Everyone loves a good story. Stories are an important part of our lives. We loved a good bedtime story when we were little and we read them on Social Media today. Human to human connections are the heart and soul of business. Stories help us understand things by putting them in context so that things make sense in terms of structure.
What does this have to do with Social Media or with our marketing? When potential customers learn of our stories, they gain a better understanding of us, our values, and how we got to where we are. In my opinion, storytelling is one of the most effective ways for a brand to connect with their target audience. A good story will have a big voice for a small business. Once we have told our stories, it will often bring on emotion and this emotion will help bring not only an awareness of our brand to our target audience, but to others as well. It will also help our fans to remember us better. People relate to stories. They see bits of themselves in your protagonist. They associate the antagonist and conflict with the problems in their own lives. They share in the joy and reward when the main characters finally achieve their goals.
On a daily basis, consumers are faced with advertising overload. (Yourself included) Marketers are constantly competing for their prospects’ time attention. The unfortunate truth is that most likely your brand is going to be buried under spammy advertising messages that have been paid for.
Storytelling will help make your brand stand out. Just for informative purposes, let’s cover what storytelling is and is not
Brand storytelling is:
- The reason why your company came to be
- What motivates your team to wake up and come to work everyday?
- How your product came to be
- What types of customers find value in working with your brand
- A transparent view into the people behind the company
- A relationship building tool
- More subtle than you realize
- A concept that underscores your entire web presence
- A look into who you are as a company
What it is not:
- A long winded, 5 paragraph essay about your company
- A blog post
- Something that is isolated
- A fragmented view into your company
- Something reserved for the marketing team only
- A PR stunt
- A viral video
- A tool to manipulate customers and prospects
- A tool to manipulate customers and prospects
Storytelling will continue as you build your brand. You may start out telling how your company came to be, how you decided to develop your product or a look into your company, but it will need to evolve into being about your customers and the value that they get when engaging with your product or service. The best brand stories are the ones that make that customer the star. Your company is only the supporting character.
Marketers have been telling brand stories for years through advertising, in-person brand experiences, and so on. Susan Gunelius
I am sure you have seen websites that have testimonials on them like the one I gave for The Blog Babes.com. This type of testimonial does give social proof and is important on a website, but is not the same as using your customers to tell your story.
Here are some examples of companies using customers to tell their story:
Clarity is a marketplace that connects entrepreneurs with top advisors & industry experts to conduct market research, get strategic business advice, or learn a specialized skill to help them grow their business. Look at how they utilize their customer stories:
Notice they are sharing their success stories on the company website. (Using the company product)
Enterprise CRM Salesforce hosts a customer success videos on its Pinterest page
Storytelling can be used as a marketing strategy by businesses and entities of all sizes because all it requires imagination and creativity, not money.
Writers can blog through Medium, visual brands can share via Instagram, those with characters can create mini-series on Vimeo or use Brand Stories to interest potential customers. If you love the stage, thrive on interactivity and excel in front of the camera then you can use conferencing software such as ClickWebinar http://www.clickwebinar.com/ to set up online digital two-way interactions and publish them instantly across social-media channels.
How stories help your business grow
The mission of businesses using storytelling as a marketing tool should be to help customers connect the stories they tell to the benefits of their product. Telling stories that are not connected to your brand or unique offer will entertain, but won’t offer value or sell your product.
When developing your story, you need to identify how your product helps your customers. What problem does it solve? What benefits, not features, does it offer? What makes your solution different from the competitors’?
The answers to these questions will guide you through the process of creating compelling content that has business value.
The real key to being a successful marketer is to stop trying to market. Stop trying to sell your product or business and focus on the customer, the human interest. Answer the question of why folks should care about what your company has to say, and that means being persuasive and appealing to their emotion
Brand stories are not marketing materials. They are not ads, and they are not sales pitches. Brand stories would be told with the brand persona and the writer’s personality at center stage. Boring stories won’t attract and retain readers, but stories brimming with personality can. Susan Gunelius
Whatever you do, DO NOT BE BORING. Share your strengths, weaknesses and how you got to where you are today.
Be real with your fans, act like you are having a cup of coffee, not giving a presentation. If you talk down to your prospects, they will stop listening immediately
Do not worry about grammar and commas; there are tools to help you with that. Focus on developing your message instead. I have started occasionally using what most would consider improper grammar on social on purpose to appear more real. Terms like ya’ll will help endear your fans and followers to you, not turn them away. I do reserve those for comment streams and replies however.
Honesty and transparency are important in brand storytelling. Yes, you’re crafting “stories,” but they need to be rooted in the reality of your brand, products and industry. Susan Gunelius
If your brand is struggling to get its story told in the face of a highly articulate and motivated competitor with strong market presence and plenty of resources, simply trying to outshout them is a waste of time. One option to seriously consider is generating a counter-story; a narrative that deliberately sets out an alternative perspective in the minds of the people you want to reach. Challenger brands are ideally placed to use this strategy: in so doing, they can put distance between themselves and an incumbent and introduce new expectations into the market that they are best placed to fulfill.
Avis did this with Hertz. By introducing the idea that they try harder, they implied that their competitor was complacent and slower to act. More recently, Uber did the same to taxis – tell the story of an alternative way get from A to B that struck at the heart of a long-presumed narrative. Sir Richard Branson is the master of this strategy. He doesn’t introduce another offering into a market without contextualizing it as a very different approach to the one that everyone has got used to. He uses a counter-story to weave a tale of what could and should be.
Some simple steps to help guide you:
What is your reason for being? Know your company mission and be real about it. If you have a weak foundation there will always be cracks in your foundation, thus cracks in your story
A great example is Splenda. When Splenda launched onto the scene with its sunny, yellow packets, it quickly captured market share by introducing Sucralose, a new zero calorie sweetener “made from real sugar.” Early on, the folks at Splenda were committed to telling their story. In fact, Splenda takes storytelling so seriously that an entire section of its website is dedicated to telling its brand story. Splenda doesn’t assume brand loyalty will be enough to lure consumers; it gives consumers a brand story to be loyal to.
What is your history? How did your company come about?
- Who are the main characters? Was your business inspired by a book, an event in your life?
- What is your corporate mission? Your reason for being? What call are your responding to? What problems are you trying to solve?
How have you failed? Failure breeds success! Everyone loves a great failure then success story. It gives them hope. Even Henry Ford failed in his early business and lost his fortune 5 times
What are your gaps?
Create a timeline for your company. Be honest and acknowledge good and bad. A slow year may have forced you to rebrand or invent a new product. The gaps however often hold the key to why you have a story in the first place. If you are an old or new brand, take some time to remember why you started and how the idea came to you can be the real story.
You have to know who you are before you are explaining it to others. In today’s marketing, many are focusing on their product, and it gives the appearance of a “me, me, me” attitude with marketers appearing spammy. Be different by telling your story, following some of the key points below:
Human to human connections are the heart of marketing. Brand storytelling is a technique to reinforce those bonds
Stories can give your brand a powerful voice, regardless of the size of your company
Storytelling can be told through various methods, find where your customer is and utilize all of them showing consistency
- Storytelling is more than what you say; it is also how you say it. Be sure you are not only communicating your message, but that you are staying connected with your target audience
- Your customers are what define your brand. Take the time to really understand and study those customers and now what they are saying about you.
Have you been using storytelling for your brand? Comment below and let us know please