Stories have always been a powerful way to get information across. Before the spread of the written word, our elders would tell stories to ensure that information was passed from one generation to the next. In many places cave drawings were used as part of the story-telling process, ensuring that the stories lasted. Over time the communication tool has changed – books, films, audiobooks – but the reason for telling them remains the same. We want people to know them, love them and remember them. This article looks at that third point, ‘remembering them’. It’s the key reason why you need great stories in your business.
5 reasons you need great stories in your business
1. Build the culture
When you first starting thinking about your business, there was a reason for starting it. You wanted to do something. Whether it was about failing lots, but only needing one success (Angry Birds), or Hozah’s mission to stop us all getting parking fines, there is always a story.
Telling that story, and getting it repeated frequently, will help you find the right people for your business. It will help you to shape your business and ensure the way things are done here is the way you want them to be.
2. Attract & converting new prospects
New prospects want to understand your business and how you can help them. Telling them what you do rarely works, but stories are highly effective. Great stories help your prospects in a number of ways:
- Stories help them understand what makes you tick and what your priorities are.
- They provide examples of how you’ve helped others.
- Stories get your prospects relating to you – we have that issue, or I want some of that!
- They reduce the perceived risk in their minds, about whether you can help them. You can read more about functional perceived risk here.
Great stories help you convert these prospects too, by:
- Proving you can deliver on your promises.
- Showing you understand them.
- Making you more memorable, so you stick in their minds.
Next time you’re talking to a potential client, think of a story you can tell them, instead of simply explaining what you do.
3. Public Relations
PR can be hugely beneficial for your business, or massively damaging. Both depend on the story that gets into the media. Don’t forget that PR isn’t just about what appears in newspapers or magazines anymore. Social media can be massively important in getting stories out there about your business. Many will be out of your control.
Tesco scored serious brownie points with their recent campaign asking us all to support our local pub instead of buying beer from them. As we all emerge from lockdown, everyone knows that the hospitality industry has really suffered, but the supermarkets have prospered. It’s a simple, but powerful, story.
At the opposite end of the scale was BP’s handling of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The story is still in the press ten years later.
4. Attracting and retaining staff
The right stories will help you to build your company and your culture, and they can also help with staff recruitment and retention. A compelling story will keep people working for you, supporting your business, even when things aren’t going well.
The brand story will help you attract people that will fit in well, simply because they agree with your approach and they want to work for a reason they believe in. More and more people want to work for companies they believe in, rather than the one that pays the most.
Employee experience is massively important in retaining staff. Telling stories about how staff have really delivered (whether this includes naming them or not) clearly communicates expected behaviours. Not only does it help you keep the staff that recognise and agree with the story, it will help weed out those that shouldn’t have been employed in the first place.
5. Attracting Investors
When you have great stories within your business, you attract people for multiple reasons. For some businesses, the most important group is, initially, investors. If you have a great story, but little money to make things happen, you need to attract people who believe in your story and your goals.
The 6 parts of every great business story
When looking at why you need great stories, we need to look at what is in them. For your business stories to be listened to, and remembered, each one needs these 6 key parts…
The story has to be relevant to the listener. If you tell a story about something they cannot relate to, you will lose their interest quickly. Stories that show you understand their needs will be remembered.
Every successful business solves a problem for their clients. For Bentley, that (seriously first world problem) is how to get from A to B in luxury, whilst showing your status in the world. For Atom CTO, it is about how to use technology to achieve business goals. What’s the pain [problem] your business solves?
Your prospects don’t buy what you do. In the early stages of your business, they may be buying you, as the core of the business, but what they are really buying is success. They want to know what came from you working to solve the problem. At SME Needs, we help people to focus on these outcomes and we help people grow. You can see those stories about our work with Charcoalblue here and with Systems IT here, respectively.
Including real people is an absolute must in a great business story! For all stories, the real people involved help the listener to engage, empathise and hopefully recognise themselves (the importance of relevance). For example, a story about bringing a network server back to life is likely to bore people to tears, but when the story is about getting, for example, a charity back to helping the homeless, it provides context and impact. Something that the listener will remember.
A story that sounds too good to be true probably isn’t true. If you do have a story that stretches the bounds of believability, make sure you have the proof. Stories that people don’t believe will negatively impact your credibility, and that isn’t good for anyone.
When you tell your business story to people, keep it under control. A story that grows, helping more people or solving a bigger problem runs a real risk. If people hear it more than once, you will not only confuse them, but there’s a danger they may not believe the whole story.
The 5 types of business story
To us, there are 5 different types of business story. Let’s look at what they are and why you should have them.
Your reason for existing
Nobody wants to hear that you started your business purely for the money (well, not many). They want to hear what happened to make you start your business and what you went through in the early days. They want to like your business and to trust it.
The case study
If you’ve been in business for a few years, you will have a great set of stories that show how you solve the problems your clients have. You’ll be able to talk about your client, about their issues and about the results you delivered for them. If you haven’t written these down, stop reading this article and start now. They are a critical part of attracting new prospects and converting them to clients. You can see our case studies here.
When you’re at the very early stages of your business, you will still have stories of this kind – they just happened when you worked somewhere else. People rarely start a business they have no experience in, so use the stories you have from your past.
The employee story
In every company there is the perfect member of staff. The person who consistently delivers great results and lives the corporate culture. There are also those who are the complete antithesis. You will know who these people are in your company and in your past companies.
Talking about these people demonstrates to others who and what you respect and, also, what you abhor.
The failure and recovery story
Nobody is perfect. Stories that show you are fallible will work to endear you to others, particularly to employees and other stakeholders. Stories that include what you did to recover from failure will go even further.
The path to the ultimate goal
Of all the business stories we’ve discussed, this one can change. As your business evolves, this should change because you are moving, hopefully, towards your ultimate goal. If you have a family business, your goal may be to pass it on to your children. If you’re a charity, the eradication of the problem will always be the ultimate goal. The story of why and how you aim to get there will be a powerful one.
Your Next Steps
You will have some great business stories. You just haven’t written them down and remembered them yet. So, it’s time to rack your brains (you and your team) to develop these stories. Tell them to each other to get feedback and to ensure you are telling them consistently and effectively. Then it’s time to start telling others.
Of course, at SME Needs we can help you find your unique business stories and then tell them to the right people. So, if you need a hand developing them or want someone to brainstorm with, get in touch.