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Content Marketing

Tell a Compelling Story, and They Will Come

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We’ve shared information in a narrative form since we developed the use of language

Stop for a moment and think about the most impactful marketing or advertising you’ve ever encountered. There’s one element shared by each example. It told you a story. It rewarded you with a perspective that helped to fit something into your worldview. Others may have been trying to tell you something similar, but this story resonated.

Storytelling fuels the marketing engine, and it is the most powerful and effective way in which people communicate. We’ve been doing it that way since we learned to use language. Our brains evolved using narrative thinking. Everything it processes is in the form of a story, and the premise of every story is cause and effect. Problem and solution.

As a brand marketer, prospects need the story of the problem you solve – it’s what you have in common with them – before they’re receptive to the solution you offer. It’s why not just any story will do. It has to be a compelling story, which has just as much to do with understanding your audience as it does with the storytelling itself.

Why stories work

Wait, what? New or complex ideas don’t fit well in our brains, and we’ll experience confusion or discomfort with those ideas until we can find perspective. Stories help us to wrap our heads around abstractions. The narrative allows us to break apart and simplify a complex concept.

The story that rewards us with perspective about your brand often tells itself if you make an effort to truly define yourself. It means going past what you do and how, and getting to why you do it. Understanding your differentiations based on why helps you find the best way to connect with prospects to convert them to customers, or to further delight customers and help them become your advocates.

The addictive nature of stories

Your prospects and customers want you to tell them stories, and science has an explanation. When we read, watch, or hear a story that resonates with us, the neuropeptide levels of oxytocin in our bodies increase. Stories help us actually put ourselves in a setting.

This is why it’s not out of the question to say that you owe it to your audience to reward them with stories. As bestselling author Jonathan Gottschall writes in The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, “We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”

Make it personal

Successful brands understand that marketing is not about their brand. It’s not advertising in the form of a story that ends with a sales pitch. It’s an interaction between the brand and prospects (or customers). It’s about them, and it’s useful information in narrative form that validates the relationship.

It can be a blog post, an infographic, an explainer video or even a white paper. It’s still going to be a story, regardless of the format, which means it needs a beginning, a crisis, and a resolution.

David Ogilvy, often called the “Father of Modern Advertising,” believed that successful marketing and advertising was nothing more than passionate storytelling. As such, he advised copywriters who worked for him to make it, “one human being to another, second person singular.”

Know your audience

Create a buyer persona. It gives you confidence in selecting the right story to tell them, and it helps you understand the language you’ll use to make the storytelling resonate. You need the right industry-specific buzzwords if it’s B2B content. If it’s B2C, you could do worse than follow the advice of bestselling author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“As for your use of language,” he wrote, “Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences where were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long.”

Have a reason for your story

What do you want someone to do after they read or watch your story? Most successful marketing content reflects the end state of what happens if your audience acts on the suggestions made in the story.

You’ll have a compelling story If you’ve nailed down to the why, made it about your audience and not yourself, and selected the right language and platform – but make your call to action (CTA) obvious. Don’t make the assumption that CTA saying, click here to learn more, or share this with your co-workers is too obvious.

Not everyone can be a storyteller. It should be left to professionals because as Kurt Vonnegut puts it (and David Ogilvy would agree), “Out audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient teachers, ever willing to simplify and clarify.”

There’s an art to storytelling, but it’s enhanced by scientific principles. Science acquires knowledge. Art expresses it.

Do you struggle to find the right stories to tell about your business? Learn how we can help

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