A powerful way to communicate more deeply about your business, stand out, and be recognizable online is by using storytelling as the vehicle to carry your message.
Every type of business has the opportunity to practice and apply business storytelling, but the majority aren't taking advantage of it simply because they aren't aware of it.
They aren't aware because they're busy running their businesses, and business storytelling is a relatively new concept.
Most businesses share what's on the surface with their business and post on social media to remind their followers they exist. This means they're either not telling a story at all or they're telling the wrong one.
But what if businesses used social media as more than a way to merely show they exist? What if they raised the bar and got more intentional with their messaging so they could rise above the noise, connect on a deeper level with their current customers, and potentially drive new customers their way?
In other words, what if businesses gave people a reason to attend to the information they're putting out there? This is totally possible through business storytelling!
"In a world where people have a lot of choices, the story may be the deciding factor." ~ Nick Morgan
If you were asked to tell your business's story, you might share the story of how and when your business got started. What was going on in your life at the time? How you stumbled upon the opportunity. Or how it was handed down to you from past generations.
All of these details are part of your business's story but not the full story. The reason it's not the full story is that it's all about you and not your customer.
Rule #1 in Business Storytelling: Your customer is the hero in your business's story.
If you want people to lock into your business's story, it's critical to make it about them and how your business makes an impact on their lives.
In other words, where do you and your business intersect with your customers' lives, and how can you help them get what they want and solve their problems on many levels ... internally, externally, and philosophically?
Rule #2 in Business Storytelling: You are the guide in your business's story, helping your customers solve their problems.
Your business's story is the journey that you guide your customer, the hero, through to realize a transformation, help solve problems, or meet a need or goal.
And this story can unfold and be told in micro-moments through your social media content.
But First, Why Storytelling?
Before going through the process of distilling your business's story, it's important to first understand why storytelling?
Storytelling is an ancient tool used for teaching and connecting people simply because stories engage the human brain. Therefore, storytelling is a powerful vehicle to communicate what you do.
In fact, stories organize a message in such a way that the human brain understands and remembers it, which confirms that our brains process stories differently than information or data not presented in the structure of a story.
When our brains detect a story, they become activated. Stories provide clarity, which makes sense out of things, which is good for human survival-- it's really that primitive.
"Stories are powerful because they transport us into other peoples' worlds. But in doing that, they change the way our brains work, and potentially change our brains' chemistry." ~ Paul Zak
Why Your Business Needs A Digital Story
The beauty of thinking deeply and getting clear about your business's story is that it will then drive everything you do and communicate-- from the message on your website to your marketing materials, and how you interact with your customers in person and on social media.
Most importantly, your business story reframes what you do with a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.
For example, a business that sells tires keeps people safe. An intimate downtown coffee shop doesn't just sell lattes, they create a local community gathering place. A professional photographer beautifully captures and preserves fleeting moments in time to be cherished and enjoyed now and in the future.
A hair stylist is really selling peace of mind and self-confidence, not just beauty. Solving the external problem of getting a new hairstyle alleviates the internal problems of 1) the angst felt when it's time for a haircut as well as 2) a boost in self-confidence.
In other words, you serve as a guide who removes the roadblock that is giving your customer angst or preventing he/she from having what he/she needs or wants.
The key is to identify what the roadblock is and clearly communicate how your product or service removes that roadblock, providing your customer a sense of relief.
Some businesses and organizations like charity: water who build their messaging around an important cause, purpose or mission like providing clean water, give customers something bigger than themselves to get behind, which causes people to listen, engage and support. This would be the example of a business solving a philosophical problem.
So, by positioning your product or service as a solution to your customers' problems (or the world's problems,) you increase the perceived value of your product or service.
Once you distill your story into a short, repeatable message that helps people understand why they need what you offer, you then possess the key and overall driver for your online messaging and content.
10 Ways To Begin Telling Your Business's Story Online
Ok, so now that we realize we need a distilled digital business story to drive our online messaging and content, we need ideas for how to tell it over time in micro-moments.
Coming up with ideas to tell your online story depends upon the type of business you have, and I can assure you the ideas are probably limitless.
Below are the most obvious ten ways to get you started.
As I put this list together, I'm considering where we are today when it comes to online messaging and social media.
Keep in mind that over time, the bar has been raised in many areas. What worked and was successful a few years ago, no longer works or may look dated. I also created this list in order of importance to give you an idea about how to prioritize your efforts.
1 | Post quality images. Just like the saying goes, "a picture's worth 1,000 words," quality images are so important today. Not only do they form a first impression about your business, they communicate subtle messages about your business like-- attention to detail, how current your business is, and the pride you take your work. Your photos are an extension of your business, and great photos can really make your business shine. A quality photo with even a few words can say a lot about your business's story. Do you need to hire a professional photographer? Maybe for some of the images that you use over and over again like your profile picture, your website banner images or Facebook cover photo. But for your everyday shots for social media, between a few YouTube tutorial videos and a photo editing app on your phone, you can absolutely learn how to create better pictures. Sloppy shots can make the most meticulous business look sloppy.
2 | Use your voice and you will find it. In order to tell your business's story authentically and in a way that elicits connection, it's important to open up and communicate about your business-- beneath the surface of the obvious. It doesn't have to be long-winded. Make it about what you believe sets your business apart, in terms of how you serve and guide your customers solve their problems or meet their needs. The more you practice, the more comfortable you'll become, and you'll find that voice that only your business possesses, helping you stand out.
3 | Share pictures of you, the guide. If you check out a business's Instagram account and there are no pictures of people or "who's running the ship," it's more difficult to feel a connection. In the past, it was more common for business owners to no be pictured, but now that more are stepping up, this will be the norm going forward. Remember, you are the guide for your customers; reveal who is steering the ship. Committing to getting over this hurdle will be worth it.
4 | Speak to how your business makes an entry point into your customers' lives. The more I learn about business storytelling and online communication, the more I am convinced our world is an interconnected web of stories. When we feel that a business can help us solve one of our problems to help us grow and improve, there's an internal snap/click that happens, like two magnets coming together. In what aspect of your customers' lives can your business guide your customers toward improvement, betterment, and growth? That is the entry point your business has into your customers' lives.
5 | Speak to the problems that your business solves for your customers, especially the internal ones. Remember, your business isn't just about the obvious product or service that you provide. The product or service you provide solves internal, external or maybe even a philosophical problem. Speak to those problems by showing empathy and solutions.
6 | Share your expertise. Be the guide. Recognize that you've built up a wealth of knowledge to get to where you are and by sharing your expertise, you show the depth of that knowledge. It's also a great way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. When you show what you know, it makes people trust you and want to be guided by you ... to solve their problems. Teach what you know on your social platforms. Be the guide.
7 | Provide value first. Teaching what you know is a great segway into "providing value first." When you share valuable knowledge first, you let people "test drive" your business before buying. Or, it could be the case that they aren't in the market for your product yet, but when they are (or a friend is,) you'll immediately pop into their mind as an option because you've already demonstrated your knowledge. Value can come in many forms-- information, inspiration or maybe even some degree of delight or entertainment. Providing value first builds trust.
8 | Share customers' testimonials. For the customers that you've taken through the journey of transformation (of helping them solve whatever problem it is your business solves,) share their stories. You may feel a little awkward about asking clients for these, but if you give it some thought, there is probably a creative and relatively easy way to capture this information. For example, as people pay, you could direct their attention to a nearby basket of slips of paper and pens. At the top of the paper, you can explain that you're looking for short testimonial statements to share online and then ask the question, "How has your experience with our business helped you with X?" Not only are these great for online content, it's also valuable feedback.
9 | Celebrate your customers' successes. As you work with clients and customers and they're making improvements, as their guide to overcoming those obstacles, celebrate their progress with them! Depending on your type of business, it might be appropriate to take their picture and share their micro-story. There are many ways to get creative with celebrating your customers' successes.
10 | (Sparingly) share behind-the-scenes and personal moments to humanize your business. These types of posts sprinkled into your content are great to show different sides of yourself and reveal a more human side of your business.
Getting clear on your business's story can not only increase the effectiveness of your online communication efforts, it also opens you up to endless content creation ideas for your business. It does take some time to think deeply about how you are the guide for your customers and how you can speak to their needs, but the investment of time and commitment to connect on a deeper level with your customers will be worth it.