You can’t knock the power of small business storytelling. From generation to generation, storytelling is the primary way of passing down traditions, beliefs, and important family history. Stories can energize us, empower us, and unite us around a shared cause. If stories are so powerful, then it only makes sense for you to unlock the power of small business storytelling in your marketing. 

How To Unlock the Power of Small Business Storytelling

In our upcoming Constant Contact webinar – 5 Tips to Level Up Your Email Marketing Efforts – we will be exploring different tactics small business owners like you can use to get more out of each email send.

One of those tactics focuses on the words you use in your email campaigns to drive action. It’s pretty common for business owners to get stuck with writer’s block – unable to type a single word because they are so overwhelmed by the task at hand. They can barely think of writing one sentence, let alone a page full of paragraphs.

That’s when the fight or flight response kicks in, and they decide it will be easier to put off sending their email campaign until the following month. If only they could tell a quick story…

What is small business storytelling?

One of my favorite clients (and long-time mentor) Steve Borseti of Sandler Training once told me, “Remember, before they buy your products or services, they have to buy you.”

Steve teaches sales teams for a living and has decades of experience under his belt, so I took his advice to heart. It goes back to the old adage of customers needing to “know, like, and trust you” before they buy. But how do we do it?

That’s where small business storytelling comes in. 

Small business storytelling is the art of getting a lead or prospect to know, like, and trust you enough to purchase by sharing significant moments, dreams, outcomes, and personal stories through your brand’s marketing channels. In essence, you’re giving them glimpses behind the curtain, so they can connect and relate to the people in your business. If they feel connected and can relate to your team, then they’ll ultimately feel more comfortable making a buying decision. 

What are some small business stories I can tell?

Getting started with small business storytelling can seem like a daunting task, which is why I created a Free Storytelling Guide. The guide includes 12 story prompts to help get your creative juices flowing including:

  • What’s the inspiration for your product or service?
    • Were you solving a problem when you came across it?
    • Does it have ties to a certain culture or region of the world? 
  • What makes your product or service unique?
    • What sets it apart from other available options?
    • What benefits does it provide when used? 

You can also drill down to create stories for each of your product and service descriptions. For instance, I was able to transform an unwanted, rather ugly brown micro-suede couch into a Facebook Marketplace attraction by giving it a story. Have you ever heard a couch described like this?

“The smooth feeling of this easy-to-clean fabric allows for comedy genius to begin brewing in mere minutes. In fact, some of the best dad jokes of 2019 and 2020 have been created on this couch.”

“Spoiler Alert: this couch turns into a bed. That’s right. This cutting-edge technology was imported by the most brilliant minds in Switzerland…”

By infusing story into the product description, we were able to offload our couch within a day. All thanks to the power of story.

Why small business storytelling works

There’s an often-cited statistic that people remember stories 22 times more readily than they do facts alone. Though no one knows for sure where the number came from, there’s no question that people remember stories much better than facts. 

Megan Smith – Storytelling Marketing

As we established above, stories have a powerful way of transforming your mental and physical state.

If you’ve ever had the privilege of watching “The NeverEnding Story” then you may have seen how this odyssey takes an emotional toll on its reader, Bastian.

NeverEnding Story character Bastian crying

This young boy goes through a rickety rollercoaster of feelings, from the deepest, tear-filled sadness to a feeling of such extreme elation that he imagines himself flying through the clouds on the back of a furry dragon-like creature. 

NeverEnding story character, Bastian, in exhaultation

Of course, that’s a Hollywood film, but stories still have that hold on the reader.

We also find stories more compelling than facts. They help us relate to others. One scientific study showed that similar regions in the brain light up whether you read about someone’s actions or perform them yourself.

Megan Smith – Storytelling Marketing

If we, as business owners, can craft stories that evoke emotion (and subsequently action from our reader) then we can help more potential customers get across the finish line. 

How To Get Started with Small Business Storytelling

As you begin to tell a new story, you’ll want to ask yourself these questions:

Who is my audience?

Knowing your reader is mission-critical. 

You may have heard of a buyer persona before. If you haven’t you’ll definitely want to take the time to create a buyer persona before you work on any additional brand messaging.

Buyer personas give you the opportunity to reflect on your customer base and identify your “ideal customer” or the person who would buy your product or service without any hesitation, headaches, or objections. 

What does my audience already know about me?

Context is key here.

What does the audience already know about you, your business, and your products and services?

For leads and prospects, it’s safe to assume they know little about you, so you want to make sure you provide context in your story to avoid confusing them. Other customers may have known you for years, so they know you like a friend or family member. 

What do I want my audience to do when they hear or read my story?

This plays into the concept of setting SMART goals, which is an important topic in and of itself.

In essence, before you sit down to write or record your story, take a piece of paper and write down exactly what you want your audience to do when they hear your story. Will they: 

  • Click a button
  • Watch a video
  • Read an article
  • Fill out a form
  • Buy a product
  • Reserve an appointment
  • Give you a call

By knowing what you want them to do, you can be sure to include a strong call to action at the end of your story. 

What is the best medium for me to share this story with my audience? 

The beauty of small business storytelling is that it can be carried from one medium to another. 

In fact, we just recently helped a client transform their origin story from a list of bullet points to a blog post on their website.

They added the blog post to their Constant Contact email marketing campaign and broke the story up into short social media posts. They were floored by the response. 

They got so excited by the feedback from their readers that they decided to record a video version of their story, which we posted on YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn. 

The likes and comments continued rolling in, so we included the video version of their story in their latest email campaign, and they saw even more action from their email subscribers. 

By using the same exact origin story in both written and video formats, we helped them connect with prospects and customers, which continues to lead to new sales for the company.

Putting It All Together

As my friend Steve said, “Remember, before they buy your products or services, they have to buy you.” If you want to make an impact on your prospects and customers, then you have to become a small business storyteller. 

If you craft the right story, you can conjure the proper mix of emotions to drive action. 

And, with a goal in place, you can measure the effectiveness of your story and see how it benefits your business. To get started with your first small business story, write down a few bullet points about why you started (or decided to continue running) the business. You can then turn those bullet points into short sentences and have a short story you can share to new and current customers, alike.

Lastly, be sure to test your story in different formats. Some may read a 500-word blog post while others would prefer to watch your story on channels like YouTube or Facebook. The more ways you can share your story, the larger your potential audience.