Jan 07, 2020 By: frogdog

How to Craft an Effective Business Story

Why do businesses need stories—and how do they create effective stories that drive results?

Storytelling may be undergoing a rebirth of interest in the business community today, yet it’s been the key to marketing success since tribes shared tales about spirits and animals to shape behavior and explain phenomena and since ancient kings and emperors told stories about gods coming down from on high to crown them into legitimacy.

When it comes to marketing, whether to gain new customers, bring on new employees, or raise funds—or a combination—the story is still the key to success.

An effective marketing story in business has the power to open all doors—or at least to command a higher dollar amount than a company could get without one.

For fun and crystal-clear proof, check out the Significant Objects project. In this project, an anthropological and literary experiment, two researchers auctioned thrift-store finds on eBay. When they paired the offerings with stories (though entirely fictional stories), they ratcheted the sales price well over the cost of goods sold. They had purchased the set of used items for $128.74. The experiment concluded with an intake of $3,612.51.

That’s an increase of more than 2,800 percent.

In business, there are two main types of stories:

  • Company or brand stories
  • Product and service stories

Let’s explore the definitions and values of each story category.

Company Stories: The Framework

To increase the target audience’s engagement with a company or a brand—which we’ll here define as something that encompasses a suite of products or services—companies employ stories.

New businesses and brands need origin stories. They use these origin stories to pitch investors, to get first-movers on board with purchases, and to bring on employees who otherwise might shy away from an unknown employer.

In the case of an origin story, the founder’s tale has the most power. Founders tales explain how the protagonist—the founder of the company or the person who launched the brand—got the idea or the inspiration for the entity and how the founder built or inspired the creation of the business or brand you see today.

When you watch a commercial with someone explaining an a-ha moment that led to the spontaneous start of a business or the advent of a new way of doing something, or telling the tale of the hard work that she put in to bring a company or brand to life, you’re experiencing an origin story.

After several years in operation—although companies will often revisit origin stories at anniversaries and milestone moments—a company needs to transition away from the origin story. Stories get tired if they don’t regularly get refreshed.

Though they may sometimes revisit the stories of their founders and origins, established companies tell stories about their business trajectories. They talk about the evolution of their products over time, or the inspiration for their new direction, or their history of innovation that spurred their latest areas of focus.

Product and Service Stories: The Framework

Though products and services can have origin stories—typically ones that explain how the item came into the world—they more often have stories that show people how using the product or hiring the service will help them improve their lives.

And lest you think you can just tell people what a product or service does and bring in the business, think again. The best products and services tell stories to win new customers, keep current customers engaged, and pull in new employees and investors. People like involvement with products and services they believe in and with which they identify.

Infomercials, which show people in distress or frustration prior to purchasing an item for $19.99 (plus shipping and handling), provide great examples of product and service stories. Yet even if you’ve just watched a quick, fifteen-second advertisement about how quickly a new detergent gets stains from a shirt—especially when the kid who brings his dad the shirt has a wracked-with-guilt look and the dad has the peace of mind to smile and comfort him because he has an amazing spray gel at hand—you’ve seen a product story.

How Effectively Tell a Marketing Story

Believe us when we say that you’ll have higher success with marketing when you have a solid marketing story in place? Then you’re ready to try your hand at creating one.

Though nothing is as easy as it looks, we can at least share a few pointers to get you off on the right foot.

A good marketing story has three components:

  1. A protagonist.
  2. A conflict.
  3. A product (or service or company).

To create an effective marketing story, you must identify a compelling protagonist for your tale.

Every good story—even outside of marketing—has a protagonist. After all, stories are about living beings who have good and bad things happen to them and who can make choices and decisions that improve or worsen their lives.

Ideally, your protagonist is someone like the people in your target audience. People like to experience stories about people like them.

A note: Sure, some stories make the product the protagonist, but these stories typically personify the object—germs with grumpy faces, bubbles that smile as they swirl around a toilet bowl—and always show how they improve the lives of the living beings with which they interact.

In addition to a protagonist, you need conflict. Every good story has a challenge that the protagonist faces—even if that challenge is just a tough grass stain showing up on the favorite shirt of a heartbroken kid. What rough-and-tumble event or decision will challenge your protagonist?

And, as this is marketing, you must always give your protagonist a win. How will your product or service or company help your protagonist overcome the conflict and save the day? This is where your product comes into the tale.

Harder than it Looks?

Seeing a great story in action often hides how difficult creating one can be. Need help? Call FrogDog.

Posted: Jan 07, 2020
Updated: Oct 29, 2019
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