What the hell is storytelling marketing? What’s it going to do for my business?

Hey relax, let me tell you a story about the power of storytelling and how it’s going to make your marketing strategy a breeze.

If you want to create effective marketing, compete, attract customers, and make money – you don’t need masses of money, you just need a good story. 

Why bother with stories?

Stories attract us. 

Stories compel us. 

Stories convert us from passive viewers into active consumers. 

Stories are in our DNA. Literally. Check out Scientific American.

Cave drawings were our initial attempt to convince others of a message through a story.

What is storytelling marketing?

Storytelling marketing means using a narrative in your content marketing to promote your brand or sell your product and services.

Where stories carry moral messages and lessons, story marketing carries information or values about your brand or product.

When marketing your small business, having powerful stories infusing your web pages, social media copy, blog posts, and marketing materials means you increase the chance that your story will engage people and convince them to buy!

Narratives are inherently more engrossing than basic facts…When you hear people tell a good story you hang on every word.”

Jonah Berger, Contagious, p181

It’s not about creating a blockbuster, however, it’s just about explaining where you’re from, and why and how you came to have a solution that can answer your customer’s problem.

It’s about crafting a case study into a story that showcases your success.

It’s about turning your customer’s testimonial from just — oh yeah — great service — into a fuller story about how you solved their problem and delivered success.

It’s about telling a short story on social media that hooks your audience and gets them to pause for a second to engage with what you’re telling them because they are intrigued by your story.

When it comes to writing webpages, company marketing materials, blog posts, whatever, we tend to forget our storytelling skills. Instead, we revert back to bland uninspiring text.

Forget the expensive marketing packages, ebooks, and 365 “done for you” social media templates available at the low low price of whatever. If you use some simple storytelling techniques, you can easily beat the competition, connect with customers, grow your reach, and boost your business.

A master theory of storytelling

Yes, storytelling is an art, and there are some that will tell you it can’t be mastered, but blow raspberries at that. 

Any bunch of facts can be moulded into a compelling story. 

Believe me. I once turned the periodic table into a riveting documentary. 

All stories have a hook, a beginning, a middle – usually involving some sort of struggle – and an end where everything is resolved.

According to the mercurial and quirky Kurt Vonnegut (he wrote some really dark classics like Slaughterhouse 5 and Galapagos) ALL stories follow a shape. So if you were to plot the story’s progression on a graph, over time the character was either happy or sad. What he found was that ALL stories could fit into one of 8 category ‘shapes’

Designed by Maya Eilam 

Don’t wince. Universal theories are often bad, but it’s hard to pick holes in this one. 

Think of any story and it will more often than not it will fit into one of Vonnegut’s shapes.

Great storytellers use these shapes. They are shapes we recognise and love.

We’re used to people getting into holes and pulling themselves out again, intentionally or unintentionally.

We’re used to stories where people are bestowed magical gifts that transform them and suddenly have them taken away.

We LOVE rags to riches stories, and Cinderella tales. Most business coaches and motivational speakers use these story shapes in their marketing too!

For the purposes of marketing your business and telling others how you came into existence will probably fit into one of these story shapes. 

If you are struggling to start marketing your small business, then using some storytelling techniques is a good way to get started. 

How you can use story shapes for your content marketing

Work out which one of these story types suits your business and then use it to craft a compelling About page. 

Check out this short rags to riches/creation story shape from The Cambridge Satchel Company

“Julie Deane and her mother Freda start The Cambridge Satchel Company at their kitchen table in Cambridge with a budget of only £600 and one goal – to make enough money to send Julie’s children to a better school. The company is an instant hit with the bags featuring in Italian Vogue in its first year.”

It could also be the story of your employees too.

I like this About page from skincare company Brown & Coconut which has a man in hole shape to it.

We’re sisters, Letisha and Zeena, and we started Brown and Coconut as a lifestyle blog in 2013 while living in Boston, MA. We shared our journey to living a more conscious and holistic life with a special focus on our efforts to heal our acneic skin, which didn’t get better with conventional treatment methods. We knew the type of skin care products we were looking for but couldn’t find them in stores, trying countless products that were too expensive and didn’t meet our expectations, leaving us disappointed and out of money. Frustrated, but motivated, we embarked on the journey to develop our own line of skin care products.

Countless hours of research, cosmetic chemist expertise, trial, and error led to the creation of our line of plant-based powerhouse products that not only do what they say they do, but that feel incredible to use. We’ve come a long way since we made our debut at our first-ever local pop-up event in Massachusetts, but what has not changed is our love for making luxurious botanical skin care that you simply can’t wait to come home to. 

Brown & Coconut

You can also use these shapes to craft compelling social media captions too. 

How to use Vonnegut story shapes in your social media captions

‘Man in Hole’ captions

The “Man in Hole” shape works really well for connecting with customers.

Try laying out the situation and the problem in the first line.

Then get right in that hole. Explain why the problem is so terrible. Give it some detail and show the customer that you understand that problem really well..

Now get them out of that hole. Give them a teaser that you have the solution. Your product or service can get them out of that hole.

Now, give them the lifeline to get out of the hole. Add a call to action.

Cinderella Captions

The Cinderella story is commonly used by coaches and motivational speakers. Their journey to success, a fall, and then a realisation that causes them to rise again.

The ‘prince charming’ is usually the call to action. Double tap if you want to achieve greatness, click this link to get success like me.

It’s a potent story structure to use.

You see others have managed to build themselves back up again from a deep hole and you are inspired to take their advice to do it too!

It’s just that the prince charming happens to be a process or a mindset or a coach.

Why not try using a story shape for your next piece of content?

Save this for later?

How to Master Storytelling to Create Awesome Content. Woman on laptop

Connect with me

I’m on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook if you want to hear more top tips to launch and grow your business with organic content marketing.