How Storytelling Can Help Your Business Through COVID-19
For thousands of years, people have told stories. They’ve painted them on cave walls, they’ve shared them through the spoken word and they’ve written them down. The ability to tell your own story or to share the stories of others is a fundamental part of being human.
Fast-forward to the uncertain times of today, and the same still holds true. Stories are still a vital part of how we communicate, whether we’re at home or at work, and they’ve never been more important than they are now.
Your business needs stories
With the consequences of COVID-19 hitting businesses in countless unforeseen ways, now is the time to make words count. Money is flowing slower around the economy and you want a great relationship with your customers now more than ever. We’ve written a separate piece all about the importance of content in the time of coronavirus, but that content still has to be compelling and relevant.
You need to make your words count
But how do you make this happen? How do you connect with the customers that are the lifeblood of your company?
Stories are a basic human need
Storytelling is not just an enjoyable pastime that children enjoy in the library. Storytelling is something that is common to pretty much every culture in the world, and it’s more than just an exchange of information, it’s an art-form.
Jeffrey Kluger writing for Time.com describes it as the thing that makes us human, and that’s not overstating it (Kluger, 2017).
From the moment we’re born, we’re told stories. These stories teach us our morals and values, they impart warnings and advice, and they bond us to the people who tell them to us.
Stories stick in the mind.
Storytellers stick in our hearts.
If you hear a good story then you’ll likely never forget it. How many times have you found yourself passing on a great story you’ve heard to someone else, just to share the message? It’s probably not because you found yourself engrossed by the facts and figures involved, but rather that you connected with something fundamental in the meaning.
Stories help you hold an audience
That’s the power of storytelling, and it’s as true in business as it is in our personal lives. Use storytelling wisely and it can give your business a huge advantage.
Is there a case for storytelling in business?
There’s so much noise in the business world that it can be hard to stand out. That’s especially true at the moment, while we’re dealing with COVID-19, as companies are competing hard for each customer dollar.
Here at Sparklite we believe in the power of words. We know that a few honest, well-written sentences can connect with your customers in a way that no slick agency ad campaign could achieve, and we’ve recently taken a look at the many reasons why content is so important right now.
But if you’re going to spend your precious time writing content for your customers then you want it to make an impact.
Storytelling can make that happen.
Let’s take a look at the ways that storytelling can help your business.
1. People buy from people
While it’s true that people can be attracted by great product specifications, special offers and glitzy packaging, actually they’re not always the reasons that customers make a purchase.
People buy from people, and your potential customers want to feel a connection with you and your brand. Faceless corporations put people off whereas a business with a human ‘face’ is just all-round more pleasant to deal with. You can use story-based articles as some of your cornerstone articles, to help customers enjoy the experience of being on your website and to encourage them to feel connected with your brand.
People buy from people
TAKE ACTION: Think about the stories you could use to connect with your customers. How was your business founded? If you’re the founder, how did you come up with the idea? If you’re not the founder then why did you join the business? Are there any cool stories about your staff that you could share?
Once you start looking for stories then you’ll find that they’re all around you.
2. People have varied learning styles
Everyone learns differently. People respond to different stimuli, and it’s important to communicate with people in the way that resonates for them.
Visual people learn by seeing, whereas aural people learn by hearing. Kinesthetic people learn by doing, whereas read/write people learn by reading words.
Using stories as part of your communications campaign can be a very powerful way to help different types of learners to connect with you. A big part of a successful content strategy is using lots of different types of content, and long-form story articles are a good addition to the mix.
Use stories to engage people with different learning styles
TAKE ACTION: Can you incorporate a story into your next television or radio ad, if you have them? That will help people who learn in a visual and aural way to hear your message. Or could you put together a series of blogs focussing on your founder story, or how your staff are coping with COVID? That will help the read/write-style learners to connect with you.
The more varied and interesting ways you find to share your stories, the more powerfully they will be received.
3. Stories are easy to remember
Have you ever sat through a Powerpoint presentation and not remembered a single thing afterwards? Yep, us too. Data-heavy, stats-heavy presentations are all too common in the business world, and as the Fast Company points out, they don’t resonate with the audience (Arvai, 2016).
Now think of a presentation that you do remember. How was it different? Was there a narrative, a theme, a story?
Yes, the art of storytelling is also the art of getting your message across. Your customers won’t remember a particular percentage point stats in a few months (weeks? days!) time, but they will remember the message of a story that you tell them.
A good story keeps your audience with you
TAKE ACTION: Stories stick in the mind, so make sure that your story sticks with your customers. Find a way to present your product or service as a story. You could share a story about how the product was developed, or about how your service is delivered on a daily basis.
Think laterally to come up with something that presents your offering in a different light.
4. Stories show how you can solve your customers’ problems
Story-telling in business is an opportunity to show how you can solve your customers’ problems. It’s so much more powerful to describe a problem situation that you know exists, and then describe how you can solve it, than it is just to tell people that you’re useful without demonstrating it to them (Denning, 2005).
Everyone wants their lives made easier, and stories are a way to show how you can make that happen.
Solve your customers’ problems and you’ll be in their good books
TAKE ACTION: This is a great opportunity to use a case study from an existing customer. Why did they need your product or service? How has their life improved? What lessons would they share with others?
This is also a lovely way to get feedback from your customers, and boom! Instant job satisfaction for you.
5. Stories help your customers to tell you about themselves
Telling a story is the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one. Businesses that tell stories about themselves are well-placed to hear from their customers in a similar fashion, and it can be a nice way to open a conversation on social media.
If you’re showing the ‘human’ face of your business then people are far more likely to want to interact with you! You can use ‘story prompts’ to draw these stories out, for example throwing up posts with phrases like ‘Tell us about a time when…’ or ‘Share with us your best/worst…’ (Dietz, 2014).
Stories create connections
TAKE ACTION: Ask your customers for their stories, and learn from them. Call it customer research or data gathering if you want, but fundamentally it’s about learning what makes them tick.
And once you know that, you have the keys to the business kingdom!
Let storytelling help you through the COVID crisis
As we navigate our way through these unprecedented times, it makes sense to use every means possible to help our businesses to survive and thrive.
Storytelling is such a powerful, enjoyable tool that can reap such rewards when it comes to customer acquisition and retention. Plus it’s a lot of fun when the words start flowing!
Everyone has a story to tell, so find yours and let storytelling help you through the COVID crisis.