Stories Are Valuable Marketing Assets

In a world in which content is clearly king, one of your most valuable business assets are stories that validate its capabilities.

Stories can not only express how your business can help potential customers, but also the vital human qualities that differentiate it from look alike competitors. Consider that your business made a considerable investment to earn its stories. In fact, sometimes the best stories are the result of persevering through costly circumstances to ultimately prevail in the end.

“Look at the bright side; you’ll have a great story to tell.” You’ve heard this expression, right?

So, the question for business owners is this: Knowing that stories are invaluable for differentiating a business, why are most companies not taking the time to mine the value of the investment they have already made?

The following three steps will help you to accomplish this.

#1 – Inventory and Care for Your Stories

The stories that every business needs to capture are its beginnings, core beliefs or values, and unique capabilities. Ideally, this information is summarized on the company website.

This may earn the initial attention of a prospective buyer; but then what?

To engage buyers and move them through the sequence of getting to know, like, and ultimately trust your business, there has to be a whole lot more.

The solution is to inventory your stories by categories, such as the type of buyer, product or service solution, and customer challenge or pain point, to name just a few.

If a business does not hold sufficient inventory to serve new customers, they go elsewhere. The same holds true when responding to social media and direct sales inquiries.

The idea is to have the stories for successfully serving your current customers ready for the next similar opportunity when it comes along.

#2 – Use Stories to Educate and Engage Buyers

If you have founded a business you know that getting that first customer is crucial, because then you have a result to point to when the next inquiry comes along, and the one after that, and so on.

However, not all customers are alike, so it helps to organize your stories to share the right ones with the right prospects. For example, a small project is not going to resonate with a high-end buyer that needs a complex solution.

Conversely, the entry-level buyer will be put off by grandiose projects. They may rightfully assume your business will not give them the attention they deserve; or they may reason your business is only interested in more lucrative projects.

Thus, you need stories in your back pocket to handle these concerns and objections. For example, when I owned my landscape design and construction business we were often asked to justify our prices. Here is the formula we used to handle that, and every other objection.

1. Identify the pain point
2. Offer a solution
3. Back it up with a story

We explained that roughly 50% of what a landscape customer pays for is hidden underground. This includes the root system to a locally grown tree, the proper base for patios and walls, quality valves for the irrigation system that will last for decades, as opposed to years, etc.

Then we would share the story of one of our many clients that wished that had come to us first, because the investment they made with another company was lost after most of it failed to perform as promised.

Here is the story lesson: You cannot evaluate pricing without fully understanding all of the hidden qualities that contribute to the integrity of a project.

Pulling back the curtain to educate buyers builds trust, plain and simple.

#3 – Stories Cut Through the Competitive Clutter

In my opinion, there is no better way to differentiate a business than with stories that are the result of direct experience with real customers.

There are many reasons for this.

  • Real stories are credible
  • They can be validated with names, places, and dates
  • Stories make emotional connections with buyers
  • They are personal, often memorable, and tend to build trust
  • A story lesson is easily shared
  • The challenge is to inventory your stories, practice, test, and refine them, and always be ready to use them well.

Traditional marketing is being replaced by social selling and relationship marketing, with stories being the cornerstone for executing both well.

Is your business ready?

About the Author:  Jeff Korhan, MBA, is the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley)  

He helps mainstream businesses adapt their traditional growth practices to a digital world. Connect with Jeff on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and Google+.

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Converting Trust Into Profitable Outcomes

One of the most challenging steps in the sales and marketing process is the final conversion into a desirable outcome for the buyer and the seller.

One reason for this is the terminology. The word conversion has a connotation bordering on manipulation. At the very least it suggests the transition is mechanical, like flipping a switch.

Trust is earned gradually, over time, and on its own time. It takes a skilled and experienced human being to know when a sufficient level of trust has been achieved. Of course, this is much easier in face-to-face selling situations than with online marketing.

Nevertheless, these principles apply in both situations, which means successful web marketing is simply a matter of adapting your traditional practices to a digital format. Here are three steps for converting trust into profitable outcomes.

#1 – Create Content That Shows How Things Work

In the earlier days of selling we often had to rely on the spoken word to communicate. You could also illustrative brochures to demonstrate what a product looks and feels like.  Actual samples were effective too.

Part of the genius of the Apple retail stores is they provide an opportunity for test driving the machines. A business has to manage expectations, and this includes whether or not the product or service will get the job done, and how well.

In addition to these traditional methods, online content works nicely to earn the trust and confidence of buyers . Content is usually thought of as text, yet, it also includes image, visual tutorials, videos, and audio that educate buyers about how your product or service performs.

Consider creating using a combination of these methods to convert trust into desired outcomes.

Video – Demos of how things work. Live performances. Interactions with real customers. Testimonials. Unusual or interesting applications.

Images – Products or services in use. Step-by-step, how-to tutorials. Happy customers. Comparisons, such as before and after. Diagrams and charts.

Audio and Written Copy – Engaging stories. Lists. Ask and answer questions. Persuasive or personalized content.

#2 – Clearly Communicate the Process for Earning Trust

How and when trust is earned varies from one person to the next. Therefore, it is best to take your time, because moving too quickly to covert interest into a sale or agreement of any kind will likely stop or even end the process.

When a business moves too quickly the buyer has a sense that something has been skipped, or will be. This is why it is essential to have a written sales process that communicates to the buyer in advance where you are taking them, and how you will get there.

Think of your content in as earning the attention of the buyer. What should then follow is a process of interaction that is ideally collaborative. Buyers readily engage when they understand you have a defined plan for taking care of them. This is why it is smart to sell the process that sells your products

So, to be clear. Show your buyers why and how your product or service is the solution to their problem. Engage them with a collaborative process that delivers on that promise. Then be alert to their readiness for moving forward with your company.

#3 – Announce Your Intention to Convert in Advance

I often say that conversion is a by-product of a well-designed sales process. However, there is one thing that will significantly improve your rate of conversion, and that is letting your buyer know in advance that you will be doing so.

The process we created for my landscape business required four meetings to achieve a final landscape design and a signed agreement or contract for building it. Each meeting had a name that informed prospective buyers of the purpose of that meeting in advance.

The fourth meeting was named the commitment meeting. That is what we expected after a series of meetings that often spanned a month of more. Thus, there were no surprises or uncomfortable situations. If a buyer decided not to engage with our process they simply backed out after the first meeting.

My friend Chris Brogan has a creative way of adapting this to his digital marketing. He announces at the beginning of his content that he will be making an offer with the phrase “selly sell.” Knowing that in advance, one can easily skip over that content, and most important, trust with the community is preserved.

About the Author:  Jeff Korhan, MBA, is the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley 2013)  

He helps mainstream businesses adapt their traditional growth practices to a digital world. Connect with Jeff on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and Google+.

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