We get it.
Storytelling has become a business buzzword for the past few years, and you’re probably tired of listening to everyone waxing poetic about it.
But there’s a reason why businesses are still enamored with the art of storytelling — it will never go out of style.
A good story will make you feel something, but a great story will move you to take action.
Expert tips and advice on how to become a master business storyteller
While storytelling is hailed as the biggest business skill that everyone (not just marketers!) should work on in the coming years, there’s still a lot of room for improvement for most of us when it comes to telling stories.
We’re talking about stories that spark curiosity, make emotional connections, and persuade people to take action.
Get ready with your pen (or notes app!) as we zoom in on the power of business storytelling, how you can use it to stand out in a crowded space, and win over customers.
We also had business storytelling experts from various industries and niches on speed dial. They were generous enough of their time and gave great advice, including plenty of examples.
Let’s dig in. You can also skip to a section:
Wait, what’s business storytelling?
Business storytelling is the process of sharing relatable stories instead of facts and figures with your audience.
Your prospects and customers are tired of being sold to. In fact, 3 in 4 people actively avoid advertising. They don’t want more sales pitches, promotional emails, and one-way conversations. These people are looking for a real connection with brands like you.
“Business storytelling is a way to build a relationship with customers and help inspire others in the community while staying true to the mission and voice of the brand,” shares Dani Hart, Chief Storyteller at Eterneva, a deathcare and grief wellness brand.
Learn more about business storytelling and why it’s important in this podcast episode with Piktochart’s VP of Growth – Agata Krzysztofik: What is Business Storytelling and Why It’s Important
How to get started in storytelling for your business
You’re probably wondering — how do I get started with business storytelling?
Your story should answer the following questions:
- What motivates the company’s founders and its employees?
- What important problems were the company and its product created to solve?
- Why do buyers pick your brand over competitors?
By having something interesting to say about these points, your business can capture the attention of potential customers.
Every successful company today has a core business story integrated into every aspect of their organization — from customer service to sales.
For example, here’s how Mailchimp tells the story of its biggest value proposition: building a customer base.
The video’s unique and solid narrative doesn’t just engage prospects but creates a connection that’s not easy for competitors to replicate.
The importance of business storytelling
It’s easier to understand the importance of business storytelling in theory, but many still fail to put it into practice.
Let’s look at how a well-thought-out storytelling strategy benefits your business.
1. Stories engage and impact emotions
You might not realize it but we, as humans, naturally gravitate towards things that are fun and pleasurable instead of actively seeking painful experiences.
Going over hard facts and product features is an example of a painful experience.
Of course, people pay attention to statistics and logic, but only after they’ve been reeled in with a moving story.
For this reason, leading with a story is always a better proposition than bombarding prospects with a sales pitch.
Imagine you’re selling an online course that teaches people how to use MS Excel. But there aren’t many people who just wake up one day and think they have to master spreadsheets. It’s not what they really care about.
However, if you sell them on the story of how someone who knows MS Excel gets to impress their boss and earn the respect of colleagues, you are more likely to capture their attention and get them to sign up for your course.
2. Stories impact the bottom line
If prospects were 100% logical, they would weigh the pros and cons of different options in the market and pick one accordingly. But we bet you know that this is not how it works.
Humans are creatures of both emotion and logic. Research by Origin and Hill Holiday shows that people spend more money on products when associated with a story.
In a nutshell, stories play a significant role in your prospects’ purchase decisions.
Expert tip by Aazar: “Start early. Make your founder’s story powerful.”
3. Stories are easy to remember
We can easily recall stories because they actively involve our emotions.
If you try to remember a sad story, you’re likely to remember how you felt (sympathy, dread, etc.).
4. Stories help your brand stand out
Storytelling becomes even more important if you’re selling a commoditized product in a competitive market.
If a lot of brands are selling products with similar features to yours, what other way do you have to differentiate than a compelling story?
Take it from Elaina Smith, CFO of Secure Bancard, a B2B payments provider:
The bottom line: A good business story makes you different from the rest and helps you stand out in the mind of your customers.
Expert tip by Elaina: “First, identify who you are trying to connect with. Then, think about the things that they care most about. Tell stories shaped around these themes in your authentic voice so that they can easily feel a connection with your content.”
5. Stories help you build trust
Consumer trust is the currency of today’s businesses.
To further illustrate this point, Loree Draude, CEO of Loree Draude Coaching and Consulting, shares how storytelling helped her team build trust with their clients:
Expert tip by Lauree: “Read about the Hero’s Journey. It’s a standard template for stories. Know your customers well enough that you can craft a story they can identify with, where they are the hero of the story.”
Bonus tip: Watch the video below for more insights on The Art of Inspiring Trust and Loyalty with Your Story
6. Stories drive people to take action
Stories are powerful persuasive tools.
When you can persuade your prospects and customers, they will support your business in any way they can.
Aura‘s VP of Growth Gaetano DiNardi has a story (so meta?!) to tell on this specific benefit of business storytelling:
Expert tip by Gaetano: “Cut the fluff and keep it real. If you can’t step into the mindset of a real customer, then you have to find subject matter experts, or tell real stories from real customers. That’s the only way.”
The elements of business storytelling
Business storytelling isn’t just about creating lots of product-centric content. Yet many businesses are still inflicted with the quantity over quality approach.
You don’t have to sacrifice effective storytelling in favor of sales-oriented content that doesn’t relate to the audience. Crafting a great story boils down to the following key components.
Emotional appeal is at the heart of every brilliant story. Domino’s restaurants, for example, are not just selling pizzas. They’re selling the story of having good, quality time with friends and family.
If you can generate a positive emotion in the first few seconds of reading a blog post or watching a video, your audience will get hooked to your story.
Vassilena Valchanova, independent consultant and digital marketing strategist, has some great advice:
“The details bring the story to life. You can’t just cover the whos and the what’s – you need to show the internal struggle, bring the “characters” to life by humanizing them, and focus on the emotions.”
Complicating the message is one of the biggest mistakes brands make when telling their story.
Keep it simple and easily digestible.
Basecamp’s landing page, for example, is living proof that it’s possible to tell a simple story even for a complex product.
It uses a “before-after” story formula to drive the point that using the software leads to peace of mind and freedom from worries related to the progress of your projects.
The stories you create should be real, open, and transparent.
86% of consumers agree that authenticity is one of the key aspects they consider when evaluating brands.
“Authenticity and empathy are the foundation of telling a relatable story”, says Marcos Bravo C., brand evangelist at Piktochart.
Many businesses tend to focus on what they sell instead of what their buyers care about. Yet 71% of consumers purchase from businesses with values that overlap with theirs.
When crafting a brand story, it must be relevant to the prospects you’re targeting, forging a meaningful connection between your brand and customers.
How to tell a story that resonates with your audience
Follow this step-by-step guide if you want to create and share stories that are true to your brand and your long-term business plans.
1. Pick good story ideas
There are many good stories beneath the surface of your business — you just need to grab a shovel and dig them out.
When thinking of business story concepts, it always helps to go over particular characteristics of your brand.
Here are some questions to help conjure up some ideas.
Who are you?
Reveal your true self to your audience.
According to Wunderman, 89% of Americans say they’re loyal to brands that share their values. You can demonstrate these values with stories that give an exclusive insight into your company culture, staff spotlights, personal favorites, etc.
Emilia Korczynska, Head of Marketing at Userpilot (B2B SaaS Product Growth Platform), shares the same thoughts:
Expert tip by Emilia: Don’t be afraid to be yourself – personality and authenticity go a long way.
A real-life brand story example is how, after 10 years in the business, we shared Piktochart’s humble beginnings and highlighted the most impactful lessons we learned for the past decade — 10 Lessons (And Counting!) from 10 Years of Bootstrapping
What do you do?
You already know what you offer. Think beyond the cliché sales lingo and dive deeper into the features of your product/service.
Are there any attributes that make your product stand out or increasingly convenient to people?
Here’s a good example from Emilia:
Who do you do it for?
Think about the people you want to serve. Why are you devoting your attention to them? How do you want to be of service to them?
Case in point: Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign used humor to refresh the brand.
What made this story effective was the targeting. Market research conducted by the company revealed that women purchased 60% of men’s body washes. As a result, the breand crafted a story specifically to target women, and it worked. Sales went up to 60% from the year before.
Why do you do it?
According to Accenture, 52% of people are more likely to buy from brands that stand for something bigger than their products/services.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a 1-day-old small business or a 100-year-old mammoth organization, there’s a purpose behind your existence, and you’re likely working toward a cause that’s bigger than you.
If you sell home security devices, for example, your purpose is not just to protect people’s homes but give people a sense of safety and peace of mind that helps them live a secure and happy life.
How do you do it?
According to Sprout Social, 86% of Americans admit that brand transparency today is more important than ever. People love to know what happens behind the scenes.
If you use some proprietary technology, use unique materials, or have anything else about your process that makes you stand out, you can craft a story to let customers in on the secret. As a result, they’ll feel much closer to you and your brand.
2. Weave a holistic narrative
Once you have shortlisted the best story ideas, it’s time to develop them and turn each idea into a complete narrative.
At a basic level, every story should have:
- A beginning that introduces the main character and sets up a conflict or problem
- A middle point with rising action towards solving the problem
- An ending that covers the outcome of the action and shows what has changed in the character
Esther Choy, founder and president at Leadership Story Lab, calls it the I.R.S.
“It stands for an intriguing beginning, riveting middle, and satisfying ending. If you remember this structure, you’re 50% there,” explains Esther in an interview about how business leaders can get better at storytelling.
“When planning for your narrative, think of a story in the context of a main character who wants to solve problems and overcome obstacles,” suggests Eugene Hauptmann, founder of AwesomeFinTech.
For example, consider how Slack weaved the story behind its logo change. The company had a problem. Its logo was not working. The color scheme of its logo was hard to match with different backgrounds and other elements. But they couldn’t just change it in a flash as many users had been accustomed to the same.
As part of their storytelling efforts, they crafted a linear and transparent story that conveyed problems with the old logo, what they were doing about it, and what they hoped to achieve as a result. Their honest communication helped a lot of customers understand and accept the transition.
3. Bring your story to life in the right format
Every story needs to be communicated in the best way possible. Choosing the right format is essential to its consumption and distribution.
The most popular storytelling formats in business include the following:
4. Ensure alignment with your brand
Finally, ensure that your story aligns with your brand. It should reflect the ethos of your brand in the following key aspects:
Voice: Refer to your organization’s brand guidelines on brand voice and tone. If they do not exist, take the time to define your brand voice first. The brand voice will determine how your storytelling comes across to your audience. For example, your guidelines will indicate whether it should be fun and playful or formal and authoritative.
Visual style: Your brand’s visual style is what makes it memorable to prospects and customers. The story you share should be consistent with your brand style guide.
When you create a storytelling video with Piktochart, for example, you can customize aspects such as colors, fonts, background, logo, intro clip, and much more to match your brand guidelines.
Make business storytelling work for you with consistency
When you take away the buzz and gimmicks of business storytelling, you’ll realize that it’s not a one-time effort. Consistency is a key factor in storytelling that works and delivers results.
If you don’t see the results you hoped for, stick to the principles and advice we have covered in this guide to master the art of business storytelling.
Eventually, you’ll get to a stage where you have multiple stories that not only inspires, but also prompts your audience to support (and even advocate for you!) your business.
If you’re looking for more resources on business storytelling, you’ll have everything you need below:
- The Business Storyteller Podcast by the Piktochart team – A series of conversations with inspiring leaders and entrepreneurs to share their knowledge and experience in storytelling for their business.
- Fundamentals of Visual Storytelling – A free course on everything you need to know to make your story stick — from content, typography, and color psychology to images.
- Business Storyteller Summit on YouTube – A recording of 15 storytelling experts talking about how to effectively use storytelling to grow and influence. The speakers included founders, executives, marketers, and storytellers who have successfully used storytelling to build thriving businesses, brands, teams, and products.
Editor’s note: This blog post is written by the Piktochart team in collaboration with content consultant Hitesh Sahni.