Storytelling attaches to the common ideals of human empathy. We search for ourselves in the stories being told, and strive to connect with the message we interpret.
Whether we are looking to promote branding, increase sales, or outreaching content, storytelling in marketing is as crucial as ever to establish brevity and uniqueness within our strategies.
The Fundamentals of Storytelling
Though our target audiences may differ to that of a salesperson, our goals are defined by the same properties; we want somebody to take a desired action.
These fundamental elements of storytelling are crucial for achieving a successful marketing campaign and competent content marketers out there will already be practicing these aspects:
- Start with a question: Just like a good subject line or title, you want to be posing a question to your audience from the get go. The curious human desire to answer is apparent, and the second person narrative implicitly directs the attention on them.
Allowing the audience to dictate their own answers evokes a sense of discourse, and allows the reader to direct their own conversation within the piece. It is our job as marketers to answer these questions that arise within the reader, and mould these questions towards the end goal you are looking to achieve.
If done effectively, a good story will also answer questions the reader didn’t know needed answering. By identifying pain points before they arise, you are creating a substantial foundation of relatability that coincides with your audience. Directing your narrative with space to provide internal discourse keeps your prospects engaged. By doing so you are becoming a person to be listened to; the educator.
- Be relatable: It’s easier said than done, but as marketers we have enough data and information at our disposal to identify our audience. We can learn what is relatable and why. The harmony between analytics and storytelling comes from the human ability to represent our own experiences.
By adding human clarity to the data, our ability to interpret the information is increased substantially. In a study on emotion and memory within sales, it was discovered that stories increase the memorability of information.
It is imperative that we implement storytelling into our strategies to not only emphasise our point, but to keep the audience engaged even after the initial exposure to the content. Added human experience provides an extended viewpoint of the story and opens opportunities for the reader to address themselves within the narrative. Whilst everybody’s experience is different, we are always striving to learn from others.
- Direct your question: Stories should be crafted to educate your potential prospects. Be mindful of the message you are trying to portray, and what this story is intended to teach. Humans are apt at filling in the blanks within narratives, allowing them to interpret themselves as the potential protagonist and find their own connections to the story.
Align your narrative with the needs of your audience. Understanding pain points and desired goals are key here. By crafting a story built upon the needs of the audience, the narrative should follow the principles that you set out to teach. No matter the message, a good storyteller can spin any experience to align with the audience.
- No need to be explicit: As mentioned, the human brain will fill in the blanks that you, the storyteller, choose not to divulge. This doesn’t mean to say that your message should not be underlying the narrative. By all means, produce every word with your intent in mind. If done effectively, the message will be conveyed in the gaps of the story.
Better yet, not every interpretation has to be the same. Understanding what value people gain from the story can be just as useful to you as the intended message. The desired goal here is whatever you choose it to be; to gain brand awareness, additional sales, or some simple SEO juice. Manipulating your prospect to that end can be achieved via storytelling.
These are the fundamental elements of outlining a story in marketing. What you want to achieve, and how to achieve this should all be prescribed by your marketing strategies.
Storytelling as a Sales Tactic
I say this as a “salesperson” as much as I am a “marketer”, because quite frankly the difference is minimal.
Customers are wiser to traditional sales techniques. The abundance of knowledge and on-the-nose tactics has left salespeople deep in the mud. As customers’ knowledge evolves, the sales process must also follow suit. This doesn’t mean to say that cold hard call-to-actions (CTA’s) are not just as important as they always have been. The means in which we guide a customer to our CTA is where our efforts as marketers should be placed. This is where storytelling in marketing prevails.
Whilst a salesperson might have thirty seconds to hook a prospect, the marketing industry provides a wider breadth to appeal to the right audience. The scope in which marketing operates does not confine you to thrifty chat-up line-esque commodities. Quite frankly, thirty seconds can be enough time to emphasise an idea and secure a sale.
In thirty minutes the opportunities are endless, but the boundaries are succinct, if not more so than a cut-throat sales pitch. With more time comes more opportunity. With more opportunity comes more room to disappoint. In large-scale sales pitches, the need for perfection is imperative to secure a future prospect. The same applies in marketing.
Using the fundamentals of storytelling in marketing, we are able to guide the human empath to take a desired action. The larger scope of marketing pitches grants us the time to navigate a narrative, and guide our prospects with more breadth to a desired outcome. Knowing when and where in your marketing strategies storytelling should be placed will strengthen your campaigns.
How to Use Storytelling in Marketing Campaigns
Storytelling is a powerful tool for teaching and communicating new information. For a marketing brand, case studies and customer testimonials are key forms of storytelling that are sure to promote your business. Sharing your experiences allows others to learn about you and from you. Testimonials allow your prospects to identify their own story with you. First hand accounts are fundamental to developing your brand’s image.
Storytelling dives deeper into human emotion and can elicit more honest responses from people. It also allows a brand to target particular niches of potential customers. By crafting a story that appeals to your customers ideals, your brand is able to identify with them on a more emotional level. Being able to communicate a relatable message will elevate the position within the audience’s perspective.
Though not as clear-cut as other methods, storytelling within outreach is key to establishing a successful PR campaign. This revolves around many features.
It could be the idea that you wish to tell a story within your initial pitch. What better way to showcase your content than to talk briefly about the process that led that email to land in your prospects inbox. This can even be dictated within the subject line. Consider that the cover for your story, and the pitch the blurb.
You’re probably practicing it without noticing. Because what is successful outreach without building relationships? The moment your email lands in an inbox, a story is being formed. How you dictate that story begins with the very first pitch and is crucial to engaging with the receiver. By sending a cold email with no relatability, nothing to show that you understand your prospect, your story holds no ground. The fundamentals of storytelling are ignored. As stated, a good storyteller knows how to mould their experience (in this instance, their content) to better suit their audiences.
There are many techniques that we use as marketers to gain results. Our key focus can often rely on data and analytics, using correlation and statistics to decipher what our audiences want. The fundamentals of storytelling allow us to use this data to dive into the empathy of our audiences, establish relationships and create engagement. Storytelling is something that you probably do already, but understanding how and why is important to achieving success in your campaigns.