How To Write Stories About Your Business
You’ve heard it once. You’ve heard it a million times. You’ve got to tell stories.
And now Forbes
is forecasting that “great storytelling” and “less reliance on data” will shape the marketing futures for small businesses this year.
So. You’re on board. You've accepted that storytelling can help you grow your business and reach your ideal customers. And you're ready to dive in. But there’s just one problem: when it comes to your business, where do great stories come from? And which stories should you tell?
Stories are All Around Us
The truth is stories are everywhere. In fact, this is the very worldview professional storytellers hold and use to find stories worth sharing.
Margot Leitman, the author of Long Story Short
and Moth Grand Slam Champion
, believes the problem with finding good stories originates from our actions and our awareness. Leitman argues that as we age we simply have less adventures. Because of this it feels like our story reservoirs are empty. For the best stories, she votes to start changing things up: talk to strangers or start something new.
At first, this advice doesn’t seem to translate to business, except when we remember that in the beginning our customers are strangers and, to our prospects, our products or services are new.
So if you want to create more content to grow your business, the first step is heightening your awareness to the stories that already exist and have remain so far untold.
What to Look for in a Good Story
We know we need stories to differentiate but what actually makes a story relevant? As you develop content for your business, it’s important to start with a strategy and follow a few simple rules. After that, you can trust your instincts when a story reveals itself to you.
Your business content (or your stories) derives from your brand story. If you don’t have one, start here before creating loads of content. This first step will save you from filling your website or social media feed with information that’s cute but irrelevant or doesn’t solve the problems that keep your customers up at night.
Once you’ve identified your business narrative, or brand story, you want to create cornerstone content
categories from using a simple guideline: what do you want to be famous for?
Although you’re telling stories about you or your business, the spotlight is on the customer journey. This can be tricky when you’re writing about yourself or your business, but possible when you remember to:
--Tell more stories about others rather than yourself or your business. A good ratio is 4:1.
--And use stories focused on your business to highlight a value shared with your customers.
Story Finder Exercise
The following exercise was inspired by Margot Leitman’s framework in Long Story Short for those who feel boring but have dreamt of hitting the storytelling stage. I’ve adapted it here to help you locate relevant stories about you or your business.
Complete the following fill-in-the blank exercise. Begin with the anatomy of your business and then move toward the personality of your business. Next, jot down any stories that begin to poke their head around.
I am / We are _______________________
We are [small]
We are [family-owned]
We’re [located downtown]
We’re [connected to a larger network]
We are [positive]
We are [problem-solvers]
We are [inspired]
Now, take it a step further. Fill in the blanks, then brainstorm stories that come to mind.
I / We provide _____________________
I/ We do______________
I / We create __________________________
We provide [marketing strategy]
We provide [copywriting]
I do [content creation]
We create [sales funnels]
I provide [story coaching]
Now back it up and think about your history or your business history. Fill in the blank with as many examples as you can, then list stories that correspond.
I was / We were ____________________________________.
I was a [writing coach for attorneys]
We use to be [a much smaller company]
I was a [graduate student with a baby]
We were [the new kids on the block]
We were [the underdogs]
Now that you have lines that describe you or your business, how do you know which way to go?
Although the language in the exercise is about yourself, remember your job is to create content that speaks to the customer. So, as you scroll through your list, think about stories from your customer experience or business history that symbolize these phrases.
For example, if your statement is “We are problem-solvers,” consider when a customer has asked you to do something that was new or when a customer has come to you for a difficult solution. Tell that story.
If your statement sounds like “We provide content creation,” you might tell the story of a customer who called after discovering they were losing search rankings in google to a local competitor. In your story, you can help your audience by walking them through the content strategy you applied to increase SEO.
And if your statement is “We were the underdogs,” you could tell the story of starting your business on a dollar and a dream, or you could tell us a story from childhood when your baseball team was the underdogs, what you learned, and how it applies to your business [and therefore your customers] today. Hint: the stories we tell about ourselves or our business history should contain lessons we’ve learned. Make sure these lessons are relevant to your established business narrative.
If you want to learn more about how to move from list-making to actual blog writing, check out my article on building a writing habit
Why Story Works
When you tell stories about your business, you differentiate because you’re able to champion your customer.
When you tell stories about your employees, you get to celebrate the awesome people that make things happen at work.
When you tell stories about yourself, you get to humbly acknowledge that the lessons you’ve learned have been infused into the work you do and have better equipped you to create products or services for your customers.
If your business needs content, the blank page can be intimidating. But just committing to publishing one blog or sending one story through email weekly can help you stay in touch with your audience and continue to add value to your customer’s lives.
And guess what? When you do that, your expertise and helpful content will become the subject of their stories. That means you’ll be creating impact among people who may never encounter a single story you write. Instead, they find you after hearing a story about your products or services because someone they trust is talking about you.
Victoria Payne is a devoted word nerd, who believes stories exist all around us. Where some find rabbit holes, she finds treasure. She's a former writing professor turned certified StoryBrand Guide and writes about business and digital marketing, professional and personal development through writing, and occasionally her dog, Jack. Victoria grew up in Georgia, serves clients throughout the United States, and is based in Portland, Oregon.