Marketing often gets thrown on the back burner because it feels like time away from your business.
You’re happiest when you’re talking to your audience directly.
You’re telling them all about a product, service, or cause that you care about — and there’s a level of connection there that marketing can’t touch.
Or so you think.
It’s true — there’s plenty of yawn-inducing marketing material out there that makes you wonder if the writer herself was asleep at the keyboard.
But your business can do better than that. You can share something with your audience that awakens their attention, evokes emotion, and fosters ironclad loyalty.
Can storytelling really do all that?
Stories are the seeds of connection. They have staying power — think back to all the stories you can still remember from your early childhood.
And they’re more important than ever as a way to stand out from your competition.
Here are a few things storytelling can do for your business:
- Draw people in: Stories pull us in like moths to a flame. Think about your favorite TV show or the last book you couldn’t put down. Don’t worry — your brand’s story doesn’t have to be a murder mystery to get people’s attention. Just think about the basic elements of any story (characters, plot, conflict, dialogue) and how they fit into your business.
- Open their eyes to the people behind the business: How does your audience view your business or organization? If you’re good at what you do, there’s a good chance they think of you positively. But what if you could really show them what your business means to you? Make your product, service, or mission come alive by sharing how it motivates and inspires you each day.
- Be unique and unforgettable: There will always be businesses with new techniques and fresh approaches that claim to do something better than you. Don’t fall for the trap of trying to do what they do better — focus on doing what you do better. Think about you business’s story and figure out what makes you different. Make this a theme in the marketing materials you create and share.
- Provide value (to your audience and yourself): Stories deliver both entertainment and education. If you write a blog post sharing how you got involved in urban sustainability you’re educating readers and also reflecting on your personal story. Putting ideas into words helps you solidify your thoughts and gain confidence. This can come in handy the next time you decide to push yourself further and speak at an upcoming industry conference.
How can you start incorporating storytelling in your business?
Once you start to see the benefits of storytelling for your business, you’ll start wondering how you can start using it right away.
Luckily, you have plenty of outlets at your disposal. Let’s look at five of the big ones:
1. Your website
Start with your About Us page. Read it aloud. Does it sound like it was written by a real person or a robot? If you’re leaning towards the latter, that’s ok. You can fix it.
It’s hard to bring the same amount of energy to a screen that you do to your customers. Overcome this challenge by finding web copy that you enjoy. Pick apart why it speaks to you and try something similar. Or think back to the first few times you started telling your friends and loved ones about your business. Where did your initial spark come from?
Write down as many of these ideas as possible and then cut it down after. Ask someone you trust to help you identify the most important parts. By the end of this process, the most important thing is that your About Us page sounds authentic and speaks to your customers.
2. Your email campaigns
You know that your email newsletters and announcements are a great place to promote your latest content, and the products and services you offer. But don’t forget about the personal connection you share with your readers.
The people on your email list have voluntarily asked to receive updates from your business. While they likely said no to other companies who asked for their email address in the past, they said yes to you and have continued to show an interest in what you have to say.
How you communicate with your audience will go a long in showing that you value this relationship.
Let them know why you started carrying a new product. Update them on office renovations; invite them to participate in a quick one question online survey to help you decide which wall color to go with.
These gestures might seem small, but they make a difference. It’s easy to ignore business emails if they feel impersonal. Put in your personality and look for opportunities for two-way communication where you can involve them in your story.
3. The company blog
Inside every blog post you write there’s a story trying to escape. Let it.
Let’s say your business offers recruitment software and you want to write about interview tips. An obvious approach would be to offer advice about preparing for the interview and explain how to effectively follow up.
But what if you started your post by reliving your worst experience as an interviewee and then detailing everything you learned from that experience? See how that draws the reader in? Sharing this story will also make you seem more relatable because you’re showing that you’ve been in a similar situation to your audience.
4. Social channels
Show your customers what’s going on at your store by taking pictures of everything from major events to part of your daily routine. Share your favorite quotes or attention-grabbing statistics and explain how it relates to you and your business. Check out our Photo-a-Day challenge if you’re short on ideas.
Beyond images, look for ways to add video into your storytelling toolkit. Introduce a staff member in a 15-second Instagram video. Ask them to give their name, their role, and their favorite part of their job. Once you gain some confidence, you can try shooting longer videos and add them to your YouTube channel.
5. A podcast
Podcasts are a great way to share stories because you’re hearing a story straight from the source. Podcasts are also convenient for your audience because they can listen easily while driving to work, doing household chores, or taking a break from staring at a screen.
And they’re a smart alternative for people who aren’t comfortable writing, but still want a creative way to share their story.
Here at Constant Contact, we recently launched a new podcast called Small Biz Stories. We’ve interviewed some amazing small business owners to hear all about how they got started, the challenges and mistakes they’ve encountered along the way, and the best advice they have to offer.
The biggest storytelling mistake to watch out for
Storytelling is all about putting your own unique stamp on your marketing to create a connection with your audience. The biggest pitfall to avoid is getting so wrapped up in your own story that you forget to show your customers how they fit in.
You don’t want your stories to feel one-sided. Even if your story is engaging, your audience will start to tune you out if it’s all about you.