Marketing and Sales – The Power of Narrative and Storytelling

What's the Story, Peter? Copyright 1999-Twentieth Century Fox-All rights reserved

What’s the story—the real story—of your business?

I’ll tell you what it’s not:

It’s not the one on your “About Us” page on your company Web site. Not the generic, voiceless, lifeless biographies of your CEO/CIO/CTO/CFO/CMO.

It’s not the marketing blurbs and buzzwords your sales people use every single day.

It’s not the operations metrics, the TPS reports or financial statements.

Here’s a glimpse of what it is:

It’s what your employees tell their friends about how they came to work for your company, and why they’re still there.

It’s the reason why someone actually cares about what you have to say, and why it holds any value.

It’s the reasons decisions are made the way they are. Why consequences of the company’s actions—both good and bad—are deemed acceptable.

We’ve all read business self-help guides, the stereotypical “pep talks” for being a better manager, a better sales rep, a better citizen.

If you take out the tips and tricks, the statistics, the calls to action from a book like that, what are you left with?


The story of a problem, and how someone solved it. The story of how a group of managers found themselves after being lost in the wilderness. The story of how a once great company fell like the Roman Empire, the story of how a scrappy startup finally made it big with vision, a little luck, and infinite quantities of hard work.

Everything we hear, we learn, we assimilate, we turn into a story.

A narrative.

As human beings, it’s just our natural make-up. Gas prices don’t just go up and down, we create an elaborate tale of environmental concern and British Petroleum malfeasance to justify the change.

When someone asks if we like a restaurant, we don’t respond in terse, one-sentence answers. We talk about the ambience, the experience, how we found it in the first place, the events of the night that took us there.

In everything we do we create stories, threaded, intertwined histories of events, colored by our perceptions, that create the order and structure of the information we process daily.

This idea permeates the very core of marketing. When we find a product we like, a company we respect, an idea that drives us, we want to know its story.

We want to glimpse the vision of how they got there and why. We want to connect it to ourselves., because it’s how we create structure and value our own lives.

A story takes something abstract and humanizes it, because narrative can’t be decontextualized into catch phrases and spin. The stories we tell are real, natural, and genuine. For a brief moment, a well-told story puts aside marketing buzzwords and “sales pitch,” it leaves the behind the false facade of “brand awareness” and “product engagement.”

When told with power, clarity, and similitude, the story of a business and the people behind it becomes a real, concrete tool to creating new customers.

Find yours.

Write it down.

Then share it with your employees and prospects.

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