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March 18, 2016

Storytelling

There is probably a caveman version of “A guy walks into a bar…”

Humans have been connecting through stories since cavemen (and women) gathered around the fire at night. Stories keep our history, entertain, and relate information.

Good stories grab our attention and keep us listening (and reading).

Great stories touch us at our deepest level.

We are hardwired to listen to stories.

Most of us grow up hearing Uncle Harold tell us for the millionth time how he met Aunt Maude on the dance floor and stole her right out from under her fiancée. Your sister can’t wait to tell your new friend about how horrible you looked at her wedding – and pulls out the photos to show them the ugly bridesmaid dresses she picked out.

Brands tell stories, too.

A restaurant might tell the story of its founder coming from Italy and working three jobs to save up to build a back yard pizza oven just like the old country. How he went from baking pies for the neighbors to a 6-chain restaurant that still makes the best a-pizza in the region. The back of their menu and their website shows photos of the young founder standing behind the counter of his first hole-in-the-wall pizza place.

Clothing companies that manufacture in America can tell stories about making heritage designs or their support of local employment.

Car companies talk about luxury, reliability, and the American tradition of the open road.

Everyone – and every brand – has a story to tell…but you need to tell the right story to the right audience.

Remember that “guy walks into a bar” story? There are lots of variations. Everyone knows one.

Some of them you would only tell to a room full of guys at a bar.

Some of them you could tell your grandmother at Thanksgiving dinner.

The clothing company could sell the same clothes to different buyers with different stories. One buyer may be focused on the “made in America” value. Another buyer might be focused on the rugged, honest fashion the company sells.

The brand didn’t change – just the story it was telling about itself to its buyers.

Your story can help you achieve your goal of greater brand visibility, increased sales, or raising the brand status and can be targeted to the audience who can move you toward your goal.

But you have to have a clear understanding of who you are talking to, what is important to them, and what will resonate.

Step One: Define your goal.

What is the specific goal you want to achieve? Brand awareness? Sales? Category leadership?

Step Two: Describe your customer.

Who is the story for? The more specific you get, the better you can fine tune the subtle references that will resonate.

Step Three: Outline your story premise.

Just like your English teacher told you, stories have beginning, middles, and ends. Knowing your goal, and understanding who you are telling the story to, create a simple outline.

Step Four: Gather your assets.

  • You have some glowing reviews from some niche publications.
  • You have a great founder’s story about building your prototype in your dorm room, perfecting it while working your day job, finally quitting to start assembling them in your garage.
  • You have lots of customer testimonials
  • Great visuals – lots of photos, videos, logo, packaging.
  • Pretty good idea of who your ideal customer is.

Step Five: Figure out where your ideal customer hangs out.

Social media: there a lots of demographic data on who hangs out where.

  • Facebook: Close, but women edge men out – and the age demographic is skewing older. Women post more and play more games.
  • YouTube: It’s a man’s world. Men watch far more online – both in number of visits and time on the site.
  • Pinterest: No contest – women rule. Not even close.
  • Instagram: Neck and neck. Women use Instagram a little more than men.
  • LinkedIn: Men edge out women, but only by a few percentage points.

Step Six: Pick where you start.

Based on your customer demographics, select two social media outlets. This is only a start.

Create a rich environment with engaged users. Better to be fully committed and successful with two and then expand.

Step Seven: Craft your story for the venue.

After you have selected your social media venues, it’s time to think about how you are crafting your story.

  • Who do you want to reach?
  • What problem are you solving or pain are you taking away?
  • Why buy your product over some other product?
  • How will using your product make your customer feel?
  • Do you offer a guarantee?
  • What about social proof? Do other customers love and recommend your product?
  • Any positive media coverage?

Step Eight: Create content. Lots and lots of content.

By selecting your story venues, you may spark different ideas about content and production. If video is part of your storytelling, consider if you will use animation, slide share, video, photos, or some combination. Do you already have these assets or do you need to produce them?

Whatever medium you use – writing, pictures, video, podcasting, infographics, and animation – it can all tell you story.

Step Nine: Keep the conversation going. Season with social proof.

Whether on you website, social media, or any other venue, keep adding stories. Make the conversation richer. Comment, reply, add details. Post new photos. Add a video comment.

Add social proof. Open up reviews. Data shows that people will trust perfect strangers who talk about your products. If you have a good product, be brave enough to let the good and the bad fall together. While people trust strangers, they trust the overall reviews when they feel that the reviewers have nothing to gain and are posting honest opinions.

Step Ten: Wash, rinse, repeat.

Your story evolves and becomes richer over time. You will have new testimonials. More customers will comment or leave testimonials.

Remember how Uncle Harold stole Aunt Maude? Every time he tells the story, you hear a few more details: the song that was playing, the stupid expression on Aunt Maude’s fiancée’s face, how blue her eyes were, how he borrowed the suit from his cousin who socked him when he finally returned it because Uncle Harold got booze all over it. See? I got you picturing the whole night. Buying into the whole creation story.

Do that for your customers. Get them invested in your story.

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