From the identity we create for ourselves to the meaning we give to external events, people, experiences, products, and places —
Everything is a story we repeat to ourselves in order to make it real.
We learn from stories, we live through stories, and we persuade through stories.
When you sell to customers, you're telling a story of why your business exists or why people should buy from you.
When you make business decisions about the future of your company, you're doing so based on a story about your company's values and DNA.
We call that brand storytelling or narrative marketing — and it works. It's not simply because consumers in 2021 are resistant to traditional advertising or that using storytelling to convey your brand message is 22 times more impactful than just "facts."
It's because brand storytelling speaks to the heart of who your consumers are — humans. And, as we'll discover through the 7 messages you need to increase your reach and revenue, the best way to motivate humans is through the consistent emotions storytelling inspires.
Using brand storytelling is not a new concept. Just like every memorable story follows a framework — think Star Wars and Joseph Campbell's classic "Hero's Journey" — there's nothing novel about storytelling in marketing.
What is novel is how we can use storytelling to do everything, such as driving conversions, creating a community, and transforming customers into loyal brand ambassadors over time.
To understand the power of brand storytelling, consider this example:
Wharton marketing professor, Deborah Small, conducted an experiment to understand persuasion behaviour. To raise money for a charitable cause, they created two versions of a marketing campaign.
The first featured data points about the issue, which was about the problems of poverty that children face in Africa. The second campaign focused on telling the story of Rokia, a seven-year-old girl in Mali who faced threats of extreme starvation and a lack of basic medical care.
Individuals who had been exposed to Rokia's story gave twice as much as those who'd only read the statistics.
Research by Headstream backs up this compelling outcome, proving stories build trust and trust leads to conversions:
The key to using brand storytelling in an impactful way is to have a reliable and consistent story framework that you can use to communicate with your audience — which is to say, your customers and readers.
The reason Star Wars withstands the test of time is not simply because of its innovative, interstellar background. Actually, it's quite the opposite — it's because George Lucas placed the wrapper of sci-fi on an age-old storytelling framework of the Hero's Journey.
In marketing, that framework is called the "StoryBrand" framework — and you can use the process to transform your business revenue and goals.
The seven messages you're about to discover form the foundation of your entrepreneurial venture — and the StoryBrand framework. These are tried-and-true tools that improve your business's marketing strategy and clarify your message.
When you decide on, create, and then articulate these seven messages, you communicate value, successfully connect with your audience, and convince them to take action through storytelling.
The main character of your brand's story is not you, your brand, or your business.
It's your ideal customer.
At this point in the framework, you'll need to decide on these essential details:
Knowing this aspect of your message will help you define "What's in it for me?" for your customers (aka, the main character of your brand story).
The problems your customers face can take a variety of avatars in your storytelling framework. Think back to cinematic stories — there's sometimes a villain, external circumstances out of their control, an internal conflict, or some kind of broad philosophical problem.
Translated into business-speak, this can look like:
Since your customer is the hero or the main character, you're their sherpa, their guide. Sure, you may have the solution — but you're not there to do it for them.
Instead, you recognise and support their sovereignty (to make their own decisions). So what you demonstrate is:
You can do this by defining your mission and purpose through your website functionality, copywriting (About Pages, Mission and Values, etc.), and blog or social media content.
So how do you do this? Well, as any wise old-soul sherpa will tell you, the key is to give your customers a clear plan, a map, a structure that helps them see there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
They may not know every step right up front — but they don't have to. In fact, detailing the plan in its entirety may just confuse them. Keep It Simple, Stupid: give them the first 3 steps to the solution or the plan that helps them visualise the ideal solution (which is a vanquishing of their problems).
For example, if you're a SaaS platform helping customers simplify a major issue, your website or marketing materials should clearly demonstrate, ideally in three steps, how your process does that.
Now that they can see how possible it is, it's easy for your customers (the heroes) to feel that initial spark of inspiration and motivation.
This is the point at which you'll ask for the sale. There are two ways this could happen.
The "Success" vision is really one part of a two-part transformation process. It clearly articulates the treasures the hero stands to gain if they embark on the journey — or the risks they take, sliding back into ignominy or remaining in pain.
It's a clear moment of change where you'll define how your hero or customer goes from Point A (where they were) to Point B (where they want to be). You'll use this to inform your marketing materials, copywriting, imagery, and sales positioning.
Defining failure is just as important as defining success — if not more so. Like it or not, our survivalist brains are designed to want to avoid pain just a little more dearly than strictly seeking pleasure.
That's why defining failure is so powerful. Without explicitly underlining what they stand to lose, the hero won't only fail to solve their problems — they'll actually slide backward. They'll lose ground.
A good example of this is placing a timer or countdown on a sales page or in an email marketing message. The sense of urgency — and the accompanying fear of missing out — does more to motivate potential buyers than purely handing out valuable bonuses.
Artists, freelancers, small businesses, entrepreneurs — essentially, anyone who serves customers in some form — all spend a great deal of time defining their "competitive advantage." And that's important.
But I want you to consider this: a clear message, done right, can be your greatest asset and competitive advantage. If you can't communicate what you do, who you serve, and how, you'll waste time attracting the wrong customers and leaving money on the table.
These seven elements of brand storytelling will help you consistently speak to the customers — the heroes — most ready to embark on the journey. Learn more about how my unique approach to storytelling can help you speak to the right customers with the right words.