By April 11, 2016

The power of storytelling as a marketing tool (part II)


*Note: This is Part II of a two-part series. Be sure to read Part I to learn about the psychological superpowers of storytelling in marketing!


 

Across centuries, around the globe, and in every culture, humans have told stories to share, remember, and understand the world around us. Stories can be told by a tribal elder sitting around a campfire and explaining how zebras got their stripes, or by a parent perched on the side of their child’s bed at night reading Peter Pan. They can be told on a Broadway stage to a large audience, or via a nighttime Netflix binge.

Regardless of the venue, our brains are hardwired to be story processors. In children, an inborn need for story hearing and story creation emerges. At around two years of age, children have already learned the rudiments of storytelling – how to sequence events, set action in a place and time, and organize a story around characters.

And believe it or not, all of the findings of neurobiology and human development on storytelling are also relevant to business settings. Stories make ideas stick. Character-driven stories with emotional content help people to understand, personalize and remember key points that a speaker or company is trying to make.

The storytelling approach to marketing and advertising is rife throughout big retail brands. For decades, big companies have understood that loyalty to brands is deeply related to their ability to tell stories. Below are some of my favorite examples of advertisements that incorporate powerful storytelling:

Amazon’s lonely and rejected little horse:

Apple’s 1984 Macintosh commercial (disrupting the status quo of “big brother” IBM):

Proctor & Gamble’s celebrates moms for Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics:

Consider Kickstarter: a funding platform for creative projects, founded solely on the power of storytelling. The creators of each project must explain via video what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and why they need help… thereby motivating people to give to their dream, cause, or problem. And the results are astonishing – with some projects even raising millions of dollars.

Perhaps right now you’re thinking, “That’s all fine and good… but what is a B2B business to do with this information?” There are plenty of ways to harness the power of storytelling to connect people to your brand.

1) Tell your company story

Tell the story of how your company came to be and what you are trying to accomplish in the world. One of the best places to position this is on your About Page, since it’s one of the top-trafficked destinations on your website. You can also weave this into other marketing materials. Describe who you are, why you are different, what you are challenging, your unique premise/differentiator, obstacles you have overcome, and where you are taking your company. Make sure your salespeople (and really, everyone in your company) can tell your company story in a consistent fashion so that your customers and prospects remember you.

Here are several companies that do a great job of telling their B2B story on their About page.

 

2) Tell your customer’s success stories

The hero in your stories are your customers. Let them play the starring role in which they have been fighting against a villain (current problems) that keeps them from achieving their goal (a better something). The bigger and badder your villain, the better the story. The more action they have to take to defeat the villain, the better the story. Every great customer story shows a desire, a struggle, action, and victory.

Dedicate a page on your website to feature these customer success stories. Include links to them from your Homepage – this will give your new website visitors every chance to uncover social proof of your customers’ happiness. You can also feature blog posts about your customers’ journeys. Share links to customer success stories on LinkedIn – and be sure to incorporate photographs and videos wherever possible. Weave case studies into your sales team’s conversations and emails. And, you can include case studies in your e-newsletters – people love reading these!

Here are some examples of businesses who tell their B2B customers’ stories brilliantly:

 

3) Tell your employees’ stories

Remember, to attract the best talent to your company, you must treat recruitment as a marketing effort. Potential candidates are parallel to your prospects and you are selling your company culture to them. Telling stories about your other employees and your culture is the perfect way to get them to “convert” to employees. Go beyond words – incorporate photos and video.

tell-employees-stories-hubspot-smCompanies that tell the stories of their employees with gusto:

 

And the list doesn’t end there… companies can apply the age-old storytelling arcs to as many types of new venues and media as they can dream up. Emotion will always inform your customer’s decisions, and telling stories is a powerful tool to engage and connect with them.

Good stories inspire us. They captivate the human spirit, and make us think and feel and remember. They stick in our minds and hearts in a way that bar graphs and PowerPoint slides never will – whether you’re around a campfire, at a child’s bedside, or writing an About Page.

Kinesis helps clients tell their story in a clear, authentic way through our comprehensive branding and marketing process. Read our case studies to learn more!

ABOUT Wendy Maynard

Wendy Maynard is the Strategic Director and co-founder of Kinesis, an award-winning marketing firm and business consultancy. She has over two decades of experience as a marketing strategist, business consultant, and executive coach. You can find her on Twitter and

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