A business story does not have to be about business. As long as it has a point, personal stories are powerful.

Storytelling is the new marketing. Stories help your customers remember and recommend your business instead of your competitors. People may purchasing decisions for emotional reasons and justify their decision with logic, according to economist turned business storyteller and strategist, Yamini Naidu.

“Stories appeal to emotion - the heart. Yet many small business owners are unsure how to do storytelling well,” says Naidu.

The best way to build confidence in storytelling is to firstly be clear on what not to do. Here are seven storytelling sins to avoid, according to Naidu. Steer clear of these, and then you’ll be able to share your brand story to engage those unconscious buying decisions.

1.       You are a story free zone

Today’s sophisticated customers want to know more about your business than just the facts about products and services. Why did you start for example? For example, at the age of 18, faced with the thought of losing her part-time muesli making job, Carolyn Creswell took a risk. She bought the struggling business for $1000. Today Carmen’s Muesli is a household name, with products in every supermarket. It’s a startup legend.

2.       Something for everyone means nothing for anyone

At a recent networking event an entrepreneur was asked who his target market was. He replied, ‘Anyone with a pulse!’

It’s important to understand who your customers are specifically so you can tailor your stories. Not identifying your audience leads to storytelling failure and irrelevance.

3.       Business only

A business story does not have to be about business. As long as it has a point, personal stories are powerful. Here’s an example from Naomi Simson, RedBalloon founder: ‘It was lonely setting up an online business from home. Until RedBalloon generated the revenue to employ people and move into premises, it was Dexter the Spoodle I brainstormed with during our daily walks. Now Dexter is almost as much part of our brand as the red balloon’.

4.       You forgot to mention your customers

Stories about your customers are double value: they show you care about them, and show they love you. Online footwear retailer Zappos’ core value is to ‘deliver WOW through service’. Zappos overnighted a free pair of shoes to a best man who had arrived at a wedding shoeless. Customer stories are the simplest way of getting great stories.

5.       Your stories are hit or miss

Business storytelling is different from the standard BBQ yarn – it’s storytelling with a purpose, and for results. Link your story to the point you want to make. If you want to make a point about standing out, tell the story about turning up to a black tie event in shorts.

     6. You go on and on

Today attention spans are down to just nine seconds, author Sally Hogshead informs us. For your stories to work, make them succinct. To craft a punchy story, my clients write their stories down. A long-winded story will turn off any audience, fast.

     7. You’re faking it

For success all your stories must be true. You could lose credibility if your stories are uncovered as false or misleading.

Successful business owners build a library of stories and listen and capture their customer stories. They find true stories they can use in business, everyday.

Storytelling is the difference between achieving results or not, keeping customer or losing them, winning that pitch or blowing it.

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