RE: ROI of Business Storytelling: Story of Horse Bust.

Have you ever experienced the web as a powerful tool for connecting people?

  • Yes: continue reading.
  • No, but I like the sound of that: continue reading.
  • Not at all and I believe it’s bullshit: stop reading and go back to google.

Do you want to read a story about the web connecting people?

The New Trade - Book on Business Storytelling

The New Trade - Book on Business Storytelling

I have experienced the power of the web. I felt how it can connect and engage people. And I want to share this story with you. Yes, I really want you to have a similar experience. Simply because it rocks!

linkedstories – connected people?

Below is the story of @vermeiretim connecting with @rafstevens with regards to his book project “The New Trade”.

If you like what’s being discussed in the below e-mail conversation, I suggest you read the book at some point. Highly recommended!

E-mail in: ROI of Business Storytelling: Story of Horse Bust.

Hi Tim, here it comes…

I would be honored to give you “a voice” in the book I am writing. The concept of the [book will be a mix of bizz-book-wrting, storytelling and blog-writing (with links to video, blogs, etc). I am in the final phase of finishing it. A draft should be ready within 4 weeks or so.

Here is my question to you: what is the ROI of storytelling to you?

To get you started on the topic I want to share this with you:

Significantobjects is a project where a creative writer invents a story about an cheap second object to increase its value. In the test, invested with new significance by this fiction, the object is sold via eBay. It was a test of a group of people trying to prove that a good story sells, even if this story is false.

You can read more about the project/test here:
and here:

This got me thinking about what Shawn Callahan of Anecdote calls “big S and small S storytelling:
The Uncanny Valley of Business Storytelling (

I quote him here: Big ‘S’ Storytellers understand plot structures, character development, scene design and a myriad of other storytelling principles and practices. At the other end of the spectrum is Small ‘s’ Storytelling where we find the stories we tell on a daily basis in conversations, anecdotes, recounts and examples.

Okay, here I go:
A part of my book is dedicated to storytelling as a “tool” to reveal what is happening in an organization. Here I’ll also be exploring how stories can drive internal communication to another level.

But another part of the book is dedicated to “how to use big ‘S’ stories to better connect to an audience.

So I repeat my question here:
What is the ROI of storytelling?
What is your view on what is going here with the test of significantobject? Does a good story always sell, no matter true or false.
The auction for this Significant Object, with story by Beth Lisick, has ended. Original price: 99 cents. Final price: $62.95.

Like to hear your view. And if it is okay with you I will curate your answer in the book. Ofcourse you can read the draft of the book and still than decide if you are okay with publishing it in it.

Thanks for considering this.

Best regards,
Raf Stevens

Vroonbaan 67 I 1880 Nieuwenrode I Belgium
M: +32 486 85 15 81

E-mail out: RE: ROI of Business Storytelling: Story of Horse Bust.

Dear Raf,

as a result of your request to reflect on the “ROI of Business Storytelling”, I’m honored to bring you my story.

“What is the ROI of Business Storytelling?”

When I first read this question, I was puzzled. What at first sight seemed a simple question proved to be a genuine brain teaser.

In order to even boost that thinking, I figured it might prove beneficial to pose this question to my follower base on Twitter. After all, the real-time message service, had already proven to spark conversations. What’s even more, on top of those conversations, one can build true stories.

In what follows I will try to explain how my “Big Story about Storytelling” stems from “Little Stories Conversations” on Twitter.

Conversation: monetary value of Business Storytelling?

To reach beyond my grey brain cells, I fired “What is the ROI of Business Storytelling” at the crowd. And yes, there it was: @joachimschulz noticed the question and replied – quite convinced – $ale$.

Twitter conversation with @joachimschulz about ROI of Storytelling

Twitter conversation with @joachimschulz about ROI of Storytelling

Now, that reply immediately related to an experiment Raf referred me to earlier: Significant Objects.

Significant Objects Experiment: story brings economic value

The Significant Objects experiment seems to prove that a good story behind an object (product) increases the value. The emotional value (story) can be monetized (economic value).

According to @joachimschulz and the Significant Object experiment that’s truly the case. A good story sells, always. I believe this isn’t 100% true.

Storytelling brings value, but not per se economic value.

Stories have business value. No doubt. For most businesses however they won’t bring immediate revenue or a higher margin. At least they won’t in the short run. They definitely will in the long run.

In the long run, all businesses need to evolve into a social, human business to stay in business. Stories support the transformation into a social business. Because social is human. And humans like stories – just as candy and sex. We simply can’t help it – it’s hard-wired into our brain.

That’s right, we still have that cavemen brain. And back in the cave days, stories were the manner to transmit information and knowledge in such a way that it was easy to notice, to remember and to share. The explanation speaks for itself: in an oral culture – where content is transmitted via speech – one needs a certain “angle” to find something compelling in order to receive attention, to be remembered and – especially – to be shared. And that’s where stories come into play.

Conversation: non-monetary values of storytelling?

Stories bring value. Period. But which values?

To tackle this question, I turned to my socially constructed professor again: Twitter. I teased the crowd with an – at first sight – simple question:

“Is it storytelling or storybuilding?”

And hooray, scored again. The conversations lead to the ROI spectrum of storytelling.

Twitter conversation with @jukkaam about Business Storytelling

Twitter conversation with @jukkaam about Business Storytelling

The ROI Spectrum of Business Storytelling

I’d love to thank @jukkaam for jumping into the question. He simply added “or storysharing or storyexperiencing #leadership” to the “Is it storytelling or storybuilding #justaksing” tweet – and by doing so co-created the ROI spectrum of Business Storytelling.

Yes, a spectrum. Because we later on realized we were actually having a wrong debate. We were not supposed to think in “or”. It was an “and” story.

We agreed to favor the Genius of the ‘and’ over the Tyranny of the ‘or’ (and we gave credits to @digitaltonto for this splendid quote). But in the meantime, we were talking about the ROI Spectrum of Storytelling.

The Return on Story Investment for Business is:

  • Stories create attention – because of their angle, their framing, their intriguing aspect.
  • Stories create engagement – because of the manner they grab the spectator.
  • Stories are made for sharing – because of the experience the spectator had. He wants to share it with his peers.
  • Stories are made to act on – people act on stories and even create stories about the stories.

ROI of Business Storytelling Spectrum

ROI of Business Storytelling Spectrum

Business Storytelling is in conversion, not in conversation.

I tend to believe that the real value of this Storytelling is in conversion. Stories help people connect with you (and your brand). In an ideal world, conversion occurs via 4 stages: attention – like – share – act. Stories contribute to each stage.

Nevertheless, one needs to take the costs for creating stories into account as well.

The more professionally crafted, the higher the engagement odds for the audience. But that doesn’t necessarily count for the sharing odds (viral sensitivity?). On the contrary, grabbing attention with a remarkable angle or concept doesn’t necessarily require a big bag of money, right?

Hope you liked my story on ROI Business Storytelling Raf!

Yours truly,

Tim Vermeire

This Monkey is in for some Candy. And Stories.

Monkey brains want stories.

Monkey brains want stories.

Please Listen very carefully to what this monkey has to say. He shall say this only once!

It’s monday evening. You had another marvelous meal with your family. Children are to bed. You’re all set.
Couch? Check. Tele? Check. Wife half asleep under the blanket? Check. Game on? Check. Candies? Check.

Hold on, wait a minute!

Didn’t you just enjoy a great dinner with wife and kids? Do you really need that candy bar? I thought children were to bed? I can tell you one thing: you don’t want candy. So why are you eager for candy than?
Well, simply because you have a monkey brain!

You’re telling me I have the brain of a monkey?

No offense, but yes I do tell you that you have a monkey brain. Period. Let me explain. In fact, you still have that brain from back in the days people lived in caves. And it’s that caveman that is hard-wired deep inside of you that makes you want to have candy. You know back in the cave days, sugar was scarce. So we took every single chance we had to pump sugar into our body.

Nowadays, we still have that same brain. We still take every chance we have to eat candy. However, in today’s world sugar isn’t rare it all. It’s everywhere. But our brain doesn’t realize that. What our brain also doesn’t realize is that it simply loves stories.

Monkey brain loves stories.

Back in the cavemen days, stories were the manner to transmit information and knowledge in such a way that it was easy to remember and to share. The explanation speaks for itself: in an oral culture – where content is transmitted via speech – one needs a certain “angle” to find something compelling in order get attention, to be remembered and – especially to be shared. And that’s where stories come into play.

Stories create an angle. An angle makes something remarkable. Something that is remarkable enough to be noticed. Something that is that impressive that you might remember. Something that is that awesome that you need to share it with your peers.

Storytelling as a means to pass information - cavemen speak

Storytelling as a means to pass information - cavemen speak

Stories are told with moderate voice, or even whispered!

As stated before, in oral cultures, information was passed along through the usage of stories. As people were unable to transcend distance, only those at the right time and at the right place were able to hear the information. They were close enough to hear a story being told. A story brought to them via the medium ‘voice’ or ‘speech’.

The medium wasn’t disruptive and messages weren’t loudly screamed at participants. People who wanted to take part were pulled towards the storytelling circle, because of their interests, because of the fact they belonged to the community.

What we should realize here is that “stories” and “storytelling” are hard-wired into our cavemen brain – as is our love for sugar and thus candy. OK. Fact. But doesn’t the monkey brain brings along implications for today’s business, marketing and communication?

Not authentic? Sleep outside of the cave... not safe for mammoths!

Not authentic? Sleep outside of the cave... not safe for mammoths!

The monkey brain and your business, marketing and communication efforts

I didn’t tell the story above without a reason. I want to distill some essential characteristics of human communication and relate them to the world of business, marketing and communication.

The thing is, we are still cavemen, all of us. Our brain still favors elements that are compatible with a cavemen environment. We live in a modern world with a prehistoric brain. So here we go, what are the implications of the monkey brain for business, marketing and communication?

  • Don’t push it, Pull me. But pull me hard, Baby!
    The storytelling phenomenon from the cavemen clearly demonstrates that information or messages should not disrupt (push). Creators and distributors of information made their content that relevant that people were basically dragged towards them. In this manner, creators could whisper the story to the people in the circle. The circle is what we label today as a community.
    Today, with so-called social media, we have the chance to spread stories and make them easily accessible for anyone. Through conversations about the story, the community is build. No need for shouting. Whispering works just fine.
  • Connect people, Stupid!
    The whole point of the cavemen culture was to connect people by creating a “shared knowledge base” crafted through stories. Because of mankind’s evolution we altered from this and we started screaming our information. After all, screaming was the only way to reach people spread across the globe.
    Today, with the rise of social conversation digital media, we have the chance to act close to our monkey brain again. We can whisper messages to people in our storytelling circle slash community. To match the monkey brain, a whispering approach seems to work well. As a result we need to show ourselves in our authentic way, fully transparent.
  • No spinning please, those sleep outside of the cave.
    Social control was rather big in cavemen society. People that told stories that weren’t authentic or fully transparent weren’t appreciated. They were condemned to sleep outside of the cave. Pretty unsafe for mammoths!
    If you aren’t authentic and transparent today, you’re well on your way to loose all the monkey brain people – which is basically everybody! So you might want to consider…

Old marketing versus New marketing

It seems as if the above reflections result in the same conclusion as made by market researchers. Here’s something I found through Twitter (yes, Twitter): a “bit of Polle Demaagt” from InSites Consulting. I believe at the end, we (try to) indicate the same thing. For those who rather have schemes than a story, I’m talking about the scheme below.

Old versus New Marketing - Insites Consulting / Bits of Polle Demaagt

Old versus New Marketing - Insites Consulting / Bits of Polle Demaagt

That’s why I Whisper through the Web in XL, Medium and Small

The above shows why I whisper through the web. Yes, I don’t wear a monkey suite. And yes, I do realize that the baseline “screaming is from the past” doesn’t completely fit. But I hope to have demonstrated that in the cavemen era people whispered in a community – they did not scream to people outside the community (who didn’t care about the information) and that we consequently altered from this, but that we now have the chance to go back to acting like our monkey brain loves most.

See which stories I whisper through the web? Hit the below links:

Oh, just one more thing.

The above is just my story, framed for a special purpose. I could have framed it completely different. But here’s why I did not.

Just one more thing - Steve Job sentence

Just one more thing - Steve Job sentence

The story of me ending up writing this story

Date is March 2010 or something like that. I decided to set-up this blog. Did get an average of 23 people a day. Hooray!

OK, it helped me to get rid of my writing anger. But clearly, it soon appeared that I wanted more. So I ended up thinking about adding some touchpoints for the blog: a twitter account, mention it on linkedin, tumblr account, etc. Options were numerous.

I decided to go for Twitter first. I think we were September 2010 by then and it’s one of the key drivers of writing this piece.

Twitter as a home-cooked private teacher

There you are. You have a twitter name. Congratulations! Now what? What to do with it?

I decided to consider Twitter as my private teacher as I figured a lot of interesting people had to be active on Twitter: MBA professors, Industry Thought Leaders, etc.

Twitter is full of crap


Twitter - try to craft it into a first-class professor

Setting up an attempt like crafting Twitter into a first-class MBA professor is hard. Quite frankly, I’ve unfollowed loads of people that I followed at the start of my Twitter experience.

But one guy has been there almost from the very start. And I’ll probably never unfollow him: @rafstevens.

@rafstevens, my Storytelling teacher

I was intrigued by Raf’s project “The New Trade”, a crowd-funded and crowd-sourced book on Storytelling for business. So I asked Raf: “how does the collaboration process work?”. Raf kindly replied me “why not have a phone call about that” and provided his phone number. I promised to call him the day after. I didn’t. It slept my mind. My apologies.

However, I decided to take this “social error” (not calling as promised) into an advantage. After all it gave me the time to get more details and insights on the entire storytelling thing.

I used Twitter (and @rafstevens in particular) to obtain an MBA in storytelling. With Raf’s expressions and links to other world-class storytellers I started to realize what it’s all about. Or at least, I believe I do. I wonder if Raf thinks so too.

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