Business owners and most marketing professionals think in numbers and statistics.
The issue: Consumers respond to stories and narratives.
According to an in-depth global study from the Delhi School of Internet Marketing, leveraging storytelling in marketing can increase conversion rates by 30 percent. A story in Search Engine Watch reports that roughly three out of five marketers believe storytelling should be a central part of their strategic marketing plan.
Despite their commitment to storytelling marketing, most marketers don’t fully understand its power, what it is and how to do it right.
In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know to become a story marketing expert.
What to Know About Storytelling in Marketing
Storytelling: It’s Power
Storytelling is at the core of being human. Since ancient times, people have passed on information to one another through storytelling. A great example of this legacy is the Bible, which is, at its core, a collection of stories, and stories within stories (known as parables), created, passed on, and eventually documented over the millennia.
Stories are powerful because they make it easier for people to understand complex concepts by creating pictures in their minds that allow them to see things and imagine what could happen next.
Example: There’s a white kitten playing with an orange ball of yarn on a verdant green lawn.
What are you seeing in your head right now? You can’t get that kitten out of your mind, can you? You probably want to reach out and pet that cute cat. You may even want to go to a shelter and bring home your own stray kitten.
That’s the power of storytelling. It fills your mind with images and makes them seem so real you want to act on them.
The same can be true for the products and services you offer. If you can paint a picture that helps consumers see themselves having a great experience using your offerings, it creates a desire to buy from you or hire you.
Storytelling: What It Is
Many marketers and business owners don’t use storytelling because they don’t understand how it can be used in marketing.
Here’s an example of how to figure it out.
Imagine you own a dating service. You’re considering two approaches to marketing it. Which do you think will perform better?
Using facts, figures, and statistics. You understand your dating service is successful because you have the numbers to prove it. You know exactly how many couples you’ve introduced and the high percentage that have gotten married or ended up in permanent relationships. The numbers are incredible and you believe they could be enough to bring in a lot of clients.
Sharing love stories. You keep up with the couples you introduce and know the details of all the love stories you’ve set up. Your marketing agency believes that telling them in your promotional efforts is the right way to attract new clients.
The first option is an example of traditional marketing. It uses facts and figures to make the case for doing business with the dating service. The second focuses on storytelling marketing, and the agency was right to recommend it. It’s the reason Match and eHarmony use it. Their marketing leads with heartwarming love stories that get prospective clients to desire the same happy ending in their lives. The two dating services then follow up the stories with statistics that prove the success of their approach to dating.
This one-two punch of story marketing backed by traditional proof-based marketing is generally the best approach for companies in most industries.
Storytelling: How to Do It Right
Here are some of the best ways to introduce storytelling into your marketing.
1. Let Your Customers Tell Their Stories About Your Business
Whether it’s customer stories or online reviews, Brightlocal reports that almost nine out of ten consumers say that they significantly impact their purchase decisions. According to Stackla, almost eight out of ten prefer when those stories are user generated.
Whether you choose to create customer stories on your own or allow customers to tell them in their own voice, get started by implementing a rating service. When you receive those coveted five-star ratings, ask customers who give them if they’d be willing to provide you with a review or participate in developing a customer story.
Even if just one out of ten people is willing to take that extra step, it could have a huge impact on your sales results.
2. Make Your Ideal Client the Subject of Your Stories
Your client stories can help make your marketing more efficient if you feature your ideal customers in them.
Is there a type of client that’s more profitable for your business?
Are there people who are just easier to work with?
Are there customer types that you’d like to move your customer base toward?
Feature these types of people in your client stories. Prospective customers will see themselves in them — or not. This will help you bring in desirable prospects and make less desirable ones opt-out. This will help eliminate marketing waste and save your sales and customers service teams time because they won’t have to work with as many bad leads.
3. Put the Spotlight on Your Client
When you develop your customer stories, make sure they’re the heroes of them. Businesses make the common mistake of telling their client stories through their own point of view — explaining what they did, how they helped, the service they provided, etc. While these are critical parts of the story, they’re not as important as the client’s point of view: what THEY were feeling prior to doing business with you, what THEIR experience was working with your company, how THEY interacted with your team, and how THEY feel now that they’re a customer or client.
The current client perspective is what will connect with prospective clients, make the stories meaningful to them and get them to take action.
4. Turn the Stories into Journeys
Stories are different than traditional forms of marketing. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Most other types of marketing do not. They could simply be promotional, include lists of features and benefits, and other non-linear types of messaging.
One example of how to take users on a journey is outlined in the section above. Start by explaining how the client felt prior to working with your business, explain their experience of partnering with it, and end with how your products or services made their lives better. As readers and viewers follow along with that path, your ideal customer will be able to identify where they’re at in the journey and clearly see your business as the bridge to a better future. From a marketing and sales perspective, what could be more powerful than that?
5. Use Your Stories in All the Right Places
Here are some common places in the marketing and communication journey where stories can be used.
At the beginning. As prospective customers begin experiencing your business, a story will hook them and make them want to find out more.
In sales presentations. Adding stories to presentations and other sales content can be a powerful way to bring dry sales information to life.
At the close. Closing the sales process with stories is a good way to demonstrate how you’ve helped other people like your prospective customers and get them to convert.
Ongoing communications. Keep telling stories to your current clients through social media, newsletters and other ongoing communications. At the very least, they will keep your top tier service top of mind. If you do things right, it could also help cross and upsell them to other products and services.
Once you’ve developed a client story, repackage it so you can use it in social media, presentations, videos, written pieces and more. An investment in a client story can pay off many times over in different marketing and sales situations across multiple media.