The importance of storytelling for business

by Liz Rodriguez, March 7, 2017

Storytelling for business is essential to branding success

They say a picture paints a thousand words, but unpacking a powerful story can be equally, if not more effective.  At DESIGNHOUSE, we pride ourselves on a “personalized boutique level” of customer service and focus on creating an authentic voice for our brand. Storytelling is placed at the heart of our business model and at the center of all the work we complete for our clients.

Whilst many businesses and brands recognize the value of storytelling, it can be hard to pin down what the term actually means and how best to go about it.

Storytelling for business simply means telling or sharing a story. Storytelling should always be interactive, with the ultimate aim of facilitating a two-way interaction between a storyteller and a listener. Much like the tales we were told as children, storytelling should encourage and stimulate the active imagination of the listener, cutting through any passive barriers, and energetically create a vivid picture or experience for those who are listening.

Research from neuroeconomist Paul Zak has revealed that storytelling evokes a strong neurological response, with our brains triggering the stress hormone cortisol during tense moments, allowing us to focus and produce oxytocin to promote connection and empathy. A happy ending to a story triggers our brain’s ‘reward center,’ releasing dopamine to make us feel more hopeful and optimistic. Whilst not research experts in this particular field, we at DESIGNHOUSE are well aware that storytelling can and should be used as a powerful marketing tool to promote our work, our design expertise and help us emotionally connect with our stakeholders.

A business provides many great opportunities for storytelling. As technology intensifies the power, demand, and scope for us to share our stories. Applying storytelling as a technique has become a key capability for brands to use to drive emotional engagement and share their culture with new and existing clients to aim for a more personalized connection.

But why do businesses need to tell their story? Why should they focus on this particular marketing tool? Stories can transform anything into something significant and help to increase value. As an art form, storytelling helps to instigate and build emotional engagement, a tactic that is seen as vital to help brands achieve winning results and connect on a human level with their customers. At DESIGNHOUSE, we understand marketing and the importance of storytelling and help our clients to identify their voice and communicate it with effectively by storytelling.

Selling an experience and enabling a customer to buy into a feeling or culture is an important goal for all businesses. To achieve this objective, it is important to demonstrate precisely what will be sold. For a high-end wine brand, this could, for example, mean the crafting of a narrative to demonstrate why their new vintage is the perfect accompaniment for a sophisticated dinner party. For a personal trainer, their story could attract potential customers who want a personalized exercise service. And for a sunglasses distributor, their narrative could be tailored to why their eyewear is perfectly on trend.

Whether it is help to refine a brand’s position, provide a portal for business to take place or the ability for a company to effectively target customers with the right tools to seek trade, a company’s story needs to effectively show how their work will create change and positively provide a landscape for their client to reach their business or personal objectives. One of our main goals at DESIGNHOUSE is to ensure the “authenticity”.

Brand storytelling presents a picture of products and services way beyond the quote or project rate. It enables customers to buy into an experience, movement or community, allowing them to be fully immersed into the journey they have signed up for.

Crafting and telling a story places a business directly in the driving seat. It hands them the keys to crafting their unique message and enables their customers to be part of something bigger than just a business. A story of origin can serve as both a road map and a moral compass, helping to play its part in empowering a mix of followers, clients, and networks to aim their sights higher and invest in better products and services.

For a story to be successful, businesses must be honest and transparent. Customers do not want to hear about how a project went smoothly, consequently catapulting you to success. They want to read and understand your wants and the journey, finding out why you started your business, what was the struggle that motivated you, and what in your history makes you unique and attractive to do business with. Most importantly, why a customer needs or would benefit from your product or services.

Quite simply, if you are not telling your story then you are not being honest with your customers. We all want our business to be the very best it can be, and for us at DESIGNHOUSE that means an unfettered, all areas access to what goes on behind our doors in Coral Gables.

The story of DESIGNHOUSE is at the heart of business’s operations. Here’s how and why we tell the unique DESIGNHOUSE story throughout everything we do.

Spotlight on highlights: we are always keen to share the highlights of DESIGNHOUSE’s unique story. Focusing heavily on the work we do for our clients, examples of our expertise and the unique personalized experience that sets us apart. It is evident throughout every aspect of our website, our brand identity, and detailed case studies.

Some of our professional highlights include embracing the position of becoming a player in the field of web technology and digital marketing, growing our varied client base, opening our agency location in Coral Gables and developing our ‘secret sauce’ workflow processes that have been vital to our success. We ensure that these values are present in every aspect of our professional work and business, and we are confident that spotlighting the hard work and time that goes into creating a digital product can help both educate and broaden the minds of our clients.

At the same time, we like to pepper our business highlights with behind the scenes anecdotes, enabling our clients’ to experience the genuine feeling that DESIGNHOUSE is a fun- fast place to work, create a product and provide a boutique experience while highlighting our killer digital marketing and web design services.

How our journey began: we make no secret of our pioneering approach to the way we do business. Our boutique service is also a signature experience, and the common thread uniting all of our employees is our obsession with the user experience. This value is present across all of our work, the background of our employees and importantly, the way in which we present our brand story across our website and social media platforms. The DESIGNHOUSE website was built with a strong passion for communicating our story and with user experience in mind, with easy to navigate menu functions, identifiable case studies, fun employee profiles and simple ways for clients to get in touch.

We also love to share the story of how DESIGNHOUSE was created. Our co-founders Gretel and Liz started the business idea sitting at the table in their small home office. With experience working at a range of small and large agencies, and smaller, independent clients, our co-founders were able to quickly scale the business as a result of their passion, commitment to good customer service and deliverables that were second to none. From small beginnings, great things have evolved!

Gretel Vinas

Liz Rodriguez

Inclusion: our employees are at the heart of our business, and the DESIGNHOUSE storytelling places them at the core. We ensure our staff is part of our story both past and present, and our strong team of six are labeled as ‘Pioneers’ on our website. We encourage our employees to contribute to our blog and social media content, and much of what you see is the result of their creative thinking.

 

Techniques such as Q&As and introductions are a fun way to introduce employees to prospective and current clients and can be an effective technique in breaking down the barriers that sometimes exist at the start of a new working relationship or contract.

Challenges: at DESIGNHOUSE, we do not shy away from the challenges that business owners and creative face. If we are having a particularly stressful day, we will share our tips on taking a break and how we relieve the pressure! If we are working on a tough design brief or problem, we won’t be afraid to talk about our experiences on our company blog or within a future case study. Identifying and sharing our experiences helps us to grow as an agency and fits with our company values of transparency and honesty.

Similarly, we are not afraid to challenge the expectations or requirements of our customers. One specific case that comes to mind is a client who was convinced he needed a website but wasn’t sure what the objective or design should look like. After our consultation, the client later learned that there was much more to just designing a website. Our team provided a strategy on how to effectively guide clients on the website, demonstrating to the clients how this was an essential requirement to good web design and high conversions. We also identified the overall goal that a website needs to have to be successful.

storytelling for businessOur co-founders Gretel and Liz are also open about the challenges they both faced as business owners. Examples include growing the DESIGNHOUSE team from the original duo, dealing with difficult customers and finding employees that share the company’s passion and vision for great design. They also had a good problem trying to identify if to scale the agency and go larger and risk losing their “boutique” touch. Being a business owner isn’t all plain sailing! It’s about navigating the journey and dealing with the challenges that being a business owner often endure.

Our work process: At DESIGNHOUSE we are transparent in our approach to sharing the process behind our work. We spotlight case studies throughout our website, using this technique to successfully sell our expertise and extensive portfolio of work in the design and digital fields.

Our case studies are presented with the ‘Goal, Approach, Processes, Implementation structure (GIPI). This enables us to tell the physical story of our work process and provides customers with an indication of the task we were presented with and the problem we solved.

AWWARDS 2017 SITE OF THE DAY

Spotlighting our recent work with Nikon, we partnered with the iconic brand to create a marketing strategy to help them target the Latin America market. Using the ‘GAPI’ structure, we are able to tell the story of the process behind the projects. From market research to the use of data, client liaison to the implementation of the style guide, this case study approach tells the story of our brand through the way we approach our projects. It also helps potential customers to understand the way in which we could help them, providing relatable examples and a portfolio that they can easily access.

Interactive media: At DESIGNHOUSE, we love to tell the story of our brand in a creative way. We don’t just rely on text. We use photos and videos meaningfully, consistently spotlighting both our work and expertise to demonstrate the very best of what we do. Take our homepage for example. We use fast, sharply edited video to show the types of services we offer, highlighting our portfolio from the very moment a user clicks onto our site. We deploy the same approach across our social media platforms, using video and work based on graphics and had illustrations to not only personalize the user experience but to demonstrate what we are working on and how potential clients can find out more.

We also like to test out new tools to tell our brand’s story. From using Boomerang to provide a fun behind the scenes look at DESIGNHOUSE’s operations, to trialing the latest apps, we’re not afraid to experiment and have fun sharing our story!

Social conscience: part of a brand’s story is how it reacts to and engages with large social and cultural events. We ensure that we ‘give back’ and play our part in America’s society, recognizing the service and sacrifices of others and how we can support each other in these endeavors. From supporting national days of service to remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, DESIGNHOUSE creates a true connection with the emotional importance of our social events and commits to being a part of what shapes us as a nation.

ANDY GARCIA at DesignhouseBehind the scenes: with our followers keen to find out what goes behind the scenes at DESIGNHOUSE, we make a concerted effort to share the fun that we have! We use our Instagram feed to share insights into our company culture, what it’s like to work at the DESIGNHOUSE agency and what goes on at photo shoots, branding exercises and creative marketing strategies for our clients.Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 3.45.56 PM Instagram is a great, visual venue to spotlight the work we do for our clients. We share artistic photos of new logo designs, screen test updated websites, the process of designing wireframes and how we capture our company images for branding briefs. We also use Instagram to contribute our thoughts to the wider design community. From sharing the latest industry publications to snapping a design focused quote, Instagram helps us to visually position ourselves in a competitive community.

And on the fun side, we enjoy using Instagram and Facebook to treat customers to “a behind the scenes” look at DESIGNHOUSE. Whether we share our latest Pokemon Go lunch break capture, or waving to followers on our webcam, we use social media to bring our stakeholders directly inside the DESIGNHOUSE office. We want our customers to be part of our story, and feel part of our friendly family!

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 3.43.35 PMCustomer feedback: we pride ourselves on using customer feedback to tell our story, and place the spotlight on testimonials and case studies to unpick the process behind our work. We demonstrate how we solve problems for customers and the outcome reached, and use their stories to create community cohesion and brand loyalty.

By speaking directly to our customer and sharing their thoughts, we can involve and engage them in the DESIGNHOUSE experience. We value transparency across all aspects of our business and are firm believers that people do business with people and appreciate the bespoke personal attention.

Customer feedback is the ultimate referral tool, and testimonials about our work help to inspire and empower potential customers to think about how we can transform their digital and web presence. We enjoy this forward-thinking approach and love to inspire our customers to travel to new technological worlds and implement outside the box thinking thanks to the potential and power of digital.

CITY OF CORAL GABLES THANK YOU CARDChampagne Veuve ClicquotWe also love to share lovely notes and gifts from satisfied customers- and you’ll regularly see pictures of chocolates, champagne, and cards on our Instagram feed!

To win the next client: storytelling can and should be used as a principle for attracting a new client and ultimately, closing a deal. At DESIGNHOUSE, the feelings of aspiration and collaboration are present in all our pitches to new clients, and we demonstrate how we can use storytelling in their requirements to help them inspire and engage with their own customer base. We think of it as a circle dedicated to the narrative, and a chance to connect with potential stakeholders through the value of our work.

Other venues: as with any good story, you have to tell it to a wider audience to be heard. DESIGNHOUSE aims to share the story of our brand with a range of media outlets. We have been featured on sites such as The Huffington Post and the South Florida Business Journal and have also shared our story with many local Floridian outlets. This targeted media approach enables us to share the journey of our business with both niche and wider audiences, contribute to the digital best practice debate, as well as shaping and building upon our reputation as a trusted digital marketing and creative agency to carve out an important thought leadership presence amongst our fellow industry professionals.

Ambition: DESIGNHOUSE’s story is one of outside the box thinking, and we’re not afraid to show our ambition for pushing boundaries throughout our brand narrative. We use our company’s values and history as an anchor to who we are and the expertise we provide, but we also use what has come before to help propel us to the future. Whether it means offering new services such as social media marketing and Pay-Per-Click services (PPC) transforming the way we deliver our core services or providing add-ons such as social media strategy and content, DESIGNHOUSE is ready and excited to take our brand story to the next, awesome level.

We use our storytelling for business to share the story of our audience and how through our work, we have helped them to reach their business goals. We also use storytelling to find out what motivates them and identify the value of what they are seeking.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 3.45.09 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-07 at 3.40.12 PMOur brand’s story does not remain static. For agencies like ours, it is important to refresh our story as our business evolves, and keep scaling it as our business transforms.

Storytelling is perhaps seen as an ‘old school’ tool, and in many ways it is. We live our lives through the stories we experience and those that we share with others. Other techniques might attract attention but they don’t inspire. This is what makes storytelling so powerful and effective for businesses, brands, and DESIGNHOUSE.

Storytelling will always have a place at DESIGNHOUSE. Whether it is telling our own professional story or the stories of our clients, this commitment to creating an emotional, active and exciting experience is a part of our culture and values. Businesses provide many opportunities for storytelling, and our diverse client base provides us with the daily inspiration to find new ways and new techniques to share these stories with the world. Technology propels us forward into exploring new mediums for storytelling, and as the design industry continues to utilize the unprecedented reach of social media, we look to these new tools to contribute to the storytelling landscape.

Storytelling continues to be an important way for us to convey our expertise, experience, and position in the competitive design and user experience focused tech industry. We enjoy creating digital experiences for our customers, and by placing value on the importance of storytelling; we continue to shape its role and presence for all of our client’s.

A truly transparent and authentic business needs to believe in what they are selling. It is only by telling the DESIGNHOUSE story that we can effectively tell the narrative of our clients.

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