How to Be a Good Storyteller (in business)

By Joe Fontenot

How to Be a Good Storyteller (In Business)

I read a lot of books that fall into the business, marketing, and communication bucket.

And there are a lot of good books on marketing out there.

But Donald Miller’s book, Building a StoryBrand, is one of the few books I’ve read that makes it so easy.

Here’s how he does it: he takes the intrinsic power of story, deconstructs it to its elements (so that you understand what’s making this engine run), and then helps you rebuild your story in a way that speaks to your customers.

Here are a five principles on how to successfully use Storytelling in your business:

1. Quit telling your story.

The key is to tell your customer’s story.

When you do that, your message becomes immediately relevant to them (because it’s all about them).

You can do this by talking about empathy or authority. Empathy is: I feel your pain. And authority is: I’m qualified to help you solve it.

This works because “a guide expresses an understanding of the pain and frustration of their hero,” write Miller. And likewise, “when we empathize with our customer’s dilemma, we create a bond of trust.”

2. Start and end with your audience’s pain and desire.

This sounds like “target market” talk. But it’s more than that. It’s not enough to identify who your is. You have to desire what they want and where they want to go.

If all your conversations are about their problem, then you’ve got their attention. And if you always finish with their success, then you’ve got their business. It’s really that simple.

3. Show a story arc (Problem-Solution-Success framework).

A story arc is transformation. Harry starts out as a runt living in a closet under the stairs. But by the end of the story, he’s a powerful wizard.

In business you show this by using the Problem-Solution-Success framework.

Once you’ve clearly identified your customer’s problem, show how your product or service (the solution) is the vehicle to their success. Many businesses get stuck on the solution part. But, like the old story illustrates: customers aren’t looking for drills, they’re looking for holes.

If you can paint success, your product becomes the natural solution.

4. Only talk about one thing at a time.

This is about focus.

If you give people too much information, they’re gone. It’s too much work.

If, on the other hand, you give them one piece of information–a clear central idea. And you talk about it in multiple ways, then you’re clearly communicating (as well as reinforcing) your story about their success.

5. Learn how to tell short stories.

Not all of your stories need to be short. But if you can get this down, you’ll find yourself putting stories in your stories. Anytime you have a chance to talk, you can weave a short story in. Instead of thanking the audience, you tell a 10 second story, and you’ve immediately capture them.

Here’s how I use all four steps above in a story that’s less than 50 words:

“A client of mine, Bob, makes great wooden toys–the best I’ve ever seen. The problem is, nobody really knows about him, which makes him feel like his toys aren’t that great. So we sat down together and built a marketing strategy that works for him. And today he’s getting so much business he has to turn customers away.”

This story is all about Bob, not me (#1). I illustrated his fears and desires (#2) and then put them into a story arc (#3). I didn’t introduce other issues Bob was having or talk about the details of what we did, I just kept it super focused (#4). By doing this I was able to illustrate his success by using my product (marketing strategy).

You can get Don’s book here.