Content and cocktail parties serve a similar purpose: to inspire conversations in order to get to know each other better and to bond through a shared understanding of each other's life experiences.
As anyone that's been held captive in conversation knows, it's a painful situation to listen to someone dive into an unprompted story – about their latest purchase, their cat's antics, or their newborn's sleep schedule. It's selfish to assume that your listener wants to hear these things about you.
And yet, the unwanted story is just as cringeworthy online, too. "Click here" ads, thoughtless thought leadership, and tasteless self-promotion around the clock is often what gives content its poor reputation for being downright noisy.
Small businesses often tiptoe when it comes to producing content, not just because they're starved for time, but because many business owners aren't sure what stories to tell that are actually interesting in the eyes of their audience.
Will I come off as too self-absorbed? Does sharing my story make me look like I'm "tooting my own horn"? How can I write in a way that doesn't make me seem arrogant?
Below, we explore the 3 types of stories that people want to hear from businesses and brands they buy from:
(1) People want to hear about why you're in business.
Bloggers love telling birth stories about their children. The labor! The pushing! The relief! Your business is your child – give it the same treatment. Tell us about the moment you knew it was time to file your paperwork and hang a sign on the door. Tell us about the "I've had it" moment at your last workplace that prompted you to call your own shots. Tell us about how hard those first days were, what kept you up at night, and how you got creative with your budget before you made your first dollar.
When you tell your story in a way that's completely authentic, revealing moments of both pain and pride, your customers will be magnetized.
They'll see things in your story that remind them of themselves, or they'll be inspired by you to make their own business ventures happen. They'll see you as a motivated protagonist, thus empathizing with your emotions. Above all, they'll regard you as a human, rather than a brand robot.
If blogging isn't your forte, choose another method of storytelling. Take advantage of Instagram's #TBT (Throwback Thursday) hashtag to relive your very first shipment, or pull out your smartphone to record a short face-to-face video on the anniversary of your grand opening.
Getting creative with the mode you use to deliver your story means that you'll also upend the signal-to-noise ratio, helping you stand out among the crowd. Whether you experiment with podcasting, a short video series, or Tweeting over your lunch hour, know that you'll stand out for it.
(2) People want to hear about how you'll change their lives.
It's the first thing we learn in economics class: consumers are self-interested and self-motivated, swaying toward purchases that offer a specific brand promise.
If you're a small business, you can do the same thing through the story you tell.
Tell us why your vegan baked goods will make your customer's birthday party a standout. Tell us why your doggy daycare business eases travel guilt for puppy parents. Tell us why your grocery shopping app will help us cut our usual list-making time in half.
By tying your story to an intrinsic emotional benefit – more time spent playing with kids rather than writing down a grocery list, for instance – you're communicating your purpose in a way that doesn't require your customers to weigh you against the competition. You're solidifying your emotional appeal when you tell your story in a way that gets your customers thinking one step ahead beyond a mere product or service.
Victoria's Secret tells a story about how we'll make his heart flutter when we walk past.
Tupperware tells a story about how we'll save time during dinner time cleanup.
Ben & Jerry's tells us a story about how we've earned a taste of indulgence.
How does your story make it clear that you're here to make things better?
(3) People want to hear why you're the best in the world.
At Lexicontent, we work side-by-side with our clients to define and articulate their brand's key differentiators. What is the 1° of difference between what they offer and what the competitor offers? This exercise helps us bring that difference to light, then use it in every piece of content we create to communicate why that difference should matter in the hearts and minds of the brand's audience.
At the end of the day, customers want to hear why you're not only different than what's out there, but why you're the best in the world at what you do. In a world where shelves are crowded with every color, logo, and tagline imaginable, emotional storytelling works to create shortcuts – heuristics – in the customer's mind, to recall that you're in fact the best choice.
Do you offer complimentary valet services to expecting mothers? Did your pastry chef train at the most prestigious cooking school in Paris? Has your business been in operation for three generations?
All of these are stories waiting to be told, that prove to your audience that you're the créme de la créme.
Telling stories about the degrees of difference between you and your competition gives your customers a shortcut for remembering why they're loyal to you in the first place.
And in the end, that's the kind of story that will have your audience saying "tell me more".