If you’re in a small business, you know your customers today are smarter than ever. They’re also easily bored. They have more choices (which often means they’re too confused to choose anything at all).
From a marketing standpoint, we know they’re also less tolerant of hype, sleaze, and “old-school” copywriting. They respond to scary headlines with scorn. They rarely believe that if they miss this one opportunity, they’ll be stuck forever in whatever their problem is.
Shane Snow is the CEO of Contently, a New York company that connects freelance journalists with corporate assignments. He argues that storytelling will be the biggest business skill of the next five years.
“Marketers are obsessed with storytelling,” he writes, “and conference panels on the subject lately have fewer empty seats than a Bieber concert.”
Content creation has become the most important tool for online marketers. And storytelling has become the most important tool for creating content.
Many business owners think of stories as a way to captivate their audience and hold their attention. But stories can do a lot more than that.
When you choose the right story, storytelling will help you implement your strategy. In fact, storytelling helps you achieve some goals you wouldn’t accomplish otherwise.
Just 9 ways you can use stories – and there’s more where these came from.
(1) You’re promoting a dry-as-dust offer, it’s hard for people to see how you’re different, and you’ve got to compete on personality. A strong story can add value to an ordinary object, service, or event. In one experiment, writers sold cheap objects from eBay for many times the original price, just by surrounding the object with a story.
(2) You’re branding yourself as a person who delivers a service. Clients rave about you, but you can’t describe yourself as “amazing,” “stunningly successful,” or “one step away from drop-dead gorgeous.” A story can communicate these values without sounding sleazy.
It’s easy for competitors to copy your innovative or unique offering. The more successful you are, in fact, the more you’re likely to attract copycat imitators. But what can’t be copied? You and your story, especially your origin story.
Bernadette Jiwa writes, “Brand story has become the new black of marketing. Once upon a time, you had to have a campaign or ‘the line,’ [and] now you’ve got to have a story.”
Some brands depend entirely on origin stories for differentiation. For instance, a beer company shares stories of using special kinds of water to make beer. The truth is, many other beer companies use the same type of water.
A business owner differentiates with a story, “I wanted to have time for my children, so I committed to working no more than 15 hours a week. It took me longer than some people but I built my business to a very comfortable income.”
When people mention her, they say, “Oh yeah — that’s the marketing coach who built her business in just 15 hours a week because she wanted to be with her children.” She’s branded with a story.
(3) You’re selling a service that’s new to the world and very hard to explain. You effortlessly communicate the benefits when you share the right story, walking your audience through a customer’s experience.
(4) You’ve achieved a level of success that makes people think, “I could never do that!” You want to connect and show them you’re human. Your message is, “If I can do this, you can too.”
(5) You’ve got three minutes to introduce yourself at a networking event. The last six people presented laundry lists of “Here’s what I do.” You get everyone’s attention with a story that shows how you helped your last client – and as a bonus, you deliver an “aha” moment that resonates with the group.
(6) You’re making plans for the future of your business and you’re having trouble getting a handle on the future. You can use stories to create scenarios that make the future seem more real to you. This method allows you to imagine elements of your plan that wouldn’t occur to you in left-brained, list-making mode.
(7) You need a truly compelling headline for your sales letter, landing page, or blog post. Starting with a story makes it easier. Check out this free training.
(8) You need to establish credibility with your audience. One of the best ways is to write a case study.
It’s not just for big business! Download this free guide here.
(9) You want to go viral and be memorable with a message.
For the perfect example, go online and google, “United Breaks Guitars.” From his airplane window, Canadian musician Dave Carroll saw baggage handlers toss his guitar like a football into the baggage compartment.
After United denied his claims for compensation, Carroll wrote a narrative song about his experience. The song went viral. For many listeners the airline will forever be associated with the tag line, “United breaks guitars.”
And there you’ve got it: 9 ways to add stories to your marketing — besides, of course, captivating your audience and claiming their attention.
Learn more about storytelling: 3 Storytelling Mistakes Most Business Owners Make. You can download it here, for free.
And I love working with my clients to uncover their best stories to support their goals. Check out the Strategic Intensive by clicking here.