Why business owners need to become great storytellers

For many people, the story of their business journey is closely linked to milestones in their personal lives. Here are a few tips on how you can start telling the story of your small business, and engaging your customers.

When you’re in business, people will want to know what prompted you to ‘go it alone’. What drives you to do what you do?

As one of the world’s best storytellers, Ira Glass says, “Great stories happen to those who can tell them.”

No matter where or how your business story is presented, it’s a chance for your customers and peers to learn more about you. Your business story provides an opportunity for others to relate to you, or find a point of connection; to engage with you or even recommend your business to others.

While there’s no real template when it comes to crafting a business story, there are a few essential elements that make your narrative a powerful tool. Valerie Khoo, author of the book Power Stories explains more here:

Feeling inspired? Here are a few more ideas and insights into how you can tell your business story:

1. Refine your narrative before putting a pitch together

Start with the truth. Why did you go into business? Often there’s a story of transition, or a realisation that a new career path was beckoning. While this may be a pivotal moment in your personal life, try not to make this the focus of your business story.

Focus on what you’re doing now and achieving in business – the direction you’d like to move in. Share your enthusiasm for your business, even if you’re in the fledgling stages or struggling with cash flow. Your public-facing business story is a more valuable marketing tool than the description of your daily toil.

2. Make it an elevator pitch

Are you familiar with the ‘elevator pitch’? It’s when you explain to someone who is unfamiliar with your business, what you do and why, in a short sentence or two.

Your small business story can be told in this format – with a bit of practice.

An elevator pitch needs to be delivered in a pithy few sentences, often to a stranger, and often with a daunting time limit. If you anticipate having to tell your story within these constraints, it could be worth practicing in the mirror, or even watching some videos of other people’s successful pitches online. Maybe you can even ask a trusted friend or colleague to be your test-audience and listen to your speech, then give some constructive feedback.

3. Consider what you’d like to learn about other people’s businesses

Think about what you’d like to share with your industry and potential customers, and imagine how they might feel hearing this. An effective business story is typically sincere, succinct, selective and supportive.

It should also leave the listener with a clear sense of why you’re in business. There might be a number of reasons you run a business, but you should consider sharing the reasons that are most relevant to your audience.

It could be that you’re in business to help or support others, as well as to earn enough income to pay your mortgage - but you may find the former a more engaging business story to tell.

4. Find your voice

If you’re not sure of your business ‘voice’, take a look at your website or brand. Does your business writing, or branding have a specific tone of voice? Is this different from your own natural speaking or writing tone? Can you blend the two together?

Your business story can be a chance to use your voice. Read ex-Telstra COO, Kate McKenzie’s column on how she found her business voice, if you’re interested in developing a longer narrative around all the things you’ve achieved in business.

5. Be insightful

When you’re crafting your business story, think about the insights you might share with customers or the wider industry. But be careful not to over-share, or delve into too much detail. Your business story is a strategic opportunity to connect with strangers. Use it wisely.

Pip Lincolne is a creative professional with a sizeable social media audience, and specialises in building online communities. As a writer and crafter, she encourages and coaches other soloists to share their stories and build their own audiences. Her advice to them is as follows:

  • be brave
  • be curious
  • be supportive
  • be humble
  • be (delightfully) informative
  • be relatable
  • be innovative
  • be collaborative
  • be selective
  • be yourself

Your business story doesn’t need to be an epic hero’s journey through every decision you’ve ever made. But it does need to offer the listener a sense of your related experience - the insights you’ve gleaned, and your ability to share these with others.

By engaging listeners in your story, you’re inviting them to engage with you, to build a connection. They might then tell their version of your story to their friends and family, or someone who might be looking for a business like yours.

Being able to tell a great story – especially when it’s your own – can create connections with others beyond your periphery. Whether through words or images, in a YouTube tutorial, during a personal introduction or on a website, your story is part of your journey that you share with the world. So make sure you tell it well!

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