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Business Storytelling Can Be the Difference Between the Mundane and the Memorable

For some time, marketers have been moving away from the old-fashionied selling tactics of traditional TV advertising. It’s no longer enough to simply tell your customers to buy a product. Today, they use business storytelling to engage audiences.

This is especially true in online video.

Online videos that tell an entertaining, emotional or memorable story are more likely to be liked and shared. Storytelling is the secret ingredient that makes videos go viral.

Here’s an example—the Google Chrome “Dear Sophie” video.

A Highly Emotional Product Demonstration

At its core, the Sophie video is a demonstration. It shows how Gmail can be used to connect with people. But the way they tell the story is incredibly memorable.

A young dad sets up a gmail account for his daughter on the day she is born, then continues writing to her as she grows up. We see the first baby picture, birthday videos, happy memories, losing baby teeth and other life events.

I love this video because of its simplicity. There’s no narration. No unnecessary elements. The entire story is told through a series of gmails as they’re being typed.

Emotional? You bet. I get tears in my eyes every time I watch it.

It was also effective—Google posted this video on YouTube back in 2011, and it currently has over 10.8 million views.

An Amazing Story of Customer Service

Here’s another great example of business storytelling. The Ritz-Carlton “Joshie” story.

After getting home from their Florida vacation, a family realized they’d left their son’s stuffed animal—Joshie— behind. The kid was devastated.

To get his son to go to sleep, the dad did what any dad would do. He lied, and said Joshie just wanted to stay a few extra days on vacation. He’d be home in a few days.

Then the dad called the hotel, hoping they’d found Joshie in the room. He also admitted what he’d said to his son.

A few days later, they received a package from the Ritz.

In the box, they not only found Joshie, they found a booklet with pictures of the stuffed giraffe, meticulously documenting his time on vacation.

Here’s Joshie lounging by the pool, wearing sunglasses. Here he is enjoying a relaxing spa day, with cucumber slices on his eyes. They even made Joshie a member of the hotel staff, complete with staff card.

Blown away by the hotel’s customer service, the dad posted a video on YouTube.

The story was soon picked up by news outlets and social media, written about in marketing and customer service blogs, and repeated in countless sales conference and convention presentations.


The Power of Business Storytelling

So what can we learn from these examples? First of all, everyone loves a good story. The average person can remember a story much longer and in more detail than they can retain facts and figures.

That means the business named in the story will bask in its glow for a long time, making impressions with potential customers with each and every retelling.

The secret is to uncover the human angle. To go beyond the usual ad message.

Small Business Storytelling

So for example, let’s say you own a bridal salon. You could do a wedding dress video just like 99 percent of bridal salons will post online. Or you could tell a story. Maybe a bride shows you her mom’s wedding picture, and you make a dress just like that one. Or maybe a dress gets lost or damaged in some way, and you work all night finishing a replacement.

Do you sell insurance? You could do a video about risk assessment and umbrella policies (yawn) or tell a true story about a family that overcame adversity thanks to your services.

Remember, the story doesn’t have to be about your products. Maybe it’s about the Little League team you sponsor winning a championship. Or the young employee who got a scholarship from you, and is now the first in her family to go to college.

I recently talked to a dermatologist who wanted a video about micro needling. It’s a device that removes wrinkles and scars from the skin. I recommended that we interview a patient before and after the procedure, and let her tell her story.

He told me he’d had a patient the week before, with acne scars on her face. When she saw the results of the procedure, she started to cry. “This is the first time in my life,” she explained, “that I actually felt beautiful.”

That’s the kind of emotion business storytelling can share.

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