Storytelling is a powerful marketing tool; one used by giants such as Apple, Google, and Virgin. But how can small businesses incorporate storytelling techniques? I’ve outlined my top ten tips below.
1. The Protagonist Should Reflect Your Target Market
People love having people to root for, so give them want they want! Make your protagonist a reflection of your target market by having them hold the same values and go through the same struggles as they do. I illustrate an example of this in one of my blog posts - how to tell your brand story.
2. Tell Your Story in a Unique Way
One of my most favourite brand stories is from the famous Scottish Whiskey Brand, Jonny Walker. In the video below, Robert Carlyle narrates Jonny Walker’s history, right from 1819 all the way to present day. Now, I’m not saying you have hire a famous actor and film crew to tell your story—although that would be nice—but you can think of ways to tell your story in a unique way.
The point is, don’t tuck your story away on you About Us page. Get it out there and use it within your content marketing strategy.
It’s scary (I know!) I did the recently with a blog post – How I Went From Misspelling My Own Name to Becoming a Copywriter.
3. Tell he Truth
Don’t lie. If you don’t have a great story, then don’t make one up. You’ll only get found out in the end. Instead, use other ways and means of creating great stories instead. Feature stories from your staff or customers for example.
4. Tell an ‘Emotive’ Story
Telling stories that pull at your target market’s heartstrings can be a significant brand building activity. Look at the example below from Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ campaign.
Always does not mention any of the products it sells and it only mentions its brand name at the very end. This is an exercise in brand building through storytelling, and it is an extremely powerful tool.
But it’s hard to pull off. You have to understand your target market absolutely. Only then can you get the level where you can create something like this.
5. Make Sure There’s a Struggle in Your Story
A story without a struggle is dull. Think of all the movies you’ve watched or books you’ve read. How many times have you been frustrated when things didn’t go right for the protagonist?
Most people, at some point in their lives, experience failure – personal, professional and financial. So, don’t be afraid to talk about your own failures and what you did to overcome them.
Great examples of this include, J.K. Rowling, and her personal/financial struggles when she started writing the Harry Potter books, Bill Gates dropping out of Harvard and Steve Jobs when he was fired from Apple.
People relate to struggles. They’ll root for you, and your failures and success will inspire them.
6. High Stakes Make The Story
Along with a real struggle, high stakes make a great story – encouraging your reader to get behind you and truly invest in your story.
For example, many business owners have had to take the leap from quitting their jobs to going full time alone. For most people this is an enormous financial and personal risk, particularly if you have a family who relies on your income. Make sure you weave scenarios like this into your story.
7. Use Sensory Details
Immerse your reader in your story by using the five senses – taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell.
8. Do You Have a Baddie?
Every good story has an antagonist, who stops at nothing to prevent the protagonist from reaching his or her goals.
There are many examples of this, most notably, Richard Branson (Virgin) vs. British Airways. Branson has been very noisy about his fight against BA – painting them as the evil bad guy in his personal story. For example, see some copy taken from the Virgin website below.
You can do this too; I recently saw an example of this from Policy Bee, an insurance company (who incidentally I decided to go with for my insurance). In their story they stated they were going up against the 'insurance heavyweights'.
Using an antagonist is a sure-fire way of getting your reader behind you, and positioning you differently from your competitors. This is particularly true for small businesses (the underdogs) going up against the big conglomerates.
9. Good Stories Don’t Just Have to Come From You
Good stories don’t have to come from you – they can come from your staff, your customers, or your target market in general. Take this fantastic example from one of my favourite businesses, Buffer. The partner of one of their employees wrote a blog post about her experience of going on a buffer retreat and giving her view on the team dynamic and company as a whole.
This is a powerful and unique way of storytelling that builds their brand and gives readers an insight into their philosophy.
10. Use social media to support your stories
Finally, use social media to support your storytelling strategy. Encourage your user to use social media to their stories using your products or services. Take this great example from Expedia, who developed a Facebook app for their customers to talk about their travels and adventures.
Storytelling is difficult. It’s hard putting yourself in the limelight, and it’s difficult gaining fantastic stories from your customers and staff. But if you can achieve these things, the rewards are immense. Good stories position you differently from your competition, they encourage loyalty and build brands.
If you can think of any more storytelling tips, I would love to take a look, just comment below!
Join me next month where we’ll be talking about all things content marketing.