Today, it’s not enough to have a product or service that just solves a problem. For your brand to resonate with audiences, you need to go one step further and do what humans do as part of their daily communication - tell stories.
You can’t afford to conduct a long-winded presentation full of dull numbers. You need to stand out.
Here’s why storytelling is important in business.
- Stories Engage Your Audience
- Create a Human Connection
- Stories Are More Memorable Than Numbers
- Emotionally Connect People to Create Loyalty
- Humanising a Business = Increased Profits
- Storytelling Offers a Competitive Advantage
- Create Compelling Marketing Campaigns
1. Stories Engage Your Audience
Numbers do matter, but they mean a lot more when built on the basis of a story. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes - would you want to sit there while someone throws numbers and data at you?
A Nielsen study revealed that our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than facts alone. The brain processes images 60 times faster compared to words and when we read data, only the language parts of our brains work to decode the meaning. But when we read stories, every part of the brain we’d use if we experienced the story becomes activated as well.
So what does this mean? It suggests we’re likely to remember stories rather than hard facts. There’s a clear beginning and end which can keep the audience hooked throughout, rather than risking them zoning out and losing interest when drowning in analytics.
2. Create a Human Connection
If your organisation has come up with a new idea, it’s likely there’s a story behind it. Whatever the motivation is, use that to provide some context to listeners. If the idea has been created to solve a problem, tell the story of how it helped you and make sure the story is relatable to the audience using real-life situations.
Using storytelling like this helps audiences connect with you so they trust you. When you come across as human and not force numbers their way, you’ll seem more trustworthy - especially if the storytelling is relatable as it becomes more memorable. If the audience can see themselves as the ‘character’ in your story or realise it relates to them, they won’t forget your business easily.
Steve Jobs was pretty good at this. Just look at his keynote when he introduced the iPhone back in 2007. After running down the timeline of Apple products to show how far the company has come, he touched on one crucial aspect of the audience’s pain points.
One device to listen to music on, a mobile device and another to browse the internet. He told the story of how irritating it can be to carry three of these around - but the iPhone has it all. It’s a real-life situation that people faced and Apple had the answer.
3. Stories Are More Memorable Than Numbers
It’s something we’ve highlighted in this blog, but it’s true. We tend to remember stories better than other information like data, facts, numbers and analytics as they're more engaging. Research has also shown that delivering messages via stories can be 22 times more memorable than relying on facts.
That’s because with stories, you have something to tell. There’s a narrative arc, there are emotional moments, suspense and climax that your business can benefit from. Let’s say you’re delivering a presentation for your business or speaking at a conference. Telling a story is a great way to engage the audience and also provide a nice break with something they’ll remember - even if they forget everything else.
Just look at Bill Gates’ Ted Talk in 2009. The Founder of Microsoft delivered a speech on the issues of malaria filled with statistics. That’s fine - it delivered the message and the severity of the problem.
But when you consider that he opened a jar of swarming mosquitoes in the presentation room to deliver his point, what do you think the audience remembered when they left? Would it be the numbers or the memorable demonstration and story he told?
4. Emotionally Connect People to Create Loyalty
As engaging as stories can be for businesses, the best ones are those that evoke emotional reactions. If you tell a story that people genuinely connect with and relate to, then it’s more likely they’ll believe in you and what it stands for. Some of the best storytelling in business comes from mistakes made, failures and past business struggles.
Highlighting these makes businesses come across as normal. Audiences can relate to the protagonist as they too might understand what it feels like to fail and understand what went into turning the situation around. Some of the world’s biggest businesses have founders that tell emotional stories, such as Jack Ma - the founder of Alibaba.
In an interview in 2015, he told his story about applying for a job at KFC with 23 other people. The KFC store hired 23 of the 24, with Ma being the only person that wasn’t brought on. He went on to tell the story of how dozens of schools rejected him, how Harvard rejected him 10 times and how he was also rejected from becoming a police officer.
Discussing one failure after another makes the audience empathise with him, even if he is worth upwards of $28 billion today. His story is relatable, it evokes emotion and is captivating to keep the audience engaged.
5. Humanising a Business = Increased Profits
Obviously, this isn’t a guaranteed formula that always works for every business but it’s proven so in the past. You’ll notice that the most successful businesses have thoughtful and deep stories behind them with a bigger purpose and meaning to what they do.
If your business has a vision that audiences believe in and buy into, it’s more likely that you’ll be successful. It’s no secret that people want to buy from empathetic companies. The Global Empathy Index highlighted that the businesses near the top (meaning they were the most empathetic) were also the fastest growing and most profitable businesses in the world.
The top 10 businesses also generated 50% more income. It shows how valuable storytelling can be. Show your personality and humanity and avoid being faceless and disconnected from your audience.
6. Storytelling Offers a Competitive Advantage
For organisations, it’s too easy to get lost in all of the noise. Every organisation shares content with their audiences, but that can get a little overwhelming. The fact is, decision-making is more emotional than it is logical so the ability to tell a good story is essential if you want to stand out and create a strong personal brand.
Tell a remarkable story and you can win over your audience. It applies to businesses of any size, including the public and third sector - it doesn’t need to be the giant businesses we’ve mentioned. Researchers Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker proved this theory by showcasing the true power of storytelling.
They listed insignificant objects on eBay with a twist. The objects featured heartfelt, well-written and purposeful short stories in the descriptions. After buying these items in a garage sale for around $1.50 each, they resold them for nearly $8,000. That’s how powerful smart storytelling can be.
7. Create Compelling Marketing Campaigns
Whether they’re heart-wrenching or hilarious, lots of businesses are now using the power of storytelling to build relationships with their audience. This relates to the emotional connection aspect with studies showing that making an emotional connection is more important than customer satisfaction.
Today, marketing campaigns need to move away from cheap tactics and focus on storytelling. Honey Bunches of Oats pulled on the heartstrings by inviting real employees to participate in the campaign and share their endearing qualities. You can sense the passion in their stories and it makes the business more memorable.
Airbnb also selected an emotional story to tell in relation to the 25th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall with the narrative of a father reuniting with one of the guards at the opposing border.
These are some of the many compelling marketing campaigns businesses have run with storytelling at their heart.
Public sector leaders have bigger challenges than just selling products. They must obtain resources by gaining support from politicians, public opinion and other invested institutions. Leaders need to tell the story of the public value they intend to create to gain buy-in from stakeholders.
A lot of the time, businesses tend to share stories when speaking publicly. With that, there are even more challenges like confidence, communication and more. To help you approach it in the best possible way, we’ve created the Communication Skills Handbook.
Improve Your Confidence With the Communication Skills Handbook
Whether you want to tell your organisation’s story during a presentation or you want your team to become more efficient, our guide covers the essential bases. It features plenty of tactics you can refer to when needed to improve your confidence from conferences to team-wide communication.
To get your copy, click on the link below.