Increase Sales by Telling a Good Story

Everyone loves a good story, whether it’s in a book, a movie, a video game, or told orally. A good story makes people feel, is relatable, and puts things in a different perspective. A good story connects people and encourages a shared sense of something greater, such as community and togetherness, or a common understanding and purpose. Stories call attention to the uniqueness of being human.

“People are attracted to stories because we’re social creatures and we relate to other people.” — Quesenberry

For a business, storytelling can be a very effective tool in increasing brand awareness and selling products. Successful companies know this and have used it to their advantage. That’s why you’ll find yourself watching what appears to be a dramatic television show and realize, 30-seconds in, that it’s an ad for bath soap.

A good story makes the viewer ignore or forget the fact that they’re watching a commercial. Instead, a good story provides an experience so powerful that it can compel someone to do something, to feel a certain way, to want what it’s selling. When a good story has done its job, the company can swoop in, make their pitch, and close the deal.

Storytelling is a very valuable technique, but there are many ways it can go wrong. Below, you’ll find tips on creating an enticing story while avoiding making grave mistakes.

DO NOT’S

1. Don’t lie.

It may sound simple, but necessary to repeat: don’t deceive your customers.

Many companies can and do tell stories that embellish — that exaggerate — aspects about their product or company in order to achieve a certain image or experience. This can be very effective and, by all means, should be used to a company’s advantage. What should be avoided, however, is spreading absolute falsehoods.

“…while it’s true that individuals and organizations need to cultivate storytelling craft, they also need to prepare their defenses against cheats and manipulators…We humans are — by our deepest natures — suckers for story.”

It’s accurate that many may not perceive or question the lies for even a second. Moreover, the line between true and false can be very grey, and it is the company’s entitlement to determine where it will be drawn. There is, nevertheless, an obligation to be honest and moral, even if it comes at a price.

Honesty may even be beneficial in the long run, if morality isn’t enough to convince one to be truthful. For instance, taking control of scandals in the media first will elicit understanding and sympathy from the public, instead of feelings of scorn from being deceived. People are more likely to forgive if you apologize first.

“Establishing a culture of honest storytelling is not only a moral imperative for companies and workers, it is better business in a long-term, bottom-line sense. No matter the genre or format, the ancient prime directive of storytelling is simple: tell the truth.”

However small it may be, the chance that lies are uncovered and the company image is tarnished as a result makes it desirable for businesses to be careful when being too liberal with the definition of truth.

2. Don’t be a try-hard.

In telling a story, a company will want to be careful not to embellish too much. Excuse my language, but people can smell bullcrap from miles away.

Companies that try too hard to provoke a reaction from their audience may end up succeeding in doing the exact opposite. Pinpoint what’s special about your company and what it stands for, and embrace it. Attempting to assume too many identities at once will make a company seem inauthentic and desperate.

By the time we’re in our teenage years, everyone has learned that desperation is easily detectable and unattractive. In relation to storytelling, once a viewer discerns that a company is trying way too hard to connect with them on an emotional level, they’ll be off-put and attempt to distance themselves from it.

So, the next time you want to say your product saved someone’s life, think very carefully about whether it’s true and how it sounds first.


DO’S

1. Use numbers, but don’t rely on them solely.

Although they don’t always understand them, people like data, numbers, and statistics. They give a company or product a sense of authority.

“Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.”

If you rely on data too much, however, your company’s story will seem bland and indistinguishable from any other. By emphasizing the importance of the numbers and revealing the work and meaning behind them, you can better reel in your viewers for a great relationship with the company.

2. Tell a story that would matter to you.

Writing a story from a place of experience makes it all the more impactful. To know your consumer is to know yourself: tap into your own humanity to figure out why you would buy something or do something. Think about why you care about the product/service and explore that thought in a narrative.

A simple but great example comes from Ram, the truck company. The ad probes into the faith and endurance many of us possess or idolize as Americans. Titled “God Made a Farmer,” the commercial draws a connection between the formidableness of their trucks to the tough individuals of Middle America who work with their hands. The ad uses themes of strength, pride, and overcoming.

While not everyone may believe in God, the intended audience for this ad tends to. Ram knows who their customers are, the rough and tumble Middle-Americans who need a truck to do their work, and they have used that knowledge to their gain. Even those who may not relate to the specificities of this ad can still sympathize because Americans have been so ingrained with the American dream and the notion that success comes with hard work.

3. Focus on one main idea and keep it short.

Not only does keeping your ad short retain the viewers’ attention, it makes the video more powerful. A short video can pack a punch and leave the viewer curious about the product/service without dragging on whatever message you would like to share.

The Ram ad, discussed above, does a great job of concentrating on a single idea: the farmer. By having one central focus, the ad is able to delve into what it means to be a farmer and thereby a person with respect, responsibility, and honor.

“The most successful storytellers often focus listeners’ minds on a single important idea and they take no longer than a 30-second Superbowl spot to forge an emotional connection.”

Directing all attention to one topic allows the viewer to connect more deeply to it. Exploring too many concepts at once can be overwhelming and distracting. It may even seem like your company has an overly large sense of importance, which is repelling (see thoughts on desperation above).


Start on a good foot with future customers by giving them an honest impression of your company and your products. Tell them your unique story, and tell it with video.