It's been a while since I’ve devoured a novel. That is, until I received Madeline Miller’s book “Circe” over the holidays. It follows the story of nymph Circe, daughter of the titan Helios, who banishes her to an island following some meddling in witchcraft.
As I flipped through the pages, I recognized many familiar faces and tales. Odysseus, the Sirens, and the sea monster Scylla make their rightful cameos. But this time, Circe controls the narrative.
Why am I captivated by her side of the story, when I know how these epics end? We’ve heard them all from Homer. But this version casts the 3,000-year-old tale in a new light.
Circe’s is a story of underdogs.
What does this have to do with business storytelling?
Ok, Greek mythology and business storytelling may not appear to have much in common. But I think there are a few takeaways from these classic stories that can help us tell our own:
Just like ancient epics, business stories need a plot and conflict to keep an audience engaged and help you sell your products or services.
Below I’ve outlined some storytelling elements that have withstood the test of time, and how you can apply them to your business.
Above all, your characters need to be relatable.
Circe held many roles: witch, goddess, mother, outcast, hero. Because of this, different audiences could sympathize with her plights and celebrate her successes (even though we likely can’t relate to life among Olympians).
In business storytelling, your customers and prospects are the main characters! Think how you can tell the story in a way that places this group at the center and makes it easy for them to relate, even if a version of that story has been told before.
Your blog, website, or eBook should appeal to the people most in need of your products or services. Whether they’re in leadership positions, or influencing those in the C-suite, your story needs to speak to their problems with urgency and compel them to take the next step in the buyers’ journey.
Similarly, there are many ways to frame a business story, so pick an angle and run with it! If it doesn’t turn out as you’d planned, you can always try a new one.
In our work with Exceedra by Telus, we created an eBook called “Retail Superheroes” that told the story of Shark Woman 2—an action-packed film that follows the conflict between her and the evil Agent Squid. Shark Woman 2 was such a hit that consumer goods company Farm-to-Go wanted to sell Shark Woman themed products.
In telling this crazy story, Exceedra showcased their AI and Machine Learning technology, enabling the rise of a promotional campaign for the summer’s most exciting blockbuster.
A successful business story requires the identification of your client’s conflict, or obstacles to overcome.
What stands between them and their goals? It may not be the whirlpool of Charybdis, but finding and overcoming pain points can certainly feel like a Sisyphean task.
A strong business story articulates your client’s hurdles, illustrating your solutions in a way few other things can.
Try to present these obstacles not merely as “a problem to be fixed,” but a setback to be conquered!
With Condeco, we crafted three eBooks that showcased their workspace scheduling software through out-of-the-box characters—including a personified office building and even a time traveler!
I already knew how the stories in Miller’s “Circe” would resolve—Odysseus returns home, Scylla swallows ships, Zeus sentences Prometheus for his gift to mankind—yet the story felt new, and the ending felt…novel.
Likewise, your audience may have seen products or solutions like yours before. After all, other companies may have the same main characters, and their audience faces similar conflicts. The resolution is where you get to show off your points of differentiation—those things that resolve the conflict in unexpected ways that will benefit your reader.
We’ve seen many companies excel at thought leadership without overtly selling anything. That’s why we follow the 80:20 rule. 80% of your content should focus on your customers and their experience, and 20% should be about your company. When you can offer a satisfying resolution enabled by your solutions, readers will know to turn to you to find the “mirrored shield,” or other tool or solution that can solve their problems.
With the help of an unexpected protagonist, original services, and relatable—if unconventional—characters, you can tell your story, pitch your solutions, and highlight your values in a more memorable fashion.
So cast out convention and become the hero of your own epic!
Not convinced that your solution has an exciting and fable-worthy story to tell? Schedule time to meet with me and we’ll help you craft a winning narrative that stands out on newsfeeds and moves your prospects through the buyers’ journey.