Storytelling. It’s as old as man. From hieroglyphics on cave walls to verbal tales of heritage, myths, and down through the printed word, storytelling has been a major part of cultural heritage. It is also the way for authors to tell tales, real or made up, and express their thoughts, beliefs, and values.
And everyone likes stories. Until recently, businesses did not think of stories as a marketing tool. But the new consumer has changed all of that. Today’s consumer wants more than a “pitch” for a product or service. He wants an “experience” with a business; he wants to know a business personally and the people behind that business. It’s all about relationships today.
And one way to personalize your business and develop those relationships is to tell stories.
Here’s Your Motivation
Let this statistic sink in for a minute: Every 24 hours, 4 million blog posts are published. If you are a content marketer, you should be feeling pretty overwhelmed. How much does your current content stand out in this environment? It probably doesn’t. But if you can begin to experiment with storytelling, in many forms, you will become a master. And as you become a master, your stories will resonate with your audience, they will be shared, and your name will be spread.
So, exactly how do you tell stories?
The Basics of Business Storytelling
If you watch television, you have probably seen the Progressive Insurance Company’s Flo. Each commercial tells a short story, always humorous and engaging. Flo also has her own Facebook page, by the way.
Companies that have a digital presence can also use storytelling – in engaging and compelling ways. Their stories will probably not be fiction pieces, but they can use great narratives to personalize their brands and develop the kinds of relationships that consumers now demand. These narratives will relate to the people behind the business, to the value of products and services being offered, to customer stories, and to the business’s place in the larger environment of social responsibility.
Business storytelling is certainly somewhat like classical formats – a small plot, characters, setting, and a theme or points to be made. The difference is in how that story is delivered. Given the technology we have today, stories can be delivered using an amazing amount of visuals and media – even more appealing to consumers, who are now more on their mobile devices than on their PC’s and who tire of reading walls of small text.
Business Storytelling and Customer Engagement Tips
How many of us have viewed the video of “Chewbacca Mom?” And how many of us wish that we could create content that went as viral? She told a story – she went to a store, found a Chewbacca mask on sale, bought it, and then had a wonderful time playing with it. Within five days, the video received more than 140 million views.
Now Candace Payne, the video’s star, was not out to sell this Hasbro toy mask, but they were “gobbled” up from any on- or the offline retailer who carried them. Hasbro had a storyteller it didn’t even hire, and sold out of a product as a result.
You may not be able to create a story that goes viral, but you can create many that will resonate with your audience, that will educate, entertain, or inspire them and bring them into a much closer relationship with you.
Here are some tips for storytelling of your own.
Tell Your Own Story
Who are you? How did you come to start this company? What do you value about the product or service you have brought to market? What do you do when not working? When consumers can put a “face” to a business and understand that the owner is just like them, they develop trust in that business. And consumers today will not patronize any brand they don’t trust.
Tell Stories About Your Team
You have great people working for you, and they are committed to serving the brand and its customers. Feature these great people and tell their stories too. Present visuals of your team at work or on a special event such as, “Bring your pet to work day.” These are solid human-interest tales that people enjoy seeing. As Neighton White, content editor for Supreme Dissertations, puts it: “We have an amazing team of writers, and we feature them and their stories as often as we can. We know that this brings customers “closer” to us.
Tell the Value of Your Product or Service Via Storytelling
In January 2011, Mark Levine and Michael Dubin were at a party. Somehow the conversation turned to the high cost of razors. The ultimate result of this conversation was the launch of Dollar Shave Club, a subscription-based razor blade company that solved a big problem for many men – razors at low cost, delivered to the door once a month – no more running out of razors; nor more paying high retail prices. To tell the story of their brand, they created an “explainer video” (they spent a total of $2500 to create it). It is hilarious and went viral quite quickly. Within hours of the video launch, the website crashed, and they ran out of product almost immediately. The point is this: they told the story of how they began and of the problems their company solves for consumers. Today, Dollar Shave Club is a huge company, has expanded into many other products and raking in the profit.
Let Your Customers Tell Their Stories
This can be one of the most powerful storytelling tools you have access to. And you don’t have to do much more than ask you’re happy customers for their stories. They can submit photos or videos which you can then publish on your website, blot, and social media pages. Consumers will establish an emotional connection to others just like them who have solved problems using your product or service.
Use Visuals and Media
As children, one of the big “draws” of storybooks was their illustrations. Actually, according to researchers, we are not much different as adults. Our brains prefer visuals, and we tend to focus and retain visual content better.
Research at 3M Corporation showed that we process visuals 60,000 faster. And presenters who used visuals were 43% more effective getting an audience to follow a CTA than those who did not.
You can tell a story without any words at all, in fact. And that’s why social media platforms like Instagram are so popular.
Mod Cloth a millennial female clothier understands storytelling and how to use it effectively. One of Mod Cloth’s stories is that it caters to every diversity of size and shape imaginable and that it honors all of those shapes and sizes. Here is a typical photo on Instagram.
An important note here: Do not discount the use of text. Pictures need captions; videos need scripts; and some stories will require creative writing, supported by visuals. For both, you have access to any number of tools and services. Writing services, such as Hot Essay Service, have creative writing departments; or you can check out reviews of several of them at Grab My Essay; freelancer sites, like Elance, all have creative writers for hire; use Canva to create terrific visuals. And free and easy tools to create animation and videos are plentiful.
More than ever before, today’s consumer wants to see social responsibility of some kind in the companies he chooses to do business with. And your support and/or participation in some form of social conduct will make a great story to tell anywhere. If you have supported a charitable event, post photos or videos of your participation; if you promote sustainability through the use of resources in your production, then say so and how you do that; if you have a long-term commitment to a cause, tell stories of the results.
Toms Shoes is the obvious example here. The company began by giving away a pair to a needy child for every pair purchased. This one-for-one idea has caught on, and now many brands have followed suit, either with in-kind or dollar donations when purchases are made.
Tell your stories of the good that has been done as a result of your customers’ support – most of us have a need to feel that we are “doing good.”
In the End…
Storytelling is so effective because consumers can relate emotionally and socially to them. They see others just like them providing information, entertainment, and inspiration, and they feel much more comfortable doing business with those others.
You be the “other” your audience wants to do business with. Fill your publishing calendar with great stories, get help if you need to do so, and you will see growth.
Author Bio: Bridgette Hernandez loves to write. Having finished her college studies last year, she is currently writing a book on human behavior in response to the digital world. To pay her bills in the meantime, she is a freelance writer and a regular content creator for Is Accurate, a site that reviews translation services.