How To Use Storytelling To Increase Your Customer Base


Patrick Moreau is the founder of Muse Storytelling and is obsessed with story. Learn more at musestorytelling.com.

Stories speak to people in a way that no amount of data ever will.

I could show you a dozen studies I have saved on my computer that all provide strong evidence of the power of story, but most of us know that we’re much more affected by an impressive film or a compelling novel than we are by facts and figures.

It’s one thing to know that story is effective, and another to be able to implement story into your brand strategy. Everything we know about storytelling tends to go out the window when we set our sights on business. Where do you begin telling a story that will promote your brand or increase your customer base?

There is a critical first step, which most people don’t realize exists: storyfinding. People often miss this step because they simply don’t realize the role character plays in creating remarkable stories.

In scientific literature, there’s a concept called character identification in which the audience becomes one with the character and takes on their goals and desires. This can lead to a great emotional connection with the story as well as an alignment with the character’s beliefs and message of the story. Done well, it can lead to changes in the audience’s behavior.

But in reality, not all characters are strong enough to evoke this reaction. The good news is that we get to choose the character in our story, and we can find the best characters by storyfinding.

Storyfinding is the process of evaluating a variety of perspectives from which the story could be told and then determining which is the strongest. The most compelling characters possess three essential elements:

1. Uniqueness: What makes this person different?

2. Desire: What do they want beyond what they already have?

3. Complexity: What is the why behind their desire?

The more of each of these attributes your character has, the more your target audience will connect with them and be likely to change their behavior.

So what is this process? Before you jump on the computer and start searching for leads, sit down for 10 minutes armed with a pen and paper. Think about your goals for the story you want to find. Come up with imaginary characters who embody the three big elements: desire, uniqueness and complexity. Brainstorm all of the plausible people you might find.

Now it’s time to start the search. Put out calls on social media and ask your current customers to share their stories. Look within your company for employees with passion. Do online research. Get multiple perspectives. Ask for introductions.

As you talk to people, try to find somebody who is strong in the three big elements. Ask them: Why do you work here? Why do you do what you do? What is this about for you? Those questions will help you understand their desire and complexity. You’ll often start to see their unique qualities as you get to know them.

Do your research. What angles have others taken or what questions has your character been asked before? How can you approach it differently?

Make sure the potential characters are bought-in. Tell them a little about what you’re doing and why it’s exciting while still making it about them. Getting access from your character is critical —otherwise, you’ll never be able to go beyond average.

Throughout the storyfinding process, always be listening. Be open to new leads as they present themselves, but keep the markers of a great character in mind so you know which leads to follow and which to move on from.

I recommend you find at least three potential characters. It’s important not to settle for the first character who comes along. Once you have three or more leads who all have the three essential elements, it’s finally time to narrow down to one character.

Sometimes it is hard to know when you’ve found someone who is a strong enough character just by using the three criteria. This is where listening again comes in.

While you may find a story that reads well on paper, has great conflict and looks like it has great desire, when you speak with the person, they may not communicate in a way that causes you to feel that passion and desire. Pay attention to the people who inspire you. You’ll know you’ve found an amazing character when you meet someone you’re likely to go home and tell your friends about.

Storyfinding and character selection are critical parts of telling your brand’s story. If you’re willing to put the creativity and resources into it, you can find great stories anywhere.


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