Human beings have been telling stories for tens of thousands of years. We never seem to grow tired of telling—or hearing stories. Stories went “viral” long before the Internet. As a matter of fact, a lot of stories predate written language. And if you hear a great story, nobody has to tell you to “like” it or “share” it. You can’t help it—you retell it!
Stories can be incredibly powerful marketing tools as well. Everybody knows that the absolute best kind of marketing in the world is word of mouth. People probably won’t pass on your company brochure to their friends, but if they have a good story about doing business with you, they’re much more likely to tell it. So how can you tap into the power of story telling in your marketing efforts? Let’s look at three possibilities.
GOOD: Make up a story. Sometimes making up a story or a parable to illustrate a point is an effective way to get your message across. Making up the story allows you to shape the message exactly the way you want. It can also be a way to point out weaknesses or needs without pointing your finger at anyone in particular. Your clients can see themselves in the story without having to admit it. Sometimes putting a situation (i.e., a business problem) in another context enables people to see it more clearly. Here’s an example of a made-up story that makes a business point.
BETTER: Tell a true story. Not all stories have to be fictional. Sometimes a real story is better—particularly when a client is looking for data that will substantiate claims that you’re making. You can tell a story about an interaction with one of your clients that helped that client solve a problem. You have a couple of options here. You can simply relate the events (with pertinent details) in story form: Identifying the problem, the solution and the result. Or you can present the “story” as a case study that’s a little less casual and can allow you to include detailed data.
BEST: Let your customer tell the story. There is something extremely powerful about having a third party (who has nothing to gain) tell a positive story about working with you. This is a little different than a simple testimonial (although you can repurpose the story for that, too). This lets your customer use his own voice and words to describe what happened. Chances are your customer will use language and emotions that mirror those of your potential customers when he or she tells the story. And that’s part of what makes it so powerful. It lends authenticity to the message you’re trying to get across. And you can use this story as a case study, an online video or a written report.
Facts and data are important, but customers are people, and they want to know that the goods and services you provide worked for other people. That’s the real test. So when you have a client who tells you how great it was to work with you or how well your product or service performed, ask them to tell the whole story. Record it and ask their permission to use it.