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What is storytelling? We’ve all told stories before – from catching up with a friend over coffee to children’s bedtime stories. But what about in business? Companies tell stories all the time to build their brand and market their businesses. And you might never have noticed.
Keep reading to learn more about business storytelling, how to tell a story, and why it’s so important for your company’s success.
Whilst most businesses use marketing, some take a softer approach. You can make your marketing strategy more personable by telling a story and not only listing facts and numbers.
Storytelling can also make your brand stand out among competitors. But it’s important to always be authentic when you tell a story. If you mislead your customers, this will be clear in your content and can have a negative effect.
One way you can start storytelling marketing is by thinking about your company’s mission and vision. These two key parts of storytelling in business are a great way to capture your core messaging – as well as helping you make key business decisions that better align to your business priorities.
A business mission statement is often viewed as the journey – how your business works and grows. Whilst your business vision statement is your ultimate goal. Think about how you can combine these two things – you may see a story starting to form.
Of course, marketing isn’t always about reaching new customers. If you’re looking to grow your business and hire new employees, you can also market your business to potential new hires.
Alongside job descriptions and employee benefits, the story of your business may be what convinces someone to work with you.
Business storytelling is important because it allows you to better connect with your customers. Storytelling helps you market your company and build a stronger brand.
If your story is unique, your brand will be too.
But you’re not just building your brand, you’re also building trust. Business storytelling is often used to create an emotional connection with your customers.
You could be a family run business whose family values are important to your business. Or someone who coaches and mentors young people within your trade. Telling these stories can help make your brand more relatable.
There are many ways to tell a story and each will depend on your business. But we’ve highlighted a few key ways to help you start a story.
Defining your values and morals can be a helpful way to start telling your story.
Sometimes your story doesn't need to be about you – you can also tell the story of your customers. Think about what they're looking for and why they chose your business. Did they find your business online or through word of mouth?
Creating a clearer picture of your customer base can often help you learn more about your brand. In marketing, these are called customer personas. You may learn that your customers are mostly tech savvy or that they live in rural areas.
Use this information to paint a story about your customer journey – and the journey of your goods or services. Your story could start with a problem you've identified your customers often face. The end of the story is your business providing the solution. You can fill in the middle so it relates to your business.
One way to start a story is to work chronologically. Think about how your business started – not only your ambitions but how you came to start your business. From there, fill in the gaps to the present day.
You can end your story by talking about goals for the future. This could be ambitions for your business or how you hope your goods and services can help customers. Remember that the story doesn’t have to end after you make a sale – it can continue on with your customers.
Now that you’ve learnt how to start your story, you can think about the type of story you want to tell. Below are some common types of stories you’ll see in business storytelling and beyond.
Think about the stories you love – and we’re not just talking about business storytelling. Whether it’s your favourite film or book, the stories that stick with you usually have one thing in common: a hero.
Your hero is what you make it. It can be you, your product, or service – or it can be your customer. As long as you have a hero for your audience to follow through the story, you have an engaging hook.
Another common technique in storytelling is to use emotion. Whether that’s happiness, sadness, pain, or joy, you can hook people into your story. Think of the advertisements that stick in your mind, how did they make you feel?
You should never force emotion into your story. A good way to start is to think about how you hope your business makes your customers feel. You can then base your story on these emotions.
Stories where the hero overcomes conflict are always popular. How you interpret this trope will be up to you. A good way to frame this is to make your business the reason the hero resolves their main conflict.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these great examples of storytelling in marketing that you may have seen before.
Warby Parker is an American company which sells prescription eyewear. Their story takes the customer through the whole journey of how their products get made.
Not only is this story informative but it creates a deeper emotional connection with the customer. The story brings them along on the manufacturing journey, making them feel more connected to the product.
Another way to tell a story is by putting a face to your company name. Allowing customers the chance to get to know the founder of a company can help with making the business more relatable.
Businesses have used this tactic for decades – think Walt Disney or Steve Jobs. But it was also adapted by personal care company Burt’s Bees.
After founder Burt Shavitz’s death in 2015, Burt’s Bees released a video telling the story of who Burt was as a person. This works particularly well for a company which shares a name with its founder – but can work with any business.
John Lewis’s Christmas adverts may be one of the most famous examples of business storytelling. John Lewis releases a new Christmas TV advert each year – so you’ve likely seen at least one. Whilst the plot and characters change every year, the spirit remains the same: Christmas is a time for joy.
Once you’ve created your story, you may be wondering how you can share it. As part of a marketing campaign, you can share it across social media. You can even create a page dedicated to it on your company website.
Identifying the story of your business can also be useful when applying for funding or entering competitions. Whilst stats and statistics can be useful for securing investors, a more personal touch can make you stand out from other applicants.
Our Business Boost competition, which runs every year to award one small business owner a £25,000 grant, looks for compelling stories alongside business ideas. You can find out more about Business Boost and how you can win £25,000 here.
And if you’re not a confident writer, remember that stories don’t have to be written. You can also tell your story through video. You don’t have to hire a professional film crew to do this, it can be filmed on a mobile phone.
Just remember to film in a bright and quiet room and not to move the camera too much – using a tripod or having someone else film you can help.
We’d love to hear the story of your business, why not share it with us in the comments below?
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Rosanna Parrish is a Copywriter at Simply Business, specialising in legal and HR content. Trained at London College of Communication, she has been creating content professionally for eight years at publications across the UK and Spain. Starting her career in health insurance, she also worked in education marketing before returning to the insurance world. Rosanna also writes about wellbeing in the workplace. She lives by the sea and does her best writing in coffee shops.
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