Marketing is story telling

Enter yourself in a time capsule and take yourself back to that time you sat in front of your 1st grade elementary school teacher, completely and utterly entrenched by your favorite children’s novel. “Story-time” is what made life worth living – it’s what you looked forward to day after day, and was just about the only excuse to get out of the dreaded nap time.

Fast forward 20, 30, or even 50+ years, and we find that we are still trapped by our own inner child. We experience the same feeling when we get lost in a good book, an Internet article, or a hit television show that we tune in to watch alongside our morning bagel and Starbucks coffee.

What does this mean for marketers? Does it mean we should plaster excerpts of The Three Little Pigs on our landing page to get our website to “stick”? Does it mean we should we gather all of our loyal customers into a huddle and read aloud our blogs and press releases about our products so that maybe, just maybe, they will start hearing you? Not exactly…

Our job as marketers is not to convince our audience that our product is bigger, faster, and stronger than our leading competitors. We are slightly misguided into thinking that outperforming others on one leading performance metric will guarantee success in the marketing race. Not so fast.

Think about what entices you to buy a house. Is it because it has 4 bedrooms, an updated kitchen, and that 2-car garage you’ve always dreamed of? Or is it because when you walked in, you could immediately picture yourself cooking on those granite counter tops for your family, or pulling into that 2-car garage after a sunny Sunday afternoon drive?

As a visual and emotionally-driven race, humans are sold on the story behind a product or service rather than a bullet-point list of its specs and/or features. We want to know how and why it will make our personal or business life that much easier on a day-to-day basis.

There is always a back story, some more interesting than others. Read how it all began in this (not-so-brief ) article: Email Marketing – Looking Back Over the Past 15 Years – (Part 1)

As a primary example of how we apply “storytelling” to our business, take one of our services that we sell daily to small businesses and large corporations alike – the email list cleaning and validation service. The reason we own a large market share in this particular industry is not because we tell our customers that we have a large amount of whitelisted servers running simultaneously that enable us to validate every single email address on a list without ever sending an email to the actual recipient. While this useful tidbit of information might hold the attention of avid email marketers who know the business frontward and backwards, this technical jargon means nothing to the general public. Rather, the typical buyer of this service is simply frustrated with getting blocked or shut down by their ESP because of a high bounce rate from their send and want an easy and cost-effective solution to their problems. As opposed to spurting out details of the intricate email validation process, we sell them on our 95% guarantee that all hard bounces will be removed from their list to give them the peace of mind and a sense of confidence that their future mailing will proceed in a seamless, trouble-free fashion. That’s the whole purpose of even offering this service in the first place, so why beat around the bush with nonsense that gets lost in translation?

It may sound obvious to sell a “feeling,” an “experience,” or a “story” rather than a product or service, but it’s rarely implemented in sales and marketing departments across the globe. As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to and in some cases, immune to salespeople who like to chew our ears off with reasons to buy their product. Why not tweak your marketing strategy just a tad and give your customers what they need to make an informed buying decision?

Post your story online through a series of business blogs, customer testimonials, or even an interactive video on your website.

The more you know your audience and their buying patters, the more likely you are going to convert them into a sale and eventually into a referral. The added bonus that comes with telling a story about your brand is that stories spread and have the potential to go viral. Next time you get sucked into a heart-wrenching, tear-dropping, action-packed novel, movie, or documentary, remember the power of storytelling and how it could fuel your business in a positive direction.