Branding and storytelling go hand in hand. Like chocolate and peanut butter. Both have the power to supercharge your marketing individually, but when you put them together you get the Reese’s Pieces of assets: a brand story. Creating a brand story is one of the best investments you can make in your business. It doesn’t have to be hugely time consuming or expensive, it simply takes thought, strategy, and someone who’s a halfway decent wordsmith.
The best brand stories are so compelling they actively convert your audience while you sleep. Literally, as you are sleeping, the content you have created to convey your story will convert new customers, generate new leads, and inspire your target audience to get in touch and ask to work with you.
How do I know this? Because I invested in a cracking brand story of my own and precisely that happened. Still happens, in fact, on a weekly basis. I’ll wake up to an email in my inbox from someone who has read a blog, or seen a social post.
What does all my content have to make it that compelling?
Storytelling. A consistent narrative. A strong brand story.
Of course, telling your brand story is the easy part, writing it can be a little trickier. Here are my top tips for building a brand story that actually converts…
What Is Brand Storytelling
Before you start creating a brand narrative it’s important to understand what brand storytelling actually is. A brand story is a hugely important part of your marketing strategy. It’s not just the copy that appears on your About page. When done well, it’s a thread that weaves its way through every element of your marketing.
Stories sell. Corporate storytelling is a way of structuring your content so it is more appealing, more compelling, and more powerful. If you’ve ever seen me give advice on how to write blog posts, you’ll know one of the big things I focus on is ensuring that when you write your blogs you include a compelling narrative in each. A story.
It can be as simple as talking about opening your email in the morning and finding you’ve generated new leads in your sleep. It can be as abstract as using the perfect pairing of peanut butter and chocolate, and your personal favourite sweet treat to explain a concept.
Or it can be an in-depth story that walks the reader through real life events and a full anecdote. That story may take up a good chunk of the blog, starting in the intro, with each new section furthering the tale in a small way, before the conclusion tells the reader the end.
By the time they’ve read the full blog they’ve had the full story, but in the process they’ve also been given all the information you needed to convey. And they enjoyed reading it. Not only that, they’re more likely to remember it because it was embedded within the framework of a story.
Tips For Building A Brand Story
If you’re looking for a guide on creating your brand story in a literal sense of how to write it, check out my post on how to craft a powerful brand story; this walks you through the actual writing process. In this post I’m more concerned with helping you to ensure the story you create genuinely converts your audience.
Anyone can tell a story. Anyone can write about how their business started or what they’re hoping to achieve through it. The fact you’ve written a brand story doesn’t guarantee it will do what you need it to, which at the end of the day is make you more money.
Writing is a fine art. It’s a craft. But there are elements of writing for marketing that require you to be a little more practical. Like ensuring you optimise your content for search. You don’t want to stymie the creative process, but at the same time your writing needs to have the right foundation and structure to do the job at hand.
Which means you need to build your brand story, with purpose and planning. These tips are geared towards building a brand story that is not only powerful and compelling, but actually capable of boosting your bottom line.
#1 Start By Understanding Your Ideal Client
Before you start to do anything marketing-related it’s worth taking a look at your ideal client. Even if you already think you’re sure who you’re targeting, have another look. If you get this part wrong, you’re screwed. If you get it right but don’t go into too much detail, you’ll do okay. If, however, you have a truly deep understanding of your ideal client, what motivates them, what inspires them, what troubles and haunts them, you’ll be far better able to create a narrative that speaks to them.
It’s like being a romance author and not understanding that your audience loves smut. You’re writing compelling tales of chaste intimacy and star-crossed lovers, but all your readers give up halfway through because what they really want is dirty, dirty sex. Understand that at the start, and you write a completely different book.
#2 Define Your Purpose Or Mission
There are two sides to this coin. First of all, you need to understand what you’re trying to achieve by building your brand story; is it increased visibility? More sales? Repairing a damaged reputation? Building trust in your brand?
Secondly, you need to have a clear understanding of what your brand stands for, what your mission is, something beyond ‘I want to make money’.
#3 Write Your Brand Origin Story
Creating a story for your brand usually starts at the beginning, with the basics. How did it all start? It’s astonishing how many businesses never address this in their marketing. There’s no mention of how or why the company was founded. Some have the foresight to realise the year they began can have relevance, but many do not leverage it for anything more than demonstrating expertise (we have over a decade of experience!), or getting people enthused about the fact they’re on the cutting edge (we’re Start-Up of the year!).
Where’s the rest of the story? Who started the company? Why? Was it tough at first? How has it transformed the lives of its founder(s)? How much progress have you made since then?
Go back to the beginning and tell your origin story. This isn’t the entirety of your brand story – not by a long shot – but it’s the foundation to building the rest of it.
#4 Your Brand, Your Story
Remember, it’s your brand, your story. Creating a brand narrative hinges on authenticity and transparency; you’re not going to create an authentic brand storytelling by misrepresenting yourself. And the trouble with embellishing the truth, or outright fabricating information, is that the world will find out.
The internet has made it alarmingly easy to find out all kinds of facts and information about you, particularly if you own a business. Whether you realise it or not, you’re all over the internet. Profiles on LinkedIn and other social media platforms, and other information you’ve shared with the public. Stuff people have posted about you, with or without your permission, positive or negative.
#5 Ensure Consistency In Your Voice And Visual Branding
Nothing will trip you up faster in your quest to create a compelling brand story than inconsistency. Your About page says one thing, your sales page contradicts it. Your website is written in a highly formal tone of voice, while your blog is super chilled and peppered with swearing.
When it comes to writing a brand story, there are no rules on what you voice should sound like. The only rule is that it should consistently sound the same, not only throughout any storytelling you do, but every piece of content, in every format imaginable.
You will also want to ensure your visual branding has the same consistency, but more than that, your visual brand should ideally be a reflection of your brand story in some way.
#6 Get Inspiration From Interesting Brand Stories
It’s easy to get stuck on your brand story with no real idea of how to make it interesting. After all, it’s just life. It’s just business. It’s just doing what you do. What’s interesting about that?
So many brands struggle with this, especially if they don’t feel their industry or niche is interesting or sexy. And let’s face it, most of the stuff we doing in our businesses each day are far from sexy. Two things to remember here, firstly, you find it mundane because it’s run of the mill to you. It’s the daily grind. Even if you LOVE your business it will still become monotonous at times. Secondly, we are frequently the last people to find anything remarkable about what we’re able to do.
Personally, I find firing off a 2.5K blog post in an hour or two to be utterly unremarkable. To the novice writer, however, that kind of content creation can take days. My mother is always astonished at my ability to be given a topic I know nothing about, and have a perfectly penned, longform article about it complete in a few hours. To me, however, this is normal. It’s what i do all day, every day.
It’s like breathing. Utterly unremarkable.
You need to get out of your head and your perception of yourself and your business. Try looking at other brands in your niche, check in on their brand stories. How have they made them interesting? Relatable? Funny? Dare I say it…sexy?
Don’t copy them; that defeats the purpose of writing a brand story to begin with, not to mention it won’t do you any good, and it’s rude. But look at how they’ve drawn a compelling story from the dull everyday doing of their businesses. Consider how you might do the same.
#7 Play On Their Emotions
The best stories make you cry. Think about it, how often do you find yourself tearing up over your favourite TV show, or a really good film? Sometimes it’s heartbreakingly sad, other times it’s so flippin’ joyous you could just burst. But one way or another, great stories elicit strong emotions. Yes, that can be sadness, but it can also be joy, elation, hope, relief, amusement, and so much more.
Make sure your brand story packs and emotional punch somewhere along the way. It needs to really hit home. This is usually best done while describing a predicament you used to be in, or used to see people in, and contrasting it with how your business and what you do have completely changed that, either for yourself or others.
#8 Incorporate Social Proof And User Generated Content
Telling your story is powerful. Other people telling it to you is often far more influential. Social proof is vital to any business – it’s why we ask people to review us, leave feedback, fill in questionnaires, and recommend us.
It’s one thing for you to say you’re great at what you do, but it’s a whole other kettle of the swimming thing s if someone else says it. Of course you’re going to say you’re great. You want people’s business. You don’t go to a job interview and talk about how much you suck. No, you big yourself up. And your prospective employees take all you say with a pinch of salt, until they call up your references and hear all the same glowing praise from other people.
Incorporate social proof in your brand story wherever possible by sharing reviews and feedback. Better yet, get them to create content of your own which adds to the narrative.
#9 Don’t Forget Your SEO
It’s easy to get so focused on the fact you’re creating a story for your brand that you neglect other elements of the story building process, like optimising your brand story for search.
How exactly do you do this? Well, the specifics of how to do SEO are a far larger topic for another time, but in essence, you need to ensure that each asset you create as part of your brand story is optimised for a relevant search term.
For example, your About page should be optimised for high traffic keywords that describe what you do. The type of searches people would run when looking for someone who does what you do. They land on your About page knowing nothing about you, and swiftly learn that, yes, you’re the perfect person, or have the perfect product.
Including SEO in your content also applies to social media, which frequently relies more on well-optimised captions than it does hashtags.
#10 Tell The Stories Of The People Behind The Brand
Who founded your company? What’s their story? What about your employees? How do they fit in? Including mini-stories for the people at work behind the scenes in your company is a great way to flesh out your brand story.
After all, whatever your company story is, it wouldn’t be the same if it had been founded by other people, if it was run by other people. Take the time to write individual bios for each team member, tell their individual stories and how that entwines with your overarching brand narrative.
#11 Create A Brand Storytelling Strategy
Once you actually have your brand story crafted, don’t just whack it up on your website and leave it there. You need to create a strategy that takes advantage of this new business asset you’ve created. Brand story marketing is powerful, but you need to be proactive in utilising your brand story through branded content storytelling.
In other words, don’t allow your new brand story to be confined to the About page. Weave elements of it through all new content you create. Create other pieces of content that specifically focus on your brand story and sharing it. Having content for all your channels which effectively conveys your brand strategy gives you a multi-channel voice which amplifies your brand message.
#12 Take Advantage Of Storytelling On Instagram And TikTok
Some social media platforms – Instagram and TikTok in particular – are incredibly popular for short storytelling content. Reels and TikToks both provide a very brief glimpse at interesting stories. There’s a reason we’re all riveted to our phones, endlessly scrolling.
#13 Launch Your New Brand Story
Don’t just roll out your next blog post or social post like everything’s normal. You’ve been creating your brand story to use it, and the very first thing you’re going to do is LAUNCH it. Now, you may not have thought of launching anything like a story before (not unless you’re an author). You think of launches as being the province of new products or services.
But remember, your brand story is a business asset, and you want it to have the biggest impact possible. That means launching. Add it to the website, and let people know you’ve updated the site. Record a video telling the story and add that to your website. Chop bits of it up to create social media posts. Do a Live Q&A and give people a chance to ask you anything about the tale. Get creative.
#14 Utilise Your Analytics
Don’t forget that you can test and improve your story by using your analytics. Once you’ve fully embedded your story throughout your website copy, use analytics tools like HotJar to show you hot spots on pages, areas that get the most attention and action. Use your onsite analytics to tell you which pages and posts are performing best, and pay attention to the social posts that do well. Which elements of your story are going viral?
#15 Adapt And Evolve Your Story As You Grow
Add to your brand story as you go, by creating new ‘chapters’ for it in the form of fresh content. That content might expand on elements you’ve already written, or add entirely new dimensions. Pay attention to customer feedback and use it to inform your story. Stay on top of the latest trends, advances and changes in your industry and as they reshape your business, or change your trajectory, adjust the brand story so it remains current.
The storytelling of a brand says far more about the business than most people credit. Yes, there’s the obvious literal message conveyed by the story itself, but there’s also a lot more lurking beneath the surface. Great brand stories are like the proverbial icebergs; fun to look at up top, but so much more going on underneath.
Building a brand story that converts on a large scale really hinges on finding the right balance of ‘me, me, me’ and ‘it’s all about you’. A while ago I wrote a post for my new website which tells the story of how I started my own business, and grew as an entrepreneur. That particular post resonated so well, with so many people, that it became the opening chapter to my (forthcoming) book, Divine Blogging. But it wasn’t a powerful piece of writing because it talked about me.
Yes, it clearly did, quite a lot, but the true power of it is that so many others recognised themselves in my words. They felt the pain of the predicaments that led me to rock bottom because they’d had similar experiences and also had to pick themselves up after, or they were currently experiencing similar things and couldn’t see a way out. They found my outline of a clear path to emancipating myself inspirational, not because of me, but because it gave them a roadmap to follow out of their own issues. It gave them hope for a solution to their problems, and clear action with straightforward steps they could take to achieve their own dreams.
It was about me, but really it was about them. When you’re creating a brand story to convert people – to get them to buy your thing, subscribe to your service, hire you, or learn from you – that is the true key. Tell your story, but make it all about them, and the powerful change saying yes will create in their lives.
And, of course, if you just want someone else to do all of that for you and build you the perfect brand story to convert clients, get in touch. I’m more than happy to oblige…