The Power of Storytelling as a Marketing Tool

Melissa Fach

Jun 26, 20207 min read
Storytelling Marketing

Storytelling sounds easy, but it isn't. Businesses are always trying marketing strategies they read about or have been told to try, but effective tactical execution requires experience. And real experience only comes from trying, testing, and even failing until the right audience is reached, and the right results are achieved. 

We want you to avoid wasting time experimenting, so in last week's #Semrushchat, our team asked Brian Fanzo and our community the following questions: 

We tried to include a variety of helpful solutions below that we thought could offer strategies and ideas any business could use. 

Why is storytelling important for business?

"I believe the future of marketing is RELATABILITY especially in our digital noisy world and to be relatable you must be authentic and engaged and there’s no better way to do that then telling a story!" — Brian Fanzo

"Because storytelling makes the connection between a brand and its audience. It's like a bridge that makes the customer attached to a brand on an emotional level." — Estelle Van de Velde

"Storytelling is what makes you unique. Everyone has heard the same '50 years in business...' 'Best quality...' No one cares to hear this anymore. Telling actual stories through content is what creates a true connection." — Stevie Howard 

"Storytelling can help people relate on a personal level to your business. This is a far deeper connection and can help build lasting relationships." — Brian Kato

"People don't buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it. Storytelling gives your brand personality - what makes you different from your competitors? " — Yellowphin Digital Agency

"Storytelling for a business is a great way for that brand to stand apart but to also connect to their audiences with an emotional connection and to relate." — Bernie Fussenegger

Once you have decided to create a storytelling strategy, what are the steps you should take?

"Storyboard the story. Choose audience segment(s). Choose which channels those segments are active with. Decide the best way to tell the story on those channels. Produce creative. Launch (ok, I skipped 'review' steps). Analyze. Repurpose and launch again." — Diana Richardson

"I see many founders solving problems for themselves instead of for others. When you’re too focused on one STORY you miss the opportunities to expand into new audiences and find scale. The world doesn’t revolve around YOU. Get outside yourself and help others!" — Mark Gustafson

"Define your storytelling style and stick to it. Choose how you would like to 'reveal' your story. Do you want to make it available all at once and stand your ground or slowly tell your story so it can be conformed to your audience over time. Neither is wrong, btw." — Maddie Clark

"Decide which themes and values to focus on in your story, decide which media will serve as the best conduits for your story, use sample audiences to test the likability of your story. Always reassess at every step in the process." — Green Rope

"Take a deep look at your audience to find what stories can bring value. Define your message. Create / imagine different stories and check what type of content (video, blog post...). Is the best to help you tell the story." — Joana Rita Sousa

"Write the end message and what I want the audience to take away from the story. What I want the audience to do after reading it. Then work backward to outline the story. Then flesh out the draft. Get pictures, video, record. Storyboard. Story. — Dr. Amrita Basu

value proposition storytelling

What are the essential questions to begin gathering your own stories?

"What do you sell that makes you different? How do you help your customers? Why do customers come to you? Look at your data. Surveys. Polls. Speak to your customer service team. What do you do that brings people to you? Once you know that, you’ve got a start!" — Catherine Pear

"This is a question that I ask at most client meetings. Surprisingly, the answers vary. What problem are we trying to solve?" — Marianne Sweeny

"Start documenting what stories in your life both in business & personal resonate with you the most... Then take those elements & connect them to your brand story! Also, look outside your industry for inspiration; don't limit your opportunity for inspiration!" — Brian Fanzo

"Essential questions for your own stories. What is your why? Why would people be interested? What is your message? Who is your audience? What is the medium to use? How is your message going to make others feel?" — Bernie Fussenegger

"Where did we start? Origin. Why did we start? Original Purpose. Where did we go from there? Purpose development. Where are we headed? Development continuation. Why would you want to hear from us? Continuing Relationships." — Sarah Marks

"What do I want my audience to know? How do I want my audience to feel? What journey do I want my audience to follow? What do I want my audience to take away from my story?" — Moni Oloyede


brainstorming infographic

What are the possible forms of storytelling available for any business?

"User-generated content is a great way of storytelling as potential customers get a taste of your brand experience. It increases engagement, builds trust and expands your reach." — Yellowphin Digital Agency 

"Influencer Marketing is a great form to tell your brand story… Because it’s coming from someone with built in community trust! Also, remember that an influencers value can be sharing the story on their own channel & the brands channels!" — Brian Fanzo

The form of storytelling depends on the platform & action. Video is the most common and working format for brand building. If you are looking at capturing leads visuals & texts would be the best forms to tell why your business matters." — Sagar Mandal 

"Please don't forget people who prefer to read things, not watch or listen to them! And, your employees should also be sharing your brand's story when they interact with customers!"— Julie F Bacchini

"UGC is by far the most cost-effective way to get storytelling content. Especially if you are a small business that doesn’t have a huge budget for things like video, etc. UGC makes customers feel involved and part of the brand. And it gives your brand a human face." — Catherine Pear

"Stories can be used in LOTS of ways: In-person with customers, Blogs/on-page content, Video Podcasts, Images/graphics, and Campfire conversations." — Fistbump Media


What resources on marketing storytelling would you recommend to go deeper into the topic?

"Seth Godin has a FANTASTIC podcast called AKIMBO. Go check it out. All about positioning and strategic storytelling. Make a difference and communicate effectively with your audience!!!" — Mark Gustafson

"A good library. To really get the best from a story you need to research everything. So many stories we see on the web from ‘reputable’ news channels have no substance at all. You can beat those with a bit of work. Get to know your topic well." — Simon Cox

"Avoid all of the books around storytelling that confine to a particular style or discipline. Podcasts such as The Moth and Snap Judgement are great ways to learn how to craft a narrative that produces emotional and tangible results." — Marianne Sweeny

"For this, look at your own buying train of thought. When you buy something, ask yourself why did I buy this? Bc of the story, the branding, the platform you found it on? Explore your own buying journey to understand business storytelling." — Maddie Clark

"@AdobeSpark and @Cerosdotcom are two great places to start for growing your storytelling capabilities and crafting engaging stories that resonate." — BrandExtract

"The best sources of stories are people. Get on the field and talk to your customers about challenges in their business." — Sagar Mandal

Additiional Reading: 

Youtube video thumbnail

Do You Have Any Storytelling Tips?

Please share them in the comments below. We also want to thank everyone that participated in the chat. Join us every Wednesday at 11 am ET/4 pm BST for #Semrushchat on Twitter and gain insights from some of the best marketers in the industry. 

Author Photo
US Personality of the Year 2017 Winner and die-hard Star Wars fan. Herder of cats. Non-cook. Find me on Twitter @SEOaware.