Learn the Value of Stories in Business
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- List the ways storytelling is used in business.
- Summarize how stories help create a company image and brand.
- Explain how stories make complex information memorable.
- Recognize how stories evoke emotion and inspire action.
- Describe how Salesforce uses storytelling.
Storytelling Is Big Business
We’re surrounded by stories every day—we read books at bedtime, catch up on the latest news during our commutes, and watch entire seasons of our favorite shows in one sitting. We relate to one another by telling the tales of our personal challenges and triumphs and laugh together as we share memories.
Stories are more than just entertainment—they play a crucial role in allowing us to understand, escape from, and connect with the world.
Storytelling is so effective and influential, in fact, that businesses rely on it every day to create value and drive engagement. Specifically, businesses use stories to:
- Create a company image and brand.
- Make complex information memorable.
- Evoke emotion and inspire action.
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these uses.
Stories Create a Company Image and Brand
Storytelling in business often starts with a company’s story. That story includes the company’s history, mission, vision, values, customers, employees, and value proposition (what makes the company’s brand unique compared to the competition).
A company’s story is important because it:
- Makes the company appealing to customers.
- Endures changes in technology and evolves with the times.
- Attracts new employees and helps current employees feel connected.
Companies put a ton of research into finding out what their customers like. Then, they build a story around it—a brand story—and a “customer experience.” These stories get customers to connect with, and ultimately buy, their products over all others.
A company story can help a business endure and evolve with changes in the world. Because of technological advances, products can become obsolete quickly. As a result, companies are learning that a company story with longevity is nearly as important as the products they sell.
Not only does a company’s story attract customers, but it also attracts employees. It communicates the value of the company’s culture and why people want to work there and helps people envision what it would be like to work at the company themselves. A great company story also rallies the existing workforce and makes current employees feel valued and like they’re part of something larger.
Stories Make Complex Information Memorable
In addition to using stories to build a brand, companies use stories because they leave a lasting impression. According to a Stanford study*, stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts and figures alone!
This happens because your senses and imagination take over when you read or hear a story—even a company’s story. Rather than trying to make sense of the facts, you experience those facts. And that experience is vivid and memorable.
* “Stories stick and there is the science to prove it,” FIPP, August 15, 2016
Stories Evoke Emotion and Inspire Action
Neuroscience imaging shows that when you hear facts and data, only two parts of your brain are engaged. But a story activates seven different areas of your brain!* It’s no wonder, then, that all of the neurological activity sparked by a good story also stirs up a lot of emotions.
Brand stories—and the emotions evoked from those stories—have a big impact on consumers’ decisions. By sharing the right stories, businesses can tap into shared experiences, create customer empathy, and ultimately compel customers to act (in other words, buy).
* “What a Good Brand Story Does to Your Brain,” Brand Foundations, April 6, 2007
Stories Are the Currency of Salesforce
Now that you’ve seen how effective stories can be in business, it should come as no surprise that storytelling is a huge part of our culture at Salesforce. As our Chairman, Co-CEO, and Co-Founder Marc Benioff puts it: “Stories are the currency of Salesforce. It’s how we measure and communicate success, inspire customers and ourselves.”
For example, at Salesforce, we have entire teams dedicated to writing stories. We partner with our customers to better understand their challenges and celebrate their successes through our customer success stories. We carefully craft narratives within our product demos and presentations that address our customers’ pain points, aspirations, and goals, and give them a look into how Salesforce can transform their business. Our senior leaders share stories about important experiences and lessons learned that have shaped their leadership practices. And our internal Inside Salesforce blog—which serves up inspiring employee profiles, company news, career advice, and valuable resources—brings our stories and culture to life every week.
And we can’t forget Dreamforce, the ultimate expression of Salesforce’s story. Everyone walks away from this multi-day event feeling as though they’ve been immersed in our brand narrative and company values.
Why is Salesforce so invested in storytelling? That’s easy: We recognize that it’s a powerful force for bringing companies and customers together and inspiring change in the world.
In the next unit, you’ll learn how people leaders can use stories to inspire their teams and create a culture of storytelling.