Story Sells: The power of narrative as a strategic business tool

Dave Townsend

President

Monday, April 9, 2018

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Any business owner today understands the value of creating a customer experience that leaves a lasting impression – one that isn’t easily forgotten. To do this, all elements of the overall experience have to exist in unity, they have to work in concert, surrounding the customer with a performance that is unmatched. Getting all the pieces to fit and to function as a united front is increasingly difficult. Most organizations just don’t have the tools to pull it all together.

This lack of delivering on a differentiating experience was brought home to me recently when my wife and I were staying a very high-end hotel (which will go unnamed). This brand is one of the paragons of hospitality and if anyone could deliver a truly desirable experience, you’d think they could. Yet, our whole stay left us tepid instead of inspired. Nothing about it was bad in any one way, but the pieces didn’t work together to create a particularly desirable experience. The room was nice, but slightly generic. The views were spectacular, yet the service was spotty. The lobby and common areas were truly beautiful, but they lacked continuity and coherence. Nothing stood out. It seemed that no one on staff was on the same page, from the service providers, to the designers of the space, to the chefs in the kitchens.

Why was this experience less than it should have been? The hotel had no narrative thread that pulled all the different aspects of being there together. There was no surprise or delight, there was nothing to discover —there just wasn’t anything unique about the experience. This sounds so simple, but more times than not, it is where most businesses fail in their drive to perform and to build meaningful experiences for their customers.

This is why narrative is at the heart of our strategic process. Stories are tools that inspire, capturing the emotion of a vision and giving people a point of view from which to make better decisions. Stories are not “fluffy” brand things. They are much more concrete than most believe. A good bran story provides meaning to actions that align people, places and experiences. People remember stories, they internalize stories and they can act on stories.

Because our brains are wired to process information through stories—recognizing patterns of information and associating those patterns with things that matter—stories help us create meaning from the world around us, helping us see and express ourselves, our hopes, desires, wants and needs. Did you know that your brain lights up the same way whether you hear a story or actually have that experience in the real world? That is amazingly powerful stuff.

What are the main benefits of using story as a strategic business tool?

One

A good story will activate your entire team’s mind—rationally and emotionally—so that their actions and words will work together to form the desired brand experience.

Two

Stories unite people, helping ensure that across the organization, are made for the same reasons and everyone is working toward the same expected outcomes.

Three

Story is the tool of inspiration. Great customer experiences are not just about the ability to deliver; rather, great experiences are about the ability to deliver while inspiring people, as well.

So, if you want to create experiences that drive business results, you best invest in narrative strategy. Do you have your story down?

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