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The Power of Stories

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Nov, 02, 2018 @ 15:11 PM

storytelling

 

Great hearing Jennifer Aaker, Author and Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business share her thoughts on "Harnessing the Power of Stories" at Gartner's Sales and Marketing conference.

Over the course of my career in marketing, I've had the opportunity to see the power of stories on many occasions. About ten years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Don Pausback to produce a series of emotionally powerful consumer testimonials, a.k.a., stories, about how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC had made a tremendous impact on their lives in very difficult circumstances.

These stories helped reverse negative perceptions of the brand brought on by negative PR events and doubled inbound leads from their direct to consumer advertising.

Ms. Aaker's presentation explains why.

People buy but hate to be sold to. Persuasion sources have shifted. The trust gap is significant. People trust people they know first and foremost. They trust people they don't know more than they trust companies. How you lead is predicated on knowing your story.

Story is why you’re doing what you’re doing and there's a science of stories. It’s fundamental to live a life based on stories. What people remember when you die are stories about how you made them feel.

Stories help us decide what to believe in separating the noise from the signal. Stories are meaningful, impactful, and memorable. We tend to feel an emotional connection to the storyteller and we know emotion drives decisions that we rationalize after the decision is made.

If we share a story people remember it, we are connected and moved. Stories are powerful because they are meaningful.

So, what’s a story? An arc with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Try writing a six word story about yourself. Here's what I came up with:

  • Marketing professional becomes IT research analyst.
  • Double Dookie, Huge Tar Heel fan.

Those two six-word stories tell people a lot about me

Stories work because they are emotional, evocative. Your team story is the strategy. Think about the credibility triangle: point of view, story, data. Context matters. Order matters between POV, story, data.

What's the ROI of a story? Bonobos launched bull denim renaming it the travel jean – destination jeans, ideal for excursions near and far. The

How to harness stories? Think about stories that lead, stories as assets, and stories as life. Most stories are tactical. Signature stories are strategic - an asset to manage. Intriguing, authentic, involving stories with a strategic message.

Three signature stories:

  • Purpose storiesToms shoes' mission of providing shoes for those in need. Adobe unlocking creativity in the world with a goal of reaching $5 billion in 5 years. They reached it in 3.5 years with an inspired mission.
  • Empathy story – with the user as hero. LinkedIn has banked user stories. Google Chrome showcased Daniel Lee with his annual message to his daughter "Dear Sophie."
  • Growth story – elevates value and increase pipeline. Salesforce reached out to find signature stories. Learned that their 25% highest performing sales people all used stories. Worked to identify and scale the best stories. Had 1,000 submitted, produced the top 100, used the top 10. UCHealth found and activated patient stories. In six months garnered 17,000 press mentions and became a top 15 hospital with patients coming from all over the world.

Stories outperform features. So how do you build a story culture? Identify a story ambassador. Build story habits - get people telling six-word stories about themselves, then about the organization. Identify signature stories. What's your growth story? Bank your stories, they are assets. Look for true, bold, and distinct stories that are relevant to different audiences offering something bigger and meaningful.

Happiness is feeling positive, not negative. By thinking in stories you live a life that’s much more meaningful, creates truer and deeper connections.

Tell me a fact, and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth, and I’ll believe, but tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. -- Indian Proverb  

Tags: story, Trustworthiness, transparency, integrity, be real