Why are standup comedians so compelling?

They don’t often have fancy costumes, or props, or elaborate set design. They don’t usually sing or dance, or demonstrate some unique “X-Factor” style talent.

They literally stand in front of a crowd and talk.

Comedians are compelling because they are storytellers. Yes, it helps that the good ones are uproariously funny, but they’re most often funny because they’re relatable. When we listen to good standup, we experience and re-imagine our lives in a new context.

We see ourselves in their stories, and we feel connected. At the very least, these stories are memorable, and they provide us with entertainment. At the very most, we’re moved to action.

And if a good comedian can hold a crowd rapt for an hour or more with nothing but a microphone and some words, you should be able to do the same for your customers — with storytelling.

Why You Need Storytelling

Though consumers (and especially B2B buyers) like to think of themselves as logical, all humans are driven primarily by emotion. And what better way to appeal to emotion than with a story?

Stories are also powerful differentiators. Have you ever heard the advice “just be yourself, everyone else is taken”? Applied to your business, this is sage advice, because the only true differentiator is your unique brand identity. It’s not what you do or even how you do it that makes you truly unique — it’s who you are.

Research has shown that stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts. This could be why memory champions often use narrative techniques to quickly retain large amounts of random information. Just the simple addition of a memorable character to represent your brand can dramatically increase brand recognition. Consider the Aflac duck, which enabled nine out of ten people in the U.S. and Japan to recognize insurance company Aflac shortly after the duck was invented.

Here are the components of a great story, with tips on how to put this information into action for your business.

The Hook

Why is it so important to hook your audience fast? We could serve up stats about dwindling attention spans here, but you’ve heard them before. Instead, we’ll say this: when you’re using a story in your marketing content, your audience probably knows they’re being sold something, and they’ve become really adept at mentally blocking out digital advertisements (banner blindness is a real struggle for digital marketers to overcome).

Your hook has to give them a good reason to pay attention, right off the bat. You could lead with:

  • Intrigue. Make a bold statement or give away the punch line upfront. Make them curious.
  • A question. It could be a compelling question, a riddle, or a complex question with high emotional stakes.
  • Humor. People are more likely to stick around if you’re entertaining.
  • Action. Follow the adage “show, don’t tell.” Lead with something happening.
  • An insanely good offer. Be careful with this one; don’t use false scarcity or urgency (“only ten left! Only 24 hours remaining!”) since your audience will see through these tactics. However, if your offer truly is irresistible, sometimes you can put it upfront — but try to spin it in the form of a narrative (“What’s Mary doing? She’s just getting her taxes done for free.”)

The Muddle

Someone once said every novel should have “a beginning, a muddle, and an end.” The middle is the meat of your content, but it’s the “muddle” because it’s often the hardest part of a story to create. Here’s everything that needs to happen in “the muddle”:

Choose the right characters. Your characters must resonate with your audience. Choose characters who have the same problems, idiosyncrasies, and even appearance as your target market. If you’re telling a true story (in a case study, for example), use photography, real quotes, video, or audio to give your characters a voice. Don’t shy away from humor and authenticity, either. We’re naturally drawn to characters who appear real, with flaws and quirks, then generic or too-perfect protagonists.

Communicate a conflict. Good stories build and resolve tension. What’s the main conflict in your story? What are the stakes — what happens if the problem doesn’t get resolved? The higher the stakes, the greater the tension, and the greater the feeling of reward when it’s resolved.

Include details. They’re more memorable than generalities. Imagine a video story about a tech founder, for example. The founder says, “I was working around the clock for a year to get my business set up.” That’s okay, but what about “one night, I had an important deadline, but my internet went out, so I went to the bar across the street at 1:00 am with my laptop and worked with earmuffs on to block the noise. People were partying all around me, and I was up at the bar, writing a proposal.”

The Takeaway

Good stories follow us long after they’re over. While the first goal is to create a memorable narrative involving your brand or business, the ultimate goal is to move your audience to action. Make it easy for your audience to take the next step by offering a button or link to click, or a number or email to contact. And remember to retarget your market with additional stories, or new stories about the same characters, to solidify brand recognition.

Final Thoughts

The medium you use to deliver your story is every bit as important as the story itself. If you can create a video, try it —  people are especially receptive to stories in motion. But if your audience loves to read, opt for a blog, a social media post, or a long-form piece.

One last note about storytelling. It may be a bold assertion, but we believe you should approach every bit of your content with the question, “where’s the story?” Unless you’re writing a straightforward pricing page, there will almost always be some narrative elements you can use to spice things up and appeal to your audience’s emotions. 

We’re hardwired to pay attention to good stories, so use these three elements in your marketing and sales — and you’ll be on your way to attracting better clients and earning more business.

Author Bio

Amanda Layman is the founder of Tigris Content Marketing, a firm that helps B2B tech companies get more business with showstopping content.