Every brand has a story; some just tell it better than others. Learning to tell yours well can be the difference between brand engagement and brand abandonment. And we don’t have to tell you which side of that coin you want to be on.
Here are five storytelling techniques that can help you craft the story your audience needs to hear.
1. Put Your Audience First
In essence, your audience is the story. They’re the stars; you’re just a supporting player. So before you do anything else, ask yourself three simple questions:
- Who is my audience?
- What do they need?
- How can I help them?
Dig deep to go beyond the surface. If you’re in real estate, don’t just say you’re targeting first-time homebuyers who need an agent, and you happen to be an agent. That’s obvious! Instead, bring your audience to life by developing buyer personas. Consider who the buyer is both at work and at home. Think about their daily struggles. Then identify the particular pain points that your products and services can remedy. Once you understand your audience, it’s much easier to identify the role you will play in their story.
Here’s an example: Say you’re targeting Maria Millennial. She’s finished her degree, got her first real job and is ready to move out on her own. She’d love to buy, but she’s understandably hesitant with student debt looming large. To her, a home is an investment, and she’s willing to wait for the right opportunity. Right now, she just needs someone to help her find it.
2. Give Your Story a Beginning, a Middle and an End
When crafting a story, think of it as a three-act play. Act One introduces the hero, Act Two introduces the conflict, and Act Three resolves it. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.
Let’s try a quick example:
- Act One — We meet Joe Insurance. He runs a local insurance agency. Business is good, but it could be better. Joe doesn’t know much about email marketing, but he decides to purchase an email list so he can reach new prospects.
- Act Two — Joe’s in trouble. Sending to his purchased list violated his email service provider’s terms of service so his account has been suspended. Not only has he lost money on a list he can’t use, but now he can’t even email his permission-based clients.
- Act Three — Joe realizes he’s in over his head and hires a reputable marketing automation firm to handle his lead generation efforts. It takes a few months, but Joe sees a surge in return customers thanks to his new email newsletter strategy, and he’s noticed people sharing his content on Facebook.
Though this example speaks directly to those in the insurance industry who have made their fair share of mistakes just like our hero, it’s a similar situation in other service industries as well. Many small business owners can’t quite get a handle on email marketing, so they can relate to his struggle and feel good about the eventual resolution.
3. Keep It Real
Remember that you’re telling a story, not delivering a sales pitch. If all you do is pat yourself on the back and push products and services, you’ll turn your audience away in droves.
An alluring story is conversational and engaging. It can bring people together, but only when it’s genuine. Changing the names to protect the innocent is one thing, but if your story reads like a marketing fairytale complete with ridiculously staged stock photos, your audience is going to notice.
To capture the imagination of your audience and lay the groundwork for long-term relationships, keep your message authentic. Honesty is always appreciated.
4. Learn to Speak the Language
Good storytelling means nothing if your audience doesn’t get it. And what works for Maria Millennial won’t necessarily work for Bradley Boomer.
If you want to grab your audience’s attention and keep them emotionally engaged, you have to speak their language. That means finding the most appropriate voice, tone and style to suit your demographic’s expectations.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Change the Narrative
A compelling story should evolve over time. Whether that means updating a few minor details, writing a new chapter or rebooting the franchise entirely, you have to do what’s best for your story, your brand and — most importantly — your audience.
Storytelling is the perfect tool for engaging your audience, nurturing relationships and creating brand advocates. That said, it can be a lot of work. Use these storytelling techniques to focus your marketing efforts and tell a consistent, compelling story. And if you need a hand developing your brand’s story, let us help!
Updated 9/26/17; Originally published 4/4/2014