It’s not HTML5, iOS development or CSS3. (Although, those are valuable skills). No, this is a skill that we are all born with, and something as old as time. Many of us use it, but few of us master it.
I’m talking about storytelling.
In an era where consumers are bombarded with unfathomable amounts of irrelevant information, success in business will be had by those who can master the art of the captivating story.
Your Customers Can’t Hear You (So You’re Losing Money)
Today, roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data will be created around the globe. That number will be doubled tomorrow, and tripled by the next day.
And guess what? Your customers can’t hear you through all that noise.
In the information age, your ability to edge out your competitors and claim market share will be based on your ability to tell convincing, captivating stories.
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today – Robert McKee
Even Apple had to learn the hard way about the importance of a good story.
“Apple tried to use evidence to persuade IT execs and big companies to adopt the Mac during the 80s”, explains Seth Godin, the king of marketing and the ultimate storyteller. “They tried ads and studies that proved the Mac was easier and cheaper to support. They failed. It was only the gentle persistence of storytelling and the elevation of evangelists that turned the tide”
Like Pando Daily, I believe that the companies that can build the fragmented, bite-sized information floating around in social media into compelling narratives will be the winners of the customer acquisition game.
Stop Alienating Your Customers
Every day, my team and I go to work with the mission of making the world an easier place to understand. We believe the best way to do this is through design, and the vehicle we use is infographics. Why infographics? Because they tell a story in a visual way that is compelling and easy to remember.
When I say you need to master storytelling in 2013, I’m not suggesting something revolutionary – it’s something you already do every single day. What I’m suggesting is that you stop talking at your customers and start having conversations. From the copy on your website, to the blog posts you write, the pitches you make to an investor, and every phone call or email you have with a prospective client or customer.
Would you trust someone who just talked at you all the time without listening? No. And neither will consumers.
Bring the Campfire to the Boardroom
If you think back to the best presentation or pitch you’ve seen – maybe a TED Talk or maybe a keynote address – the speaker probably told a story. Storytelling draws us in and captivates our imagination. Whether your vehicle is a blog post, an infographic or the spoken word, here are my tips for telling compelling stories:
1. Know your audience – This is communications 101, but you’d be surprised how often people ignore this advice. Do you talk to your son or daughter the same way you talk to your buddies at the bar?
2. Make it personal – When listening to stories we’re always looking for personal connections to the storyteller, a shared opinion or experience. As the storyteller, be proactive and make the connection evident to your audience.
3. Medium is the message – This is the one thing I really remember as a college communications major. Marshall McLuhan coined this phrase and it means that the medium embeds itself into your message and therefore influences how the message is perceived. We tell stories very differently through infographics than we would in a blog post or keynote address. There are pros and cons to each medium. Notice them and take advantage of the pros.
4. utilise visuals – “A picture is worth a thousand words” is cliche, but it’s true. We are visual creatures. In fact, 83% of all learning is visual. If the medium allows, add a visual to your story to enhance the impact and increase retention.
5. There is beauty in brevity – I understand and appreciate the art of long-form writing, but short attention spans and being overloaded with content and data is part of our everyday lives. If you can make your story descriptive and captivating, yet short and sweet, than you have a talent. Remember, brevity doesn’t just mean short, it means the exact use of words in writing or speech. Choose wisely my friends.
My #1 piece of startup advice is to start with your story. If you’re raising money, getting one more user to download your app, or gathering your team around the company mission, focus on the telling (and not the selling) of your story, and you can’t go wrong.
How do you use storytelling as an entrepreneur?
About the Author: John T. Meyer is on a mission to make the world an easier place to understand. Founder/CEO of Lemon.ly, a visual marketing firm that specialises in infographics, data viz, and UI/UX design. Meyer works with big brands and startups to tell their story in a visual way
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