Jennifer Aaker

The power of story

Whatever success I’ve had at CRN is because I told a good story.

I tell stories to job candidates, CRNers, prospects, the public, clients.  I tell them when I teach, when I pitch, when I create.  Stories are not part of the fabric of CRN, they are CRN.  After all, CRN is a collection of thousands of stories.  Stories are our product, and how we talk about it.  Stories are in our memories and are added to every day.

Without stories, there is no CRN.

I tell stories about talking my way in to see the president of New England Mutual Life; interviewing Ralph Nader and forgetting to turn on the record button; flying across the country on a whim to see a potential client who failed to show up for the meeting; getting sick on a van (mostly others tell that story); meeting Hugh Jackman, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter; getting stuck on a ski trail that led to CRN’s development of Ski Watch; creating a candidate for UConn student president that never existed—it doesn’t matter.  I tell stories all the time.  Some funny, some unbelievable, some boring.  But there is always a story.  And they all count.

If you can’t tell a story, you can’t sell.

The good news is everyone can; everyone has and tells good stories.

We would not be able to create successful client solutions—the engine of our business—without telling and hearing stories about our clients’ consumers; how they spend their days, their lives; how they work and play driving to work, picking up the kids; their relationships, their habits; and how we, on behalf of our clients, interact with those consumers to make a client’s product part of their lives.

Credibility and trust are often gained through stories—sometimes through narrative, sometimes through analogies, sometimes by relating our own personal experiences.  It could be a story about how we came up with the idea or even what happened at breakfast. In the context of a story, it’s easier and more effective to weave in facts and statistics to build a case in a less jarring, more natural way. Prospects need to like us and believe us. Capabilities decks don’t do that; stories do.

As Jennifer Aaker, Professor of Marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business, explains, “A big idea is not enough. Your big idea needs a story.  Stories fuel innovation.  They hold the power to take listeners on a journey that changes how they think, feel or act.  Studies show we are wired to remember stories much more than data, facts, and figures.  However, when data and story are used together, audiences are moved both emotionally and intellectually.  Harnessing the power of stories will enable you to be more persuasive, move people to action.”

Imagine a room full of people, all eyes on you and nary a bullet point in sight.  No one is checking iPhones, Facebook or LinkedIn.  You’re controlling the room, heads are nodding, they’re leaning forward—no scowls, just intensity—and, like watching House of Cards, they can’t wait to find out what’s next.  Now imagine that translating into more business, more meetings and happier clients.