How Storytelling Makes More than Marketing Come Alive

If you have not already, you can expect to be hearing more about storytelling as a means for communicating your business message.

Storytelling is one of the cornerstones of sales and marketing, because great stories are memorable, and therefore, readily shared.

Every business interaction with a prospective buyer or customer is a potential story. That’s right, stories about your business are already being shared. Isn’t it time to take a more proactive approach to contribute to the conversation?

Stories are media, and media is media, regardless of the source. This is why every business must become a media company to better manage its story within the communities it serves.

What I’m going to share with you today is that your business can actually use storytelling as a means for accomplishing goals beyond marketing to shape future events that become signature stories.

See the Story Within the Project or Opportunity

During the early days of my landscape architecture and construction business our company was unknown. In order to establish our presence within the industry and local community, we set a goal to complete at least one award-winning project.

One day, we were invited to discuss the renovation of a residential landscape that was such a mess, all of the other contractors walked away from it. As our team considered potential solutions, I got excited because I was beginning to realize that if we could transform this project into an award-winner there would be a great story to tell.

In business and life, you can let chance write your stories, or you can design an ideal result and get to work to make it happen. That’s what we did. It’s a simple practice of starting with the end in mind, and then building the sequential events to manifest that reality.

To accomplish this, we repeatedly asked ourselves one question: Why?

When everything has a purpose it just makes sense. Isn’t that what your prospective customers are looking for from you?

For example, we suggested a gentle water feature and stream for the back yard to create a sense of movement and flow that would naturally guide the eye through the space to the desired focal points. Our client rejected this idea because their dogs would play in the water.

After further consideration, we realized a dry stream (without water) would work equally well. They loved the idea. As a result, whenever a friend asked about the stream built from smooth, water-worn stones, our client shared the story that explained its purpose.

Consumers are attracted to not only what works, but also why, because then everything intuitively makes sense.

Stories Transform Goals into Reality

To succeed with your project, you have to first live the desired result in your mind as if it were real. The story for creating that reality will lead you to the necessary solutions for making it happen. It will identify the challenges that must be overcome.

We did indeed win the highest award possible for that particular project, and many more thereafter, because we always had a story to tell. I’m convinced that first imagining the story that would then become the focus of our marketing is what made it possible.

Facts and even pretty photos are easily forgotten without stories that make emotional connections. Our story captured the drama and imagination of how our team worked to delight our client, and that connected with the panel of judges.

Of course, the panel of judges for your business and mine is every prospective customer that wants to know more about us. Your business may have great solutions, but if you can make them come alive by answering why, you also have a memorable story that resonates with the buyer.

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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Stories Are The Holy Grail Of Content Marketing stories

Parents have long understood that the best way to convey a message is through story.

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, among others, are real to young children because of the many stories that vividly capture their magical qualities. Of course, the objective for doing so is to influence behaviors.

As marketers, your content marketing can influence behaviors if you learn to use stories to make emotional and memorable connections.

Every Business Has Stories to Tell

Being a good storyteller is easier than you may think.

The truth is that most good storytellers follow proven formulas. For example, years ago a Hollywood screenwriter shared with me that every successful film (excluding exceptions such as dark comedies) follows a simple formula. Here it is:

Somebody – does something – and it works out

Somebody is usually the main character. They do something in Act I that gets the story rolling. After that there is often drama and suspense, but everything always works out in the end.

A classic example of this is the film Top Gun. It opens with Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose learning that they have earned a spot in the prestigious Top Gun flight school because Cougar lost his nerve and turned in his wings

What eventually follows is the drama that surrounds Goose being killed in an unfortunate accident, one that challenges Maverick to somehow work things out – and he does. In the 2nd to last scene Maverick recovers from that tragedy and saves not only the lives of his fellow pilots, but also every man and woman on their aircraft carrier.

What happens in the final scene? Maverick gets the girl with the perfect skin care!

It’s a classic story formula with a happy ending in which everything works out.!

What are your stories, the ones in which your business expertly manages challenges to create favorable outcomes for your customers?

How to Tell Your Stories

The reason for telling your stories are many. For one thing, stories help to humanize your business. Remember that prospective buyers are not interested in your marketing message, but they can be engaged by the skillful use of stories about real people – especially the customers or clients that your business has served well.

You can also profile those that work behind the scenes of your business to create exceptional customer experiences. Their story is highly credible because it is often raw and unpolished.

Consumers for the most part do not trust businesses until they get to know the people within them. In addition to the customers it serves, they also expect to learn about the people that make things happen, from its leading managers down to the entry level shipping clerk.

How do you tell your stories?

Referring back to our simple film formula above, simply break your stories down into three parts: Act I, II, and III.

This beginning, middle and end formula works for plays, films, books, and yes, blog posts, articles, press releases, and other means for sharing the stories that will engage your audience.

Another version of this is the  The Foolscap Method by screenwriter, author, and recent Oprah guest, Steven Pressfield.

This simple formula is one that I’ve found invaluable for developing stories, organizing projects, and making the most of major events.

Steven Pressfield is not a household name, but one that has become a quiet legend among online copywriters and content marketers. My advice is to sign up for his First Look Access to get his best ideas.

Finding Your Stories

The reason stories are the holy grail of content marketing is when they are shared by your community they engage its collective voice.

It’s not only a beautiful thing when your customers are speaking favorably about your business brand; it’s quite powerful as well.

There is seldom a story where everything goes well from start to finish. It turns out that life and business tend to include challenges that lead to opportunities for exceeding expectations and creating what may not have been thought possible.

These situations are where you want to be mining your stories. Challenges are both interesting and memorable. It’s the one thing that all human beings share.

The best marketing is memorable, and remembered stories, are often repeated.

Business marketing has traditionally been a process of projecting excellence. These days, educated and informed consumers know that is seldom reality. This is why they are instantly engaged by honest stories that tell the truth – and that builds trust.

So, tell the truth.

Now back to you. How is your business using story?

About the Author:  Jeff Korhan, MBA, helps mainstream small businesses create exceptional customer experiences that accelerate business growth. Get more from Jeff on LinkedInTwitter and Google+.

Jeff is also the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley 2013)

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