20 tips for telling business stories about 2020

8 min read
Matthew Pattinson

We’re going to be telling stories about 2020 for years to come. It has not been the year anyone expected. Hopefully, businesses will be able to find some silver linings in the clouds of doubt and confusion and the stories we tell will have happy endings.

Maybe your business has pivoted into an exciting new area you’d never previously considered. Maybe you’ve reassessed the priorities for your business. Maybe you’ve decided that now is the time to realise that side hustle you’ve long been dreaming about.

There are so many stories to tell about the changes your business will inevitably have made, stories that your customers will understand and identify with in this most extraordinary of years. But, how are you going to tell those stories?

Here are 20 pro-tips to help you turn your 2020 into business stories worth telling.

Sensitive stories

Any business has to be sensitive to the needs and experiences of its potential customers. That’s a given. But, this year, it’s particularly important. Your customers will have had a range of responses to what’s been going on in the world - from crippling anxiety to driven positivity. If customers want to talk about it, let them. And, by the same token, you shouldn’t shy away from talking about the year you and your businesses have had in your content marketing.

1. Be sensitive: You don’t know how close your customers have been to COVID-19. But, you do know they’ve been affected by it in some way. This doesn’t mean every story you tell has to be directly about the pandemic, mind.

2. Be positive: Accentuate the positive in your storytelling. It hasn’t all been bad, this year. There has been a genuine sense of togetherness and of community. Many businesses have embraced flexible new working practices that they will continue, moving forward. Meanwhile, in your personal interactions with customers, simply providing good service, a warm smile or a kind word can shine light into the darkest of days.

3. Be together: Everyone has been touched by the pandemic in some way. In that sense it has brought us together, even as it has kept us physically apart. If your stories share in that sense of shared experience, then your stories will feel more inclusive and, hopefully, appeal to more potential customers.

4. Be optimistic: There has been much to appreciate about this year - from the heroism of the front-line workers, to the technological leaps that protect us every day, be that contactless payments or video conferences from your home office. Technology has allowed us all to adapt to the new world. That’s a positive and optimistic thing.

5. Be distracting: People appreciate a distraction from the pandemic. If you make jewellery, say, or run a coffee shop, you may think that’s become irrelevant in a pandemic. You couldn’t be more wrong - people need treats and distractions now more than ever.

How to create stories

Throughout the year, we’ve addressed some of the key elements of storytelling, to help you create better social media posts, blog posts, landing pages, ‘About Me’ pages, product descriptions or advertising copy.

For example, we discussed ways small business people can use storytelling.

Let’s quickly revisit the nuts and bolts you need to build a perfect story:

6. Characters: The story has to happen to at least one person. If you want people to feel involved in your story, you need a character they can identify with, so they can put themselves in that person’s shoes and go on a journey with them.

7. Conflict: From a storytelling perspective ‘conflict’ doesn’t necessarily mean a fight. It means there is an obstacle to overcome or a problem to solve. The conflict is the struggle to defeat that obstacle or problem. The greater the conflict, the greater the satisfaction when it is resolved.

8. Resolution: Not every ending has to be a happy ending - but, if you’re selling your products or services, it’s probably a good idea to show how your business helped bring about a satisfying resolution. After that, your call to action is you stretching-out your hand to your potential customer and saying, “Now, let me help you, too”.

In order to get the best responses to your stories, you need to make them compelling. So, there are some questions you need to ask yourself:

9. Is it entertaining? People need to stay until the end, otherwise they won’t hear the call to action, and won’t buy your products. They won’t hang around, if they’re not entertained.

10. Is it educational? Does it tell people something they didn’t know; something that’s in their interest; something that will encourage them to buy a problem-solving product from you?

11. Does it have universal appeal? Is it a story that a lot of people can relate to? Does it deal in situations that many potential customers will face and deal with emotions many people will feel?

12. Is it specific? While you want to talk to as many people as possible, you don’t want your message to be bland or generic. So, deal with a specific problem or a specific obstacle. Customers are wise enough to work out that if you can solve problem A, you can probably also solve a similar problem, B.

Who are you telling your stories to?

Earlier this year, we looked at the value of creating customer personas and the ways they can help you understand who your customers are. This is useful because, if you know who you are talking to, you will have a much better idea of the type of marketing stories to tell.

13. What is a marketing persona? A marketing persona is a profile that can be used to represent part of your target audience. You will possibly have a range of customers who buy different products and services from you for different reasons. It’s best to create a marketing persona for each of these groups, so you can tell appropriate and effective stories.

14. How do I create a marketing persona? This can be a really fun and insightful exercise. Team members who deal directly with your customers will often have the best insights, so a receptionist or sales assistant may provide some really insightful information.

15. Don’t forget to ask your customers: It’s always wise to conduct some research to inform your personas. Depending on how you interact with your customers, you could simply ask them about themselves and their lives. Or, you could create customer feedback forms, put a survey on your website or utilise the power of social media and post out some polls.

Social media stories

With 3.5 billion people on social media it’s a great way to share links to interesting content on your website, whether that be blogs, company news or product information.

We’ve written before about the value of social media as a way for businesses to connect with their customers.

It has possibly never been more important than it is right now to reach out to your customers through this informal channel of communication.

16. Engage with your followers: Using what you know about your customers, through your research, create the right content for them and you’ll build strong, long-lasting relationships which lead to brand loyalty and increasing purchases over time.

17. Go live online: If you find that your customers are missing their one-to-one interactions with you - why not arrange an online event they can attend through Zoom or social media?

By using social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram you can keep your audience informed, entertained and engaged. Such interactivity with your customers keeps your brand fresh in their minds.

18. Drive traffic to your website: It’s also really easy to measure the responses you get to anything you post on social media. Through careful analysis of your posts, you can see what content is working at what time, with what particular demographic. This is something you can keep in mind going forward and factor into your social media strategy.
Great storytelling never ends

19. Always be experimenting: Whatever storytelling method you employ, if it’s working, keep going. But, by the same token, don’t put all your eggs in the same metaphorical basket. Explore the various functions on your social media channels. Start conversations, utilise hashtags, reach out to others in your community or industry.

20. Never give up: Whatever medium and method you use to empower your stories, don’t get disheartened if you don’t get a flood of enquiries straight away. Content marketing is a slow and steady race. Every social post you compose, every hashtag you employ and every blog you post is another step on the journey.

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