There’s been a lot of conversation about storytelling lately for business marketers. But as I keep writing about storytelling I realize that I am touching on different pieces. This post is an attempt to connect all the dots so that marketers understand what storytelling is and why it’s important for their business.

Dot #1: Telling a Story Grabs Attention

Digital has created a lot of noise. More people posting more content into more channels. Which is why people have reverted to “information snacking.” There’s just not enough time in the day to pay attention to everything. So you need a way to stand out. You need to give people a reason to stop snacking and start reading or watching. Why does a story get attention? Because we are hard wired for stories. Stories help us remember. Stories connect us with each other. I won’t go into all the biology and psychology behind stories but, trust me, they have an impact.

When marketers transition from just broadcasting a message about their product (i.e., “our product is the best because it helps you solve this problem”) to telling a story, they stick out. And you can tell a story at different parts of the buyer’s journey.

Aside: How Do I Tell a Story For My Business?

First, it’s not about writing a novel. This isn’t a romance or a murder mystery. But it is about creating a narrative arc and characters and a conflict and a resolution. For example, I bet that most of your customers have a story about how they found your product. Or, I bet that your industry has stories about critical challenges facing us today. These stories that you tell aren’t about your company or your product. They are about connecting to your customer. So keep your brand out of it. Keep you out of it. Let your customers or your industry or other people be the point of your story and through that, your audience will connect it to you (and your brand/product).

Dot #2: Getting Attention Gives You the Opportunity to Engage

You want to engage with your audience. Heck, it’s what digital enables us to do. One-to-one conversations via social media and email and blog comments. That’s powerful. But you can’t even think of doing that if people aren’t paying attention. So if you are telling stories (and people are starting to pay attention) you have awareness (at the bottom of the relationship pyramid) and the opportunity to move people up the pyramid through further engagement.

Dot #3: Engagement Leads to Long-term Relationships

Unless you are selling a commodity or utility product/service, developing relationships is critical to your long-term success. In the digital world, relationships with influencer customers provide you access to a vast network of other relationships. But you can’t develop relationships if you don’t have attention…and you aren’t engaging.

Aside: Why is Content Marketing So Important?

Marketers are becoming publishers. Why? Because by giving your audience content that they find useful (Coca-Cola does an awesome job at this) you build credibility and trust which, again, helps you drive them up the relationship pyramid. Remember that you don’t have to give them content about you. Give them content they will find useful, content that will help them solve a problem or generate a discussion. We have done this at Limelight by talking about changes in the marketing industry (changes like the importance of storytelling).

Dot #4: Engagement Leads to Sales Opportunities

Every time that you engage with someone you expose a sales opportunity. But you can’t push it. When you push it, people will turn away and the relationship you have with them will tumble down the relationship pyramid. That’s bad. People will buy when they are ready. If you have the credibility, trust, and relationship with them when they are ready to purchase, you will be first in their mind.

Dot #5: ROI Will Come (But Later Than Credibility)

Okay, it goes without saying that you need to show return for your efforts. No organization is just going to spend money continually on marketing if the activities marketing is carrying out aren’t impacting the business. But the problem is that most storytelling is “awareness marketing.” It’s all about establishing trust, credibility, relationships, etc. for the chance of a sales opportunity down the road. Many CxOs have an unrealistic expectation that everything marketing does should immediately bear return. That may have been the case in old-school marketing (i.e., broadcast marketing) but it’s not the case with engagement marketing. Of course sales will happen short-term. As a central strategy for any content marketing effort, storytelling is more about the long-term.

Other Things to Consider

Digital gives us a way to tell stories like never before. Things can be connected across platforms. We can create “experiences” which combine stories in different mediums. Below are a few things to consider about storytelling in the digital world:

  • Video improves everything about storytelling. Let’s face it: we are hard-wired for motion. It’s in the way our brains are constructed. So when presented with a story that is still (words + images) vs in motion (video) we will tend to gravitate to the later. Stories that include (or are encapsulated by) video will succeed over stories that aren’t.
  • People are mobile all the time. Your audience isn’t sitting on your couch (or at their desk) engaging with their story. Chances are they are out and about. Running errands. Heading to meetings. Walking the hall. You have to keep this in mind as you craft your story not only for the form-factor but also for what will be most impactful on a smartphone or tablet screen. Delivering the 1200-word article of your story as part of a mobile experience is probably not going to keep much attention.
  • Digital is immersive. Although we are still learning about how this applies to business, transmedia storytelling has been around a while. What is it? Simply put, it’s about telling different parts of the story in different channels and connecting them all together as one big experience. When you do that, people can get lost in your story moving from one channel to another. They enjoy the novelty of discovering and finding new things.

This blog post is from www.rethinkeverythingblog.com/2017/11/04/storytelling-for-marketers-connecting-the-dots/

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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