Running a successful business is all about communication. Reading the customers, negotiating a deal, putting together a compelling offer and motivating a team. All of those demand clear communication. And nothing brings clarity to communication like a compelling, understandable story.
Story is a buzzword in business, but it is also the most powerful tool you can use to connect with another human being. But the story has to be clear and understandable. That was the key message in Donald Miller speech at NBF Helsinki.
If you confuse, you loose!
– Businesses are often too vague to define what the audience wants. You have to be known to deliver what you promise over and over again. And it´s the one thing. Businesses usually offer too many things that confuse people. Give people clarity, not a riddle or noise and they will engage, Miller said.
But how can you build and run a business using storytelling principles?
Miller talked about storytelling that relies on time-tested formulas so that stories are told through a set structure. – This structure brings instant clarity, which is critical, because human brains are drawn to clarity and repelled by confusion. Human brain loves clarity and we pay attention to clarity.That is why a story should be considered as a sense making device.
He introduced a story structure, or formula, that can be used to bring clarity to communication and story telling. It’s like a simple plot outline.
A character has a problem, then meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action. That action either results in a success or failure.
Sound familiar? You’ve seen the same structure in movies like Star Wars. The character Luke Skywalker has two problems: the evil Empire. He is wondering if he has what it takes to become a Jedi. He meets Obi-Wan Kenobi, his guide. He tells Luke he has what it takes and he should trust the Force. Luke leads the rebellion to defeat the Empire, and the result will either be that he destroys the Death Star or that the rebellion will be crushed and the evil Empire will win, Miller said.
So, this is the simple structure and how you can use it in order to communicate more effectively in your business and as a business leader:
- Survive and thrive
Understand what your customers are wired to. They look for things which help them to survive (it has to do with Maslow´s hierarchy).
- Conserve calories
We burn 600-800 calories by processing information. Don´t put people in a position where they have to burn calories to understand you and your story. It´s critical because we want to save calories and shut down the messages in order to survive.
- Find the problem
Never stop talking about customers´ problems. The more clearly you solve the problem, the more interesting you are as a brand. Remember that corporate exist to solve the external problem, but the customers buy to solve the internal problem. What problem do you solve? How does it make people feel? Why is it wrong your customers suffer from the problem you want to solve? Frame your story and offering within this framework.
- Be a guide in the story
Don´t be the hero because they are weak and in need of help. Once you position yourself as the guide, you become more interesting. Feel the customer´s pain. Be the one who gives them a plan towards clarity. Then call them to action by being direct. Encourage them to learn more. Show people how their life will look like when they join you and start using your our product or service.
Photo: Nordic Business Forum