“In a world where people have a lot of choices, the story may be the deciding factor.” Nick Morgan
Do you know the story of a young lion cub who runs away from his evil uncle, encounters a new land and later returns to be king? It’s a classic Disney movie, otherwise known as The Lion King.
But stories are not just for movies. We read, watch, and hear stories every day of our lives: on the street, in the shops and even on the bus.
Businesses have stories too. And smart brands are using them to promote to sell more products.
“The stories you tell about your business, your products, your team, and your customers are what can ultimately persuade people in your target audience to do business with you and not the other guy.” Rob Wormley
But how do you know what stories to tell?
In this article, you’ll learn 9 story frameworks you can use on your ecommerce website. These stories will help you connect with your prospects, differentiate your brand, and ultimately drive more sales of your products.
Stories inspired from your beginnings
1. The humble founder story
Every founder has a unique story to tell of how their company started. To tell a great founder story, write about the vision and struggle that ultimately led to the company’s success. Stay away from producing a dull chronological overview of your company from inception to present-day, and push yourself to create a more personal and interesting narrative.
Why it works: This story explains why your product matters by describing why it was created in the first place. It might be a personal experience of the problem your product solves or a vision of a better world (or home, or workplace). Sharing your humble beginnings also enables you to connect with prospects on a personal level.
Example: Warby Parker was founded with the rebellious objective to overcome the problem of expensive eyewear. Inspiration for the business came from personal experience with this issue. One of the company’s founders lost his glasses on a backpacking trip. Facing steep costs as a poor grad student, he couldn’t afford to replace them.
How to do it: Go back to the company’s roots and ask yourself: How did you come to start this business? What were the breakthrough moments or unique circumstances that stimulated its establishment? Pick out the highlights, and weave them into your own story.
2. The visionary purpose story
Every company has a purpose. Use story to help your customers understand the company’s reason for being and vision for a better world. Like the founder story, the purpose story also looks at the company’s roots but is forward looking (in contrast to the founder story which looks backwards).
Why do it: Sharing the company’s ‘big picture’ vision will inspire people to support your venture, including prospective customers, partners and employees. Using a purpose story also helps your ideal customer understand why your product was made for a person just like them.
Example: Hiut Denim tells the story of how they re-employed people who lost their jobs when the factories closed. They go on to explain their vision to make jeans great again by leveraging local talent in the town: To bring manufacturing back home. To use all that skill on our doorstep. And to breathe new life into our town.
How to do it: Ask yourself why your company was founded. What problem were you trying to solve or mission did you aspire to achieve? How are you continuing to contribute towards that goal?
Stories inspired from your customers
3. The customer transformation story
Inspirational stories are the hallmark of many classic tales and blockbuster movies. Brands tell inspirational stories about their customers through the transformation their products enabled.
Why do it: The customer transformation story enables your ideal customer to recognize their problem and learn about a specific solution. Using story enables you to present a strong visualization of the solution which they can imagine in their own life.
Example: Nerd Fitness uses case studies of their customers to demonstrate the transformation that customers experienced after joining the academy. Before and after body photographs supported by month-by-month progress reports present a vivid illustration that the fitness academy works.
How to do it: Identify a specific problem faced by your ideal customer. Highlight the struggle they go through to overcome it. Close your story with a resolution in the form of your product. Use the BAB formula (AKA, the before, after, bridge formula) to help you (Campaign Monitor)
4. The customer lifestyle story
Companies claim to know their customers well. They create buyer personas, track their behavior, and answer their questions. But only some really connect with their audiences. Those that do use story.
Why use it: Producing interesting stories on topics your customers care about enables them to emotionally connect with your brand.
Example: YETI sells coolers. But they tell stories about adventure and survival in their entertaining videos. Why? Yeti coolers are built to last, but at $300 plus they are not cheap. Their customers are serious hunters and fisherman who care about having the best gear, and are willing to pay for it. Their films show how their products fit into the adventurous lifestyle of their customers (Luna Data Solutions). Whilst YETI is branching out to a wider audience, they continue to tell the stories behind the struggle to persevere whatever the situation.
How to do it: Explore the everyday challenges, tasks and goals of your typical customer. Pinpoint a particular aspect and use story to tell the fears, rewards and challenges they encounter.
Stories inspired from the day-to-day business operations
5. The evidential maker story
Give people insight into the day-to-day operations that keep your business moving. If you use traditional techniques or make handcrafted products, a visit to the factory floor would be an interesting experience that informs people about what makes your product special.
Why it works: The story of how your product is made can provide evidence why your techniques or materials are superior. If time-consuming or technical processes are involved, these stories give justification for paying a premium price.
Example: Dodocase makes iPad cases by hand using traditional techniques. Their videos show how they make their cases. The individual attention at each stage of the manufacturing process demonstrates how each case will be unique.
How to do it: Do a personal tour of your workspace, explain the different types of equipment you use and the processes involved to create your product. You can use recorded or live video to do this.
6. The everyday employee story
Humanize your business by taking a look at the people inside. Give a behind the scenes tour of your office or introduce one of your employees.
Why use it: People are wary about sharing personal details with people they don’t know. Using stories about your employees shows the people behind the company, which helps to build trust. Employee stories are also a great way to share your unique company culture, which can set your brand apart.
Example: Cisco empowers employees to be the voice of the company by encouraging them to create content. Every day on Snapchat, a Cisco employee will takeover the channel to produce raw unscripted content. They also feature employee photos and stories across their different social media networks and their blog.
How to do it: Display a variety of perspectives by motivating employees from different departments to get involved. You could invite employees to participate in a short video interview or encourage them to contribute to the company blog.
Stories inspired from outside
7. The worthy altruistic story
Consumers are becoming ever more ethically concerned. Contributing towards a positive cause that resonates with your target market can therefore be a key differentiator. Use story to illustrate the positive impact your corporate social responsibility activities make.
Why do it: 56 percent of international online shoppers are willing to pay more for products from companies that make a positive social or environmental impact (Nielson). Sharing stories about the individuals you have helped is a more interesting way of demonstrating your contribution.
Example: For every pair of shoes they sell, TOMS Shoes donates a pair of shoes to a person in need. They have evolved to help improve health, education and economic opportunities across the world. TOMS Shoes share stories about the causes they support and the impact they have had on their website and on social media.
How to do it: How does your company support good causes? Whether giving donations or supplying volunteers, you can share stories of how your employees helped members of the local community in your blog content and on social media.
8. The impactful influencer story
As natural storytellers, influencers are ideal candidates for telling meaningful stories that resonate with your target audience. Before jumping to celebrities, consider micro-influencers. An influencer with a smaller but loyal following is usually a more effective way to reach your target audience. They deliver higher engagement and social buzz and are a trusted source of recommendations for their audience (AdWeek).
Why it works: Using an influencer gives you access to a large audience of engaged fans. When an influencer endorses your product, you also gain the trust and confidence of their fans to purchase.
Example: The ASOS Insiders Community are a group of young fashion enthusiasts who post their outfits on social media. Each has a distinct style, offering fashion inspiration for every type of ASOS customer. Customers can discover new fashion ideas and learn about the influencer’s inspirations through short stories in the captions. They can even buy the outfits direct from their account (ReferralCandy).
How to do it: Identify a well-known influencer in your niche that uses your product, and ask them to provide a story detailing their experience. To create highly effective stories, follow these tips. First, leverage influencers directly relevant to your product. That means, people who actually use it and are keen to endorse it. Second, let influencers tell their own story in their way. You could let influencers share their honest experiences using your product or a personal story featuring your brand (Forbes)
9. The trusted partner story
Suppliers, contractors and other partners are often essential to the functioning of your business. They can offer unique perspectives that provide a great source of stories for your brand.
Why it works: Transparency is essential to building trust. Being open about who you work with and how you work together enables people to understand how your business works. Showing how you build sustainable relationships with suppliers boosts brand image and enables you to command a premium price (Spend Matters).
Example: Blue Apron delivers the ingredients and recipes to create gourmet meals. All people need to do is cook. On their website they tell their story of a vision for a better future and invite visitors to join the movement. They explain how they are working with farmers to help build a better food system for our communities and the environment. This blog post tells the story of farmer Rogelio Bautista and how BlueApron has supported him.
How to do it: Work closely with your partners to deliver a better solution to your customer. Use their stories to show how the work they do helps to create a better product.
As business becomes evermore global, customers are no longer restricted to buying products from the local store. They have opportunities to buy products from across the world.
To stand out, you need to differentiate your brand. Story isn’t the only way to set your brand apart, but it’s a good start.
“People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. A nameless, faceless corporation with no real purpose, no story, is not an inspiring place to be.” Paul Smith, an executive coach, former director of market research at Procter & Gamble.
Remember, customers have relationships with people, not brands (CMI). You need to leverage the different people that support your organization to share their unique stories. So, talk to your customers, employees, and partners. And let their anecdotes inspire a whole new story.
How do you leverage story to promote your brand? Share your experiences in the comments.