How do you get consumers to understand the value of a thing?

Simple – you tell them a story. People don’t buy products. People don’t buy services. People buy the solutions they understand will help them right away. People buy value. It’s a brain thing.

From the time cave people recorded their experiences as pictures on stone walls, human brains have been hard-wired to understand the natural world in terms of survival.

Our natural flight or fight instinct is tied to it. As a result, we have an inherent need to do three things:

1. Explain the world around us
2. Communicate dangers & opportunities to each other
3. Create a sense of community

We understand this by telling stories. Understanding something to the point of trust is inherently psychological.

A storytelling approach to communication is one of the most effective methods of connecting a person to another person, a brand, a product or a service. This is not just simple brand communication. It applies to all types of business communication as well: networking, presentations, content strategy, all of it. And stories have a structure.

Virtually every story in the western tradition is built on the same structure. From Aristotle to Hollywood, to Madison Avenue, just about every effective story follows the hero’s journey. Simply put, a hero encounters a problem, then meets a guide who helps him or her overcome that challenge, succeed, and in the end, transform into something new – ideally, something better.

So how does it work?
Popular interpretation is that it gets people to do things, to buy things. But that’s not actually how it works. People can always tell when you’re trying to manipulate them.

When you bring them into your story, you connect with them. You convince them. It gets them on your side, or better yet, convinces them you’re on their side and you’re going to guide them to success.

When it’s done well, it gets people to see themselves inside your story. They imagine themselves as the hero; as the Luke Skywalker, the Robin Hood, the Hermione Granger character. They connect, engage, trust and value. Then they buy, because you’ve helped them internalize the value of your offering and what it means to them. It deepens the relationship. It’s not just a transaction anymore. They don’t become part of your story so much as you become a trusted part of theirs.

Then, how do you do it?
There are many approaches you can take when you start trying to nail down your story and how to best communicate it to your target audience. You can hire an agency to do it for you, but that separates the message from the messenger.

You can study storytelling and work on it yourself. There are plenty of examples of successful brands who have done it this way, but it’s not easy without the proper guidance.

Or, you can hire someone to come in and work with your team to get the story straight, using a process that utilizes the people on your team nearest and dearest to your best customers and pulling out all of the details and their perspectives to focus it into a tight, simple, repeatable message that your target audience will not only engage, but be able to repeat and amplify to a larger field.

Regardless of method, the best advice anyone can give you regarding your story is to always remember to think about how you are talking about your business and cast it through the lens of your customers’ eyes. We all have a natural tendency to talk to and about ourselves. We need to force ourselves out of that approach and talk about our businesses the same way our customers do.

Remember, they are thinking about their survival. We need to be thinking about their survival, too.

Lyle Smith
Principal, Founder and Chief Writer at | | Website

Lyle Smith is the principal, founder and chief writer for Nymblesmith, a content marketing agency dedicated to brand and business storytelling, and story-focused content strategy. Nymblesmith has delivered highly profitable content and content strategies for some of the most recognizable business brands in America.