By Dolly Howard

ways_storytelling_can_improve_marketingCan’t we just admit that the word “content” feels generic? It has no point of view, no power. Meanwhile, stories are animated, have a sense of vitality, involve characters and sensory details, have the ability to explain the world around us, and give meaning to otherwise ordinary objects/concepts.  The audience and their reaction is the focal point of each story.  The purpose of a story is to fixate the listener or reader and convey a message.  Therefore, instead of writing marketing ‘content’, tell stories.  Your marketing will be all the better for it.

Here are 5 ways why storytelling is great for your company:

1. Stories form the foundation of the relationship between the consumer and the brand. Despite efforts to revolutionize digital technology to increase consumer engagement, we will always crave human connection. Where do stories come from? People.  

People connect with one another through stories. When you use stories to connect with your consumers on a human level, you touch their hearts and make them feel more alive.  I don’t know about you, but I am fascinated by the stories about how a founder became inspired to invent a solution to her problem or how a maker chose a specific ingredient to include in their product.  I feel connected to them and inspired by them as if we have a shared dream.

2.  An engaging story conveyed at the right moment can change a person’s mind or spark that figurative light bulb.  Stories are powerfully influential.  Stories provide context and therefore can change the readers’ perspective. Haven’t you ever experienced that moment where you looked at a situation and it didn’t interest you, but then you are told the backstory and it’s like “Whoa, I get it now!” Stories allow us that opportunity to change the reader’s perspective.

3.  Stories leave an emotional legacy.  According to WebMD, studies show that when the emotions are aroused, the brain “stores as much detail as possible about the emotion-filled event, wiring it for quick recall.  That emotion-charged memory can be summoned at a moment’s notice, even after a long time has passed.”

Stories that evoke strong emotions have the capability to go beyond just influencing a purchase…it has the capability to build an irrational, passionate loyalty to the company or brand that allows forgiveness of mistakes and high pricing. Just look to the long line of Apple enthusiasts waiting outside an Apple store during a new product launch and you’ll get my meaning.

4.  Stories spread ideas like wildfire.  A great story will be told over and over and over again—becoming a myth or legend. When you fall in love with someone or something, you want to tell everyone about it!  Just like that quirky colleague who keeps telling you stories about her adorable and silly cat. (Confession, I’m that colleague here at SmartBug.) Storytelling is the upmost manifestation of word of mouth advertising.  So give your consumers good stories to tell about your company and they will.

5.  Stories explain the ‘why’.  In 2010, Simon Sinek gave a rousing and inspiring TED talk called How Great Leaders Inspire Action. In it he stated that “people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”  Stories provide the context; stories express your company’s ‘why’. Be great at storytelling and you’ll be great at telling your consumers your ‘why’.

So now you know why storytelling is crucial for your marketing, here are a few tips to integrating storytelling into your marketing and branding.

1.  Read a lot.  Learn from the masters. When reading a book or article, be aware of why you like it or didn’t like it.  How is the information conveyed?  What emotions do you feel when reading it?

2.  Size up at your competitors.  What stories do they have that you wish was about your company?

3.  Ask everyone at work for a story that reflects what makes this company special to him/her.  Now ask yourself this same question.

4.  Shift the focus away from the brand and instead focus on your customers, your employees, suppliers, etc. Know their dreams. Understand their desires. You are surrounded by stories. Ask them for their experiences with your company and hone your intuitive listening skills

5.  Provide context by shaping your story around a quest or journey. It should have a beginning, middle, and end.  There is a hero, motivated (either inspired or the result of a traumatic event/situation) to go on an epic quest.  He experiences challenges, obstacles, and temptations.  (Obstacles create tension and reveal vulnerability, thus forging a crucial connection with the readers that sympathize.)  At some point in his quest, he receives guidance from a wise mentor. Now armed with this knowledge, the hero overcomes his challenges and receives his reward.

Bringing this back to business storytelling:  Tell stories such as how a client was experiencing declining sales for several months before finding your product/service. They you’re your company and you discovered that there was a new competitor in their industry that was doing ABC and that was why they had less sales.  Your company helped turn it all around in 1 month by doing XYZ. And within 3 months your client showed an exponential growth of ROI of X percent.  And the company prospered happily ever after.

6.  Show your personality.  Speak Humanese; not just English.  People want to feel like they know you, not a collective group of people at your company referred to as “we”.  Be sincere and real.

Bottom line.  Storytelling is a powerful tool to solidify an everlasting relationship with your consumers and the key to great storytelling is to create an unforgettable positive and human experience.

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Dolly Howard

About the author

Dolly Howard was formerly Director of Marketing for SmartBug Media. Previously she worked as a senior marketing consultant leading SmartBug Media clients in strategy for lead conversion improvement and total marketing ROI. As a past HubSpot employee, Dolly is excited to share her knowledge and help enterprise companies grow their business. Read more articles by Dolly Howard.

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