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The power of storytelling in marketing

by guests
by 6rs guests
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Has anyone noticed the classic advertising characters like the Diet Coke Man and the 118 118 guys have disappeared? Maybe it's a long-awaited good taste reparation, but it could also be a tide turning on fictional characters in advertising. Who wants 2-dimensional constructs when we've got Colin Kaepernick's tale of inspiration? You don't get more authentic than your own story.

This appetite for the real is excellent news for those who don’t have million-pound budgets at their disposal because we all have access to our own goldmine of stories. Your journey from childhood to adulthood, university epiphanies, office experiences, learning and development milestones and each step in growing your business is a story worth telling.

Here are nine opportunities to create stories to market your business

Logo and design

Brand identity is how you share your story with the world. Your branding and marketing materials should communicate the heritage and values of the business, showcasing the journey you have been on and where you intend to go. All of your branding materials should be the culmination of your journey so far, and if it’s out of date, then you’re not the full story. The story of your brand gives your audience something to engage with and buy in to emotionally, and this kind of deep attachment breeds loyalty and repeat business.

Company mission

Why did you break away from the umbrella of corporate 9-5 work? Maybe you had a calling at university and went straight into business. Perhaps you saw something while travelling that stayed with you until you knew what to do with it. Maybe you read a book, or you wanted to save the life of somebody close to you? Turn this into a story about the beginnings of your company, especially if your motivation was a personal quest. People love real stories with a connection they can make, and an inspirational piece will provide this.

The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come. – Steve Jobs

About you

Some say that the About Page on your website should still be about your customer. I disagree. It’s the one place that you can talk about yourself freely. Interestingly, it’s also one of my most visited pages. That old cliché ‘people buy from people’ means that they want to hear something about what makes you a human. Chose a story that you think best conveys who you are now. You don’t need a chronological list of your jobs and education. You don’t need to be talking about customer benefits here. It should just be your best story.

Case studies

Case studies are the Disneyland of marketable stories; however remember that the hero isn’t your service, the hero is the customer who overcomes an obstacle with the use of your product or services. Readers will soon get an inkling if you’re beating your chest in terms of the help you’ve given a client. It’s a subtle art to keep the client as your hero, but it will make the difference between a story and a bunch of words about the service you provided a client. One has punch; has emotion and has texture, the other doesn’t.

Product journeys

Similar to the mission storytelling opportunity, what is the story of your first product, and how has this developed? Who was the protagonist in the journey, and how did they grow with the help of this product? What is your latest product, and what inspired you to create this? There are so many exciting developments in start-ups and service design product-based companies especially. Every product has a story, and these make great pieces of content to share across your channels.

Lessons learned

Another human story opportunity; something you’ve learned from a customer who has walked in the door, or a piece of work that you lost, or a new app that has changed your life. Seeing someone emerge from a challenge is something people love because we want to believe that we can do the same. These could also take an educational turn; what can you teach your readers about something you’ve learned how to do along the way. There’s an influx of success stories in the digital ether. We hear about rags-to-riches journeys and ‘game-changing’ innovation, but what about the not-so-success adventures? We love to hear about those because we can relate to failure. Without failure, there’s no success, and for each Elon Musk tale, there is a trail of aborted ventures.

Customer journey

You could make these fictional (persona) or real-life stories. They should both relate to the kind of customer you want to serve in your business. If you go for persona stories, you have some freedom in that you don’t need to get permission; you can also be more creative and write about an ideal client. This can be liberating because, unlike a case study, you’re not waiting around for uptake on a new service.

Service/product stories

You can comfortably dress a how-to story with a little bit of context. The intention remains to show someone how to do something, but you frame it with an introduction and conclusion. You could even make up a person who takes the how-to journey along with you. For example, if you’re talking about a server upgrade, open it up with a story about someone losing all of their business data and tie in some emotion.Most businesses assume that their audience understands what they do, but this often isn’t the case. Likewise, you believe that people know how they can use your services, but this isn’t true either.

Here are a few tips for writing and constructing your business stories

  • Whether it involves a person or a product, there should be a sense of movement in the story. Your starting position must be different from the end. I.e., something needs to have changed to make it a story.
  • The structure is everything; make sure your intro is giving a taste of what is to come but not the whole story.
  • Language is also everything; use your thesaurus.
  • Read your stories aloud before you publish them.
  • Emotion is important. You don’t have to bare your darkest secrets but try to get your audience emotionally-engaged.
  • You can market one well-written story across multiple platforms. It should live on your website and shared across the platforms that are occupied by your ideal clients.

As you can see, there are many opportunities to harness the power of storytelling in your marketing, and the audience is crying out for fresh content. Hopefully this has shone a light on the compelling stories that already exist within your business. Now all you need to do is tell them.

Sarah Thomas is a  freelance writer creating stories and ideas for a new dawn. Check out her website here

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