Putting the customer at the center of everything your business does and cultivating an empathetic work culture are two powerful ways empathy can be used to drive business success. But, if we dig a little deeper into why empathy is so important, we can uncover one of the most effective tools in the world for connecting with people and driving results – storytelling.

Storytelling is the art of drawing out empathy from both storyteller and audience. As I said in Mean People Suck, we can use the power of storytelling to truly get what we want in life and in business.

Through story, we connect at an emotional level. This emotion-bridge from brand to customer, content creator to audience forms bonds that are far stronger and more compelling than traditional motivators such as price, extra features, or loyalty programs.

Key Takeaways

  • Storytelling is one of the most powerful methods available for getting results.
  • Because of its ability to resonate deeply, you should incorporate storytelling into your content marketing.

The Power of Storytelling in Action

There’s a little story about a research project I want to share with you to demonstrate the impact storytelling can have on marketing and product value perception. It’s called the Significant Objects Project.

When I learned about the project, I was floored. The results of it really shifted the way I viewed marketing. A content strategist and friend of mine, Michele Miller, shared it with me a couple of years ago over coffee, and when I started writing Mean People Suck, I knew I wanted to include it.

Back in 2009, two reporters – Rob Walker of The Washington Post and Joshua Glenn from The New York Times – created the Significant Objects Project. Believing stories to be powerful enough to create measurable results, they developed a way to test the theory. For the project, they purchased 100 insignificant objects. Then, they asked other writers, including journalists, mommy bloggers, and bestselling authors, to create backstories for each of their valueless Significant Objects.

Here’s what happened:

  1. Rob and Joshua spent a total of $129 on 100 items.
  2. They added fictional stories to each item and sold the products online.
  3. They sold the items for a total of $3,613.
  4. Their final average markup value for their sample set was 2,700 percent!

Although the items held no intrinsic value – they were useless trinkets from thrift stores and garage sales – the stories proved their worth 2,700-fold. For the buyers, they were paying more for a story than for an actual physical object. That’s how much storytelling truly means to people. 

Here’s the thing, storytelling isn’t just another useful tool in any content marketer’s toolkit. It’s a method that should underlie every facet of your content marketing. The truth is, nothing moves people like a good story.

What This Means for Content

If a good story can create perceived value out of thin air for a valueless product, imagine the power of storytelling when applied to products and services that do already offer value.

Infusing storytelling into your content marketing is the way to create effective content that resonates with your buyers. Some of the most successful brands are already using storytelling to connect with their customers on a deeper level.

Take Nike for example. Why do people pay nearly $200 dollars for Air Jordans, a pair of sneakers that cost about $25 to produce?

The story.

Land Rover, Warby Parker, Zendesk, Lego, and Johnnie Walker are all great examples of brand storytelling.

When you use storytelling instead of simply throwing facts, data, or the same old feature and benefits lists at your customers, you connect with people on a feeling level rather than through logic. And, as science will attest to, we are able to remember stories that make us feel something far longer than facts.

Think about it. Can you recall a story you’ve read – 10, even 20 years ago – that featured a character you felt empathy for? I know I can, and quite vividly. But, I have no idea what happened in my high school calculus class. Not an iota. I’d have to jog my memory to recall the facts where my mind can always tap into stories that have moved me.

How to Use Storytelling in Your Content Marketing

As Michele talks about in her slideshow, The Art of Effective Storytelling, we tend to purchase what we identify with. Through story, you can reach out to your target audience in a way that conveys why they need your product or service and how it’s meaningful for them, without you ever having to come out and say it.

In order to incorporate storytelling into your content marketing, it’s important to shift away from talking about your brand and to focus on the customer.

This goes beyond just customer needs and pain points. You have to be able to convey your messaging in a way that articulates the mindset of your prospects and existing customers.

  • Spend more time getting to know your audience. Make understanding your buyers an ongoing process as your audience’s needs, wants, and preferences will change over time.
  • Focus on what your product can do for your customers, not what it can do in general.
  • Make it meaningful by staying true to your brand values. Authentic storytelling will have a much greater impact than a narrative that doesn’t work well with your brand’s actions, mission, and history.
  • Create a narrative around your brand and ensure your marketing visuals, from images to website colors and graphics, align with this narrative.
  • Use data to help inform the response to your narrative to help you understand exactly what resonates and what doesn’t.

Storytelling is too powerful to ignore. Take the time to better understand who the story is for and use a narrative to invite your buyers to become a part of it.

So what do you think? Please consider picking up your copy of Mean People Suck today, and get the bonus visual companion guide as well. Or check out our services to help evolve your culture. And I would be thrilled to come present to your team on the power of empathy!

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