Why Stories Work in Business

marketingWhen trying to explain your product or service to someone, do you rely on a conversation about features and benefits? Conventional marketing wisdom says this is important to do. However, a recent Lifehacker article explains why this might NOT be the best way to engage a prospective client.

I’ve always felt that stories conveyed an idea, concept, features and benefits better than a PowerPoint deck with bullets and charts. I thought it was just because people remembered stories better than they do bullets. It turns out that is true, but not for the reasons I thought. It’s because our brains are actually wired for “cause – effect.” We scan for it – subconsciously searching for it in a story and actually pay attention when these two pieces are put together. Just seeing a “features and benefits statement” doesn’t always make the connection in a way that our brain listens to or pays attention.

As Patrick Renvoise, author of “Neuromarketing,” puts it, people won’t pay attention to your “claim” until you’ve identified the “pain.” The pain is the “cause” or reason as to why a customer is even looking for a solution. So when we hear a solution in a story format that solves our “pain,” we will pay attention to the whole thing because our brain is satisfied, and most importantly, we remember what we just heard or saw.

Every company has a story. Every product has a story. How do we put that story into our messaging so that people pay attention? According to Leo Widrich, the author of the Lifehacker article, we do it simply. Apparently our brain has a way of ignoring superfluous words that don’t really help to illustrate the story of the cause and effect being described. To be successful, tell the story, including cause and effect, with enough detail to engage someone, but not with a lot of extra words. Almost like bullet points, but in a story format.

I think back to my early days of selling barcode systems – the features and benefits were easily described with ROI in less than 6 months. However, getting someone to agree to a sale was hard. After I had a nightmare installation and was able to ultimately solve it for the customer, I started relating that story. Suddenly, the close was much easier and my close rate to proposal almost doubled. Looking back, it was because the potential customer could relate to the story, and inside the story was the real pain of the customer. It was the risk of trying a new technology, and the solution was that my team would stand behind them, no matter what, effectively negating their pain by partnering with them for a solution. They were able to trust me and my business offer because of my story.

What is the story of your product or service? Maybe it’s time to tell it in a different way. Think about the deals you have closed. What story did you tell that made a difference? Somewhere in those closed deals are your successful stories. Mine them. Figure out how to connect with your customers through cause and effect rather than simply through features and benefits.

photo credit: Saad Faruque via photopin cc