How Storytelling Can Grow Your Business

People love stories. We love to hear about other people, and stories help us to learn, remember and put to use new concepts. Aesop knew this. His fables help us to learn life lessons through tales about others, without having to learn them the hard way.

In modern times, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen also understand the power of stories to teach, motivate, and inspire. Their "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books continue to sell in the millions of copies because they tap into our primal need to connect with others through storytelling.

What can stories do for you and your business? Stories can educate customers about a need they have and how you fill it, subtly demonstrate your expertise, create empathy, suggest new uses for your products, train new customers and employees, and motivate listeners to take action.

I recently observed several group presentations by an insurance agent. He knew many of the people in the audience, and prior to each presentation he would look for someone who had made a claim under their policy and ask them to tell the audience how the benefits had helped them through a difficult time. If there was no one in the audience to do it, he would tell about someone who had used the policy and what it had done for them. The stories the agent told were effective, but hearing the claimants themselves was incredibly powerful. Hearing someone talk about the uncertainty of illness, the expenses they faced which were not covered by other insurance, and what the benefits meant to them was moving. I'm sure he sold lots of policies!

Where will you get stories? Stories from your own experience can be effective, and they are unique. You may also get stories from customers, employees, friends and others. The media can be a source of stories. Stories that are familiar because they have been told through the media can establish a commonality between you and your audience, or among members of your audience. Stories unique to your experience provide a personal touch, and can be surprising because they are not known to the audience.

Another possibility is creating composite or fictional stories. This may not be acceptable in some circumstances. For example, several newspaper columnists have been fired for making up stories, or creating composite characters, and passing them off as absolute truth. However, if your primary purpose is to educate or entertain, and you are not presenting them as news, you may take some liberties with minor details of your stories or take bits and pieces from multiple stories and combine them into one composite. Remember that it is important to maintain credibility, so don't do anything that would deceive your audience.

Once you have your stories, where will you use them? Tell them when you are in one-on-one meetings, in group presentations, and when making speeches. Write them down and include them in articles, brochures, sales letters, on your web site and in other written communications. Record them on audio or video and use them in commercials. Use them when training new employees to teach them about your company and its culture. Publish them in your client or company newsletter to reinforce emotional ties.

Stories are a powerful tool which teach and motivate by making an emotional connection with your audience. Use them wisely and well.

Copyright Cathy Stucker. As the Idea Lady, Cathy Stucker can help you attract customers and make yourself famous with inexpensive and free marketing ideas. Get free tips, articles and more at http://www.IdeaLady.com/.

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