The Best Ways to Use Storytelling in Your Small Business

If you want to get your prospects’ attention, make an emotional connection and be remembered, harnessing the power of storytelling is your best bet. Learn how to use storytelling to grow your small business.

In today’s information-flooded world, the stakes are high when it comes to earning the attention of potential customers.

Consumers have more choices than ever before. Traditional, interruption-based marketing isn’t as effective as it once was. Increasingly, stories are becoming the difference between good and great marketing. And most business owners aren’t using storytelling in their marketing today. Most of those who are, aren’t using it effectively. 

That’s because even our best marketing efforts fall flat without the right element…


The Missing Ingredient in Your Sales Message

Copywriting legend Gary Halbert said “Do you know what is the most-often missing ingredient in a sales message? It’s the sales message doesn’t tell an interesting story.” Empirical research bears out his assertions.

Marketing Professor Keith A. Quesenberry and Dr. Michael Coolsen spent two years analyzing 108 Super Bowl advertisements. Their research found that ads that told a more complete story (using Freytag’s Pyramid) were the most popular with consumers.

In other words, people were more likely to view and share the story-based ads. This results in greater consumer awareness. Professor Quesenberry notes that research has proven ad recall, recognition, and emotional response are all increased by online buzz.

Why is this so important? Because people are attracted to and pay attention to stories.

RELATED: How to Get Your Customers’ Attention

Your target audience has a million voices clamoring for their attention. If you want them to pay attention to you, you’ll need to shake up the status quo. You need to address your prospect’s skepticism. You also want them to make an emotional investment. 

A Look at Why Storytelling Works

So why is storytelling so effective?

  • Although the human brain is able to process emotional and empirical information, research has shown that emotional responses are stronger than rational responses thus decision-making isn’t logical, it’s emotional. Unlike facts and figures, stories elicit emotional responses. One research study found that an emotional response to an advertisement has far greater influence on a person’s intent to buy a product than the ad’s content does (2-to-1 for print ads and 3-to-1 for TV commercials).


  • Narrative cuts through distraction. When the human brain focuses its full attention on something, all unnecessary information then gets filtered out. Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human claims that “In normal life, we spin about one-hundred daydreams per waking hour. But when absorbed in a good story we experience approximately zero daydreams per hour. Our hyper minds go still and they pay close attention.” When you use storytelling in your marketing, your audience is more likely to remember your message.
  • Not only is telling a story a tried-and-true method for getting attention, but an engaging story will also keep attention. Comedians, salespeople, and skilled presenters know that telling a compelling story is a tested and proven method for grabbing attention and keeping your audience mentally engaged. If a story is any good, it draws you in and you want to know what happens next.

Let’s have a look at the five steps that will help you leverage the power of storytelling in your business.

Practical Advice for Any Storyteller

Everyone has the ability to become a better storyteller. Here are five ways you can use storytelling to grow your small business:

  1. Show, Don’t Tell: Instead of boring prospective customers by blathering on about yourself and your business try using stories to convey your expertise, relevance, humanity, and values. Here’s an example: Recently, I wrote some copy for a business looking to catch the attention of some talented potential employees. Instead of talking about the “opportunity for growth” we shared the story of an employee that started as a receptionist and rose to a management position. Sometimes stories are the most effective structure to share information and connect emotionally.
  2. Human beings use narrative to make sense of the world around us: As your prospects and customers struggle with life’s problems you can use stories to answer important questions. How are you different? How can you help? Why should I buy from you? Well-crafted stories can show people the benefit of choosing your product or service. We make sense of the world around us by telling and listening to stories. Take advantage of this fact in your marketing.
  3. Every story needs a hero: Set yourself apart from other businesses by talking about your customers…not yourself. Use customer success stories to help undecided shoppers relate to your past customers. These can be in the form of case studies, testimonials or word of mouth. When satisfied customers sing your praises, it’s more credible than anything you could say.
  4. The human brain is wired for stories: Use stories to get and keep attention and forge an emotional connection.  People make decisions emotionally and then support them with logic. When you take advantage of the human predilection for story, you can influence thoughts and behavior.
  5. Use the Rule of 3: There is an old storytelling and writing concept known as the Rule of 3. The premise is that things that come in threes are funnier, more memorable, and generally more engaging. You can find evidence of this everywhere from fairy tales to memorable speeches to Hollywood movies. Use this technique to make your stories more effective.


Your customers and prospects are bombarded with sales messages. If you want your marketing efforts to flourish, incorporate storytelling. Stories can help you grab people’s attention, connect emotionally and be remembered.

RELATED: 20 Ways to Get Word of Mouth Marketing for Your Business

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