In today’s economy, businesses have two main audiences their leadership teams need to connect with — internal customers (employees) and external customers, the people who buy their goods and services.
Often times, companies use facts and figures to connect with these audiences. These pieces of communication only appeal to the logical brain. Rather, what businesses need to start doing is telling better stories. Heartfelt stories — inspiring stories — that connect with people because storytelling is the new business currency.
By focusing on only sharing data and strategies, organizations are missing out on rooting their stories in their audience’s (employees’ and clients’) experience. As speaker Melanie Spring points out, “storytelling is humans, talking to humans, about human things.”
If the organization sets out first to understand what their audience wants and their obstacles to getting it, they can share compelling stories that activate potential customers. It all has to be ingrained in the audience experience.
It’s what T.S. Eliot called the objective correlative. If the storytelling doesn’t hit home and represent audience emotions, then it falls flat. Emotion only works if the recipient feels it in their bones. It has to be real and it must be specific to them.
Storytelling helps you show the world that your business is not like everyone else’s. Storytelling will change how you view the world.
The benefits of storytelling in business are numerous:
Core values emerge. When founders of companies or organizations tie stories to the history and legacy of the organization, the core values of the company will show themselves. For example, if the entrepreneur who started the business shares the early struggles of being a start-up and how he pulled through the difficult times with all new employees in a transparent, monomyth story style, this will hit home with anyone who has ever struggled in life.
By the founder sharing his core value of persistence in the face of imposing odds with his employees and explaining what this means for them now that they work there, this will give them something to believe in and, consequently, they will believe in the company, and their motivation to work will increase.
That leader is giving that new employee a greater sense of purpose and meaning by making them part of the company’s wider story. Leaders want employees who work for them not because they have to, but because they want to.
- A key in the sales process. If a customer doesn’t buy from you because “it just doesn’t feel right,” it means you are attacking the critical thinking, not the heart of your audience. People buy for themselves, not for you. Yelp reviews are essentially stories and not just facts and features. Glassdoor. Remember that humans typically make emotional, not rational decisions, so being able to evoke emotions through storytelling is a powerful tool. Leaders need to transfer their vision into a captivating story and clearly communicate it using a sincere marketing strategy.
Emotionally connect people and create loyalty. You want people to want to be a part of what you do, to share in the core values of the company. You want to attract those who believe what you believe. The power of storytelling accomplishes this connection between the company and the employee. The best stories evoke emotional reactions; people genuinely relate and connect with these stories, and they believe in the company and what it stands for. When people listen to a story, they feel what the protagonist of the story is feeling, so a good way of using a story to connect with an audience is to tell a story about a mistake you/the company made, a failure, or maybe life wasn’t going well for you or the company in the past.
People will relate to this, as we have all experienced mistakes and failures. The more the audience relates to you or understands what went into creating the brand, the more likely they will like you and your company.
It makes good business sense and profits. Storytelling creates early adopters and raving fans. According to best-selling author Simon Sinek, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. People want to buy from companies that they believe care, i.e. empathetic companies.
Look no further than the Global Empathy Index, where the businesses near the top of the list were amongst the most profitable and fastest growing businesses in the world. They use storytelling to show their company’s empathetic nature, and the value is in the numbers.
The top 10 companies also generated 50% more income and increased in value more than twice than the companies in the bottom 10.
To prove that point, researchers Walker and Glenn showed the value of storytelling by auctioning off insignificant objects on eBay with heartfelt and purpose-written short stories. The items, which were purchased for around $1.25 each, sold for nearly $8,000 cumulatively. This shows how a smart storytelling approach can increase the perceived value of something and generate ROI.
Todd Palmer is founder and president of Troy-based Diversified Industrial Staffing and Extraordinary Advisors Coaching, and a regular contributor to DBusiness Daily News.