When my clients ask me how they should describe what they do through content writing (blog posts and web pages, for instance) I tell them to tell a business story.
Stories arouse people’s emotions (and there’s plenty of scientific data that shows what chemicals our brains produce in response to a story), grab their attention, and move people to action. All very useful activities when you are trying to get your target audience to listen to you.
Besides that, stories are so much more interesting than a series of facts, or a bullet list of statistics. Yes, data tells us something, something that is hard and fast and very factual, but it you want to compel people to work with you, tell them a business story. No one wants to read endless amounts of statistical analysis.
What should your story contain? Let’s look at the who, when, where, why, how, and so what.
A sample story
A few years ago, my sign shop, Signarama Vermont, offered free and steeply discounted signage to non-profits who applied for them. The program was called Grants for Success, and on one particular year, we received an application from a local nonprofit that serves children with cancer. It’s a program that offers a respite from the day-to-day worries and medical treatments the kids receive as cancer patients, and returns them their childhoods even if for just one week during the week-long camps held during summer break.
Pretty amazing organization, right? In addition to providing us the statistics that showed how much they supported their clients, the marketing director made certain we knew that they lacked facilities signage. In other words, they didn’t even have a main sign by the entrance to let the kids and their families know they had arrived. Were signs important to them? They thought so, and explained why in their application.
Signs, they said, are a welcoming gesture, and their clientele deserved a warm, happy greeting to start their camp experience. When their families arrived, they wanted to let them know they arrived. They wanted the sign to show not only their name and logo, but appear welcoming.
Because of their story, this nonprofit received a package of signage—free-standing and building signs—for FREE. Not because the other nonprofits didn’t deserve free signage, too (and we only provided 100% discounted sign packages to two nonprofits each year), but because of the strength of their story. It moved me and my staff to tears.
What their story did was tell us the who (the campers), what (they provide them an experience where fun is the center of their day, not their disease), when (as soon as they arrive at camp), where (the camp’s physical facilities, which would benefit greatly with the addition of signs that include the nonprofit’s logo and colors), why (because fun and camaraderie is important for healing), how (through lots of great programming and a very well trained staff), and so what (because camps like this are needed for kids with cancer, and their families who love them).
Now, you could say that including the who, what, when, etc., is just a list of details, and that’s not what I said about compelling storytelling, but what you also need to add is the emotion that comes in from the words you choose and the inflection of your spoken voice. Emotion is what drives people to do something like give your organization free signage.
Needless to say, their application was an emotional read. They handily won the FREE signage package that year.
Some last thoughts on telling your story
You can write stories that are funny, tragic, self-explanatory, and educational. Always make them relevant to your clients, no matter what angle you write from or story that you tell.
Tell your best stories and in them, weave the points you want to make. Draw parallels between two stories that seem unrelated upon first glance, but offer a deeper meaning when analyzed by you. Stories do a wonderful job of showing people what something means, rather than telling them, which often sounds shallow and self-serving. A demonstration is so much more effective.
Here’s something else to ponder–if you are the face of your business (and solo entrepreneurs and many small business owners are), then your business story may have a lot of YOU in it. Don’t worry about appearing to be a narcissist as long as your business story also solves a problem, or creates something positive for the reader.
Final wrap up
Stories are fascinating and easy to tell. If it sounds difficult to think them up, stop. Think about your business life and what has happened recently. Think about client interactions, and ask yourself, how have you helped your clients, how you solved their problems. That’s why you even have clients—you solved their problems. Now write down the answers to these questions, and there are your stories. They are most definitely blog posts you can use, articles for LinkedIn, and social media posts.
Keep a running list of stories and insights for future use. Pretty soon, you’ll be a consistent storyteller and your readership and traffic to your website will increase. Success, my friend, can be found through storytelling.
What do you do? How do you communicate your message to your clients and prospects? Share your story in the comments below, and ask any questions you’d like regarding how to write your business story.