storytelling for business

How does storytelling connect a business to its customers? How do you carve winning stories into your content? How much of your storytelling should be fact and how much is allowed to be fiction?

Back in late 2013, Groove’s founder, Trent Dyrsmid, interviewed Joe Mechlinski from Joe shared many of his strategies from his New York Times bestselling book, Grow Regardless: Of Your Business’s Size, Your Industry, or the Economy…and Despite the Government!

This post pulls some of the best nuggets on using storytelling for your business to improve performance by attracting and retaining more clients. The lessons are timeless.

Storytelling for business – how a good story resonates with people.

joe mechlinkski on storytelling for business
Joe Mechlinski

The first thing a company needs to figure out is how to tell their story.

Our human brains are wired for stories. In the B2B world we love solid tactics and strategies. We love writing content in a how to or step by step but this can get boring really quickly. The tactics and strategies need something to make it exciting.

An extra ingredient.

That is where using a story makes you memorable, exciting, and relevant.

Here’s an example:

We have strict rules about physical fights in office hours or on work premises. Regardless of this we do have the occasional office brawl. We truly are a passionate bunch and emotions can get a bit out of control sometimes. Today during lunch one of our writers got a tooth knocked out and it landed in the empty fish tank next to the coffee machine.

Compare that to:

We are passionate about content marketing.

Sure, you can survive without a good story. Especially if you are established as a large company. But why, when you know storytelling works so well would you want to? A good story will make your company outlive and outperform your competition. A good story will create a buyer’s experience that will take your customers on a magic carpet ride and they will love you for it.

How to create a good story: The three essential ingredients

1) The Who

Not the band. Who are you writing content for? Who is your audience? If you don’t know who you’re creating content for it is impossible to know what stories they will find engaging. This is where you want to keep your personas in mind.

2) Conflict and drama

There needs to be a major fight in the first paragraph of your posts. You don’t have to take this literally like we did. The battle can be against or between abstract concepts like the status quo or high costs that you want to cut. If there are no hurdles to overcome or enemies to conquer the story is boring.

Now how do you possibly tie this in when writing business content? This can be challenging. If you are selling small business accounting software it might be a struggle to work in conflict and drama into your content. You could make the antagonists the business challenges your customers are experiencing and the conquerors your clients.

If you make a compelling first paragraph with something exciting that has an element of storytelling the chances are less that your audience will switch tabs back to YouTube. It doesn’t have to make immediate sense to the audience. You can tell them what your first paragraph was really about later in your writing. This concept called The Reveal adds extra drama in a story.

If you are creative you can weave this into your business content. How do you become creative? Take this advice from Einstein:

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. – Albert Einstein

3) Characters

a good mascot tells its own storyA business mascot is an example of storytelling. The character creates something that people can relate to and instantly recognize. Edgar is a new social media management platform that pulls off the mascot pretty well. They make a big deal about their cute little mascot called Edgar, an octopus. I have to say that this really does make their marketing copy memorable.

If your product isn’t the most exciting in the world you can start small. Add an element of conflict and character to your technical how tos or create a mascot. Make the frequently asked questions a case study rather than just the normal question with a step by step answer.

Like the Yahoo questions and answer style where the people asking the questions have a name and a cartoon avatar beside the question. Just start. Storytelling is an art. You have to practice it like any other skill.

There are no rules in storytelling for business

In storytelling the fewer rules there are the better. A good story is unpredictable. So be unpredictable. Something is considered art when two things that don’t generally mix are mixed or paired together. Like business and storytelling nowadays. A massive opportunity exists to stop being boring and start being relevant.

Storytelling ethics

How much of your storytelling should be fact and how much is allowed to be fiction? A good question. Obviously you can’t lie about results your customers got from using your product. That is just plain bad business conduct.

If it is not misrepresenting facts or stats about your product but used to convey a certain idea like to spice up a trouble shooting manual or to help you in a hypothetical study it is fine to use a fictional character in fictional circumstances. Apply common sense here.

creating a fictional story for your businessIn case you’ve been wondering, there were no guys fighting in the office. We don’t have an office, we work remotely. I made that up to illustrate that we are not perfect at storytelling but we are making an effort to practice what we preach. The hypothetical guy got his tooth knocked out because he wasn’t using enough storytelling in his content (cringe worthy, I know.)


The best story usually wins. In business and in life. It’s not about pricing or features.

If you think about it we can all come up with examples of where we bought something for a higher price for more or less the same product because it just felt more fun or satisfying to buy from the company with the stronger brand or story. Use this to the advantage of your company by starting to get creative. Bring some color back into your company with the art of the story.