How to Reach Your Customers with These 3 Storytelling Principles

Interview with Tricia Rose Burt

Episode Description

How can a professional storyteller help you grow your business?

Business is about persuasion. You need to convince people they need something you offer.

The hard truth is that people are rarely moved to purchase something by looking at a list of product features, a chart of facts, or a spreadsheet of data. If you want to connect with your customers, you’ll need to do it in a way that tugs at their emotions.

It’s only been recently that psychologists have really begun to study the persuasive effects of storytelling, but the verdict is out:

Storytelling is the most effective method of bringing about change.

So, you’re going to need great storytelling techniques whenever you talk to your customers. And I’m so happy to introduce to you someone who can help.

Tricia Rose Burt is a professional storyteller who is going to share with us the simple yet super powerful principles of story. You can apply them to almost any communication you use in your business.

She’s my guest on this week’s episode of the Building a StoryBrand podcast, and she’s going to walk us through 3 key principles that must be included in the stories you tell.

If you’re in business, then you’re in the storytelling business, and you’ll want to sit up and pay attention because this is some really powerful stuff.

Tricia gives us so much valuable advice. I summarize the key points here but to get all the benefits of Tricia’s wisdom, listen to the full episode sometime this week.


Principle #1: Use Theme to Connect to Your Customer’s Emotions

When you read the word theme, you’re probably tempted to stop reading this post because it brings you back to those long, boring English classes.

But don’t run away. I promise I’ll show you how theme is not very complicated. If you understand theme and use it with your customers, it will help you reach them in a powerful way.

Tricia gives theme a simple definition by differentiating it from the word plot.

“There’s what happens in the story and then there’s what the story is about,” Tricia says. “Those are two different things.”

There’s what happens in the story and then there’s what the story is about.

Theme is what the story is about. For example, If you were to listen to Tricia’s story How to Draw a Nekkid Man, you’d realize that what happens is a businesswoman decides to go to art school.

But that’s not what the story is really about. It’s about Tricia trying to find fulfillment through art. When Tricia shares about how insecure she feels because the rules she’s always followed don’t really apply in art class, the listeners are drawn into her story. It resonates with everyone because we’re all trying to find fulfillment and sometimes we have to overcome our insecurities to find it.

When you’re talking or writing to your customers, it’s important to understand what their story is really about and speak to that. To do that, you need to tap into the deeper levels of problems your customers are dealing with.

For example, your customer may be looking for lawn care. But the story is about longing to be the envy of the neighborhood.

So often, we can get caught up in the plot of your customer’s story: You need lawn care. Buy my lawn care service.

But when you start including the theme of the story — how your lawn care service will help them find fulfillment in becoming who they want to be (the envy of the neighborhood), your customers will perk up and listen.

When you’re talking to your customers, what’s the theme? What’s their story really about?

Principle #2: Follow a Narrative Arc to Help Your Customer Envision Transformation

When Tricia is sharing a story, she always follows a pattern called a narrative arc. She starts out by describing who she was in the beginning and, by the end, she’s changed. A transformation has occurred through the events she’s narrated.

Transformation is the key ingredient in any story.

This has powerful implications for your brand. One of the first things we ask you to do at a StoryBrand workshop is to identify who your customers are before your product and who they are after. Your goal is to help them transform through the products or services you offer.

You can identify your customer’s transformation by asking yourself a few questions.

The first one is easy. What does your customer have before they engage with your brand, and what do they have after?

If you sell lawn care, your customer begins with an unkempt, out-of-control lawn. After they do business with you, they have a beautiful, lush, green lawn.

Transformation is the key ingredient in any story.

The next questions go a little deeper. Before they do business with you, what are they feeling? How do they feel after doing business with you?

Before, they feel embarrassed and frustrated because their lawn is an eyesore in comparison to the rest of the front lawns on their street. After, they feel proud and relaxed because their lawn is beautiful without all the hassle of lawn care.

When you take your customers through a narrative arc and help them see the transformation in store for them, they begin to believe in themselves and trust you to guide them through the process.

Who is your customer before they do business with you and who are they after? What transformation does your brand help bring to your customers?

Principle #3: Explain the Stakes to Keep Your Customer Interested

Tricia says it is crucial to let the audience know what the stakes are right away.

Loosely defined, stakes are what can be won or lost by a character’s actions.

In Tricia’s life story, she’s feeling disappointed in life and tries to find fulfillment by trying something new — art classes. This action challenges many important beliefs she’s held about her upbringing, her livelihood, how she gains approval, and her marriage. Will it all be worth it? Will she get what she’s searching for?

Stakes are what make a story. Without them, there is no story.

“Something must be won or lost,” Tricia says. “Little wins and losses along the way are what keep people interested along the way.”

So how does this relate to how you speak to your customers?

Stakes are what make a story. Without them, there is no story.

Remember, you customer is a character who must take action to do business with you.

What can be won if they engage with your brand? What can be lost if they walk away?

When you communicate with your customers, it’s very important to paint a picture of success. Show them all that can be gained when they buy your product or services.

Help them imagine how proud they’ll feel when their lawn is lush and green and how relaxed they’ll be without the hassles of weed killing and mowing.

It’s also just as important to alert them to the negative consequences of doing nothing. While you don’t want to be heavy-handed, your customers need to know that lawn care will continue to be a frustrating and fruitless struggle if they don’t do anything different.

Don’t forget about stakes when you communicate with your customers. Keep them involved in their story by reminding them there is something to be gained or lost.

How can you help your customers imagine a successful outcome by engaging with your brand? How can you alert them to the negative consequences of doing nothing?


I find it fascinating how the art of storytelling is so applicable to the way we communicate with our customers. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? Since storytelling is the most powerful sense-making device for the human brain, it fits that storytelling principles will work everywhere, from artistic performances like Tricia’s at The Moth to how you talk about your business.

I hope that as you learn about these 3 principles of story, you’ll integrate them into how you speak to your customers. When you do, you’ll motivate your customers to transform their lives in a powerful way.


Your Guide to Being a Better Guide

Ready to grow your business? My new book, Building a StoryBrand, teaches you how to clarify your marketing by using the principles of storytelling. After learning the StoryBrand Framework, you’ll have a competitive advantage in your field.


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