You may recall a time when a co-worker, friend, or family member began a sentence with “Remember when.” After a few laughs, you may have even countered with a story of your own. While we do not want to dwell on the past, storytelling is a powerful tool that, when used effectively, can illustrate a point, aid in the retention of information, and turn clients into your biggest fans.
When communicating with those unfamiliar with your company or services, it is easy to default to phrases like, “we’re the best,” “our product is of the highest-quality,” or “we use cutting-edge technology.” However, generalizations typically do not stick as they are no different than what the next person is saying and they provide little substance for the other person to take away. However, sharing a story provides just the opposite.
Storytelling has been used as a primary communication tool for centuries to pass along history, life lessons, and knowledge. They are universal and human minds have been conditioned to take a story and relate it back to personal experiences.
In Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind, he states, “Stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context, and emotion.” Stories are a neutral means of making connections with others. People are more open to hearing a story than another sales pitch because there is a high probability they can relate it to their own experiences.
Ever heard of a Gleener? Well, this past Christmas, I received one from a relative. It is a device that removes unsightly lint and fuzz from clothing to extend its life. Initially, this was not overly exciting or interesting until my relative shared the story behind the product’s origination. The Gleener was invented by a stay at home mother who was unsatisfied with existing products. It took nine years of development before the Gleener became available in the market. Recently, the product was recognized by MSN Living, Good Housekeeping, and the International Housewares Association, to name a few. For me, this gift suddenly had more meaning because of the story attached. Perhaps its story may also be the differentiator that sways one to purchase it over a competing product.
Recently, I had the pleasure of learning how a family owned company beginning operations in a small Indiana town has now grown to become one of the largest wireless retailers in the United States, generating hundreds of jobs for Indiana’s economy. Had the owner been unwilling to share details to their story, they would have been just another business. Learning of their story and the family’s dedication to ensuring the company’s success, there is now meaning attached to the organization and a story that can easily be shared with others as well.
Storytelling is a powerful way of going beyond the “what” to illustrate the “how” and “why.” So, what is keeping you from sharing your own story or your company’s story? When meeting with others, make an effort to engage them through storytelling. They will find it easier to relate to you and you may just convert a few clients into your biggest fans as a result.
Originally published in INside Edge on January 8, 2014.