Storytelling, storytelling, and more storytelling

storytellingSeems like every marketing book, blog 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.

Marketers clearly believe that storytelling is a critical component of their marketing efforts.  It’s one of the most talked about topics in marketing circles today.

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: What makes true stories so dramatic and grabbing are the facts that are dotted throughout the telling.

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 taking the shortcut, we rob the audience of story’s arc. Every story is, in essence, a journey that chronicles 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.

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

Direct mail is the hot new media

Direct mail is the hot new mediaWho would have thought it?  People have been predicting the death of direct mail for over a decade.  And yet, here we stand in 2013 and have to admit — direct mail is the hot new media.

As everyone flocks to spending more time online, a curious thing happened  Our mailboxes got a lot less crowded.  Which means that we pay more attention to what shows up every day in the mail.

Which doesn’t mean you don’t still have to do it well.  Many people sort their mail over the wastebasket and if you don’t catch their attention in those few nanoseconds, all could still be lost.

Here are some of our favorite ways to make sure McLellan Marketing Group‘s clients get noteworthy results from their direct mail efforts.

Be odd:  Odd sized mail is always noticed.  Or use a translucent envelope with a bright colored piece of paper inside.  Think texture too — maybe the envelope feels interesting or different.  The point is to get noticed before they even open up the piece.

Be lumpy: Want to get opened for sure?  Be 3-dimentional.  Lumpy mail gets opened because no one wants to accidentally throw away something of value. And better yet — no admin or secretary is going to open a package addressed to their boss.  So you can dodge the gatekeeper with a bit of bulk.

Be late:  The focus has shifted from drop date to in-home date. Studies have shown time and time again that the end of the week to be most effective for delivery. This is based on the tested and proven theory that many people spend time on the weekend going through mail that was put aside to look at again. Having the mail piece arrive closer to the weekend puts your mail on top of the pile.

Take advantage of the fact that direct mail is the hot new media — start showing up in your customers’ and prospects’ mailboxes but do it smart.  Be odd, lumpy and late and you’ll get opened every time!

 

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What does this pricing strategy say to you?

PriceHow thoughtful are you about your company’s pricing strategy? Let me give you an example.

We use an on-line vendor to provide extranet services for our clients.  We’ve been with them for over five years.  We recently discovered a better, cheaper solution.  It wasn’t the cheaper that sold us.  It was the ease of use for our clients.

But cheaper doesn’t hurt.  And this was cheaper by a couple hundred dollars a month.

When I contacted the old vendor to cancel our service, guess what their immediate response was.

“We can match their price.”

What?  So you’ve been overcharging me for years?  Or you magically just had a price reduction to the very dollar amount of my new vendor and you were about to call and tell me about it?

Talk about leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Dropping your price to keep a customer is never a good strategy.  It can only make you and the client both feel taken advantage of and in the end, no one wins.

Your pricing strategy is one of the key components of your marketing message.  It speaks about things far beyond your cost.  It communicates value, customer attentiveness and how you view the relationship, both short and long term.  It’s not something you should just stumble into.  And it’s not something you should damage by mishandling a situation, like our old vendor did.

There’s an interesting couple articles over at Marketing Tips from the Trenches about how to think through a pricing strategy and how to test it.  Worth a read.

 

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Why would I pick you?

brand_redmarble_optWe have to remember that every day, both our existing customers and potential customers are looking at us and wondering “why would I pick you?”

Marketing 101 is that you need to understand how you’re different from your competitors.  It is perfectly logical — if you cannot differentiate yourself in terms of what you sell, how you sell it or why you sell it — the only differentiator left is price.

Maybe it boils down to this.

Would you rather invest the time and brain equity into figuring out (from the consumer’s point of view) how you are different or would you rather just have to be the cheapest?

Either choice is a good one.  It’s really all about your business’ strategy.  After all, Walmart seems to be doing okay with the cheapest route.  But let’s say that you don’t want to commit yourself to a perpetual price war.  Then what?

Then you need to go back to really understanding how you’re different (for the love of all that is holy, please do not say — it’s our people or we care more) and what sub-set of potential customers is in perfect alignment with that distinction.

Did you twitch a little at the phrase “sub-set of potential customers?”  This is one of the main reasons why I think companies don’t discover and honor their brand better.  They want everyone’s money — not just the right people’s money.  I’ll dig into that later this week.  For now, let’s stay focused on the discovering how you’re different.

We have a branding process that we walk clients through and I’m proud to say that many of our clients will tell you that it completely changed the way they did business.  It’s one of our favorite things to do at McLellan Marketing Group.

But…for you do it yourselfers — start by really taking some time and answering these questions, but remember, the answer can never be the product or service you sell:

  • Beyond profitability, what is the mission of your company?
  • If your company were to leave a legacy, what would it be?
  • How does your organization make the world a better place?
  • If firm disappeared tomorrow, what would be missed most of all?
  • What is the single most-important aspect of your company?
  • With regard to your organization, what do you feel passionate about?
  • What business is your company in?
  • What business is your company not in?
  • Which three adjectives best describe your organization?
  • Who (customer) would love your company the most?
  • How do you prioritize your customers? If you had to allocate 100 points between the different customers segments or types (in terms of importance), how would you do so?
  • What customer need does your product/service fulfill? Why does your target customer need or want you sell?
  • What emotion(s) do you most closely associate with your product or service?
  • How will your organization change your industry?
  • How will your company change the world?

And some fun ones to twist your brain around:

  • If your company was a shape, what would it be?
  • If your organization was a texture, what would it be?
  • If your firm was a mood or feeling, what would it be?
  • If company was something from nature, what would it be?

If you’re really brave — pull together some of your best customers and see how they answer these questions.  Or, schedule a team retreat and walk through them with your employees.

If you actually take the time to really dig into each of these questions until you’ve come up with answers that resonate and aren’t the first or a trite response — I think you’ll be surprised at how it changes the way you look at your business, what potential customers you approach and how you describe yourself.

Are you brave enough to tackle these questions?

 

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The new phone book is here — where’s yours?

photoNormally at MMG, we caution clients to be careful of the “I don’t listen/watch/do therefore neither does my target audience” trap.

We usually do not represent our target audience and even if we are like them — there are plenty of exceptions to the rule.  And sometimes the exception is you!

But in this case I will say — how you (and I) use our trusty, dusty phone book is probably pretty similar to how the rest of the world responds to them as well.

Mine?  It went from bag on the lawn to recycling bin in one fluid motion.

If you are still spending money on phone book ads — unless you know that your target audience still uses them (pretty much the 65+ crowd), there are better places for your money.

P.S.  And don’t let the “how did you hear about us” question fool you.  TV and the phone book are the usual answer when they respondent either doesn’t remember or doesn’t want to say.

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