Guest post by Natalie Smith.
Marketing involves, of course, much more than just advertisements and sales pitches – it includes all activities and processes used to communicate and exchange offers that have value for customers.
While communicating offers to your clients, you can use advertisements and sales pitches, but you can also use other tools, including content marketing. Just one aspect of content marketing – storytelling – can make your website come alive, humanize B2B marketing content, attract visitors and expose the world to the value you provide.
Attention-grabbing content keeps visitors on your website, so give it to them by writing stories that make readers want to come back for more.
By incorporating storytelling into your marketing strategy, you break away from traditional “marketing speak,” replacing it with narratives that reflect the values of your brand. As visitors return to read new and updated stories, some will start the journey to becoming your customers. The following tips will help you to more effectively use storytelling as a marketing tool.
Before you begin telling your story, do the research necessary to identify and learn about your target audience to create personas. When you know what your audience needs and wants, you can craft your story to leverage their expectations and experiences in ways that will lead them to act.
As part of your planning, decide on the best way to address your target audience – your overarching theme, the emotions you wish to evoke, and the goals you want to achieve. You also need to make decisions about perspective, voice, and tone of your story.
Next, gather information that will support your story. This information might include brand history, important dates, and supporting material such as quotes and anecdotes.
Finally, you should consider employing content workers who can help brainstorm ideas for your stories and help you plan them. The time spent planning and preparing your storytelling strategy will result in a high quality, well-orchestrated campaign that leads to sales.
Focus on People
Storytelling is powerful because it helps create strong interpersonal relationships. It is thus important to have a strong customer-focused approach to business to avoid creating a dissonance that can torpedo your marketing campaign.
Storytelling must emphasize the customer, not the company or the product. By no means should your story focus on selling. Instead, it should stress the humanity of your audience and the humanity of your brand. Cover topics of human interest, such as customer success stories, to captivate attention and stimulate an emotional connection to your brand.
For example, Dodge made a commercial that used the story of the first Dodge Brothers to build an emotional bond with the viewer, making it an excellent example of how to focus on people as part of a storytelling campaign.
Develop Theme and Structure
For maximum effect, your storytelling should follow a basic structure. In the beginning, you want to hook the audience. Use an active, personal tone to compel your audience to stay with your story until the end. Introduce your characters and inject emotional cues that help readers connect with them.
In the middle of your story, present the problem or struggle that affects your characters. Finally, wrap up the story, showing how to solve the problem and incorporating values that characterize your brand.
You might recognize some classic patterns in storytelling, and use them to help you begin your campaign:
• The hero’s journey or adventure.
• Your character’s coming-of-age or personal discovery.
• Personal victory and perseverance.
• Being taught by the guru, etc.
Create the setting of the story by engaging the senses and revealing what the character sees, hears, smells, and feels. You need a relatable character or buyer persona who faces obstacles and overcomes them in the end. Similarly, you could create a protagonist who actively pursues justice or triumph over adversity.
Develop conflict and tension in storytelling by portraying the struggles of your character in ways that encourage your audience to root for the character and become emotionally involved. Additionally, grab attention through the element of surprise.
Let us look at another example. Dove Products used a storytelling strategy in its Campaign for Real Beauty. The company introduced young women who didn’t believe they were beautiful and showed how they overcame those issues to become self-confident. The strategy helped double profits for the brand.
Use the Right Style
Use everyday language for your storytelling, with a conversational style you would use when telling a story to a friend. An informal, human touch accented by some humor and wit will help you come across as a real person. Adjust your language for your target audience.
For example, you could use slang to help carry young audience but more direct language to communicate with business professionals. Use concise language, so your audience can finish your story in a reasonable amount of time without boring them. Just as much you need to engage your customers when doing business, you need to make sure that you engage your audience with your content, so they turn into buying customers.
As you create your story, inject your brand’s keywords to build a deep bond between the audience and your product or service. If you have questions about what keywords to use, interview your customers to see what words they commonly use to describe your brand.
Finally, make your storytelling fit the format you use. If you create a video, emphasize the voice, facial expressions, gestures, and mannerisms to express the humanity of your character. In your writing, use proper style and grammar to support the setting and tone of your story and to create a coherent, logical flow.
Promote Your Story
After creating your story, you need to promote it. You can social media to expose your story to large audiences. You can also use your email lists to distribute your story to people who have already expressed interest in your brand.
Storytelling underscores the Web experience, so make sure you create a visible, consistent message throughout your website and your other media. Your blogs, videos, infographics, and other tools should all support the common theme of your story.
Your storytelling should transcend the written and visual content you create. Everything you say and do should support the same idea conveyed by your story. Your interviews, speeches, customer service, and marketing initiatives should all contribute to a unified presence that strengthens your story and the way your audience perceives your brand.
By following these tips, you can use storytelling as a powerful tactic for successful marketing. Rather than bombard your target market with spammy advertising and aggressive selling, engage them by thinking outside the box. Lay aside the promotional marketing mindset and adopt a creative strategy based on what you know people want.
When your stories convey the value of your brand and center on people, rather than your product, they give a unique voice to your business, making your brand stand out from competitors. As the volume of content produced makes it more difficult to stand out, storytelling will grow in importance, so begin planning your storytelling strategy today.
About the author: Natalie Smith loves to write about themes related to online marketing, customer service and business world in general. She is a Seattle-based copywriter. You can reach her @Natalie Smith