The word story invokes a powerful image for many of us. It brings us back to our childhood, laying in bed while our parents read or tell us a story. It is warm and fuzzy. And now… it has been intricately linked with marketing.
Do a search on Google Trends for the term “content marketing” and you can see that it has grown dramatically in the last ten years. As of 2016, 80% of B2B companies say they invest in some form of content marketing, and that number is growing.
With that rise in popularity has come a valuable question: How do I get my piece of content to rise above the noise? Often the answer to that question is “Tell a story” – but with so many stories out there, you need to know what story to tell.
Are All Stories Created Equal?
When we think about it, there are only a handful of stories that we remember, despite the fact that there is so much content and information vying for our attention.
Without analyzing it, the fact that some stories stick in our minds better than others can seem random. But there are a few elements that make a story truly memorable:
- The story relates to something personal in our lives – We tend to remember things that have a direct effect on us, or call to mind something that happened in our past.
- There was some level of conflict and resolution – Every story ever told (almost) has some conflict that needed resolving. It can range from Luke Skywalker trying to bring balance to the Force in Star Wars, to Geico saving you time and money when you shop for auto insurance by getting you a quote in 15 minutes or less. In both cases, there was a problem and a solution.
- There is someone (or something) to root for – Stories with heroes are some of the most popular ever told. As human beings, we like having someone we can root for and stand behind.
These three characteristics don’t guarantee success, but it is a good start. Effective storytelling goes beyond the words and situations you use. It’s also important to consider the presentation of the story and your timing.
Context is Important
Just because you have a great story to tell, doesn’t mean that you will always have a captive audience ready to listen. You can waste really good storytelling by presenting it to someone who isn’t ready to listen or doesn’t really care about what you have to say.
Think about the story you want to tell, how are you going to disseminate it? Are you going to tell it in a video, a blog post, an email newsletter, an interview, a podcast, a social media post? Each of these channels are fantastic places to tell stories, and yet they have vastly different audiences.
Audience is one of the most important elements in storytelling. Recognize how to segment your audience and communicate with them in the most effective way possible can create a larger, more dedicated following.
Make sure you keep your audience in mind when it’s time to tell your story.
Don’t Focus on Your Story (All the Time)
The most tempting story to tell is the one you know best: your own. While it can be easy to talk about yourself, try to avoid doing it all the time. What people really care about is themselves. Tell them their story in the context of how you can help solve their problems.
Donald Miller of StoryBrand is a leader in the field of storytelling marketing. Donald is a big proponent of positioning your company as the guide that is going to help your customer (the hero) solve their biggest problems. He says that too often companies try to position themselves as the hero and tell their own story when most people don’t really care – all they care about is how you can help them.
There is value in telling your story – it helps establish your credibility – but it shouldn’t be the first story you tell. Maintain a customer-centric mindset and use that to help frame your content. How can you act as the guide (think Yoda to Luke Skywalker) and help your customers be their best self?
Frame that in a story that will put your customers on the path to success.
The Future of Marketing
Is storytelling the future of marketing?
It is the past, present, and future of marketing. Storytelling has always been a part of marketing. Every ad strives to tell a story, but what’s changing is our understanding of our audiences and how to reach them with messaging that delivers direct, personal value.
As marketing evolves, make sure that your storytelling evolves with it so that you tell the most compelling, interesting stories possible. Not about yourself, but about your customers and their pains and struggles, and how you can help them achieve their goals and overcome.