Storytelling has recently become the go-to strategy for corporates and startups to better connect with their customers—and for good reason. No other form of communication yields more powerful results than storytelling. However, many businesses and marketers still hold a vague concept of what exactly it means to tell a story. This article will help clarify and give an introductory sense of how corporates and startups can embrace storytelling principles to grow their business to new heights.

by Jason Beever

It’s no secret that storytelling has played an integral part in supercharging many businesses and brands. In an age where consumers are able to stay connected with their favorite companies more conveniently and personally than ever before, industries are finding that it takes more than just a great product to stay relevant in the market. They must also become great storytellers.

Companies that fully embrace storytelling stand a much better chance of dominating their markets, staying relevant, and remaining unforgettable in the minds of consumers. They achieve this leadership not necessarily because they offer the best product or service, but because they have managed to create an emotional connection with their audiences.

Emotion is Key

Eliciting an emotional reaction is the primary objective of any story-driven company. Audiences are far more motivated by, responsive to, and appreciative of a brand that can show it intimately understands their deepest desires, hopes and fears.

Emotions are the fundamental byproduct of good storytelling, and they have a profound effect on influencing behaviors and actions. When a company can make us feel something, a phenomenal sense of trust is immediately established for the consumer. This emotional connection is so strong, in fact, that it matters more to us than even our satisfaction with the company’s very product or service.  

How do we invoke this emotional response? We must first begin by defining what exactly a story is.

Defining “Story”

In its most basic sense, a story is an account of a relatable character who undergoes meaningful transformation by facing an opposing force of conflict.  

Every Hollywood blockbuster, best-selling novel, and riveting piece of journalism follows this fundamental story structure. Audiences are accustomed to the way it affects us, and if any of the key elements are missing, we will instinctively feel less connected to the material. To ensure your storytelling efforts hit the desired result, use this simple definition above as your guiding light.

Of course, you may be wondering how this concept can be applied in the world of business. To answer that, let’s look now at an overview of the fundamentals behind good storytelling.

The Protagonist

Empathy is the audience’s doorway into the world of a story. We must first identify with and care about a core element of the story in order for the emotional bond to take form. This is always achieved through the presence of a main character, or protagonist

The mistake many companies make is to frame themselves as the protagonist. This is the easier and more obvious choice, because they’ve been led to believe that a list of features and benefits will drive consumer interest. However, this often results in an impersonal and underwhelming message. For a much greater empathetic response, try framing your customer as the hero of the story.

In order to do this, first look at your company’s market research, data, and ideal customer profile to pinpoint a common personality or demographic that you’d like to give a voice. Understand who the types of people are that regularly interact with your business, either on social media, through your website, or by direct communication.

If you’re a brand-new corporate or startup and haven’t yet established an audience, then you can at least imagine the type of customer you’re focused on serving. What field or industry are they in? What does happiness look like for them? What frustration in their lives is begging for a solution? You will use this insight to then design the next element of your story.

The Catalyst

Near the onset of every story there must be a significant event that disrupts the protagonist’s way of life. This emotional trigger point (sometimes called the inciting incident or catalyst) must force the protagonist to restore balance in his life, thus beginning his journey of transformation.

Think of the deepest desire or pain that your market feels. What problem do they currently face that is causing severe frustration in their lives, preventing them from achieving their dreams? You will use this disruptive tension as the emotional trigger of your story. Fortunately, you’ve likely already uncovered what this tension is, since your company was created to resolve it in the first place.

Allow your audience to discover this missing piece in their lives. Show how unattainable their dreams are without it. The catalyst should stimulate unease in your audience; by relating to the protagonist’s plight, they too feel that their lives have been disrupted—and must now find a solution to their pain.

Conflict & The Object of Desire

After the emotional trigger point, the protagonist must now actively seek out an object or status that he hopes will restore the balance in his life. This is where your company’s product or service comes to the rescue! 

It’s important to properly frame the level of conflict and pain resulting from the absence of your service offering. Perhaps your audience has previously taken action to resolve this pain but failed. Other types of products or services did not provide the necessary solution. Every action taken was only met with further escalating conflict. The protagonist/consumer is now desperate for the answer!

The greater the stakes and risk are for the protagonist, the more meaningful and important the object of desire becomes. To really stir the marketplace, show just how vital your place in it is—and how profound the change in people’s lives will be from what you’re offering.

Transformation

When the object of desire is obtained, balance is restored and all conflict ceases for the protagonist, whose life has now been transformed in ways greater than he expected. It is this moment of triumph that can have moviegoers cheering in their seats, emotionally floored by the story they’ve just experienced. This sense of victory carries through to consumers as well, who are now motivated and inspired to pursue the object of desire in their own lives. 

Whereas a powerful story results in big box office numbers for movie studios, the same success is mirrored in the form of more sales, awareness and market share for a corporate or startup. Truly, storytelling works in miraculous ways to build trust and interest with consumers. Having now gained a sense of its application in business, the only real limit to your company’s potential is in how deeply you are able to connect with the emotions of your audience.

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