Storytelling: Are You Doing It Wrong?

3 min read

For gaining and keeping the attention of potential customers, for persuading leads to raise their hand and say, “Yes, I’m interested”, and for building your brand, few marketing techniques come close to the power of storytelling.

More and more marketers are harnessing the power of storytelling as a business-building tool. With the explosive growth in popularity of content marketing, it’s easy to think of storytelling as a new marketing tool, but it’s not. Marketers have been successfully using the power of stories for generations.

Indeed, storytelling is an ancient art form that humans universally respond to. Done right, it can drive your marketing results forward like few things can. Done wrong, your audience can quickly become bored and lose faith in your brand. Avoid the following two approaches to make sure your storytelling efforts are effective.

Two Ways You May Be Getting Storytelling Wrong

1. Is your story about you or about your reader?

Some marketers think their stories, and their marketing messages in general, need to focus on them, their products and the company they represent. They think the way to impress consumers is to babble on and on about the great products they carry and the incredible company that they are, without ever mentioning the reader and his or her needs and wants.

This is the wrong approach. The way to influence your readers is to empathetically talk about them, their problems and how you can solve them. Great storytelling does this in a subtle, indirect fashion.

The most effective marketing stories don’t place their primary focus on the company or its product; instead, they talk about a customer success the reader can relate to and mentally picture himself enjoying. In this kind of storytelling, the main character (a.k.a. the “hero”) finds a solution to his vexing problem; this resonates with, and persuades, readers in a big way.

2. Is your story driven by logic or emotion?

People are emotional creatures. Our emotions influence the decisions we make, including our buying decisions. If you ignore the power of emotional appeal in your advertising, your campaigns will likely end in frustration.

When you craft your brand stories, don’t make them dry, logical lists of product features and technical product specifications. Rather, use powerful emotions to capture your readers’ hearts. Try using a means end chain analysis to “ladder up” to your audience’s values and then use storytelling to appeal to those values.

You might even start your story off with a bleak and dreary tone. To quote Seth Godin, “sell the problem”. As you begin your story, drive home to the reader how painful the hero’s dilemma was (and by extension, how painful it is for the reader). As the story progresses – as you talk more and more about how you solved the hero’s problem – give the reader hope that you can do the same for him.

Taking the reader on an emotional roller coaster with a happy ending is a powerful way to bond him to your brand and make him want to find out more about becoming your customer.

Can You “Sell Without Selling”?

Understand this about effective storytelling: It “sells without selling”. As your reader becomes emotionally involved in your story, he often starts to convince himself of your product and company efficacy.

Consistently offer compelling stories and your audience will bond with you emotionally. This attachment will lead to more first time sales, more repeat sales, and a higher lifetime customer value.

And here’s a bonus: customers bonded to you through emotional, compelling stories will be much more likely to become brand ambassadors, otherwise known as your “unpaid sales force.”

A Matter Of Trust

Remember that no matter how effective your marketing messages are, your potential customers trust your current customers much more than they trust you. If your happy customer/brand ambassador tells them how wonderful your product is, you just might gain new customers as a result.

Likewise, if you can connect with your audience through poignant stories that are relevant to their own desires, they’ll be much more receptive to more direct marketing communications further down the funnel.

In today’s crowded marketing environment, your potential audience is drowning in a vast ocean of content. You need clear advantages over your competitors to win their attention. When your brand develops a reputation for producing compelling, entertaining, emotional stories , your content will stand out and get noticed in a big, bold way.

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