3 Methods of Storytelling That Wins More Agency Clients

By Jason Swenk on August 2, 2023

Are you effectively using storytelling in your agency’s marketing? Storytelling is an invaluable tool that makes your prospects feel heard and understood. It’s a way to relate to clients and communicate how your help solve their problems. Storytelling creates better communication that’s more effective, more memorable, and easier for people to understand.

Today’s guest started working as a scriptwriter until he discovered business storytelling was a coveted skill he could help business owners develop. Over the years, he has implemented 3 methods that help facilitate clients’ access to storytelling tools. He explains some of the logic behind these frameworks and how anyone can train themselves to be a compelling storyteller.

Douglass Hatcher is the CEO of Communicate4IMPACT, an agency that helps coach people in the art and science of business storytelling. They take what business owners do naturally – telling stories – and help them apply that to what they do professionally.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Using business storytelling effectively.
  • 3 methods to improve your storytelling skills.
  • Secret to building a successful agency sales team.


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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today’s episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.


Discovering the Power of Business Storytelling

For most of his career, Douglass was a speech writer. First in the public sector, for congressmen and a senator. Eventually, he moved on to the corporate world where he wrote speeches for the CEO of MasterCard. This led to requests to help with their presentations and pitch decks. That is where he first heard the term business storytelling.

Douglass quickly learned that it’s an actual craft to tell a story in the business context. In addition to creating presentation decks, he ended up helping develop a two-hour course on storytelling for the company. The course was more popular than he could have imagined. That is when he realized there is a market for this service and started his own agency.

The Significance of Effective Business Storytelling

Richard Branson and Steve Jobs are great examples of successful business owners who care about effective communication. Not all leaders put communication ahead of everything else in their business. Of course, your data, financials, and numbers matter; but at the end of the day, if your audience doesn’t understand what you bring to the table, you’re in a tough place.

That said, Steve Jobs wasn’t always the confident and expressive presenter we remember today. Douglass recalls a TV interview with an anxiety-ridden Jobs who even vomited between takes. From that point on, he worked hard to become a great communicator spending up to thirty hours on each of his presentation slides.

If you look at any of Steve Jobs’s presentations, he doe not focus on selling the newest iPhone or iPad. He’s more focused on communicating through storytelling. Instead of saying that the iPod was the latest and greatest mp3 player, he said “the iPod is having 1,000 songs in your pocket.” Rather than just selling features, Steve Jobs was the master of telling the story of what a product will do for you.

3 Methods to Help Improve Your Storytelling Skills


1. The ABT Method

ABT or And, But, Therefore is the three-word vocabulary necessary to tell a good story. It was first popularized by Randy Olson who was inspired to apply the ABT method after seeing a documentary by the South Park creators where they talked about using it for their scriptwriting.

  • AND represents the way things are
  • BUT is the turn or the change
  • THEREFORE is the outcome with a resolution.

Basically, the idea is that instead of saying “My product is this, my service is that,” you use the framework:

“My services are this AND this, BUT if you use it this way you will get X result; THEREFORE, this can happen.”

In storytelling, without change, there is no story. Likewise, in business you’re trying to solve a problem, to change the customer’s situation for the better — that’s where storytelling comes in.

2. What, So What, Now What

  • WHAT is the thing you want to talk about
  • SO WHAT is “why do we care”
  • NOW WHAT is about what’s next.

In this framework, you ask these questions to identify, analyze, and draw sense from an event. Douglass uses it to train clients to tackle situations where they have to answer a question under pressure.

He gives the example of a famous director who experienced technical difficulties on stage when the teleprompter went out. As a result, he chose to walk off stage. If he had this tool he could have stayed on stage and improvised a way to engage the audience.

The goal of this framework is to keep you from tanking in moments of high pressure, control your anxiety, and have courage to carry on.

3. The PIXAR Framework

Pixar is famous for creating compelling stories that are universally loved by people of all ages. They are masters of storytelling and their framework can be broken down as follows:

  • Once upon a time,
  • Every day…
  • One day…
  • Because of that…
  • Because of that…
  • Until finally…

Similar to the previous ones, we start with ONCE UPON A TIME, which is the client’s current situation. EVERY DAY would be the problem they’re facing. ONE DAY is when you come into the picture with a solution. Each BECAUSE OF THAT represents a benefit brought by your solution. UNTIL FINALLY is the resolution.

It’s amazing how effective this framework is. The best part is that choosing you as the solution doesn’t come until the third act. This is why it’s important to always put the customer first and position yourself as their guide.

The Secret to Building a Successful Agency Sales Team

These frameworks are seemingly very simple but they’re also very effective. It often happens that the things that are made to look simple took the longest time to create. There’s a lot of research behind each of these that comes from many years of research on the best practices to create compelling stories. If you’re an agency owner looking to become a better storyteller, these frameworks will give you the advantage you need.

The power of storytelling is also what makes agency owners so good at selling. Owners who have a lot of trouble building a really great sales team are usually not sharing their success stories. Owners need to create a shareable library of stories to pass on to their sales team. When your team can share success stories with clients and prospects, you help them succeed and help get yourself out of sales.

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