Here’s what I mean when I say “story” and how it relates to sales and content marketing writing.
A story narrates something — true or made up — using a standard narrative structure. That structure includes a defined beginning, middle, and end. Stories have conflict, action, and resolution.
In Marketing, Story Relates to What Your Customers Want to Learn or Know
When used with your marketing or sales tools, stories should relate to what your customer wants to know or learn. At their best, stories entertain and teach at the same time.
The concept of story can also mean useful information presented logically and clearly. If someone comes to your vlog wanting to know how to refinish a wood table, that becomes your story. They have a damaged or worn table they want to use (conflict). Your video shows them in chronological order how to fix the table and offers tips and tools along the way (action). Finally, you show them the beautiful finished product (resolution).
Don’t make the concept of story more complex than it needs to be.
People want answers. You use story to fill that need.
Sometimes that answer is an anecdote, sometimes a white paper, sometimes an explainer video.
Keep your mind open on the definition of story. Understand there are many ways to fulfill that definition.
But as you tell stories, there are mistakes you should never make.
Do You Ever Make These Storytelling Mistakes?
1. You make the story about you. The story isn’t about you. Take the focus off yourself and your product.
Your story should focus entirely on your customer.
What will he or she gain by using your service, buying your product?
2. You…go… slow…and…get…nowhere. When telling a story, use movie trailers as inspiration.
Think how much information they compress into a short time.
Don’t fool around. Start fast. End strong.
3. You overexplain. Be brutal in your storytelling. Tell only what needs to be told. Leave out anything extraneous.
There is a story about Ernest Hemingway entering a short story contest (though likely an urban legend).
The story says he took up the challenge to write a tale with the fewest words possible.
He wrote six: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
Tell the essentials. Cut the fluff. There’s a short jump from those six words to the sad story we imagine. Our brains automatically fill in the blanks.
4. You’re fake. Consumers are sophisticated and cynical. Be honest. A savvy consumer will sniff out when you’re not. Try to fool them and they’ll see through it every time.
At best, you will have to work to earn their trust again.
At worst, you won’t get that opportunity. They will never buy from you and will tell everyone they know what an awful experience they had.
5. You have no idea where you’re going. When you start a story, have a plan.
Your stories should be fun and entertaining. But tickling the senses is not the point.
Your stories should be part of your complete marketing plan and further your brand.
By all means, have fun, but also have a goal.
6. You leave your customer hanging. Take your customer on a journey.
Think about your favorite movie. If it’s a standard Hollywood-style movie, there is a beginning, middle, and end.
The trip is satisfying because the journey is interesting and you are satisfied when the trip is over.
Consider the role story plays in your marketing and inject it wherever you can.