From classic fairy tales and long-form magazine articles to drugstore paperbacks and modern Hollywood blockbusters, humans have always been captivated by stories.
While storytelling is often associated with film and literature, however, it plays an important (and necessary) role in the world of business. And, no, we don’t just mean branding and marketing. In addition to your logo and slogan, elements such as store layout, product selection and website design all contribute to your company’s narrative.
One of the biggest benefits of being an independent retailer is that you hold the pen. As opposed to big box retailers, whose stories are controlled by corporate regulations, you have the power to narrate the story of your small business in any way you choose (both the message and the medium).
Just as the goal of any good storyteller is to keep people listening, the goal of a small business owner should be to keep people coming back. Here are five ways storytelling can bring customers through your doors time and time again.
Share your history. Just like every story, every business has a beginning. Maybe your grandparents set up shop decades ago, or maybe you yourself launched the business in the past year. Either way, your roots are an important element in your company’s story. To a customer, you should be more than just the what (ie. your logo, or the products you sell) – you should be the who, the when, the where, the how and the why. A few tips to make your company’s history memorable: be engaging, be specific and be authentic.
Share your expertise. Another great way to make your company’s story stick in people’s minds is to establish authority. Why do you think journalists and reporters are so fond of quoting scientists, analysts and other experts? Not only does it make people’s ears perk up, but it makes the content more memorable. A few ways to establish your company as an industry expert is to host events, post helpful content online (how-to videos or a weekly blog) and contact those aforementioned journalists with relevant story ideas.
Share your success. With all the negative stories in the news these days, people are desperate for some positivity. Is your company celebrating a milestone anniversary? Did you outgrow your space and move to a new location? Are you involved in a local charity or community initiative? When it comes to telling your company’s story, sharing good news is a great way to stay top of mind and establish a loyal fan base. After all, who doesn’t love being part of a winning team?
Share your feelings. We don’t suggest giving your customers access to your personal diary, but sometimes it’s important to show a little emotion. While it’s easy to get caught up in the business side of things (marketing, sales, etc.), making an emotional connection with customers builds trust and gives your company a face behind the name. Remember, the goal of storytelling is not to create one-day customers (which can be achieved with a “Black Friday Blitz” or “Boxing Day Blowout” narrative), but to develop a long-term relationship with a loyal customer base.
Include the customer. Think about your favorite book. Got it? Chances are one of the characters stood out or somehow reminded you of yourself. Whether it’s the starring role of their own story or a cameo in someone else’s, people love to feel involved. By inserting your audience into your company’s narrative, you ensure they will continue to pay attention. But beware: just because the popularity and prevalence of social media has made it easier than ever to reach customers, there is a difference between simply creating content and telling a story. Use language your audience will understand, engage instead of preach and always leave lines of communication open.