can be even more powerful.
For instance, if price is an issue, you might illustrate a story of how much one client saved by using you, making the cost of your services a virtual bargain.
In speaking with a client last week, they told me about one of their industrial clients that was facing massive municipal fines due to being out of compliance in their waste. My client was able to resolve their customer's issues and my client's fees represented a fraction of the cost of the fines faced by their customer. Additionally, had the customer gone to my client from the beginning, rather than explore multiple other options, they could have saved even more money.
Use stories to demonstrate how you empower customers and you will go a long way to communicate your brand's expertise. And do them one blog post at time. Spread them out and mix in stories with news and guides and other kinds of content, to make a well-rounded content marketing strategy.
For more information on how stories are ingrained in our culture, and how brands are becoming better story tellers, take 8 and half minutes to watch this video:
Be Genuine. Do not embellish your stories and try to be natural and genuine in how you tell the story.
Be Engaging. Remember that when you're telling a story, you're a Storyteller. Paint a picture with your words and bring your audience into the story. Try to being all five senses into the story: sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.
Be Aware. Always keep in mind who you're audience is. Not every story is suitable for everyone. Pop culture references for instance should only be used if you're sure your audience will be familiar with them.
"You talkin' to me?" Tell stories that impact your readers personally and bring them into your business at some level.
What stories can you share about your business? And what's your favorite film quote?
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By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, award-winning Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."Follow @Mike_Allton