Storytelling can be a powerful tool for your small business or organization.

Stories have the ability to humanize your business, allowing customers to connect with you on a deeper level. And as a small business, you have a huge advantage over large corporations because of the way you’re connecting with your customers every day.

In our last Periscope Q&A, I sat down with content developer, Miranda Paquet, to discuss storytelling in content marketing.

Learn all about what storytelling is and how you can best utilize it for your business below:

(Can’t see the video? View it here.)

Why would a brand utilize storytelling?

Stories are really important because they draw people in, if you think about that last book that you couldn’t put down or that TV show you were binge watching — stories are really good for bringing people in.

Businesses always want to reach new customers and connect with the ones that they have so stories are great for that. They’re also super memorable so if you think about all those stories that you have from your childhood, stories have a really good lasting power.

Lastly, they help you stand out from your competition; there are always going to be new businesses out there who have a new approach but no one has your unique story so that’s a big differentiator for you.

How does storytelling connect to content marketing?

Content marketing is all about connecting with people, getting them to know, like, and trust you.  With storytelling, you’re really showing the human side behind your business.

You’re reminding your customers that it’s not just a product but it’s something that people are working really hard at and there’s dedication there.

You’re really making that product come alive for people and that’s a really great thing because people want to purchase products or work with people that they trust.  You’re developing this really good loyalty and you’re making your product actually meaningful, which is really important.

How do you go about storytelling?

There are plenty of outlets for storytelling right now especially with online marketing.  A great place to start is your website. Go to your About Us page and read it out loud to see if it sounds authentic.

Does it sound like you or does it sound more generic like it could be any business?

You really want to make sure that your own personal stamp is on it. Think about when you first started your business, what you were telling friends and family, what that initial spark was. Make sure that you’re putting that in your website and that theme is really coming out.

You want to make sure that your story isn’t static so that’s where your blog comes in. You should constantly be publishing these new stories whether it’s a customer profile, some kind of a case study or an employee profile, there are so many different ways.

You can also take typical customer questions and put your story there. Once it’s on your blog you can put it on your social media and your email and the story just really becomes a real community.

How do stories differ from testimonials?

They are pretty connected, but testimonials can be just quotes and with a story you have more options. You can get dialogues, characters, and conflict — all these really exciting things that draw people in.

A testimonial is a great starting point but if you can really flesh out that story more with a bit of an introduction and say how your business fit in. If there was a certain challenge that they were facing and your business helped them with that, really flesh that story out so it’s applicable to other businesses as well.

How do we go about storytelling at Constant Contact?

We love stories here at Constant Contact, mostly because we love our customers so much and they have amazing stories.

One of my favorite parts of my job as a content developer is when I can reach out to our customers directly and either chat with them on the phone for a few minutes and crack their story and then either put it on the blog for a customer success stories.

Those are great for when our prospects come onto the blog and see businesses that had similar challenges that they do and how we helped them.

We also launched a podcast last month called Small Biz Stories and that has been amazing. We’ve gone onsite with our customers and really given them a chance to share their story and their words.  There’s a little less distance than writing and crafting a story on your own when you’re really getting in their words.

It’s a really great community and we’ve heard from other small business owners that it’s really relatable. They’ve been able to connect with this community and not feel as alone. It’s been a really great resource and a ton of fun as well. I have listened to them a ton of times but I don’t really get sick of them because stories have this emotional component to them so I still find myself laughing and nodding along and smiling.

Do you have any examples outside of Constant Contact with storytelling done well?

Yes — one of the companies that we interviewed for the podcast, The Concord Cheese Shop. The whole reason that we initially reached out to them is because we read their newsletters and they had this really affective way of writing a newsletter.

Their specific tone and voice were coming through.

Another customer that I interviewed called The Local Good said that when her customers read their newsletter, they heard her voice in it, her inflection and her tone. Whenever you can make it super personal and it sounds like you’re just talking to a friend, that’s what you’re trying to achieve.

On our blog when we tell customer stories — how are we using our customers and how does it benefit them?

It’s really good exposure for customers and they find it really flattering when you feature them because it shows that you really care about them and that you’re interested in hearing what their unique story is.

They see that you’ve taken the time to really listen to them and they feel really connected to you that way.

How can other businesses learn from these stories?

The thing about stories is that even though they are very unique and personal, there are always these common and relatable themes.

If you see a story up on our blog, we try to work with a ton of different industries. If you see one of a yoga studio and you also are a yoga studio, you’re going to say “Oh okay, so this company gets me.”

That’s why stories are so important — they’re particular but they also have these relatable themes. Whenever you can show that you’re a business that really cares, connects, and understands a specific industry, you’re going to draw more people in because they’re going to feel like you understand them.

Is there one thing that you would say everyone needs to know about storytelling for their business?

Obviously I love writing — that’s my favorite thing and where I get a ton of energy. I think people sometimes get really intimidated if writing isn’t there strong point and I would say don’t because there are so many different ways that storytelling can take shape.

For example, if you’re not really confident in your writing ability but you really like taking pictures — that’s great because a picture is worth a thousand words. I’ve seen a ton of businesses take a picture or share an older one as a ‘throwback Thursday’. If your business has expanded a lot but you remember when you were first getting started, you can share that with a small caption, so you don’t really have to be a wordsmith.

You can do that or you can do videos — Instagram videos are only 15 seconds. You can shoot it on your phone and talk to an employee — ask them to give their name, their role, and what their favorite part of working for you is. It only takes a minute but it really humanizes your business and puts that connection out there.

Are there any no’s when it comes to storytelling?

A lot of things are pretty safe but if there’s one thing that I would say make sure that you’re always talking to your customer. You can get wrapped up in your own story but you don’t want it to be one-sided.

You want to make sure that you are always showing your customer how they fit into your story. Make sure that you are talking to them and that they don’t feel isolated. They may start to tune you out if it becomes all about you.

How could someone get started with storytelling?

The easiest way is just to think about the stories that you’re already telling at your business. Think about what their questions are and the specific explanations you’re giving with that personal touch.

Write a blog post about it — it can be 500 words, you can take a quick picture about any kind of experience or product that you were talking about. You can share it on social media, share it in an email newsletter and I think you’ll be surprised what the exposure is for that.

Be sure to follow us on Periscope @ConstantContact and look out for some more live streams coming soon.