How to leverage storytelling in your content marketing
To increase your customer conversion rates, you need to start telling your customers better stories.
All the top marketers agree... Advertising guru Seth Godin says:
"Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, it's about the stories you tell."
"Nothing sticks in your head better than a story,"
echoes HubSpot boss Sam Balter.
"Stories express complex ideas in the most digestible way - in a way that we can't help but remember."
So how can you leverage storytelling in your content marketing campaigns?
Let's explore. And like every good story, we'll start at the very beginning...
What is storytelling in content creation?
Most marketing content presents messages, i.e., single, self-contained ideas that tell people something about a product or service.
Storytelling in content creation is similar but also very different. There's still a message (maybe even a moral). But with storytelling, you're conveying that message through a narrative, i.e. a story with a beginning, middle, and end. The story can take any form. It could be a blog post, a vlog, a customer testimonial, a podcast, an animated explainer video, a TV ad, or a YouTube video.
Why is storytelling so powerful?
Humans have been telling each other stories for 30,000 years, storytelling is how we understand (and even construct) the world around us.
We're constantly telling or listening to stories, even when we don't realise it.
Research suggests that personal stories (including gossip. Come on, we all do it!) account for 65% of our daily conversations. We even tell ourselves stories, albeit extraordinary ones, when we sleep. We just call them dreams.
Stories are hard-wired into our DNA, a central part of the human experience.
What makes a good story
Stories make messages feel more authentic, genuine, and, in many cases, 'true.' They make our messages sound and feel more credible. And isn't that what every business wants?
But what makes a good story?
Every story can be boiled down to three fundamental elements: character, setting, and plot.
In other words, who is the story about, where does it take place, and, crucially, what happens in it? And something has to happen; this is what makes it a story.
That 'happening' could be overcoming a challenge, making a profound realisation, solving a problem or mystery, or simply gaining a new understanding.
The elements of storytelling in content creation
Stories written for ads and content creation are no different - except for one crucial factor. We still want audiences to feel something, to connect emotionally with our story. But we want to create an emotional connection that compels audience members to take a specific action.
So our stories need to be entertaining and persuasive.
The best marketing stories, the ones that convert audience members into customers, have the following elements:
A relatable protagonist
Pretty obvious, but well worth mentioning. Generally, audiences connect with stories with a central character they can relate to.
So spend plenty of time researching your ideal target persona, including their likes, dislikes, motivations, and aspirations. They make them - and their common pain points - the subject of your stories.
Keep it real and keep it authentic
Personalisation is a big focus for marketing now. And that's because customers crave a sense of authenticity. As such, real stories created by real people can be a hugely effective storytelling technique for driving leads and conversion rates.
Trulia, an online real estate marketplace, leverages the power of storytelling by asking its customers to produce blogs and vlogs detailing their journey (i.e. their story) of finding and moving into their dream home.
This is marketing storytelling at its best. It's real, authentic, always has a happy ending, which Trulia made happen, and inspires readers to start writing their own stories.
Use emotions to connect with your audience
Humans are driven by emotion much more than we think - or like to admit. It's a fact of human nature.
So even if you're telling stories to high-level B2B leads or CEOs, you still need to capture their emotions before appealing to their reason.
Moreover, stories without any real emotion are super dull. Without some emotional element, your story won't feel like a story. Instead, it will feel like a dry and very stale sales pitch.
Audience members will feel unengaged and uninterested. And that's precisely what we don't want.
And we humans have plenty of emotions that you can appeal to, including
Examples of the best B2B storytelling campaigns
Google created a video series called "AdWords Stories" documenting how small businesses have used the platform to grow and thrive. In one two-minute video, a business owner tells his story of growing a single bakery into a $14-million national mail-order business - and all with the help of Google Ads, of course.
SalesForce specialises in a very particular kind of brand storytelling. The popular sales technology company has customers tell their stories via its Success Stories page. It's a series of blogs and interviews with clients that have used Salesforce to grow their business.
It's a format that any business can replicate for a low cost. And it has everything you could want from a storytelling content campaign: it's real, authentic, value-driven, and uses the power of storytelling to establish your brand credibility,
Making your brand the story
Your brand can be your story. In fact, every successful brand has a story.
A brand story is a narrative of how and why your brand does what it does, it defines the context for every customer interaction, making them feel part of the story too.
Think about ethical branding. The outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia has this brand mission statement: "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis".
It tells a story that goes something like this: unscrupulous business practices are putting the world at risk. We need a better way of doing business to make a better world. And that's why we do business the way we do it.
From this perspective, the people who work and shop at Patagonia are not just customers or employees. Instead, they're playing an active role in a much bigger narrative - one that appeals to their sense of hope, idealism, optimism, and sense of belonging.
To write your brand story, start by determining your why. For example:
- Why do you exist?
- How do you contribute to the world or even just your industry?
- What is your mission?
- What do you value?
- What motivated you to start my business?
- What do you do differently?
Next, look at how your product fits into your brand story. Ask yourself:
- What is the quality and purpose of my product?
- What problem does my product solve? How should it make consumers feel?
- How is my product different from what else is out there?
And lastly, make sure your brand story aligns with your ideal customer's needs and values. At this point, we need to ask the following:
- What is at stake if a consumer doesn't buy my product?
- Who is my current customer?
- Who is my ideal customer?
Looking to write compelling stories about your brand and products?
Then AXD Marketing can help.
We're a specialist SEO and content marketing agency. We produce compelling blogs, insights and authority articles, whitepapers, and website and sales copy.
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