Once upon a time. Why your business needs a story.

dragon breathing fire
We write a lot about the need to talk about your business in a way that’s free from jargon, in language that your clients understand. It’s all about being likable and making connections.

Stories, rich in plot and studded with metaphors, like those you remember from childhood  can help you build even deeper roots into the hearts and minds of your clients. Writing your business story is a creative exercise. It’s not like any of the other writing you do – very different from blogs or sales proposals – and you need to approach it in a different frame of mind. Fire up your imagination, prepare to be playful, and silence your sensible side for a while.

Here goes. Five steps to finding your business story.

Once upon a time

All stories need a beginning. Where did yours start? Describe the world that existed before your business burst into the world. Use metaphors and analogies. Were your clients stumbling around in the dark before your services lit up the path ahead? Were your customers tangled in a mire of misery before your products transformed their lives? You have permission to be silly here – no one’s going to see this so write as freely as you can, without inhibition. Go off at tangents. Dig for emotions. Make yourself laugh.

Your hero

Your story needs a character, and yours is your client. What are they like? Mild mannered and meek? Powerful but lost? Embattled under siege? Jot down as many ideas as you can. Don’t censor yourself. Think in archetypes. The knight in shining armour. The soldier on the front line. The earth mother. At this stage it’s perfectly permissible to have a hero who is a cross between Basil Fawlty and Mother Theresa. Go with the flow and keep going.

The obstacle

What is standing in your hero’s path? A fire breathing dragon? A bottomless pit? A three thousand strong braying mob? Describe the hero’s obstacle in a way that captures its emotional power. Bigger obstacles make for better stories. Overcoming one cross wasp isn’t going to grab anyone, but make it a buzzing cloud of killer bees and people will keep listening.  (Yes, I know, in reality your client’s problem is just slow running IT or a difficult ex-business partner, but focus on how that obstacle makes your hero feel.)

The final battle

The climatic point in any film, and the page turning dash to the resolution of a great book. Describe the final battle. How does your hero slay the monster? How does she solve the giant Rubik’s Cube that’s standing between her and the door to paradise? Which powers does she use? What does that power feel like?

The happy ever after

Describe the world after the battle’s been won. How is it better? What does the resolution do to the landscape? Think of the words that best capture the spirit of this new age. Is it calm? Ordered? Peaceful? Joyous? Throw in some analogies – ‘like the day after the great storm,’ ‘the first rain after drought’ ‘dawn breaking after a long night of the soul.’ Don’t be scared of pushing it – this exercise is all about searching for words and images with the emotional power to resonate with your audience.

And now what?

Read through what you’ve written. Look for threads – ideas and thoughts that can be linked together to form a narrative. Now’s the time to edit hard. Words or images that are too left field can go now. They’ve served their purpose. Stick with the ones that feel right to you. Trust your intuition here. What would you feel comfortable saying? (Say them out loud and see which ones come easily and which ones make you stutter.) Which ones would help explain what you do to your dream client?

The power of a good story is it is memorable; easy to tell and retell. It grabs people, burrows deep and stays with them. What’s yours?

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  1. Jim O'Connor

    what a great post! Straight to the point, and lots of very practical advice that’s easy to follow. Thanks for sharing,

  2. Sharon Tanton

    Really glad you liked it, Jim. Hope to see you next week!


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