Let’s face it. Online marketers like you and I have a huge challenge facing us. Our culture is drowning in advertising and marketing messages. And with each passing year it’s becoming more and more difficult to market our products.
Content marketing was touted as the answer to this big problem, but we are drowning in content too, especially in the B2B world. People ignore “content” as readily as they ignore most image advertising.
The Test Of Time
One of the hazards of today’s digital marketing landscape is that it’s so easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest technology while ignoring proven yet simple tools that have stood the test of time – tools which have worked for thousands of years and continue to work today.
What we desperately need is a proven way to ratchet up the effectiveness of our content marketing. Enter storytelling. That’s right, storytelling!
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Few marketing approaches work to engage, motivate and persuade like storytelling. The human brain responds to stories in such a way that our emotions are aroused. And remember that people make buying decisions, to one degree or another, emotionally.
When prospects have an involvement with a product, they are more inclined to want to purchase it. This is one of the many reasons storytelling is such a powerful marketing tool. When a person is drawn into a story, they have a strong feeling of involvement with it.
Indeed storytelling can be a very effective tool to capture and keep our potential customers’ attention, engage them, interest them and help us market our products to them.
But done poorly, storytelling won’t live up to its marketing potential. Just like they won’t buy from you just because you start using social media or email marketing or video marketing, people won’t buy from you “just because” you tell them a story.
Doing It Right
We have to do storytelling right. First of all, like we’ve talked about so often on this blog, remember that marketers like you and I need to have and use a well-stocked marketing “toolbox”. Storytelling is a tool. It’s potentially a very powerful marketing tool. But it needs to be done properly, and it needs to be used along with other tools.
Remember the rules of effective copywriting when you are crafting your compelling story. You’re telling a story, but the ultimate goal is to sell your product. Copywriting is selling through the written word, and it’s important to your marketing success. This blog has several great articles that talk in-depth about solid copywriting, so we won’t go into detail about it here.
Focus On “Them”, Not “You”
But remember that one of the main principles of effective copywriting is to focus on the reader. The main focus of your marketing messages, including your stories, needs to be on your reader, not you, your product or your company.
Your readers don’t care about you, your product or your company. In storytelling as part of marketing it’s no different. The story may be focused on a fictional character, but it still needs to revolve around the reader.
And you want the reader to be drawn into it. Write a story in which he can picture himself and see himself as the hero.
“No one cares about your product except you”
David Meerman Scott – The New Rules of Marketing & PR
A Classic Marketing Story
One of the single most effective examples of storytelling as a marketing tools comes from a letter used by the Wall Street Journal from 1975-2003 to sell subscriptions. The letter opens with the story of “two young men”. It talks about how one man was much more successful in his career because he subscribed to and read the Journal. Here’s a snippet from this very successful letter:
On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both -– as young college graduates are — were filled with ambitious dreams for the future. Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion. They were still very much alike.
Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company after graduation, and were still there.
But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.
The letter goes on to talk about how the Journal was the reason one man enjoyed so much more career success than the other. This is a prime example of effective storytelling used to sell a product.
Imagine for a moment that you are a recent college graduate wanting an advantage to help you land a great job and advance in your career. Or picture yourself as a middle-age executive who isn’t content with his level of career success.
Do you see how this story would persuade the reader in those circumstances? How it would captivate him and hold his attention? How it would give him hope that the product being sold could help him solve a frustrating problem? How it would fire up his emotions and make him crave a change in his current work situation?
Do you see how stories with this kind of emotional power could help your content marketing succeed? How they could help your content and your company stand out from the crowd and get noticed? How they could attract readers and potential customers to you?
Just how successful was this letter? During the twenty-nine years it was in use, it brought in an estimated two billion dollars for the Wall Street Journal!
Selling Without “Selling”
We naturally resist when someone approaches us to sell us something. It’s no different when we are reading a sales letter or other content marketing piece. We don’t like to be sold to. And that’s one of the beauties of the story from the Wall Street Journal letter. It “sells without selling”. It sets up a scenario where the reader “sells himself” on buying the product.
Your company’s brand is the perception your customers have about your product and service; it’s what they say about you. It includes their customer experience when shopping and buying from you. And you can tell stories that will have a direct, powerful and positive effect on your brand, like the story of “two young men” had an effect on the Wall Street Journal’s brand.
So please harness the power of storytelling in your marketing. And don’t be surprised when your sales results shoot through the roof!
Don’t Neglect This
Congratulations! You’ve included powerful, persuasive, emotion-generating stories in your content marketing efforts. Your blog and website are getting more traffic. Your email subscriber list is growing. You have more social media followers who anxiously wait for and enthusiastically read and respond to your content.
That’s great! But there’s something you can’t neglect. There’s a critical piece of the online marketing puzzle you must have. That’s right, you need landing pages.
Whether you are running a B2B campaign where you are trying to win signups for your latest webinar or downloads for your new white paper, or you are running a B2C e-commerce store, you won’t enjoy the highest conversion rates possible without landing pages as a part of your online marketing machine.