In 2009, a New York Times journalist Rob Walker embarked on an experiment to see if storytelling was a powerful commercial tool. He wanted to do a controlled experiment where success could be measured in monetary terms. He called it his Significant Objects Test (www.significantobjects.com).
He bought two hundred objects on eBay each object costing approximately $1. He then sent an email to 200 writers and asked if they wanted to participate in the test where they would write a story about each object. One object was a snow globe that had the state of Utah on the base. The snow globe cost 99 cents. Blake Butler wrote a story about a box that his grandfather's grandfather kept under his bed…you will need to read the rest. The snow globe was sold for $59. A total of $129 was spent on the 200 objects. The total proceeds raised from the sale of these objects were $8,000. The total return on investment was 6,101 percent.
Storytelling releases dopamine. This is the same chemical released into the brain when you fall in love. Most men can testify how after watching a James Bond movie, you want to go out and buy an Omega watch and a Saville row-tailored suit. This makes absolutely no sense. We all know that Bond is the ultimate escapism. We know that a fancy watch and a tailored suit are not going to lure a Russian goddess into your car, but dopamine and suspense make us do crazy things.
When you first meet a prospective client, there are three things they ask themselves:
1) Who are you?
2) What do you have?
3) Why do I care?
Storytelling is a powerful way to raise that dopamine and build trust and confidence as you answer these three questions. Use this opportunity to tell your story. The key ingredients of a good story are the following: be clear, be authentic (bullshit does not fly), have a clear outcome, be consistent and make it relevant. Telling a story about how you stapled your small toe to a barstool during a drinking game may not be relevant or appropriate.
So why should you become adept at telling stories?
1) Breaks down barriers
When you tell stories about your life and experiences, you show a human side of you that deepens your connection with the recipients of the story. You can tell them how you started your business or what brought you to a new city. These stories make you human and help you build connections.
2) Simplify complex ideas
I understand things through examples. When people tell me what they do, I ask them to describe to me their typical client or normal day in the office, or who their competitors are. I think in terms of real-life examples or stories. It helps me to understand complex and unfamiliar things.
Everyone loves a good story because they are engaging. The reason we love going to the movies is because we love being transported into a different world that is removed from our current reality.