I attended an office party the other day at which a few people started debating storytelling. There were a few who didn’t believe in the concept of storytelling at all. Others did believe in it, but didn’t think it was ‘for them’. It struck me how little informed some people seemed to be. Or better said: how presumptuous.
Some people believed storytelling is not important. Which is ok to think, but they thought so for the wrong reasons.
It’s a hype!
“Let me tell you a story”, that’s how the conversation started. “Hah, a story, are you doing ‘storytelling’?”, said the second person. “Storytelling is a hype!” was the third response. That’s how the conversation started.
Some of the people at the party thought Storytelling was a hype. They thought so because they had heard the term so often.
In a way, they were right. When you hear a term often, it feels like the start of a hype. And when agencies start offering a service related to that ‘buzzword’ as a service, all alarm bells go off. At that point, it has all the signs of becoming a hype.
But is Storytelling a hype? When something is a hype, it will also go away again. It temporarily has the attention.
But ‘storytelling’ isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it will be around longer than many other ‘buzzwords’. Storytelling is part of human DNA. It has always been around. From the stone ages until now. And it will remain part of our lives in the far future.
We’ve been telling stories forever. And we’ve been selling by stories forever. So is it a hype? It probably is. But one that actually makes sense. One that
This argument made one of the people in the conversation, let’s call him Mark, think. He tended to agree but didn’t give in yet.
It doesn’t work!
“Whatever, it might not be a hype, it sure doesn’t work! People want to know what they are buying, they don’t want to hear stories!”
This is an argument that you hear often within businesses. Many businesses aren’t using storytelling yet because they think it doesn’t work. These businesses haven’t looked well enough at how and why people buy.
People don’t buy because a product has the most features, they buy because they feel it fits their needs. And that goes beyond the features. When buying, people listen to friends and families. They read reviews, and they listen to the stories of the salesmen.
Did you ever think about why a salesperson always has a personal experience that happens to feel like yours? Yep, that’s because the story works. You start feeling a connection with the salesperson.
Stories also work because when buying, people want to learn. They want to know everything about the product, the service or anything connected. People’s brains need to learn. And the best way of learning is through stories. Because stories stick.
But that doesn’t work for B2B!?
Mark wasn’t convinced yet.
“Ok, it might work for consumers, but we are a B2B business. B2B is different. Here people want to know about facts!”
Again, this was an argument I had heard before. B2B and B2C seem to be very different, when in fact they aren’t. Like B2C, B2B is also all about people, about emotions. And that is not a made up argument. A Google Research showed that half of the B2B buyers are more likely to buy if they can connect emotionally with a brand. And the best way of getting that connection is by telling stories that show a connection.
The same study also shows that 71% buys because they see a personal value. 68.8% even wants to pay more if they believe in a business.
That is all emotion. That is all personal. And guess how to best get the message of connection across…
Not in my niche!
Mark started to see he was running out of arguments. But he kept trying.
“Yeah ok, maybe it works somewhere, but not with us! We are in a very specific niche. People don’t listen to stories in our niche. And even if they would, we wouldn’t be able to find or create stories anyway. There are no stories in our niche!”
To be honest, I always get a little bit annoyed when people say this. There is no niche in the world where you cannot find a story. There is no niche in the world where you can’t find a connection with your audience. If that would be so, the niche would not even exist.
When there is a niche, there is a demand. Someone wants that product or service. And if there is a demand, it means the product or service is solving some sort of problem, even if it’s very small. That’s where you can find the stories.
You could see that some people started to think storytelling wasn’t so bad after all. Even Mark. But if you know anything about the human mind, you know that giving in, is the hardest thing to do. Instead, ‘we’ try and change the subject, or at least find a way to make us look good. That’s what happened at the party as well. Mark shifted the topic.
Storytelling is difficult?
“Well, we don’t do storytelling because it takes too much of our time. We are in the selling business, not the telling business. When you do storytelling you need to find the stories or create them. You need to actually be able to think of stories! Our people can’t do that.”
Granted, good storytelling does take some time. But it doesn’t take that much more time than a regular marketing campaign will take you. Any work takes time. But it’s about choices. And knowing that storytelling is so much more powerful, the choice should be easy.
The good thing about storytelling is also that if you know how it is not so difficult to do. If you analyse stories, you can see that most stories have a similar structure. You need an obstacle, a hero, a beginning, middle and an end.
“Oh, so Storytelling is easy? Anyone can do it?”
Well, yes, anyone can do it. Anyone can create a story. But you want the story to be good. You want the story to have an impact. And for that, you need to know how to fill in the details that create a persuasive story. And no, not anyone can ‘just do that’. If so, anyone would write novels.
Everybody can learn how to create a story!
Finally, Mark was convinced. He realised Storytelling was a useful way of getting a connection with his audience. He realised his business needed to “get” storytelling. And see it as more than a hype.
“Ok, now I get it. Storytelling is about reaching the human brain. It’s actually a very natural way of connecting with your audience! We should do this. We’re going to allocate time and resources to this. First, our staff will take the class and then we’ll tell stories! We’re in!”