Why Is a Story So Important?

“Why does my business need a story anyway?”

I hear this question a lot. Clients want to know why they can’t simply do it the way it’s always been done: Write a page with information about who they are, where they’re located, when they started doing business, what exactly they do, and why they’re the best at it.

Which by the way is similar to the approach that I used when I wrote a report about Peru in the fourth grade. Which I’d like to say I got an A on, but I can’t, because I handed it in a few days late (it’s a long story).

Anyway, so this approach worked fine in the old days, when we all lived in the same one mile radius and you were one of only two carpenters in town. So all you might have to say was, “My name is Theodoric. I make really good furniture that doesn’t break. And I don’t smell as badly as the other carpenter, Rowan.” Sold!

In one form or another, this approach even got us through most of the twentieth century, and is at the heart of modern advertising.

But now we live in the Age of the Internet and e-commerce and overnight delivery. With just a few key clicks, we can locate and buy a chair from the other side of the world in less than five minutes. So bullet points and boasts about quality and even slurs about the competition simply don’t cut it anymore. People have too many options to choose from.

So then how can we stand out from the crowd?

The answer is that we can do the same thing somebody at a party does to stand out from the crowd: tell an interesting story. Maybe a story about transformation. Or about discovery. Or about overcoming the odds. Or about family or tradition or commitment or love.

“My name is Theodoric, and I’ve wanted to be a carpenter since I was a little boy sweeping sawdust off the floors of my father’s workshop. Because he and his father and six generations before him were all carpenters. It’s in my blood and I love it. And I want to use these time-honored traditions to bring to life your vision of a perfect piece of furniture for your home. One that your family will cherish for generations to come.”

That’s better, right? And best of all, it doesn’t involve throwing poor Rowan with his hygiene problem under the horse-drawn carriage.

Still not clear about why your business should be telling a story, or how to go about figuring out what your story is? Speak up in the comments below …