News & Events
#003 – Crushing it with storytelling
- 4th April 2017
- Posted by: Nicky
- Category: Episodes
I would like to look at the more human side of marketing by considering storytelling in content marketing. You’ve probably all heard the latest marketing buzzword – content marketing. But how many of us are still unsure what it actually means?
It’s been thrown around for a couple of years now and I can’t help but think that it needs a little demystifying.
I really like this explanation from the Content Marketing Institute– it kind says what it does on the tin:
Content marketing is the process of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.Download transcript 392KB
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I’m afraid I have to yawn here! But what is ‘relevant and valuable content’ that you can create to get your audience engaged? Surely that’s just providing information in an accessible form as people often do by providing blog content, fact sheets and information from their market right?
Well, it is, and indeed that may work for many and certainly for professional services or technical products where people need to understand the nuts and bolts. But for the majority of us who perhaps don’t need to write evidence-based documents or those of us who want to develop a bit of following, that’s not going to be enough to encourage people to come back to us time and time again.
So what are you proposing if say I don’t have loads of interesting titbits at my disposal or say loads on time to throw at developing vast amounts of useful content?
That’s where storytelling comes in. Every one of us business owners has customers or clients. Each of those customers and clients has a reason for coming to us – a story behind their decision to choose us.
So we’re going to talk through on today’s Marketing Menu about how to create those stories and how perhaps we can be a little more creative with our content right? I know I am always looking for inspiration here.
Yes well, for instance, I’ve been working with a Tailoring Service. They provide fabulous bespoke clothing for both men and women. Yet they were struggling to think of content for their social media posts, so I talked to them about storytelling. Every one of their clients has a reason for wanting a new suit, jacket, trousers, skirts, be it for business, a wedding, a posh dinner or special occasion. As all their clients are delighted with the service they receive, they are more than willing to provide testimonials. So we came up with a template for them to capture some simple information when they first meet the client about why the client chose them and for what occasion. They can build on this by adding in information about the types of style the client prefers, which colours work well, keep photo footage of the different fittings and then do a follow up once the piece has been completed.
I guess all of this provides a wealth of marketing material, if you’ll excuse the pun, for them to use on social media and their website.
Absolutely and the benefits are great. Everyone loves a human interest story. Who doesn’t love to hear about a bloke who proposed to his girlfriend in a hugely romantic gesture and is now panicking because he’s got to get a suit made! Customers are more likely to engage if they get the point. They’re engaged on an emotional level. And that’s where you have them in the palm of your hand. Just saying ‘we’re here and we make great clothes’ is not very inspiring. But by using storytelling, your own customers are telling everyone else how great you are! And you’re demonstrating the breadth of your service in a simple and effective way.
I get it – so it’s marketing but not in your face marketing.
That’s exactly right.
So using the Tailors as an example, while they are telling people the story about a particular client, they can be emphasising their commitment to excellent customer service, their use of quality materials and showcasing their knowledge about what works right on a particular person. Is that what you mean?
Absolutely! Try this: think about the stories that you like reading from business on social media? What have been the ones that inspired you? Which ones did you share? What made them stand out?
What makes a storytelling in content marketing shareworthy?
Well firstly, you have to know what you want to say and why you want to say it. This goes back to the Marketing Plan in Podcast 001. All this storytelling is to achieve an objective – probably more sales, more customers, more profit.
So it’s not something you can just throw together. There has to be a structure or a plan. Otherwise, how will you know whether you have achieved your objective?
Precisely! Secondly, you have to make sure you are speaking in a language that your customers and clients understand and feel emotionally connected to. You’ve probably already spent a lot of time building your existing audience particularly on social media, and they can be extremely loyal. I work with a jeweller who regularly reaches a much wider audience because their posts are shared. They know their audience, they write in a very friendly and approachable way, just as they are in person, and post fantastic pictures of the jewellery they stock. In addition, they post staff profiles giving details about the expertise of each staff member plus some quirky personal anecdotes. Their followers love it!
A Social Times blog post suggests there are a number of reasons why people share on social media: laughter, inspiration, cuteness, originality, shock, surprise, nostalgia. So, listeners, consider where could your business fit into these? Bear in mind, some of these categories are subjective and what might shock one person, might not shock another. But it’s not a bad list. People will share because they think their friends will also like the story or they want affirmation that what they find interesting, others will too.
Yes, how many times have you liked a post and then gone on to look at who else has liked it to see how many people you know?
People also like to be the first to share things. I don’t know about you, but I rarely watch the news or read the Sundays anymore, but I do get most of my news from online sources nowadays – it’s almost like a competition on Facebook and Twitter to see who can share the news the quickest.
And you have to make sure that people CAN share it. So on your blogs, emails and other platforms, make sure you have share buttons. Sounds obvious but it’s easily missed. So where do you recommend people start?
You could have a look at what is happening with your existing content. Facebook and Twitter provide you with great analytical information about the reach of your posts. See which ones are the most popular and see if there is a trend. A Graphic Design company I work with posts a lot about what they can offer clients but their most popular posts are the ones about the staff! We posted a picture of two of the team having a hula hoop competition, and it was the biggest reach for months, thanks to followers sharing! This is where knowing your audience really pays off, and we’re going to explore this more in our next podcast which is aptly named “What makes your customer tick”.
Another example is a charity I work with who support adults with learning disabilities. They have a very loyal following on both Facebook and Twitter, but the posts that get the most likes and shares are the ones with pictures of the students. So they make sure that they do a couple of these posts every week. So, know your audience people!
This is a good example because obviously, a charity is working at a different level to business, but the principles are the same. Obviously, building loyalty in their following is a key to their continued success. They need donations, they need volunteers, but they can only appeal to the public so many times before they risk potential donors getting fed up with the constant tugs at their purse strings.
I can see this is where storytelling in content marketing is particularly effective, but it’s all about balance. By giving background information about they work they do, featuring success stories, thanking volunteers, having some fun posts about the antics of some of the pets on their animal farm, interspersed with their key messages about fundraising events and activities, they are communicating with their followers on an emotional level. And their posts get shared – widely.
So why isn’t a lot of content shared?
It probably isn’t provoking a reaction in the followers. Which means they are not ‘feeling it’ emotionally. How can you change that? Have a look at the language you are using. Is it very corporate? Is it actually saying anything at all or is it just a ‘please buy this’ type of message?
Have you noticed how many ‘How To’ infographics there are on social media? People love them! Is this something you can do – represent your information in a different way.
We know people like receiving information in bite-sized chunks, and they are more likely to share it. So, if what you do is solving a problem – maybe you’re an Estate Agent and you can give the 5 Top Tips for a Stress-Free Move – create an infographic. There’s loads of free apps out there, just Google ‘How do I create an infographic.’ This isn’t storytelling, but enough of a sweetener to get people to look at your other content.
Now, this is a personal peeve! Spelling errors! I can’t abide it when there is a post with spelling mistakes. I would never share a post like that. It really is worth taking the time to proof a post before you press publish. This is your professionalism on display, and a poorly constructed post can do untold damage. Don’t risk it.
There are tools out there if you get stuck I’m a big fan of Grammarly at grammarly.com which also has a free subscription, although beware you do need to watch out for the American spellings but it’s a good self-checker, and I use it all the time. I may have an A level English, but I’m of the age when schools threw out the rule book when teaching grammar which I certainly found out to my cost when I learnt French as a foreign language at a French school. So how else can we tell stories?
Certainly, with the introduction of Facebook Live and Twitter Moments, as well as Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope and others, the use of images can be hugely successful in telling your story. But it pays to be well prepared and to know what you are doing before you commit to sharing content using these channels.
Video testimonials can also tell your story more effectively than any written word. You can say what you like in a 300-word blog, and people may buy it, but a video of a customer saying how fabulous you are is hard to beat, as unless the customer has Oscar-winning acting skills, it’s very hard to fake sincerity. Same with your staff. People buy from people. When customers hear your voice and see your face, it’s very compelling. And. of course, videos can help with your website SEO, but that’s a whole other story.
Remember we are all in the business of driving sales ultimately, otherwise why bother so if you feel you need some balance, try this ratio when designing your content around blogs and social media: 1/3rd about you, 1/3rd about others and 1/3rd overt sale – think about how you can fit your stories around this ratio,
Let’s take a breather here to remind listeners that if you are enjoying this Marketing Menu podcast, please do make sure you share and subscribe via iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or Blubbry when this item has finished as we are a new channel and we’d really like to get out there and help as many growing businesses as possible by making some impact.
So just to recap, the key points from today’s podcast on how storytelling is an effective way of getting your marketing message out there are:
1. If it’s personal, people are more likely to relate to it
2. It’s a great way to help show the people behind your business
3. Stories can actually help people change their minds or even opinions
4. Stories are more likely to be read, rather than just a list of benefits of a product or service
5. Stories can help build trust because people feel they are really getting to know you
There are some out there who claim that they can build a business on storytelling content alone, but remember this takes a creative mind; your stories probably will not be sufficient to do it alone, it takes energy, focus and a great deal of time.
But also, that said, I watched Dragons Den the other day, and one of the things that I remember was Sarah Willingham saying how you either needed a USP, an enormous budget, some sort of superhero power or a storytelling in content marketing to avoid struggling when launching products in a competitive world.
That’s so true, Nicky, this goes back to our very first podcast about the importance of planning. This type of content needs a lot of thought, and a plan about what type of stories you are going to include is absolutely essential. And of course, if you are writing about a client, you will want to get permission to use their names and experience! And don’t forget to get a testimonial while you’re there!
It amazes me how many business websites have really poor About Us pages. This is a perfect opportunity for some storytelling. Customers and potential customers really do like to know the story behind the business, who the people behind the scenes are, how the business has grown, any quirky incidents along the way – we all have them don’t we? So when writing the About Us page, write it in a personal, not corporate way.
I so agree with you. Don’t be afraid to talk about past failures, within reason! I have a client who openly writes about how he built up businesses and lost everything twice in his career. He is now a highly successful entrepreneur who has a lot to give because of his experience with those failures. It makes him human, and people are genuinely interested in what make him tick. I mean, how DO you pick yourself up after losing everything twice?
You know you mentioned the importance of a plan earlier? It is really important to time your stories appropriately too. If you know you know you’ve got a product launch coming up in a few weeks, you may want to start promoting some stories that focus on the theme of your new product to generate interest. This is where knowing your audience is so vital and we’ll be focusing on that in our next episode – ‘Knowing what makes your customer tick.’
So listeners, once again don’t forget we also offer a free transcript of all our podcasts on our website The Marketing Menu.com so if you’re not already on our website head over there to download your copy.
And of course we’re here to tailor the content around your needs so if you have any questions, please do get in touch but most of all please share our channel with others who you feel may benefit from tuning in.
Yes, please do that as we’re a new channel, and we’d really like to make some impact in the British podcast community.
Thank you so much for tuning in – we’re very glad you chose us amongst all the other podcasts and webinars out there. We very much hope what we’ve shared today will give you some great storytelling ideas to put into practice.
Yes, so tune in again on Wednesday 19 April when the subject is “What makes your customer tick,” so that your message resonates with them. Thanks, guys so this is a goodbye from me, Liz til next time.
And me Nicky, goodbye.
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