Brand Storytelling For SMBs and Startups

Many SMBs get the idea behind brand storytelling wrong because they put their product or service at the center of the story. See how to do better.


3 Big Ideas

Brand storytelling is a powerful tool for SMBs to differentiate themselves from competitors and connect with customers on an emotional level through a cohesive and compelling narrative that communicates the brand's unique identity, values, mission, and purpose.

  • SMBs with fewer than 1000 employees can benefit from brand storytelling to differentiate their business from larger competitors in a crowded marketplace.
  • Brand storytelling should focus on the customer's story and not be centered on the product or service.
  • Story frameworks build a deeper emotional connection with customers, leading to increased resilience for the company.

Before we jump in let's get some misconceptions about SMBs out of the way. The reality is this: In the US SMBs . . .

  • make up 99% of all businesses in the US, 
  • contribute around 80% of all jobs in the US, 
  • and generate more than half of US GDP
  • and you can generate more than $999,999,999 and still be considered a medium sized business! 🤯
Source: Gartner

As a company with fewer than 1000 employees (a classic SMB), you might be wondering how to differentiate yourself and stand out among the big guys. Brand storytelling is the way, my friend.

In this article, we’ll explore what brand storytelling is, why it’s so effective for SMBs, and how to develop a brand storytelling strategy that resonates with your target audience and brings your customers closer than any big biz ever could. BUT (and it’s a huge one), the article here assumes you are not a teeny tiny micro-business that hasn’t found product-market fit yet.

What is Brand Storytelling?

Have you ever felt drawn to a brand and wondered why? Chances are, that brand has mastered the art of brand storytelling.

In simple terms, brand storytelling is when a company or organization tells a story about how their brand fits into the customer’s life. By weaving together elements of your brand – such as your history, values, and culture – along with an insanely deep understanding of your customer’s journey, you create a cohesive and compelling narrative that pushes their emotional buttons (in a good way).

Brand storytelling is also a powerful way to build a resilient brand – one that can weather the ups and downs. A brand with a great story is more likely to enjoy a halo effect even when budgets get tighter.

But many SMBs get the idea behind brand storytelling wrong because they put their product or service at the center of the story. 

This isn’t really all that surprising. SMBs are typically mired in hand-to-hand combat with many competitors which skews them toward the “better” argument (i.e.  emphasizing features, functions, processes, and the like) rather than being different.

Great brand storytelling however, is all about the customer’s story — the customer is the hero. Your product or service is merely the vehicle that enhances the customer’s journey and helps them along — kind of like “the force” that helped Luke Skywalker complete his journey.

The best part about brand storytelling is that it can be done in so many different ways. From advertising to social media, or even just chatting with people, the power of narrative can bring your brand to life and build brand loyalty that ultimately drives sales in good and bad times.

The reason brand storytelling is so important is because it helps people not only understand your company or organization and what you stand for, but most importantly, it helps them understand who your company stands for.

And the best part? Brand storytelling isn't just for big companies! Small and medium-sized businesses (i.e. most of us!) can use brand storytelling to stand out from the competition and capture the attention of potential buyers without relying on product or service attributes alone.

What  type of SMB companies benefit most from brand storytelling?

The answer is simple: all of them, including both B2B and B2C businesses.

Regardless of the industry or size of your business, brand storytelling can help you stand out in a crowded market and build a loyal customer base. Here are some of the types of SMB companies that can benefit the most from brand storytelling:


For startups, brand storytelling is an essential for gaining traction and building brand awareness. If you’re a startup, you’ll lean hard on your founder/founding story and your purpose story. You’ll focus on what’s new and novel about how you’re solving a naggin problem.

Service-Based Businesses

Service-based businesses like law firms, accounting and finance firms, health care companies, etc. often struggle to differentiate themselves from a multitude of competitors. For service-based businesses, brand storytelling can help showcase your unique approach and values that appeal to a specific niche.

Brick & Mortar Businesses

Let’s say you have a manufacturing business . . . you know how difficult it is to differentiate your company. You also know that there are things your company does, ways your people behave, quality processes you’ve implemented, and even stories of how your team has saved the day with an important client that are unique to your business and that keep your customers coming back. Mining these stories and sharing them with new prospects can be the thing that pushes your company past those competitors that are trying to compete on price alone.

Brand storytelling works well for businesses of all sizes because companies with strategically crafted stories tend to be seen as more unique, enabling them to stand out from the competition regardless of how big or small they are.

Brand storytelling is especially effective for SMBs because it allows you to differentiate your brand from larger, more established competitors. By telling a unique and engaging story about how your smaller size enables you to be more personal and nimble, your SMB can capture the attention and loyalty of customers who are looking for something different than what the big players offer.

In addition, by communicating the values and mission of the brand in a way that resonates with customers, SMBs can create a sense of community and belonging that is often lacking in larger, more impersonal businesses.

Embrace your size!! You have the potential to transform your business into more than just a company.  You can transform it into a friend, an ally, and something special that customers can connect with. 

Examples of effective brand storytelling

Let's take a look at a few examples of effective brand storytelling in different industries. 

Examples of brand storytelling from well-known brands


Patagonia is a company that has built its brand around a commitment to environmental sustainability. Through its various marketing campaigns, the company has communicated its dedication to protecting the planet in a way that resonates with its target audience. One of its most effective campaigns was the "Don't Buy This Jacket" ad, which encouraged customers to think twice before making a purchase and to consider the impact of their consumption on the environment.

Warby Parker

Warby Parker is an eyewear company that has built its brand around the idea of making fashionable eyewear accessible to everyone. The company's origin story, which involves a group of friends starting the company to solve their own frustration with the high cost of eyewear, has resonated with customers and helped to build a sense of community around the brand.


Airbnb is a company that has disrupted the hospitality industry by offering travelers a more authentic and personal experience. The company's brand storytelling focuses on the idea of "belonging" and the sense of community that can be fostered through travel. Through its marketing campaigns, Airbnb has communicated the idea that travel can be about more than just seeing new places - it can be about connecting with people and experiencing different cultures in a more meaningful way.

Examples of great brand storytelling from SMBs

The Tea Spot

The Tea Spot is a small tea company that has built its brand around the idea of wellness and self-care. The company's brand storytelling focuses on the idea that drinking tea is a form of self-care and can help customers take a moment for themselves in their busy lives. The Tea Spot's packaging and marketing materials all communicate this idea, creating a cohesive brand story that resonates with its target audience.


Naturalicious is a small beauty brand that has built its brand around the idea of simplicity and effectiveness. The company's founder, Gwen Jimmere, created the brand after struggling to find haircare products that worked for her busy lifestyle. Naturalicious' brand story focuses on the idea that beauty doesn't have to be complicated, and that effective products can also be simple and easy to use.

Elements of Brand Storytelling - How to create a brand story that resonates with your audience

So what are the elements of brand storytelling? Here are the essential elements that any company should consider:

Your Brand's Origin Story

Your brand's origin story is the foundation of your brand's narrative. It's the story of how your company was founded, the challenges you faced, and the values that drove you to succeed.

Your Brand's Values and Mission

Your brand's values and mission are what set you apart from your competitors. They're the core beliefs that guide your business and shape your customer interactions.

Your Brand’s Core Value

What makes you unique? This can be achieved through highlighting differentiators such as personalized customer service, innovative product features, or ethical sourcing standards. 

Your Brand's Personality

Your brand's personality is how you express your values and mission to your customers. It's the tone of voice, visual design, and customer interactions that make your brand unique.

Your Customer's Story

Finally, brand storytelling is about your customer's story as much as it is about your own. By understanding your customer's needs, desires, and challenges, you can create a narrative that resonates with them on a personal level.

How do you develop a brand storytelling strategy?

Developing a brand storytelling strategy involves several key steps you’ll want to consider.

  1. Clarify your brand’s identity: Clarify your brand’s values, mission, and purpose. Go deep. Your purpose is in there – you’ll know you’ve found it when it fires everyone in your company up and makes them glad they work there.
  2. Narrow your target audience: Understand who your customers are and what they value. But avoid generic demographic groupings. No one says “I’m 25-54!!”.  But they might say “I want to retire in the next 3-5 years.” Where does your product or service fit into their story?
  3. Craft your narrative: Develop a compelling story that aligns with your brand’s identity and also resonates with your target audience. You’ll know you’re onto something when you can crunch it down to an ‘elevator’ speech that gets an instant, “Tell me more.”
  4. Choose your channels: Decide which channels and touchpoints are most effective for reaching your audience, such as social media, blogs, or videos. Where are your peeps? What are they doing when they are there?

Then you’ll want to implement your strategy and distribute your brand story via content across your chosen channels, ensuring consistency and authenticity. And finally, evaluate your success: Monitor your results and adjust your strategy as needed, based on audience engagement and feedback.

Who is typically involved in your brand storytelling?

Developing a brand storytelling strategy typically involves input from several key stakeholders. Here’s who we tend to see involved the majority of the time..

  • Marketing and branding teams: These teams are responsible for developing and executing the brand storytelling strategy.
  • Content creators: Writers, designers, and video producers who create the content that tells your brand’s story.
  • Leadership: Executives who provide input on the brand’s values, mission, and purpose.
  • Sales teams: Sales teams who interact with customers and can provide insight into their needs and desires. Note: You MUST involve your sales teams. They have the most direct contact with your customers.
  • Customers & Clients: Talk to your customers. What stories are they telling you already?

When is it beneficial to bring in outside storytelling experts?

Bringing outside brand storytelling experts into the mix can be a huge shortcut for SMBs looking to tell their story effectively. 

  • Outside professionals can often bring in a fresh outside perspective that can help to expand and reframe the brand’s narrative in ways that are hard to see from the inside. 
  • Additionally, having access to an experienced professional who understands marketing, advertising, and storytelling from an outside point of view, can be immensely valuable and help SMBs craft stories that will resonate with their audiences better than ever before.

In short, you’ll get objectivity, perspective, and experience from someone who’s skilled at brand storytelling, and they will nudge you toward eliminating the jargon and industry-speak that no one really loves. 

How much does a brand storytelling project cost?

When it comes to budgeting for a brand storytelling project, the answer is both simple and complex. On one hand, if you want a truly effective, professional-level project that can amplify your message and reach your target audience on a much deeper level, then you will likely need to invest in quality materials and resources that are tailor-made to your SMB's needs. 

However, this doesn't necessarily have to break the bank!  There are also ways to create simpler yet still powerful stories within reasonable budgets. Regardless of which road you choose to go down, get clear about what your expectations are and work out a plan before committing financially, so that you're set up for success with any sized project.

The bottom line.

Brand storytelling is an essential tool that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can use to create deeper connections with their customers. By crafting a narrative that communicates your brand's values, mission, and personality, you can differentiate your brand from the competition and establish an emotional connection with your customers. Whether by sharing stories about the work you do or leveraging your customers' real stories, as an SMB you will benefit from the power of story as you build relationships with your customers. Moreover, brand storytelling can be personalized to fit any business and target audience. 

If you want to go deeper, consider a brand storytelling workshop to uncover your business's story and start creating more meaningful relationships with your customers today.


1. How can brand storytelling be adapted and tailored to fit the needs and characteristics of different types of SMBs, such as those operating in diverse industries or with varying sizes and structures?

Brand storytelling can be adapted and tailored to fit the needs and characteristics of different types of SMBs by understanding their unique brand identity, target audience, and industry landscape. For instance, startups may emphasize their founder's story and innovative solutions, while service-based businesses can highlight their niche expertise and customer-centric approach. Similarly, brick-and-mortar businesses can showcase their unique processes and customer success stories to differentiate themselves from competitors. By aligning brand storytelling with these specific attributes, SMBs can create narratives that resonate with their audience and effectively communicate their value proposition.

2. Are there specific metrics or indicators that SMBs can use to measure the effectiveness and impact of their brand storytelling efforts, especially considering the often limited resources and budgets available to smaller businesses?

SMBs can measure the effectiveness and impact of their brand storytelling efforts through various metrics and indicators. While the resources and budgets of smaller businesses may be limited, they can still track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as engagement metrics (e.g., social media interactions, website traffic), brand sentiment (e.g., customer reviews, feedback), and sales/conversion rates. Additionally, SMBs can utilize qualitative feedback from customers and internal stakeholders to gauge the resonance and effectiveness of their brand storytelling initiatives. By regularly monitoring these metrics and adjusting their strategies accordingly, SMBs can optimize their brand storytelling efforts within their resource constraints.

3. What are some potential challenges or obstacles that SMBs might encounter when implementing a brand storytelling strategy, and what strategies or resources are available to help address these challenges effectively?

Some potential challenges or obstacles that SMBs might encounter when implementing a brand storytelling strategy include limited resources, lack of expertise, and difficulty in standing out in crowded markets. To address these challenges effectively, SMBs can leverage available resources such as online guides, workshops, and consulting services to enhance their storytelling capabilities. Collaborating with experienced professionals or agencies specializing in brand storytelling can provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to the unique needs of SMBs. Additionally, SMBs can focus on authenticity, creativity, and consistency in their storytelling efforts to differentiate themselves and resonate with their target audience amidst competition. By overcoming these challenges strategically, SMBs can effectively leverage brand storytelling to build stronger connections with customers and drive business growth.

Brand Storytelling For SMBs and Startups

Newsletter —

Many SMBs get the idea behind brand storytelling wrong because they put their product or service at the center of the story. See how to do better.


Brand Storytelling For SMBs and Startups

Many SMBs get the idea behind brand storytelling wrong because they put their product or service at the center of the story. See how to do better.

Back to Insights
Motive3 is a woman owned and minority owned business.

Get valuable brand strategy insights from Ginger Zumaeta delivered biweekly to your inbox.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

By signing up to receive emails from Motive3, you agree to our Privacy Policy. We treat your info responsibly. Unsubscribe anytime.

©2022 Motive3