Let me tell you a story...

Which is funny really as storytelling has been around since days of yore. We all know the stories from Grimm’s Fairy Tales of Cinderella and Little Red Riding to those in the bible of Cain and Abel and Job – storytelling has a history way before content and PR.

However, using stories in a business environment is having a moment. Working the history of your organisation and the people behind the brand are what is oiling the wheels of content.

In our world of omniplatform communications – from socials, to web, to podcasts, to good old fashioned newspapers - everyone needs things to say. And telling it in an engaging way can be the difference between you and your competitors.

And that’s where storytelling in a B2B environment comes in.

However telling engaging stories that help people connect with you and your brand, which are credible, and that you have authority in telling, while somehow managing to make the reader think better of you (so at some point they might want to buy from you), is hard.

So how do you do it?

1. Don’t talk about your brand or organisation too much

Imagine you are at a party - you meet someone for the first time, you chat and they ask what you do and you ask what they do. How weird would it be if you then carried on talking about yourself the entire conversation? It would not only be weird, but boring.

Put that in a business context – someone talks to you about your product, if you just randomly talk about all the benefits of your brand without finding out about the customer you will end up most likely turning them off, rather than on, to your product.

2. Find out about them

So it goes hand-in-hand to ask them about themselves. As humans we automatically try and find similar scenarios we can share with others. Someone tells us about an awful job interview, and we tell them about how we called the interviewer by the wrong name. It’s called empathy and it is driven by relating to the situation. To do this you need to ask questions and find out information about the other person.

Doing this in a work scenario means you can relate to the situation and then hopefully solve it with your product or service. So, a customer comes to you as they need some help selling their product. You ask them about their audiences, their past sales & marketing strategy, their messaging, etc.

3. Personalise your response

So once you have found out basic information you personalise your response. Sounds obvious? In everyday life we do this naturally. We start a conversation and we naturally pull out of our mental reserves suitable responses according to the conversation we are having.

However, when we “talk” to our customers with our content, we often fail massively to personalise our response. Stop reading this now and take a look at your website and socials. Have you different content and copy for different target audiences? Or do you broadcast to all what you want them to hear, without thinking about who they really are and what their circumstances are?

4. Make a Plan

Although it might seem strange to plan what you want to say, it is the most effective way to ensure you are talking to your audiences regularly with the right messages, on the right platforms, with the right content. How many times have you said to a friend “Have I told you before…” or “Stop me if I am repeating myself..”? As in normal life we often forget what and who we have spoken to and planning it out helps us remember.

5. Repeat yourself

However, unlike when you talk to your friends be aware some people won’t be interested in what you have to say the first time. With friends and family you already have built that bridge of communication. You have already passed the test that they are interested in listening to what you have to say, by nature of being friends.

In business, you still have that bridge to cross. So you might need to repeat yourself. Tell them again, and again, and again. However, be clever and do it in different ways – which is where storytelling comes in - relating different stories but ultimately with the same message.

6. Have a beginning, a middle and an end

Back to our party. The guest you met for the first time. You didn’t just launch into a story about work, without putting it in the context of what you do. Likewise you don’t stop half way through a conversation and head over to another guest.

Likewise, you need to give your business story a start, a middle and an end.

7. Make it personal

Not just personalise it but make it personal. Why is your company, product, service unique – because of the people behind it. People generally are interested in people, so give those people and yourself a voice. Make sure that voice is one to remember.

8. Don’t make it too personal

Saying that don’t make it too personal – having an opinion is fine. Yet, having a rant is not. No-one wants to listen to someone criticising someone else or another company – unless of course you are a libel lawyer.

9. Don’t be scared

Putting yourself into the blogsphere can be a big thing. Talking in your voice, telling people about things that have happened to you, or your company is one thing. Knowing that by posting that it could go out to a wider reach of people can be daunting. However, remember the reasons why you are writing or recording your content. To get your message across to your audiences.

10. Stay on the plan

Which is why you need to stay on the content plan. Making sure you write regularly, or speak to your audiences regularly is key. Like with friends, if you stop communicating with them for a while, the friendship can easily dry up. Keep content fresh and fairly regular and you can keep that connection with your audience.

Storytelling is a great way of reaching those you might have previously never spoken to. Like the best stories you might just hit a nerve, make an impact and make a connection. And once you have that, you can start the dialogue properly.

Picture credit: Image by rawpixel from Pixabay