The Question That's Holding Your Marketing Strategy Back
Q: How do I incorporate story-telling into my marketing strategy?
A: While there are a number of answers, and theories to this question, we continue to come back to one, and that is, you just don't. To say that you will begin to incorporate story-telling into your strategy, would imply that you aren't doing that already, which is kind of a problem.
Story-telling isn't something that you just aggregate on the fly. It's also not something that's relatively new; evidence of story-telling dates back to the primitive era.
A story, as you know has multiple parts, and to even begin writing a compelling story you must have characters, a setting, a conflict, an audience, etc. Impactful story-telling is done by identifying these moving parts early on, and strategizing how they will interact together to convey cohesive tonality, emotion, a larger theme, or in this case, your brand.
When you think about or remember the process of story-telling this way, you'll quickly see that this is an on-going process, and something that should be put in place at inception. Think about it this way, you write a book, but it has to go through rounds and rounds of editing before publishing. You can't necessarily fast forward or skip this step because (hopefully) you want your book to be successful, and you want your audience, or potential customers, to connect with the story you've worked so hard to create.
The same goes for your story, marketing strategy, brand identify, and core business principles. These things can't nor should they be rushed. There's a saying that the best things take time or all good things come in time, and we'd like to think this is very true.
A lot of businesses, and companies fail simply because of a lack of patience, long-term planning, and notably, lack of story-telling. Why? Because revenue leads their strategy. And we know what you're thinking, How am I supposed to pay my bills, employees, survive, etc if I don't focus on revenue. We get that, and to some extent revenue will always be the elephant in the room, but if you find yourself making decisions solely based off revenue, you'll probably find yourself with a shortage of customers, and consequentially a decline in sales. Why?
Because you're not: community-focused, keeping your customers interests/wants in mind, and not willing to create a story worth connecting to. People connect to things they can relate to. People don't connect to sales. They actually loathe sales (ads, click bait, etc). People want authenticity, even more now with the rise of Fake News & a wavering trust in the media, instant-gratification, and humanity.
Keep in mind, story-telling is not easy, and with the number of businesses entering the ring, the competition is getting intense.
"Globalization, and the immense thicket of supply chains that undergird it, have in a way neutered the potency of brand stories—ironed out the kinks of differentiation and regional flavor that are the foundation of traditional storytelling. Stories are inherently local, even parochial: anchored to a place, a person, a set of circumstances, they reflect a particular worldview. As brands become increasingly global, they’re less able to tell that kind of story credibly." - Mac Schwerin, Advertising Isn’t Storytelling
This doesn't mean that story-telling isn't possible or an important element of your overall Marketing.
“Humans are wired for stories. It’s part of our evolution as a species. Therefore, you want to create a memorable story to support your brand in a real way that makes sense to the audience members. Advertising of any kind without the proper investment in brand story only makes sense to the myopic client who thinks people already care. People don’t care about your brand, until you use story as a way to invite them in.”
David Burn, Writer, Strategist and Brand Builder, Bonehook
Here's how you can win over your customers, time after time, with story-telling:
1. Determine your purpose or re-define your value statement:
Think of your value statement as the excerpt on the back of a book or plot. This is essentially how you get people to even consider reading a book. What is your business about? Why should anyone care? What's the problem you're trying to solve? How do you solve this problem better than anyone else? This statement should be one sentence.
2. Figure out your characters or re-purpose existing ones:
Like in a book, there are important characters that are critical to the plot or your business's success. These characters also don't have to be people. Your characters can include your cause, website, employees, etc. Why is it important to figure this out? Because these characters are what your company will revolve around. It's what people will remember, and will keep bringing them back.
3. Breathe life into your story through conflict:
Take the problem that you solve, and create an opportunity for your customers to get involved (outside of sales). To do this, you'll need to understand, and speak your customer’s language. The story that you present must fit into their current beliefs, interests, and worldview.
A great way to involve your customers in the problem that you solve is through social media, local events, call for submissions, interactive video, digital chats, sites that allow reviews, email marketing, etc. By providing various channels or opportunities for your customers to be a part of your company's purpose, you create community, deeper connections, and ultimately value. You will also decrease the likelihood of customers tuning you out.
4. Make sure you walk the walk:
What you promote or put out into the world is what people will associate with your brand, so it's important to be consistent in everything you do. From language, to logo placement, to colors, to the amount of times you're available to engage online, consistency is key.
An inconsistent story often causes the reader to feel lost, and they might end up not finishing the narrative. If you post sporadically, use conflicting language, or use infrequent colors in reference to your brand, it will be hard for customers to not only take you seriously, but really understand your story. You don't want people second-guessing your purpose, and doubting your credibility.
5. Avoid selling
No company wants people to resent their brand presence or completely tune them out, so avoid selling, or making frequent asks. Instead create real-world content that adds value to your customers life, educates, gives back, and allows the customer to see themselves in your community.
By promoting your community or the story that you've created, you create interest. By creating opportunities to for customers to get involved, learn more, educate themselves, or be rewarded, you create the potential for a sale. You don't have to ask people to buy your product, if you give them a reason to want it or be a part of that experience.
6. Give back and build up
Don't be afraid to invest in your customers. Don't be afraid to build partnerships or even highlight insights from competitors. Whatever you do or whatever the story, strive to do good not only for your business, and employees, but for your community.
In conclusion, stories make your business, and information shared more compelling, so it's important to always be working on the narrative around your business.
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