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From Storytelling to Storyselling, Part 1: What is a brand story?

It sounds cliché but the mark of a successful business is knowing how to write a brand story. Sure, the product, service or lifestyle — whatever it is you’re selling — is important. Yes, it has to be useful, relevant and solve a need. But let’s be real for a second. Unless you’re coming out with a groundbreaking, never-seen-before invention, it’s likely that you’ve got competition. The marketplace is saturated and crowded as ever, so offering a great product or service just isn’t enough.

To cut through the noise you need two things: 1. A brand story that will help you stand out and 2. A plan to not only tell your story, but sell it. Over the next series of blogs posts, I’ll be sharing everything you need to go from storytelling to storyselling. First, let’s start with the basics.

What you’re up against

Open up your Mail app and go through your personal email. How many unopened newsletters and offers do you see from online boutiques, UberEats, Sephora, Yelp or TravelZoo? If you’re anything like me then you’ll have around 45,218. What about your Instagram? How many posts are you mindlessly scrolling through and glancing over? Very few catch your eye, huh? My point exactly. Everyone is fighting for a piece of the same pie which means you have to work smarter (not harder).

What’s the difference?

Storytelling is communicating your brand’s narrative to your audience. It’s done with the purpose of creating a meaningful connection with those you are trying to reach. But just because you’re telling a story, doesn’t mean you’re doing it well.

Storyselling, on the other hand, is the art of effectively communicating that narrative. It’s the ability to grab their attention and form that connection, ultimately inspiring them to do business with you.

What is a brand story?

A brand story is your who, what, why and then some. It tells your audience and prospective customers all about your business. Like every story, it has a beginning, middle and end. It’s made up of key characters, a conflict and a resolution.

Let’s take a quick look at the key elements of a brand story:

  • Who: While some business owners prefer to keep their name out of the story, others love to be the face of their brand. In reality, putting a face to your brand, even if it’s not front and center, is the best way to create a real connection. The ultimate goal is to peel back the curtain and make your brand more relatable. If you’re not comfortable with being the face of your business, I’ll cover some ways you can get around this in Part 2.

  • What: Defining what your business does is core to your brand story. Think about what service or product you offer and when you got your start. This is where you can dive deep into what makes you stand out from your competition. It’s also where you can talk about what problems you solve.

  • Characters: Who are the characters in your story? In other words, who are you trying to help with your product or service. Get real specific and think about their age, location, habits and lifestyles. Are you trying to make life easier to manage for college students? Are you trying to help busy parents get a workout in?

  • How: Highlighting how you’re solving a problem is just as important as actually solving it. Whether it’s through a unique approach, a sustainable solution or innovative technology, there’s a method to the madness. Bringing in your audience on your process builds trust and credibility.

  • Why: No matter what you’re selling, there’s a reason you’re selling it. Either an idea you had in the shower, a result of a past negative experience or a problem you had that no one else could solve. Part of learning about your brand identity is learning why you exist. Maybe it’s a cause you care about or a passion that’s been brewing inside you for years. Whatever it is, talk about it.

Why do I need a brand story?

Have you ever sat across a bar from a total stranger and felt guarded when they tried to buy you a drink? Those first few moments are awkward and they feel forced. It’s not until you get deeper into conversation with them — until they share a story about their hometown or their friend who recommended this bar —

that you begin to relax. The more you listen to their story, the more you begin to relate, the more likely you are to connect. Brand storytelling works the same way.

Brands need to build trust otherwise they're just the stranger at the bar.

As a brand, you are the stranger across the bar. The story you choose to tell and how you choose to tell it will break the ice. It will form an authentic connection and build trust. People are less likely to accept a drink from a stranger than from someone they’ve gotten to know better.

How to write your brand story?

Coming up with your brand story is easier than you think. Part 2 of From Storytelling to Storyselling will cover how to come up with your brand story. I’ll dive deeper into the key elements, including questions to ask and specific points to hit. I’ll get into the structuring and even provide some examples.

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