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Entries Tagged as 'Storytelling'

Why isn’t marketing’s version of storytelling working?

November 11th, 2012 · Branding, Content Marketing, Sales, Storytelling

Storytelling, storytelling, and more storytelling.

Seems like every marketing book, blog (including mine if you’ve been reading this week’s posts) and study is talking about how we should be using storytelling as a marketing technique.

I couldn’t agree more.  Unfortunately, I think most attempts fall short.

Earlier this week — I made the point that A) It seems that despite all the hype — we’re doing less real storytelling today and B) storytelling is hardly a new tactic.

Marketers clearly believe that storytelling is a critical component of their marketing efforts.  As you can see (click here to see a larger version of the chart above) by the chart above, according to a 2012 B2B Content Marketing Trends survey conducted for Holger Schulze for Optify, 81% of respondents listed engaging and compelling storytelling as one of the three most important aspects of content marketing.

So — no argument that marketing’s version of storytelling is critical to a business’ communications success. The question is — why are so many companies doing it badly and not experiencing the results they want?

The stories don’t evoke an emotion: There’s not a memorable story around that isn’t seeded in emotions.  For some businesses, especially those in the B2B sector, it’s hard to imagine what emotions their products or services might trigger.  That’s because the marketers are staying at the features level of sales, not delving into the benefits that lie beneath.

It might be as simple as your prospect is afraid if they make a bad decision, it will cost them their job.  Or it could be that what you sell is helping your clients fulfill their reason for existing — which to them is very emotionally motivated.  If you dig deep enough, you’ll find the emotions behind your stories.  Be sure you expose those in your storytelling so that your audience can relate to and empathize with the people in the tale.

The stories don’t use data to lend credibility: As we discussed in my post about the Revolutionary War book — what made those stories so dramatic and grabbing was he facts that were dotted throughout.

As the folks at the Content Marketing Institute points out in this blog post — data can be used in a variety of ways to tell your story.  Think visual data like an infographic or let the data suggest a new angle or insight for both you and your audience.

The story doesn’t take us on a journey: In marketing’s version of storytelling, we often take shortcuts to get to the big reveal.  But in doing that, we rob the audience of the arc of the story. Every story is, in essence, a journey that chronicles the the problem, the fight to solve the problem and how things are better once the challenge is resolved.

But a great story lets the journey also help the audience see the motivations, frustrations and worries of the characters while they try to face the problem. The outcomes are also wrapped in more than just the tangible results.  When the story is rich with details – we also learn more about the intangible results and ultimate value of delivering the right solution.

The story doesn’t include a next step/call to action: Here’s where most marketers really miss the boat.  A well crafted story draws the audience in, helps them connect with the main character and feel their common pain.  As the story evolves, the prospect is pulling for the character — because in reality, the character bears a striking resemblance to them.  They experience the ups and downs within the story and as the story delivers the happy ending — the prospective customer is thinking and feeling relief and a desire to share in that sort of outcome.

So marketing’s version of storytelling is all too often, a big tease.  You led them right to the edge — get them hungry for what you’re selling but don’t give them a clear and defined next step.  Ask yourself — what do I want them to do next and be sure you make it easy and quick to take that next action.

If you don’t include this as a part of your storytelling — the whole point of telling the story in the first place is wasted.  You aren’t a court jester earning your supper.  You’re trying to help someone decide whether or not you hold the answer to their problem. Once you demonstrate that you are the right choice — be sure you give them a chance to tell you so.

What do you think? Can you tweak the way you’re telling your company’s story so that it drives leads and sales?

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Persuasive storytelling is centuries old

November 7th, 2012 · Books, Business Owner/Leader Stuff, Storytelling

Let me tell you a little story.  I promise — we’ll close the circle with some marketing insights but I need to set the stage.

Back when I launched my blog in ’06, I met Todd Andrlik about the time he was creating what would eventually become the AdAge Power 150 index of marketing blogs.  Todd participated in the first Age of Conversation book and was a part of the Blogger Social weekend in New York City where about 100 of us early adopters to marketing blogging gathered just to hang out.

As a thank you for being a part of the organizers for that weekend, Todd gave me a very special gift that told me a great deal about him.  It was a collectible version of a front page from a very old newspaper – the kind Todd had been collecting for years. Until then, I’d had no idea that Todd was an avid collector of old newspapers and in fact, he owns one of the most significant collections of American Revolution era newspapers in existence (Some of his collection is actually housed in the Library of Congress!).  He’s considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on 18th century newspapers.

Todd’s new book Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before it was History, it was News (click to buy*) was just released and it is stunning in both it’s eye-opening content and it’s eye pleasing presentation.  It has the appearance of a beautiful coffee table book — with remarkable photos of some of the most historic front pages in United State’s history.

But the book then combines these newspaper accounts with essays from 37 historians and American revolutionary experts to take us from the Boston Tea Party all the way to Independence, introducing us to incredible stories, characters and plot twists in the story of the US’ fight for freedom. What’s so cool about this book is that the experts talk about how the newspaper accounts impacted each stage of the revolution.

Todd has also built (as you might imagine) an online companion to the book at BeforeHistory.com, so interested readers, teachers and others can learn even more.

I will tell you — this is not the sort of book I normally read. But I couldn’t put it down.  The storytelling was that riveting.  That’s where you come in.  As i was reading the book, I realized it was an incredible primer on how to tell compelling stories.  Not only did I learn a lot about the Revolutionary War, but here were some takeaways for all marketers.

Bring your characters to life by making them three dimentional: One benefit of telling stories about real people is that they’re not flat.  They have dimensions, good and bad qualities, failings and virtues.  Stories are much more believable when the characters are genuine.  And today’s jaded audiences find “too good to be true” characters much less compelling.

Remind us of the greater good: Part of what made Todd’s book so exciting was that even though I knew how the fight ended, I found myself rooting for those who were truly fighting for the greater good. Many times in our marketing efforts — we get too granular and we forget to take a step back and talk about the bigger picture.  Be sure to remind your audience why what you sell matters and how you can help them in their quest to be significant.

Blending facts and emotions builds credibility:  Emotion is what triggers our hunger to buy but facts support the decision. The best storytelling marketing combines the two. Part of what made the content in Reporting the Revolutionary War so sticky was because the newspaper accounts and quotes from the stories documented that it wasn’t just fluff.

I don’t expect that most of us are creating marketing materials that would qualify as coffee table worthy but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a few lessons from a book that belongs on everyone’s coffee table.

A huge congrats to Todd on producing such a fantastic book and a reminder to all of you that despite all the hype around the word storytelling — it’s actually an ancient art that all of us can use to help connect the right people to the products and services we sell.







*Affiliate link


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Have we lost the art of storytelling in marketing?

November 5th, 2012 · Branding, Content Marketing, Psychology, Sales, Storytelling · 17 Comments

As the buzz about content marketing, social media and all things digital continues to rise, one of the catch phrases that gets a lot of attention is storytelling in marketing.  We afford it incredible lip service but do we actually practice it? As we give way to our USA Today sound byte style of sharing [Read more...]

7 keys to compelling case studies

October 2nd, 2012 · Content Marketing, Marketing, Storytelling · 6 Comments

Why do case studies work so well? It’s simple really. Everyone loves a good story. And there’s a reason why Aesop and others opted to teach their life lessons through stories that have been told and re-told for many years. Smart parents know this trick too. They teach lessons to their children through stories of their [Read more...]

Any brand can become talkable

July 28th, 2012 · Branding, Storytelling, Word of Mouth · 7 Comments

Are you talkable? On this blog, we often explore the importance of brand and the power of word of mouth. It seems that many business owners/leaders believe that you can just plan on something being spread by word of mouth and voila, it happens. (Sort of like planning for a video to go viral). The [Read more...]

Start with Why

July 27th, 2012 · Copywriting, Storytelling, Strategy · 3 Comments

One of the 20 most watched TED talks of 2010 was given by Simon Sinek and speaks directly to anyone who is trying to market or sell something. Sinek’s premise is simple. Always start with why. Sinek began his adult life as a student of anthropology. His fascination with people led him to a career [Read more...]

Advertising can’t just be funny

July 16th, 2012 · Innovation & Creativity, Media, Storytelling, Strategy · 13 Comments

Don’t get me wrong.  I like funny.  Most of my favorite movies are funny.  The TV shows I watch — usually funny.  And I appreciate a funny ad. But…it still has to sell something.  That’s the ad’s reason for existence.  No company runs a TV commercial just to entertain the viewers. So when I see [Read more...]

The “how to” of business blogging

July 2nd, 2012 · Marketing, Social Media, Storytelling, Strategy · 8 Comments

Blogs, once described as the vehicle for narcissistic over sharers and people who found cats amusing, have certainly come into their own. Today, while there are still plenty of hobby bloggers out there, the tool is being embraced by businesses and thought leaders in record numbers. The benefits a blog can bring to a business [Read more...]

Are you making one of these 7 content marketing mistakes?

May 29th, 2012 · Love Affair with Customers, Storytelling, Trends, Web/Tech · 3 Comments

It seems like everyone is talking content marketing these days, like it’s it hottest thing since sliced bread. Of course, for many businesses — this is just a new name for something they’ve been practicing for eons.  They’ve been creating valuable newsletters or writing white papers for years. Which does not mean that you’re doing it as [Read more...]

What can content marketing do for your business?

May 22nd, 2012 · Branding, Love Affair with Customers, Storytelling, Strategy · 7 Comments

Content marketing.  It seems like everyone’s talking about it. But what exactly is it and what can it do for your business? Odds are, if you’re doing any marketing at all — you’re at least accidentally dabbling in content marketing. First — it goes by many names.  Some people call it custom publishing or branded [Read more...]