5 Effective Business Storytelling Strategies (With Examples)
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Stories are how we connect with one another. They transform mundane facts and figures into emotional narratives that engage, inspire, and provoke action.
Like all artforms, storytelling takes practice. Fortunately, though, you don’t have to start from scratch.
As a writer, editor, and senior account manager at a content marketing company, I spend my days reading and writing stories for some of the world’s largest and most successful companies.
In this article, I’ve put together five of my favorite approaches, with business storytelling examples from companies including Dove, Uber, and Patagonia. These strategies can help you connect with audiences, build trust and loyalty, and drive sales. You’ll find step-by-step instructions as well as tips on how to use AI to simplify the process.
What is storytelling and why is it so important in business?
Storytelling in business means using narrative and sensory language to share information in a way that captures an audience’s attention, engages them emotionally, and provokes a reaction (such as a purchase, sign-up, or Like).
Stories can do all these things — more so than simple facts — because of the unique way our brains react to stories.
When we read a book, watch a movie, or listen to a story, our brains light up with activity.
Special brain cells called “mirror neurons” place us within the story, so we feel what the character feels, see what they see, even act as they act.
Complex psychological processes such as “narrative transport” and “empathic engagement” cause our brains to be flooded with neurotransmitters like oxytocin — the “feel good” chemical — and adrenaline, which regulates our “fight or flight” response.
In other words, stories make facts emotional — and emotions are what push humans to act.
That’s why businesses and marketers who’ve mastered the art of storytelling are so successful. Master this art yourself and you’ll reap the same benefits.
5 effective business stories that customers love (with examples)
Each of the five strategies and business storytelling examples below can be used to captivate your audience’s attention and build brand awareness, loyalty, and trust.
You can publish these stories in any format, including blog articles, an About Us page, Instagram or LinkedIn posts, or YouTube videos. Likewise, you can create a single, long-form piece of content or build a campaign that tells the story through multiple perspectives and channels.
Follow the step-by-step instructions to get started and make use of AI, an essential tool for any business, to make the whole process simpler and quicker.
1. Origin stories
An origin story recounts how your company came to be. It helps the reader understand the problem your company set out to solve and what inspired the founders to act.
Why it works:
- Origin stories provide context to the brands we care about, appealing to our innate curiosity about beginnings and roots.
- They often involve aspects of overcoming adversity, which inspires audiences and evokes empathy.
- They offer a sense of authenticity, grounding a brand in the real world through the use of names, places, and dates.
How to do it:
- Speak to your company’s founders about their motivation for starting the company and what problem, in their own words, they hoped to solve for their customers.
- Ask about specific challenges and how they were overcome, as well as important milestones and successes.
- Use names, places, and dates to provide context and emotional language to bring events to life.
- Play around with variations, including stories of innovation, disruption, and overcoming adversity (“underdog” stories).
Example: Uber Newsroom: The History of Uber
Uber has 130 million users, operates in 72 countries, and has connected drivers with riders more than 7.6 billion times.
Uber’s origin story starts with a date, a place, and two people: founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, stuck in Paris without a ride on “a cold winter night” in December, 2008.
You can just imagine the two of them hunting for a cab, getting more and more frustrated, until one of them finally throws up their hands and says, “This is crazy! There has to be a better way.”
As readers click through the rest of Uber’s journey, they learn about successes, community engagement (see below), and the launch of new products and services.
2. The People’s Champion (or The Hero We Deserve)
This is a great option for companies that are actively involved in local communities or have taken a stand on a societal issue. This narrative showcases a brand’s alignment with communal values and/or causes. The champion can be the brand itself, its leaders, or its employees. This story often involves themes of growth, struggle, and eventual triumph to inspire admiration and esteem.
Why it works:
- Showing how your brand acts as a proactive, positive force for change within the community or society at large humanizes it, creating trust and admiration. This in turn leads to greater brand loyalty.
How to do it:
- Identify key initiatives or positions your company has taken to address community concerns or societal issues.
- Collect testimonials from employees who feel strongly about the issue and individuals or groups who have benefited from your company's actions.
- Explain how your company became involved with this social issue and highlight positive outcomes in a relatable and humble manner (nobody likes bragging!). (Hint: You can use Wordtune to make your writing more casual or formal, as needed.)
Inspiration: Patagonia Stories
Patagonia is a global clothing brand that is widely recognized for its environmental activism.
Through articles on its blog, Patagonia Stories, as well as social media posts and documentary films, Patagonia shares stories of its efforts to promote environmental responsibility and engage with like-minded individuals and organizations, positioning itself as a champion for environmental causes
3. Customer Success Stories
A Customer Success Story showcases a customer's positive experience with your products or services, demonstrating how they resolved a specific problem or improved their situation. It overlaps in many respects with a case study, but uses emotional and sensory language to drive engagement.
Why it works:
- They build credibility and trust by providing real-world evidence of your company's value.
- They are highly relatable and emotional by nature: the audience can “see themselves” in the customer, sharing their frustration, consternation, or sorrow — as well as their eventual appreciation, relief, or excitement.
- “Social proof” serves as a powerful driver of human behavior and decision-making.
How to do it:
- Reach out to your customer support team or invite existing customers (via social media, for example) to contact you with their stories of real-world benefit.
- Conduct interviews to gather personal testimonials, focusing on the problem customers faced, how your company provided a solution, and the outcomes they achieved.
- Use direct quotes and emotional language to convey the customer’s journey. Let your company take a back seat; this story’s not about you.
Inspiration: Oracle Netsuite and Deliciously Ella
This story contains a number of effective, humanizing elements.
We learn of Deliciously Ella’s founder, Ella Mills, and her health struggles, which are likely to resonate with those who have their own and garner sympathy from those who don’t. We then follow Deliciously Ella’s journey from humble beginnings as a recipe website to significant growth (including a wellness app and best-selling cookbooks). This kind of triumph over adversity inspires, uplifts, and energizes readers.
As Deliciously Ella grows, it becomes necessary to shift to a more robust solution, which is where NetSuite, a business management platform, comes in. The article subtly conveys the reliability and scalability of NetSuite’s solutions through the lens of supporting a small business with evolving needs.
4. Just-like-me stories
“Just-like-me” stories strive to build a connection with the audience by showing that a brand shares their worldview, values, concerns, or passions. The goal is to create a “mirror” for the audience, so they can “see themselves” in your brand, which breaks down barriers to engagement.
Why it works
- They use the principles of similarity and familiarity to make your brand feel less like an outsider and more like an ally — an “us” instead of a “them.”
- They evoke a sense of camaraderie and trust through shared experiences and common goals or values.
How to do it:
- Engage in customer research to create an ideal customer profile (ICP) with values, concerns, and experiences.
- Think of different ways your company demonstrates commitment to those values and understanding of those concerns and experiences. Interview employees and managers who can add a personal touch to it.
- Embed authentic testimonials or real-life scenarios within the story to reinforce the shared values and experiences, making the story more credible and relatable.
Inspiration: Dove’s “Real Beauty” Campaign
Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign consists of stories that challenge traditional beauty standards and celebrate diversity.
By showcasing real women with different body shapes, sizes, and ethnicities in its advertisements, Dove aligned itself with a more inclusive definition of beauty, reflecting the values and concerns of its target audience.
This campaign not only created a strong emotional connection with many women but also positioned Dove as a brand that understands and shares the experiences and values of its audience.
5. Behind the scenes
"Behind the scenes" stories unveil the inner workings and human elements behind a brand or a product. They provide a glimpse into the otherwise unseen aspects of how a brand operates, which can create trust and cultivate interest.
Why it works:
- People are naturally curious about the brands and products that surround them — how they’re created and by whom.
- Transparency fosters trust and creates a connection between a brand and its audience.
- These stories help humanize a brand, making it more relatable and authentic in the eyes of its audience.
How to do it:
- Identify key processes or people that are integral yet unseen parts of your brand. Engage with customers and ask what they’re curious about.
- Speak with internal stakeholders who are responsible for these “unseen parts” to get the “inside scoop” on how it works.
- Don’t just stick to the technical details: humanize your brand by speaking about the people you interviewed and what about the process excites them.
Inspiration: “How It’s Made” by Lush Cosmetics
Cosmetics are very personal products, so people often want to know how they’re made and what, exactly, they’re putting on their face and bodies.
This series is all about showcasing Lush’s brand values, including transparency, ethical practices, and craftsmanship.
Each “How It's Made” pairs someone from Lush who’s not directly involved in production with a member of the lab. The audience gets to follow along as the manager, marketer, or customer service agent learns how the product is made.
The videos are light-hearted and whimsical, and often self-deprecating. You really feel like you’ve been invited into the heart of a fun and exciting enterprise, which makes trusting the brand and their products all the easier.
Key components of good storytelling
The five business stories above share a few common themes. Use these key components of good storytelling to ensure yours are a success:
- Relatability. Create a connection with your audience by demonstrating that you share their values and experiences. Speak to real people from your company and use quotes and simple, natural language to convey ideas. Adjust your tone and voice to match the story and create an emotional response.
- Emotion. Emotion is at the heart of all human behavior and decision-making. Use descriptive words and emotional language to create the right emotional reaction in your audience. Pair successes with excitement and passion, obstacles with determination and resilience, moral values with conviction and compassion.
- Authenticity. Stories can be embellished, but should never be fabricated. This is a sure-fire way to end up in the hot seat if and when the truth comes out. Tell your company’s stories with honesty and integrity, even when they include mistakes.
- Insight. The audience should learn something new about the company that piques their interest or resonates with their beliefs. We’re using emotions to convey facts, but the facts still have to be there.
- Narrative. Finally, a good story needs a beginning, middle, and end. Guide your audience through conflicts and resolutions, obstacles and solutions. Use names, dates, and places to provide context.
Stories inspire, engage, excite, delight, and, ultimately, call people to action.
Dove, Uber, Patagonia and others have mastered the art of storytelling and turned basic facts into engaging, trust-building journeys, leading to enthusiastic customers who are loyal and even advocate on the brand’s behalf.
Now it’s your turn. Use the step-by-step instructions in this article to create inspiring and informative stories that boost brand awareness and credibility. Engage with employees, leaders, customers, and industry experts for real human perspectives. Use expressive, emotional, and descriptive language to bring characters and events to life. Provide context with dates, places, and names. And use AI tools to help organize your notes and turn them into a compelling story.
Every business is an anthology of stories, and sharing them will help audiences connect with your brand in powerful and lasting new ways.
To learn more about storytelling, check out these articles from the Wordtune blog:
- Improve Your Storytelling With Frameworks [+AI Story Generator]
- How To Structure Your Writing For Maximum Impact (With Help From AI)
- How to Write a Top Ranking Blog Post Using AI
- 7 Best Brand Tone of Voice Examples to Inspire You [Follow Their Success]
What are some effective tools for mastering storytelling in business?
AI tools like Wordtune and ChatGPT can help you organize your thoughts, summarize research notes, and turn them into compelling business stories. Wordtune will also pick up on any spelling and grammar mistakes or awkward sentences. Apps like Hemingway can ensure your writing is simple and appropriate for the audience.
How can I measure the impact of storytelling on my business?
As with many marketing strategies, getting a precise return on investment on storytelling can be difficult. Overall, lift in revenue is always a good indicator, but you can also measure direct engagement with your stories: comments on blog articles, shares and Likes, and reactions to your campaign on blogs and websites.
Can storytelling be applied to any type of business?
Absolutely! Every business has a story to tell. If you’re having a hard time getting started, ask employees, managers, founders, and customers what stories they want to tell or are interested in hearing.