How storytelling can help your business grow

Once upon a time, business was all about selling – and the best product won. That’s no longer true; business is about so much more. It’s the people, the purpose, and the process by which you go about your business that matters most – and the best story wins.
In April, John Lewis announced its Director of Comms, Peter Cross, was to become Director of Customer Services. Two years before, LinkedIn made a similar move by promoting Shannon Stubo from VP of Corporate Communications to Chief Marketing Officer.
Why? According to Kevin Gessay, Managing Director of entertainment business PMK BNC, it’s because: “PRs are the ultimate storytellers and now it is all about brand storytelling.”
We live in a world where the world’s largest taxi firm owns no cars. The world’s most popular media company creates no content. The world’s most valuable retailer carries no stock. And the world’s largest accommodation provider owns no property.
It’s likely you’ll have read Tom Goodwin’s observation about Uber, Facebook, Alibaba, and Airbnb before – Tom is Senior VP of Strategy and Innovation at Havas Media and his sentiment is worth exploring further.
Companies that control the narrative between the consumer and the provider of goods or services are in an incredibly valuable position. They’ve taken something ordinary and created something extraordinary by doing three things:

  1. Realising that people now consume differently;

  2. Harnessing the power of technology;

  3. Redefining their own purpose.

So how can a company’s purpose be woven into its story to help it sell?
Management Consultant and Author John Hagel writes in The Marketing Journal that the defining elements of a narrative have two key attributes: “First, they’re open-ended – there’s no resolution yet, it’s all to be determined. Second, narratives are about the intended audience, not the person or entity presenting the narrative.”
Hagel says that a natural tendency to tell a story of humble beginnings and the amazing things a business has achieved since is the reason there are so few examples of compelling narratives.
But there is one example that stands out.
In 2007, Apple released the first iPhone. Apple knew it had designed a revolutionary product, but it wasn’t the product alone that changed the course of history. It was Steve Jobs’ ability to tell a story and get the audience hooked on why they should care about Apple’s new product before they had even seen it that made his first presentation so special.
Apple does an outstanding job of telling a story about what it looks like for customers to successfully use their products. It also shows how its products help people create their own stories, and highlights the stories people create.
Another example of successful business storytelling is by Birmingham-based IT services provider SCC, which uses its customers and what they do to define its own purpose.
During a rebranding exercise in 2013, SCC took the classic business narrative described by John Hagel and turned it on its head, replacing ‘this is who we are, this is where we came from, and this is how much money we make now’ with ‘this is who you are, this is the value you bring to your customers, and this is how we can help you do it better’.
This was an easy way to simplify its own narrative, dropping clichés used by its competitors, and demonstrate its value by highlighting the companies dependent on SCC, including well-known brands and government departments that people in turn depend on every day.
SCC made its proposition all about people – and its margin growth since doing so is evidence of how powerful a good business narrative can be. But a good story is powerless unless it’s heard.
SCC worked with mHub to develop SCC Connect, a simple and secure application that ensures its story is heard by those who need to know. SCC Connect is people-led; the app helps SCC make a personal connection with more people, from the chief executive sharing business updates internally, to a sales rep delivering a personalised video message to the prospect they’ve just met with.
Using mHub analytics, you can make better decisions, track audience engagement, and learn the optimum way to tell your story and radically improve your performance.
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