By Scott Decker

How to Use Storytelling in Your Marketing Strategy

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Online marketing has found itself in a unique situation – the world is inundated with every imaginable type of marketing and advertising message.

There is hardly a corner of the online world, in particular, that is not plastered with some kind of message designed to get people to buy something.

This is enough to leave a marketer wondering how they can possibly push through all the noise in order to reach their ideal customer and establish a connection.

Content marketing was introduced as the next best thing some years ago. While it worked like a charm – for a while – the net effect was that content marketing became so successful as an idea that everyone decided to throw as much content at the internet as they could in the hopes that something would stick.

As a result, there is a lot of truly awful content out there. You don’t want to make the mistake of letting your marketing get thrown into the same category as the bad stuff.

So what can you do to stand out in a positive way?

Storytelling.

It’s hard to come close to the effectiveness of storytelling as a way to engage, motivate, and persuade audiences. There is just something about a story that tickles our brains and makes our emotions kick in like nothing else.

And the key word in that sentence is emotion. Whether people want to believe it or not, they buy with their emotions. They may use logic to justify their buying decisions, but it’s always the emotional connection that hooks them.

In order to craft a compelling marketing story, there are some things you should keep in mind.

It’s about “Them,” not “You”

Just as with any marketing or copywriting message, you need to stay focused on the audience. Your stories should not be about you or your product or service. And they shouldn’t be about your company.

While your reader will want to know some things about you in order to establish that “know, like, trust” factor, the focus should be on them and what they want, need, or fear. A great example is Tom’s One on One model, which answers a common consumer need of adding a real value to the world and becoming a part of a meaningful action. Whenever a customer buys Tom’s eyewear, shoes or coffee beans, they enjoy that great feeling of helping a person in need – and that’s something many consumers are after today.

Place your reader at the center of the action

You want to create a narrative that places your reader squarely in the middle of the action. The obstacles, troubles, and problems the main character experiences are the same problems your reader experiences. If you get this one thing right, you will have captured their attention for as long as it takes you to tell your story.

Remember that your reader has problems and they are hoping that you’ll have the solution they are seeking. The solution to their problem should be your product or service, but you want to present it in a way that feels organic to the story.

A good example is this cluster of various media making up for a simple story about shaving from Dollar Shave Club. Offering a service that helps consumers to save on shaving materials (and let’s face it, at least a half of every society needs to shave their face every day), the brand’s storytelling strategy answers a simple question: Why spend more on shaving than necessary?

Sell without selling

The beauty of selling through storytelling is that you can sell to your heart’s content, but your reader will never feel “sold to.” That is one thing that today’s buyers can agree on – they love buying things, but they resent the feeling of being aggressively sold on those thing.

A good example of a marketing campaign that doesn’t go for the hard sell is Hiut Denim, which based its storytelling strategy on a single thing – the brand was launched to support people who have lost their jobs due to cuts in the denim industry. Seeing this, combined with a message of an exclusive expertise – ‘We make jeans. That’s it. Nothing else. No distractions. Nothing to steal our focus.’ Consumers feel drawn to the brand for that singular focus and mission, making them more likely to make a purchase.

Storytelling is incredibly useful for brand storytelling as well as marketing and sales messages. When you are crafting your brand’s image, the stories that you tell will become the stories that your customers will spread about you.

Be sure to share any humble beginnings and major obstacles you faced along the journey to success. Rather than tarnishing your image, they will help your ideal customers to relate to you on a human level. Because that old saying that people prefer to do business with other people has never held more truth.

Today, it is too easy to hide behind a corporate image or to dehumanize your business with a bland, general message. This is where good storytelling can come in to save the day. Stick to your story and the trust, engagement, and sales will follow.

By Scott Decker
Scott Decker is the CTO and Co-Founder of PublishThis. Before PublishThis, he led technology at Edmunds.com, Blue Nile, and development solutions for the government. When he’s not fine-tuning Content IQ, the industry’s most advanced content platform, he’s exploring new technologies, preparing for next Halloween, or watching something with superheroes, dinosaurs, or at least a lot of explosions.

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