The Strategy of Story

Tell a story

Sell a thing

There’s power and purpose in story. Tell an authentic and compelling story, no matter Suess or Tolstoy, and you’ll sell, whatever you sell, more effectively and sustainably. While the good Doctor S and Comrade Leo are both fine writers, we’d generally recommend a story style somewhere between the rhyming prose and the sweeping epic. Hmmm, that’s fodder for another blog.

At Sussner, we are fully committed to story and storytelling. But before your story can be told, it must be crafted and refined. You’ll notice we didn’t say, “your story needed to be created.” Your story already exists, it’s a matter of drawing it out, or as we like to say, Suss-ing it out.”

Questions that, on the face of it, don’t seem difficult, are often quite difficult to answer without defaulting to the superficial.

– Why do you exist?

– Where are you going, or want to go, as an organization?

– What do you actually do?

– Who do you serve, and who do you need on your team?

– How are you making an impact?

We ask these questions, and the further questions they inspire, frequently. In order to unearth your genuine story, we need to dig deep and drill down to find the core being of your business. 

It can be hard work, clients push back, we order lunch and we ask again. We get the easy and safe answers out of the way. Ultimately, the process is varied parts brand therapy, metaphoric polygraph testing, cheerleading, experienced listening and a happy hour, if you’re so inclined. 

The resulting true story of your organization will pay dividends in every aspect of your business for years to come. 

The big three

Having no story is a problem. Telling a lousy, weak story is also a problem. In terms of problems, check out our most frequently encountered, we-don’t-need-a-story, problems:


Prob 1

Trying to grow and thrive and win by way of messaging only. Sales tools and tactics are disconnected from an energy source. This messaging isn’t rooted in anything fertile enough to promote growth and belief. It’s ultimately ineffective messaging that can’t be counted on. Your people are reticent and even embarrassed to parrot out the message. It either requires too much explaining, or it’s so vague that it’s easily dismissed. Messaging without story is peanut butter and jelly spread on your hand instead of bread. Nobody’s going to shake that hand.

Prob 2

Your customers have customers, or internal stakeholders, that need to be excited and sold. Without a strong story to serve as the North Star, it becomes a version of the old telephone game—what goes in the near end, does not resemble what comes out the far end. Once your brand story is fully established, it’s not up to interpretation or revising on the fly. It is your story, authentically and proudly. It establishes the vibe of all conversations and transactions thereafter.   

Prob 3

Without a worthwhile brand story, you’re not able to recruit or retain the best people. Potential employees are left uncertain about the roots and motivations of a company. Current employees notice instability and everchanging brand messaging—it’s not a confidence-building scenario. Companies need to rally their people to a single effort and a unifying banner. Problem number three often goes unrecognized as part of the benefits resulting from a comprehensive brand story.

Your Story is not your messaging

Often the story of branding reads like a how-to manual of tactics, pricing and advertising elements. These are the components and the outcomes of a well-crafted brand story, not the story itself. They are the messengers of your story. Without the anchor of a story, these are hopeful, unsharpened darts thrown, on a windy day, in the general direction of a target.

Do not get us wrong; smart and inspired tactical thinking and market messaging is essential to brand success. But the thing is, they only become smart and inspired with a great story leading the way.

Your story is what your organization stands for. Facts, such as years in business, origins of location and founder’s fondness for stovepipe hats have importance, but this does not get to the essence of what a potential customer or employee needs to know.

Like a person, their resume is not their story. Their story emerges in the interview and the interaction. Use your history and stats as a timeframe and structure for your story.

Go slow to go fast

Find your story and tell it. It can take time initially, but the rewards are great and long-lasting. Tactics become easier and more naturally occurring when actually tied to the soul of your company. Story is yours. Get after it. Find it and articulate it to your world.


It’s story time,

—Team Sussner


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