10 Places to Put Stories in Your Marketing

Narrative. –noun 1. a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.

People like good content. This is probably why over the past couple years there has been a lot of focus on the power of narrative in marketing. Understanding why stories are so popular will give you your prospects’ coveted perspective and help you use stories more effectively in your own marketing campaigns. I’ve suggested ten places for stories in your marketing communications to get you started.

The Story on Stories

When it comes to purchasing people want a pleasant experience.

Have you ever stood in front of the grocery aisle and felt paralyzed by the amount of choices in, say…toothpaste? What about trying to select an IT solution for your company? Whether for a simple consumer product or a substantial B2B purchase most people are overwhelmed with such a dizzying array of offerings. An increased amount of choice does not necessarily translate into an improved consumer experience.

A September, 2010 article published by Strategy + Business gave some numbers on choice. In 1949 the average grocery store stocked 3,700 products. Today that average is 45,000 products. Starbucks offers 87,000 drink combinations not counting the However-You-Want-It Frappuccino. Coldstone boasts 11.5 million ways to “customize your ice cream treat.” Remember just a couple of decades ago when Baskin-Robbins’ “31-Flavors” was a major experience in choice? Seems quaint now, doesn’t it?

Retailers are in a race to outpace each other in the choice wars. But is that what customers really want? What moves prospects to choose you?

“People are moved by stories and drama and hints and clues and discovery.” This little diamond was recently shared by Seth Godin. It’s small but crystal clear, brilliant, and rock solid in its assessment on prospects and customers. Logic will only take you so far, at some point you have to make your case in a way that moves your prospect.

We live in a world where we are overwhelmed with choices, advertisements, low prices, and a global market made accessible by the internet. What we want is a peace-of-mind and a connection…reassurance that what we buy is good quality for the investment. This human element is exactly what stories in marketing provide.

How to Make Them Work for You

Here are ten places you can incorporate narrative into your marketing materials:

  1. Case studies. This is the obvious one but don’t get sucked into the standard “challenge-solution-results” framework. Narrate it. Use quotes to emphasize emotion. Add drama and believability by describing the obstacles you faced in providing the solution. As an aside, you can give case studies to your sales people to give to prospects and leave-behind.
  2. Testimonials. Instead of simply asking a star customer to say something nice about you ask them to emphasize why they like your company and what experience(s) led them to prefer you.
  3. Blog. This is the perfect outlet for excellent stories. Ask your sales representatives to share on of their customer experiences. Reading personal accounts about other customers’ experiences will help a prospect connect with you. Tip: you can have the sales rep write her own story and then pass it along to an editor or have a writer interview your reps and produce a series of stories you can use on your blog. Don’t have a blog? Maybe you should…start here.
  4. Newsletters. Include a short narrative in your newsletters to employees, customers and prospects.
  5. White paper, consumer guide, executive brief or report. Incorporate stories into these documents into the body itself or as call-out sections to improve credibility and readability.
  6. Direct Mail. Illustrate your benefits in a story to really grab a reader’s attention.
  7. Web site. Pepper your site with those testimonials described above.
  8. Phone Message. Instead of the typical annoying elevator music that your prospect can’t stand or a plea to purchase something why not tell a relevant story while your prospect or customer is on hold? They may actually listen.
  9. Press Release. Using a quick story in a press release may capture the editor’s attention enough for him to pursue the story.
  10. Training Materials. What better way to illustrate what your company stands for and how it treats customers than to provide real-life examples? It will help unite your company’s voice across your departments.
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