You have a product or service to sell. You need to reach people to sell what you’re offering. You need to break through the noise to get people’s attention, and you need to do it in a way that isn’t annoying so they don’t tune you out.
Here at OutboundEngine, we have read and loved Rand Fishkin’s “Content Marketing Manifesto.” In it, he argues that your content marketing should not be designed:
- to convert customers directly
- to acquire leads directly
- to make sales directly
That is the kind of content that gets you ignored or blocked. Instead, your content marketing should focus on building familiarity, likability and trust.
This is what we do for our customers at OutboundEngine. We send out great content via email and social media so that you, in turn, are perceived as a trusted, professional resource by your customers. That means not constantly talking about yourself, but thinking about what others need and want and how you can help fulfill those needs.
Another way to think of it is, as writer Austin Kleon advises, to avoid being “human spam.” You do that by sharing helpful information so that when you do reach out with your pitch, you’ve built an audience who wants to hear from you. As Austin says in his book Show Your Work, “before you have something to shill, you need to build up a network of goodwill.”
So let’s assume you’ve built up your audience of goodwill. What now?
Use these storytelling tips to add life to your pitch, whether that’s delivered in a blog post, email or brochure.
1) Ask yourself: Who is your audience? What do they want or need?
When you do talk about your company in your marketing, frame the story from your customer’s point of view. What problem are you helping to solve for them? How are you making their lives better, easier or more fun?
Let’s pretend you’re a real estate agent and you want to get more clients. Now, you could send an email with your listings, but that’s the same email that every other agent is sending. Try something different. Sell yourself with a story.
2) We’re all holding out for a hero (or heroine).
Stories work better when we can focus on a character. Give us someone to root for. Chances are your hero is a past client, or it might even be you. Set up your story. A picture and a quote (or a video) make us feel like there’s a real person and real stakes involved.
Meet Jack and Jill. They’re newlyweds looking for their first house. They have all the details squared away. They’ve been preapproved, they know their budget and what they’re looking for and they’re ready to act.
3) Thrill us with plot or “action.”
This is the most straightforward part. What happened? What is the “inciting incident” that led your hero (or heroine’s) problem? Keep it short and sweet. Think of it as leading up to the main point of your story.
The market is so hot in Austin, it doesn’t matter how quickly we put in an offer. Even if it’s the first day on the market, Jack and Jill are competing with multiple offers, often above asking price. After losing out on four houses, they’re getting frustrated and losing patience.
This is what you’ve been leading up to, the most exciting part of your story. It’s the fight scene or the moment when boy finally gets girl. Wow us.
They have good news—they’re expecting a baby! Now the pressure is really on. Jill would like to move into their new home before the baby arrives, and they’ve found the perfect house in their ideal neighborhood. But can we beat the other buyers?
How did you and your business solve the problem you’ve set up? Tell us what you did so your client was able to walk away and live happily ever after.
We were competing with multiple offers, but ours was one they picked. After meeting Jack and Jill, the sellers were excited about a young family moving into their home. It reminded them of their own journey in the house, and they wanted to share that. The fact that we offered more than anyone else (and asked for less) didn’t hurt. Now Jack and Jill are excited to start their new adventure together. They close later this month.
Make it really easy for your audience to find you so that when the time is right, they know how to get in touch.
If you, like Jack and Jill, are ready for your new home, get in touch. I will make your dreams come true. Contact me at 123-000-000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
7) Bonus tip: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” –Leonardo da Vinci
If da Vinci couldn’t get everything perfect, neither will you. You need to move on to the next thing, so don’t get so focused on a particular blog, email or Tweet that you don’t have time for your follow-up and all of the other things you have to do.
These seven tips can help you create an ongoing narrative with your customers. We recommend sending regular (but not too frequent!) emails, keeping your social media accounts updated and being available to your customers where they already are online. Think about all of your communications as one long story—how you can help your customers make their dreams come true.