Why business stories don’t end with “happily ever after”

Cathy Goodwin
3 min readMay 10

Business storytelling is a story genre. Here’s how it’s structured for success.

Image by Soulsana on Unsplash.

We know how fairy tales end: they live happily ever after.

We know murder mysteries end with “case closed.”

In romance novels, two people become a couple. Never mind political correctness. It’s what the audience wants.

These are genres.

Business stories also fit into a genre, which means they follow a structure. As with other genre stories, readers and listeners expect to find this structure, consciously or unconsciously. If you violate the structure, they complain.

Your selling story ends with a transformation. A good selling story moves FROM a starting point TO a transformation.

==> Check out the Strategic Storytelling podcast episode #99 for more examples of transformation in stories.

Start with the goal.

Look at Cinderella. I’ve talked elsewhere about how Cinderella isn’t a good marketing story. But let’s make a few revisions.

Cinderella really wants to go to the ball.

To make this a marketing story it has to be from the godmother’s perspective…She’s positioning herself as someone who helps clients reach their goals. So she would talk about how much Cinderella wanted to go to the ball. She’d talk about using her special powers to get Cinderella the horse-drawn coach, slippers, and gown.

And the story would end with her success at the ball — she made it, she caught the eye of a prince, and she achieved her goal.

If her goal was to meet the prince we’d tell the story differently. We’d have more about how she went, she met the prince and she achieved her goal of marrying royalty to escape her home. She was transformed from a drudge to a princess…and a confident young woman.

More realistically, let’s consider a life coach who wants more clients. Does she want more clients or does she want to sell more products? Does she want to be more productive with her time?

Does a financial advisor want more clients? Or more clients with a certain net worth?

Cathy Goodwin

Create a compelling marketing message that attracts your ideal clients through your unique selling story. http://cathygoodwin.com