Storytelling is a craft that small business owners need to improve their marketing.
Without stories, a marketing strategy is like a boat without a rudder. Fact, figures and data can only go so far. Learn how stories help to create powerful marketing, in a completely non-threatening manner.
The Un-edited Transcript
Some people are considered to be natural born storytellers and that's all of us by the way.
When you were five years old, you came back from school and you told a whole bunch of stories and you did it perfectly well. You put in the drama, you put in the suspense, you changed your tone, you did everything powerfully and wonderfully.
Then as you grow up, you get a little more judgmental about your stories and you think that other people are better storytellers than you and it's true. Storytelling is a craft. When you're five years old, everyone listens to you because it's true, but as you grow up, you have to craft it.
We'll take a little trip and find out what's involved in storytelling.
In this series, we're going to cover what makes a good storyteller.
Part 1: What Makes a Good Storyteller
There are clear attributes to be found in good storytelling. One of the attributes of a storyteller is they should know when to tell a story and when not to tell a story. You can't always tell a story just about anywhere.
One of the good places to tell a story is when you are starting up something. If I started off this thing with a story, you'll say let me tell you about the time we were in London. Immediately that gets your attention. The other place when you need to tell stories is once you have given some information. Stories almost act like an example, like a case study and so they help the listener understand, comprehend what you just said.
A storyteller needs to know this. They need to know that it's not just about telling story after story after story. Instead, they need to know where to tell the story when to tell the story, how long that story needs to be. That's what makes a good storyteller.
Part 2: How to Improve Your Storytelling
This takes us to our second point. What can you do to improve your storytelling? Let's find out.
There's an amazing series on Africa and the narrator of that series, which is a BBC series, is David Attenborough. Now David Attenborough talks about the resurrection plant and he talks about how the resurrection plant is out there in the desert and how it starts to roll and roll, and then it could be like that, rolling for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, maybe even 100 years.
Then at some point in time, it runs into a puddle of water and that's when the resurrection plant comes to life. Immediately, in a couple of hours, it starts to grow. It's almost like watching something on video in fast motion. Then the resurrection plant is not done.
It has to wait for the second phenomenon which is the rain has to come, and the rain has to then hit the petals. The petals have to drop on the floor and new resurrection plants come up. Within a few days, all of them dry up. They shrivel up and then they become these little balls of resurrection plants that may go for another 50 or 100 years.
What makes that story interesting?
What makes that story interesting is simply that it has three elements. The first element is a sequence; the second being suspense, and the third being a rollercoaster.
A good storyteller needs to know these three things. If you want to improve your storytelling, you need to understand that there needs to be a sequence. It needs to unfold one step at a time. This happens and that happens, then that happens.
The second thing is that there has to be a factor of suspense, so maybe the resurrection plant gets to the water but at that point in time, nothing is happening. It's growing but the petals don't fall off.
How are the petals going to fall off? How is that momentous occasion going to come about? Then the rain comes along. Then you've created this ups-and-downs, this suspense, and that brings us to the third part which is rollercoaster.
What makes that story interesting?
A rollercoaster is just the ups-and-downs. The resurrection plant has no rain, then it has the puddle, that's good, but that's not good enough. It needs the rain to come and drop the petals to the floor and then just when everything's going well again, the sun comes up and dries it. We have that rollercoaster, that up-and-down.
If you want to improve your storytelling, you have to focus on these three elements
Now that we know about sequence, suspense and rollercoaster, we have to also figure out how do stories help in business.
Part 3: How Stories Help in Business
When is storytelling important in business? Well, the problem with a business, it's full of data, full of information, full of stuff that puts us to sleep. The moment you start off with something like let me tell you about the time or you give a case study, immediately your attention switches. Immediately the audience's attention switches to you.
If you were to stand up in a crowded room and talk about a case study, immediately it doesn't matter what they are doing. It doesn't matter if they are looking at their phones, whatever they are doing, thinking about whatever they're thinking about, at that point in time the attention goes right to you.
The power of the story is that capacity to hold or snap an audience out of whatever it's supposed to be doing. Today people are so captured or captivated by what they are doing that you need to snap them out very very quickly. That's what a story does really well.
There's a second reason why it's important business. When we understand a concept when we have explained a concept to someone, it's not like they can figure out what's happening. They need a layer. The first time you hear something, you think, well, how does it apply to my business?
When you have that story, when you have that case study, that's when people understand exactly how it applies to their business. The thing is that storytelling is very useful when you're trying to differentiate your product or your service from someone else. To give you an example, we have a product called the Brain Audit. Now the Brain Audit is a marketing book. It shows you why customers why and why they don't.
I bet if you go to Amazon, there are 1,000 or 10,000 books on marketing.
When someone arrives there, how are they going to decide that this is the book that they want? They look at the story, and the story talks about the seven red bags, how you put seven red bags on a flight and then you get off at your destination and you're waiting at the conveyor belt, the carousel, you're waiting for the bags, and then there's one red bag, and then the second red bag, and the third red bag, and then an orange bag, and a green bag, and fourth red bag, and the fifth red bag, and the sixth red bag.
When does the customer leave the airport? When they have all the seven red bags, right? What's happening there is the story's explaining why this book is different. What are those seven red bags? Why are they needed?
Stories snap people out of whatever they're doing.
It gets their attention. It explains a point. It allows people to absorb stuff. Third, it allows you to differentiate yourself from other products and services, so they're very very useful.
What we've done so far is we've looked at the attributes of storytelling. We've looked at how you can improve your storytelling and then we looked at how stories help in business. This takes us to the fourth section which is about how less is more in an information product. What is it that you're doing wrong and how can you fix it?
Part 4: Less is More
Imagine you've invited someone to dinner and you want to impress them, of course, but you go out there and you have 20 dishes and each dish has its own taste and its own style and its own look and its own variation and its own subtle flavor.
The guest is completely flabbergasted, very impressed but completely lost because as human beings, we're unable to consume that amount of stuff. We've tried it before. We've gone to a buffet and tried to eat 20 dishes. We eat a little of this, a little of that, and we can't cope with it.
This is how information products are created
Information products are chapter on chapter on chapter on chapter on chapter on chapter on chapter on chapter on chapter, and suddenly you have 20 chapters and 200 pages and each of those chapters have their own concept and subconcept. Suddenly you're floating with information.
With information products, less is more, but how much is less in the first place?
Usually you can start off with three main topics. If you have three main topics, you can cover three main things. If you listen to some of these audios in this series, you'll find that, say I'm talking about storytelling. I'll say storytelling consists of sequence, it consists of suspense, and it consists of a rollercoaster.
Now I can spend a lot of time talking about sequence. I can spend a lot of time talking about suspense and a lot of time talking about rollercoaster, and that's when you get the depth. You get that felling of that feel that you've consumed, that you've understood, that you can even recreate … but 20 dishes? That becomes too much.
This is why we're struggling so much in today's world.
We have too much information and there is this rabbit hole of information going deeper and deeper and deeper. Instead, have just three main topics and then dig deep. One inch wide, one mile deep. Just a little bit of information, lots of depth in it. That's when you create expertise.
The next time you're thinking of putting together a document or an audio or a book or anything, think about how much you're inflecting on the customer or the reader. How much you're overfeeding them and then give them some expertise instead.
When you start to sell, you know that you have a weapon and that is the power of storytelling. When people know that storytelling really engages the audience, engages their customers, they are keen to use that weapon. How do you use that weapon?
You have to remember that storytelling is not just something that you rattle out. It's not a bedtime story. It is a specific story hinging on one phrase or one word.
Let's take the example of the Brain Audit.
The Brain Audit is a book and it talks about how you put on seven red bags on a flight and then when you get off at the other end, you have six red bags.
The question is, when do you leave the airport?
What we have there is a situation of hesitation. You have seven red bags. You had six red bags. Now there's hesitation. We can now take this concept of hesitation and apply it to selling so now we can say, in the same way when you're trying to sell something, you might remove all the bags off the customer's brain and leave just one red bag missing, and then they don't buy. They hesitate.
They want to ask their uncle, their brother, their sister … they don't want to make a decision. What's really the key between the story and whatever it is you're selling? That is that key word hesitation. That's what we really have to drill into. We have to figure out what are we really saying because it's only when you know what you're saying that you can bring about this whole story line and create a story for that sales pitch.
Now, you don't have to use hesitation in terms of just the bags at the airport. That's been taken by the Brain Audit. You can use different forms of hesitation and you'll know different situations where companies hesitated, so there will be case studies, or you can talk about personal stories where you hesitated.
The point is once you get to that keyword or key phrase, then you build a story, then you link the story to whatever it is you are selling. That's when a story becomes very powerful and not just a bedtime story.
Let's see what we've covered:
—The first thing we did was the attributes of the storyteller and we found out that you can start a story with drama and that would get the attention.
—The second thing we learned was how to improve storytelling and we found that it was about suspense, sequence and rollercoaster. You'll remember that story of that resurrection plant. That had suspense and sequence and rollercoaster. Go back and listen to that bit because it's really useful. Put these three elements and you make great stories.
—The third thing we covered was about storytelling in business. Information is full of data and information, and more information and more information is really boring. Storytelling helps you clarify what you're saying. It also helps you to stand out. We did that with the Brain Audit. With all those marketing books, the Brain Audit stands out because of that story, not because of anything else.
—Later on you get to the contents of the book and you find it's great and wonderful, etc. The point is that it starts off with the story. It really helps you stand out. If nothing else, it helps you stand out.
Less is always more, and you can have a topic which is one inch wide and one mile deep.
Now, on average, you want to cover three things. This series, this audio has five. They are short. They are manageable. You don't want it to be rule but you definitely want it to be a guideline. When you have a ton of stuff, people can't consume it. Always remember, go inch wide and one mile deep, and that's really what you want to do. Finally, if you want to write really good stories, you need to distill it down to one phrase or one word, just like the Brain Audit is about hesitation.
Until you get that one word, and it's not as hard as you think. You just want to say too many things. Instead, just stick to one word, one phrase, and then you'll get many scenarios, many case studies, many stories that you can build from that one word.
Next Step: Do you know how to put that Zing-Kapow in your articles with storytelling?
What are the elements of a well-told story? Find out right here in this mini-series on Storytelling.