As you will know if you’ve been reading my content for a while, I hang my hat on the idea that stories are powerful.
When you use a story, you get much more interaction, more engagement, and you get more people listening to your message. Isn’t that what every business wants?
That’s all well and good, you might say, but how does a story actually help you to sell your product or service?
A story persuades people in a way that facts simply can’t
That is the simple power of a story.
There are two things that happen when you share a story.
The first thing that storytelling allows you to do is to connect with someone using emotion. As readers, we want to feel something, regardless of what that feeling is. There’s loads of different emotions that people can feel and that is why stories happen.
Your story might piss someone off, that’s an emotion. Or you might rile them up, and that’s an emotion too.
On the flip side, you can make people feel warm and cosy, make them smile, make them feel gratitude, make them feel content and calm.
The important thing to remember is that emotions drive our brain and influence the decisions we make – including buying decisions! The logical part of the brain will kick in of course, but the emotions kick in more quickly no matter how hard we try to push them away.
You’ll know this if you ever watch a movie that makes you cry. You might think “why on earth am I crying?! It’s fictional!” but you cry all the same (I’m a big cryer at movies. Anything and everything, I’ll be blubbering away!).
The other thing that stories do for you is to add context to what you’re sharing.
If you’re just sharing facts and figures, your audience member doesn’t know in what scene you are setting these figures. They don’t know the background or origin of where they come from.
They don’t know whether these are good figures in the face of adversity, or poor figures in the face of a really easy time.
The context is really important, because it allows your audience member to see the bigger picture.
With context, they can see much more than just the brand, the logo, the product, or the service. It allows them to see your message from all angles, and this helps them to make a buying decision.
Storytelling helps to consider our message through the eyes of our customer.
This is an old photo of me from when I was doing a lot of work for the railways. The fetching orange outfit you can see was something I had to don many times. It was never my favourite outfit!
The projects we worked on were big, and they caused a lot of noise, mostly through the night. They also caused a mess, and required lorries, big machinery, and lots of people.
I was brought in on these projects to remind the project managers and the engineers that they had a customer to consider. Their customer was the community, the people they were going to be impacting, i.e. wee Jeanie who lives next door!
My job on these projects was always to speak up for that customer when plans were being made. I had to say “You can’t do that! You can’t block the road for 6 hours, because John needs to get out of his garage at a certain time!” So I was required to really focus on the receiving end of the work that was being done.
I want to encourage you to think about that when you’re telling stories. Think about your ideal client and ask yourself: how are they receiving your message? Are they just listening to facts and figures? Are they getting the bigger picture, or are you talking to their logical brain?
Stories give deeper meaning to the fundamental elements of your business
Think about what you do, how you do it, and the results you get. These are the fundamentals of your business, and stories are going to help you give deeper meaning to these things.
Now, you could simply list out the facts: you turn up, you set up a laptop, you teach six people in a room how to bake a cake. How? By demonstration: pouring the ingredients into a bowl and turning on the mixer. The result is that they get an understanding of how a cake is made.
But if you add some stories in there, you can make it so much more enjoyable. Can you regale them with tales of things that have happened? Did you drop something? Did you forget to put something in the car? Try to think of anything that’s going to grab attention and help set the scene.
When it comes to how you do it: can you get your audience involved? Is there a way to paint a picture of what you need to do while also giving your clients more in-depth knowledge, providing them with more value?
Stories in all of these places will help to get your message across to your audience, and to the person who’s not yet a customer. You need to tell them these things, these fundamental parts of your business, in a way that grabs attention and keeps attention so that they get closer to making that buying decision.
Often, the message we share is carefully controlled
In business, we talk about facts and figures. We give people timescales and prices and we tell them you’ll get this bonus and that extra.
That’s all needed – I’m not saying we should do away with that!
What I am saying is that we need more than that in our messaging.
You need to go to another level because you need to be tapping into the emotional brain of the other person so that they can feel connected to you. Your audience is not going to feel connected to facts and figures and details.
I want to know why I should buy it. What’s in it for me? Tell me a story about your product or service, and show me how it’s going to change my life. Why do I need it right now?
A story makes you more human!
As well as all of these reasons, stories make you much more human! They give you feelings, and ticks, and foibles; all of the things that go together to make you who you are. That’s what a story can show to your audience.
You have probably seen this photo before. My dogs are my life and I couldn’t do business without sharing that with people.
For those people who don’t like dogs for whatever reason, me and my dogs might not be your cup of tea, but that’s ok! Those people are probably not going to be my client. But actually, the people who love dogs are going to love seeing this side of me. Photos and stories like this will help them to relate to me and my life, and they’ll look out for future posts or emails from me because they feel they have a connection with me.
By giving more than just the basic facts and figures, I am making myself much more human and real, and that is very much the role of stories.
The science of stories
Now, I am in no way a scientist, but research has shown that our brains love stories. We’re hardwired for storytelling! In fact, we’ve been telling stories since the dawn of time. This is also why it’s such a powerful tool in building that relationship with your audience.
Stories trigger neural coupling, which means that the storyteller and the listener experience similar brain patterns. This tells us that there is a connection happening when we tell stories, a connection that doesn’t exist if you’re simply listing off facts.
Stories help our brains to produce the hormones dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin – which are associated with pleasure, rewards, and feeling good, respectively. I know that when I tell stories, it makes me feel good, so I can imagine that my readers are feeling good too!
This neural coupling is what makes people willing to read, watch or listen, and ultimately that’s what drives them to do business with you – because they feel they can TRUST you! This is the power of telling a story!
The role of stories
As you can see, stories play a big role in our business.
- They bring your message to life. You want all those details about timescales and pricing to jump off the page and to stay with people. How do we remember stuff? When we’ve paid attention, when we’ve been invested in a story, and when we’ve felt something!
- They make your message appealing. No one will connect with a flat, bland message. Your story might just be a couple of lines but it could be funny, it could be quirky and make me laugh so that I read on. So the next time I see you, I’m more likely to read it, to see what you have to say, because you made me feel something, you grabbed my attention.
- They relate your message to your audience. You have to make your message mean something to the person you’re trying to reach and the way you do that is by showing them that it’s for them, helping them to relate to it and see themselves in whatever story you are regaling. They can think “oh yeah! Something similar happened to me!”, or “oh, that’s a bit tricky”. What you’re also doing is saying to the audience member “come alongside me, I’m just like you”.
So, why do stories sell?
In short, it’s because they can persuade people in a way that facts and figures simply cannot. And this is why you need to include more stories in your business.
Every time you tell a story, you are going to be moving your audience member closer to making that buying decision. You’re adding to your bank of trustworthiness by helping them to relate to you and feel uplifted by what you have to say.
Would you like more help writing content that sells?
Mastering Everday Stories is my 8 week, live taught group programme. The next intake of students is happening now and we start on Monday 11th October 2021. More details are available here.