Chances are, you’ve probably heard the buzzword “storytelling” in the context of marketing.
I call it a buzzword because it seems like it’s suddenly become trendy to talk about, but the fact is that brands have been practicing storytelling since the very first advertisement made its way into those old fashioned things called newspapers.
Numerous studies through the years have proven the effectiveness—and in fact, the necessity—of storytelling in marketing.
In one survey, 92% of consumers said they preferred to internalize the words they read in the form of a story. Simply put, stories help people connect with and remember what they read (or watched, or listened to).
But if you’re not a professional wordsmith, does that mean storytelling is off limits to your brand?
Of course not!
In fact, I’d argue that the average layperson is even better at telling his brand’s story than some highly paid ad executive. After all, it’s your story, and you know it best.
Here are four compelling stories your brand can and should tell, on social media, on your blog, and within your advertisements.
1. A critical problem you solved.
As a business owner, you go above and beyond to please your customer. You stay up late, you work on holidays, you give that extra something special they won’t get from the other guy.
So talk about it! But here’s the key: the story should be about the problem you solved for a customer, not about how great of a guy you are for doing it.
Zappos has a perfect example that has always stuck in my mind. A groomsman’s shoes were routed to the wrong address (a mistake by UPS, not Zappos, mind you).
When the company learned there was a chance the original package wouldn’t make it in time for the wedding, they overnighted him a free pair directly to the wedding venue.
That’s an amazing problem solving story. I bet your brand has a few of its own.
2. Your inspiration for being in business.
The day-in, day-out grind of running a business can take its toll, there’s no doubt about it. But at some point, you were inspired by some greater vision—a belief that was big enough to drive you to strike out on your own.
What is that? Figure it out, then share that story with your audience.
I might talk about my time spent working at an agency. I met so many business owners who thought having a marketing strategy was somehow “beyond” them—like it was only meant for Fortune 500 companies. I was driven to work with and make a difference for those small businesses.
You might talk about how your grandmother’s love for Italian food inspired you to open your own pizza joint, or how getting out of your first traffic ticket lit a fire inside you to become a lawyer.
3. How you’re different.
Knowing what sets you apart from your competitors is a critical piece of winning over customers. I’m sure you could spout off how you’re different at the drop of a hat (and if you can’t, I recommend you get really clear on that, really fast!).
Now, it’s time to frame those differences in a compelling story for your audience.
For a long time, I worked closely with the maker of a leading baby monitor. Their product had a few key differences from the other major competitors on the market.
We got a beautiful stroke of luck when a technology reporter decided to try out our monitor and a competing one side by side—on his own baby. What better show-and-tell story than a real, live, wiggling, giggling infant showing how our monitor was different (and better) than the other one?
Depending on what you sell, showing how you’re different can make for a great visual story.
Consider one of these ideas:
- A video showing a side-by-side comparison of your product versus the competition
- A blind test in which random people are asked to pick a favorite (with your brand winning out)
- A chart showing how your superior features stack up against the competition
- A graph that demonstrates how your customers get a greater value dollar-for-dollar
- A video where various employees say why they work for you instead of the other guy
4. Your hero’s anthem.
No, you’re not the hero. Your customer is.
Amazon is a prime example (ha—see what I did there?) of this, with their well-documented promise to be “customer obsessed.” Tell me the additional items Amazon recommends for your shopping cart aren’t spot on?!
That’s because they know their customer inside and out. You should, too, and you can demonstrate this by telling your hero’s story.
Maybe it’s one of your regular customers who beat cancer or won a marathon. Maybe it’s a charity group you recently supported.
This story is unique in that it has nothing to do with your product. Instead, it celebrates the very humans responsible for paying your bills each month. Customers crave real people stories, and it’s just an added bonus that the hero happens to know and love your brand!
It’s time to start practicing storytelling in your business! Download my free storytelling worksheet to start brainstorming your own ideas.
Telling Stronger Stories
Now, I said above that you don’t have to be a professional writer to tell great stories. But you do have to write in a way that’s coherent and draws the reader in. To become a stronger storyteller, The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White is hands-down the number one writer’s manual out there. On Writing Well by William Zinsser is a close second. The two of these combined are a storyteller’s gold mine, jam-packed with timeless advice on how to make your writing sing. I highly recommend adding both to your library.
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