Chris and I believe in the power of well-crafted business stories to engage, to evoke emotion, and to motivate action. More than anything else, we like business stories because they work.
Great business stories make information more relevant and memorable. They help prospective customers understand the “why” behind the “what” that sales people often fall back on. They last – they create scaffolding that motivated customers build on as they tell and re-tell the story to others. And they spread virally.
So how to great business storytellers do it?
It turns out that great storytellers tell great stories in a very similar way. Almost all stories – from Dumbo to Don Quixote – have four important structural elements:
- Stories have heroes. In the opening act of any story, we meet the hero or heroine. Good storytellers help us understand a hero, warts and all, very quickly. Great storytellers help us fall in love with the hero, and empathize deeply with his motivation.
- Heroes go on quests. A great hero’s motivation propels him forward on a quest or journey to achieve an important goal. All great stories have a sense of tension that builds as we begin to doubt whether the hero will ever complete his quest.
- Bad guys get in the way. Along our hero’s journey, she may be challenged by her situations and her own demons. But, most importantly, she is challenged by an antagonist – someone, or something, that is actively standing in the way of success.
- Heroes triumph. We all love a happy ending. In all compelling stories, the hero completes his quest. In happy stories the hero survives. In tragedies, he doesn’t. (Thankfully, business stories are generally happy ones.)
Great business technology positioning stories follow this same structure.
They help buyers see themselves as protagonists on a quest. They highlight the challenges that buyers are experiencing, and introduce technology solutions as weapons or sidekicks eager to defeat those challenges. And they show, clearly, how an innovative technology solution can help them, and those around them, complete their quests.
Now, of course, there’s a lot more to great storytelling. Great authors also excel at the artistic parts: character development, setting, language, tension and resolution. As business storytellers, we also try to make sure that the stories we help create ride big market waves, reinforce the teller’s brand, and create competitive differentiation.
So, what’s your story?