What is Business Storytelling? The Results

Business StorytellingAs you might be aware we define Business Storytelling as ‘storytelling with a business purpose and for business results’. So what results can a purposeful business story deliver?

Take for example a client of ours, Michael Brandt, who is a Regional Branch Manager at a bank.  Michael was responsible for 20 branches and at every branch, he had the same problem. His staff never seemed to meet their weekly targets of referring quality sales leads to the sales department.

He continuously talked to his team, and every time, they told him they knew what their targets were, and the importance of referring leads to the sales department. In fact, their targets were even linked to their annual performance bonus!

His staff told him that it was the one task they hated doing.  For two years, Michael had this problem, and by his own admission, had tried everything. His frustration was tangible and you can imagine how frustrating it must have been for his staff as well.

During one of our workshops, Michael constructed the following story:

When I was a kid, I hated Brussels sprouts. Every time Brussels sprouts was served at dinner, I always left the Brussels sprouts till the end (of course I always hoped I could get away without eating them).   My mother would never let me leave the table until I ate them.

One day, when Brussels sprouts was on the menu (yet again), I decided to eat them straight away so I could sit back and enjoy the rest of my meal. Do you think we could approach our quality sales leads targets like Brussels sprouts? We all know we can’t leave the table without eating them. Do you think we could get them out of the way early in the week and then sit back and enjoy the rest of our week?’

Two weeks later, we saw Michael at a follow up session where he told us he had been to 11 of his 20 Branches, and narrated his Brussels sprouts story. Michael advised us that in all 11 Branches, for the first time in two years, they had achieved their quality sales leads targets. We asked Michael if he had done anything different in those 11 branches (apart from telling the story) to which he replied ‘No, the story was the only thing I did differently’. He then told us that the term ‘Brussels sprouts’ had also become short-hand within the team for their sales leads: ‘How many Brussels sprouts have you eaten?’ ‘I have already eaten 3 today and it’s not even lunch time!’

Being consultants we took full credit of course for Michael’s success!  His story worked because everyone can relate to it, it taps into a universal human experience of being forced to eat your vegetables by your mother.  At a subtler level Michaels’ story carries a layer of empathy in it.  Through the story he is saying it is OK to hate stuff in life but that doesn’t mean you can get out of doing it.

Michael used ‘Brussels sprouts’ for 6 months as every time he did it gave him powerful results. This is an example of how storytelling can work for you, if done purposefully.  Here is another case study across an organisation of the results purposeful storytelling achieved.

What is Storytelling’? What is business storytelling?


Business StorytellingSix years ago when we founded our company specialising in storytelling there was no entry in wikipedia for organisational / business storytelling.  So we seized the mantle and put in this definition ‘Business storytelling is storytelling with a business purpose and for business results’. WHOA! While that entry has long since been added to, amended etc, we still find it’s the most practical definition for business storytelling that resonates with our clients. In this post let’s explore the purpose part of the definition.

Do you remember Alice in Wonderland where Alice asks the Cheshire cat “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” and the Cheshire cat replies “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” And Alice “I don’t much care where ” to which the Cheshire cat replied “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”  Unlike Alice, for you to be successful with your business storytelling you have to have a clear purpose in mind.

You as the storyteller have to always be able to answer the million dollar question ‘Why am I telling this story?’  ‘What is the purpose of this story?’  And unless you as the storyteller are able to answer this in a clear and compelling fashion, guess what your stories won’t work.  It’s as simple and as hard as that.

Here are some examples of purposeful storytelling and in the next post we will look at the results part of this definition.

Only The Real thing will do

Nordstrom’s and a 100% service

Copper head snakes

it’s OK to be out of control sometimes

What do you think?, Please post a comment

Rhinos on skateboards! Grabbing attention with your message

Business StorytellingIn the visual clutter that is our world,  the simple poster ad for Yarra trams immediately grabbed my attention.  If you live in Melbourne, you have probably seen it .  The logo and poster campaign use a silhouetted rhino on a skateboard as a public safety message. The campaign was designed to prevent pedestrians (distracted by mobile phones etc) from being hit by trams.  But it’s different from your conventional public safety messages.

The insight that a tram weighs the same as a herd of rhinos allowed for an original delivery of the message. It also targets 18 – 30 year olds the demographic most commonly hit  by trams but who do not respond to authoritarian messages.

The purpose and the target audience explains the quirky campaign.  Compare this public safety message with a more conventional one from overseas on the same issue.   This  more conventional poster might work but it wouldn’t have hooked me enough to read the rest.Business Storytelling  And that’s the first step – you have to be able to cut through the clutter and grab your audience’s attention.

But we will know that the rhino campaign has really worked when a young person approaches another person at a tram stop and says…

“Can you tell me when the next rhino is ?”

Have you got any examples of attention grabbing messages?  Please comment.

Dogs in sinks AKA a new customer service story

I am on the market for a laundry sink.  Recently we spotted a sink we both liked but my husband who has the spatial skill set in the family was uncertain if our dog Ace could fit in it.  No please do not ring the RSPCA yet, but be warned a moment of TMI (Too Much Information) follows.

We wash our dog Ace, in our laundry sink.  After measuring the sink and then returning home to measure our dog we were still unsure.  The next time we were the store we again agonised over the sink.  This time a salesperson overheard us and interjected to say ‘ We want to be sure you will be happy with your sink, so please bring your dog in’.  So early on Monday morning I took a freshly brushed for the occassion Ace to the showroom and trotted with him inside.  The assistant held Ace while I took a photo to email my husband and viola – perfect sink, and perfect fit for our dog, the true end customer.  Another salesperson who was there said as a joke ‘Now I have seen everything!’.

Now I have the perfect sink for my dog and a perfect customer service story to share in business to boot..my cup runneth over!

Have you got an ace customer service story? Please comment.