4 rules of storytelling in marketing
Finding it hard to write engaging copy for your customers? Marketers often talk about how storytelling can align customers with your brand but crafting a good story is not as easy as it sounds. Storytelling is not just cobbling together descriptive words. Here are four rules to make your marketing story work.
1. ask yourself, ‘so what?’
Writing amazing copy is all well and good but story is what counts. You’ll turn the page of a book because there is a reason to, such as a question that needs answering, an urgency that needs addressing. The copy is leading the reader somewhere. In the same way you are compelled to turn the page in a novel, marketing stories want you to press a button, go somewhere on the website, call someone. When you write your copy – ask yourself if the visitor is going to say, ‘So what?’ when they read it. ‘So what?’ is often the outcome for companies that talk too much of themselves and not the customer.
Instead of “We enjoy our work” (so what?), say: “We enjoy helping you make the difference you want.”
2. find the conflict
A good story hinges on a conflict, ‘push and pull’ – and so can your marketing. A bad guy is a character that lights up the good guy’s qualities and creates the conflict. The conflict can simply be overcoming a personal or situational challenge, adapting to overcome difficulties. What’s the deeper customer challenge you are addressing with your story? Is there something that stops someone from being happy, that your service or product addresses? For example: ‘Can’t sleep for worry about your finances? No need to worry anymore, we have your back with small, easy loans.’ Find the conflict in your customer and present your business service as the solution.
3. unclutter your purpose
Stories that go wrong, often do so because they contain irrelevant clutter, subplots and totally go off on tangents that don’t contribute to the main narrative. Keep the story on the purpose – the key purpose, the key message. There is a reason branding companies spend so much time investigating businesses and distilling brand slogans, because it’s the alchemy of distilling a company’s essence into one phrase or word that’s meaningful to the proposition. Look around the internet and you can see the sites that are overcluttered, compared to the clean customer journey on sites that have edited down their messaging to snappy lines.
4. highlight characters to identify with
Who is literally the face of your company? We all know Richard Branson as the face of Virgin and Elon Musk as the face of SpaceX but who is the face or multiple faces that connect with your customers best? Make them count, make them stars. Sometimes top sales people, front line customer service operatives are unseen reps that deal with your customers brilliantly every day. The characters in your company are important because they can become the heroes of your storytelling.
And if they leave, there should always be someone who can represent in their place. Ask of your team, do they relate to your customer, do they have the same character as your customer? People can really make a difference in a business when they are visible and part of your brand story. Humans are tribal in nature so find the tribes that define your customers, understand and reflect back to them their culture, beliefs and needs, and you’ll be closer to selling to them. Another mental exercise here is to see the company as a person and think, what kind of person is that? Sometimes the results can be surprising and amusing but will give you insight to what needs to change.