How to Turn Storytelling into Your Greatest Competitive Advantage

Why did Harry Potter get sugar-addicted kids to read 600-page books, but you can’t get customers to read your emails?

Because effective storytelling is hard. It requires strategy and precision and emotional connection. 

But a business that captures a fraction of that power captures the market. It’s why Americans spend $275 billion on ads every year. 

Here’s how to capture some of that power.


Say Your Story Out Loud.

The story you “tell” about your business informs people how to feel about you, how to talk about you, and, ultimately, if they spend money on you. A story’s effectiveness isn’t in just what’s being said, but how it’s being said. It involves strategy in terms of syntax, tone, repetition, medium, format, and all the other small details that make up the greater whole. 

That’s all to say: stories go deep. You only have to get a tiny bit better at this to gain huge benefits. 

Here’s how to get 1% better at conveying the story you want: Tell the whole story of your business, out loud, to someone you trust.

The first step to improving your story is understanding your story. 


Give Your Story ‘Teeth.’

Something amazing happens when you watch a movie, read a book, or listen to music that conveys a powerful story. You get goosebumps. 

Bear with us — that’s way more practical than it sounds.

Goosebumps are a remnant of your predator-detection system. When our ancestors had more fur, they sometimes wanted all that fur to stand on end so they would appear bigger. When confronted with a tiger, for example, you wanted to seem as large as possible, so the tiger might decide you aren’t worth the trouble.

How strange is it, then, that your hair stands on end when you notice something you enjoy in a story? Why do you feel, deep down, good stories are like a predator? This stuff is deep, but understanding it gives you a massive leg up.

We need stories to protect us. Protectors need to be strong, not harmless. Your business is telling the story, “My product/service can make you more comfortable/safer/less stressed.” Well, it better have some teeth then, right? 

While it’s tempting to make your business statement feel harmless and safe, what you really want is some passion, conviction, and maybe a little danger. Without that, people just aren’t going to trust you. 

Here’s how to show that your story has some teeth: Write out your mission statement.  Then, read it to people. Does it sound formidable, or does it ring false? If false, why are you holding back? What do you really want to bring to the world with your business? 

Here’s the mission statement for Casper, a bedding company: “To awaken the potential of a well-rested world.” For a company that makes foam rectangles, that’s got some heat to it!


Put Your Finger on the Pulse.

If you don’t believe how hard it is for people to change in simple ways, look at the comments when they change the UI on Instagram. (Spoiler: people hate it.)

People are only willing to come together and change their behavior through a good story. 

If you want to change the corner of the world (however small) your business hopes to change, you need the power of story. You need people to understand what new world you are creating so that you can convince them to let go of their old world. 

That’s no small ask. Here’s how to get a finger on the pulse: Ask your best clients what they think your story is. What convinced them to let go of their old way of thinking to trust your business? That’s a gold mine of information if you can get it. 

Often, others can see us more clearly than we can see ourselves.


Don’t worry– nobody has mastered this stuff completely. 

It would make a massive difference if your business got 1% better at storytelling. Not only in your company culture and company reach but in your bottom line, too. 

If there were a perfect formula for a good story, no start-up would ever fail again. We would be done.

That’s good, then, that we’re not done. That we still need people like you reaching out, trying to figure out how to tell a good story about your work.


Here’s the TL;DR (plus two extra) of the things we discussed above. If you take the time to go through these earnestly, we find that you will have a deeper sense of your story–where it could improve, where your strengths lie, and what might be missing. Simply keeping that in the back of your mind as you go about your business can make for big shifts in the long term. 

  1. Tell the whole story of your business, out loud, to someone you trust.
    Who are you here to serve? Why? Why you, now?
    Notice where you get excited and where there are possible gaps to fill. 
  2. Write out your mission statement.
    It does not have to be perfect. With stories, we find it’s best to start with something imperfect and make it better over time. 
  3. Ask your best clients what they think your story is.
    Often, others can see us more clearly than we can see ourselves.
  4. For deeper dives, read this book by Seth Godin (and other books) on storytelling and marketing.
  5. Hire an outside firm to help build your story (like us!)
    If storytelling truly isn’t your strong suit, hire someone else to help. 


Let us know in the comments what your story is.