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

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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9 Keys to Wicked Awesome Landing Pages

Note from Drew:  Every once in awhile I like to open up the blog to a guest with a depth of expertise that I think you’ll benefit from.  Here’s Jason Well’s take on landing pages.

A few weeks ago I spoke at SES New York about mobile PPC and SEO. I touched briefly on mobile landing pages.

After the presentation one of the attendees walked up to me and said, “thanks for covering mobile landing pages, but most people still need help on their standard landing pages.”

He was right.

Especially in the B2B world, ‘regular’ landing pages are still critical.

While keeping in mind that no landing page is perfect, there are a few simple (and not so simple) rules to creating wicked awesome landing pages.

  1. Goal – When you create a landing page what is your goal? Do you want people to download a White Paper, schedule a demo, or call you on the phone? This goal should be clearly defined and obvious to the visitor at-a-glance. Everything on that landing page should work to accomplish that goal.
  2. Headline – The headline of your landing page needs to be short and precise. That is all.
  3. Brief Copy –There is a rule that journalists use that marketers should also apply. The rule is this: use the fewest words necessary to get your point across.
  4. Call-to-Action – What do you want a visitor to do on your landing page? (Remember our discussion about goals above). This call-to-action should be crystal clear. (Think blatant, obvious and simple).
  5. Options – You don’t want to necessarily mandate that your visitors fill out a form. Give them options. Place your phone number in prominent locations on the landing page so they can call you, if they prefer.
  6. Fields – The other day I visited a landing page that stunk. It was terrible. Why? Because they wanted me to fill out 16 information fields! 16! Now, there is no perfect number for form fields. But one thing iscertain: 16 is way too many.
  7. Testing – You should A/B test every element of your landing pages. Place phone numbers in difference locations. Change and tweak specific form fields. Change copy and headlines. Test and refine. (Everyone knows they should do this, but most people don’t).
  8. ‘Retreat’ Offers – If someone doesn’t want to sign up for a demo on your landing page, for example, give them the option to download a White Paper when they leave.
  9. Metrics – Most marketers know what percentage of visitors to their landing pages are converting. (i.e. how many people are filling out a form to download a product or see a demo). But does your conversion rate include people who called you as a results of your landing page? Does your conversion rate count those people who +1 you after visiting your landing page? Including those ‘other metrics’ in your conversion rate will give you a more complete picture of how effective your landing page actually is.

Bio: Jason Wells is the CEO of ContactPoint. Their new product, LogMyCalls, represents the next generation of intelligent call tracking and marketing automation. Prior, Jason served as the Senior Vice President of Sony Pictures, where he led the creation and international expansion of Sony’s international mobile business line from London.

Jason holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

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