You know you have a great product or service. And you may have lots of facts and figures to back up why you’re the best. But throwing data at potential customers (even if it’s truly impressive data) won’t move them to buy. That’s because people don’t respond to logic. They respond to emotion. That’s why you’d better get good at storytelling—fast.
“Stories create emotion, and emotion is what people remember,” says Justin Champion, author of Inbound Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing Content Marketing the Inbound Way. “They help you engage and, more importantly, teach your audience. If you don’t tell a good story, your message will be lost in the media jungle.”
Google processes over 3.8 million searches per minute. That’s a lot of people looking for answers. This is a result of changes in the way consumers make purchases. People no longer respond to outbound tactics like spam emails and cold calling. Instead they research products and services and find what they’re looking for on their own.
The message for brands is clear: You must consistently provide content that’s engaging and persuasive enough to pull in ideal customers and win their business. This is called inbound marketing, and it’s the way today’s businesses “get found”—by helping, educating, and entertaining prospects with valuable, relevant, and consistent content.
“Your goal is to make a human connection, and storytelling is how you do this,” says Champion. “It’s about resonating with people who need your help and guidance. A well-crafted story helps you create contrast between choices. It helps prospects make sense of the decision they’re about to make, whether it’s deciding on a product or service or making a purchase.”
Discover your brand story
Here’s a look at tips on how to discover your story and share with the world.
Know what your story is not
It’s not data and assertions about ROI. It’s not just your business’s history. It’s also not cliché, and it’s not what everyone else is saying. Sure, you may think you provide the best customer service in your industry, but that’s not your story. Storytelling is about standing out, not blending in.
Focus on your why
Former advertising executive and author Simon Sinek is known for his Golden Circle concept. The Golden Circle is all about starting with why. Sinek says most people communicate by starting with what they do and eventually work their way back to talk about how and why they do what they do. But unique and successful companies like Apple or Google communicate with an “inside-out” type of thinking. They start with the why and only then do they talk about the how and what portions of what they do.
“To really connect with your prospects and customers, you must express the why of your story,” says Champion. “Tap into the emotional side and begin to educate or build awareness from there. Ask yourself: Why do I do what I do? How will this help my audience? And what am I actually offering?”
Know your characters
All stories have characters. With content marketing, the people—or characters—are your readers. Good storytelling is accomplished when you value and understand your audience and respond to their wants and needs. When potential customers can get answers to their questions and see themselves as characters in your story, they’ll be more likely to use your product or service and seek the happy ending you offer.
“Start with your buyer persona, the semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer,” says Champion. “This can help guide you through understanding the goals and challenges your character will face. No matter who your buyer persona is, the art of storytelling is making sure you empathize with and relate to your audience.”
Choose your point of view
While keeping your buyer persona in mind, determine the point of view of your story. Will it be first person, second person, or third person? There’s no right or wrong option. It will depend on your buyer persona, the story you’re trying to tell, and the format of the story.
In the first-person point of view, the character is yourself. When you say, “I saw this,” or, “I learned that,” you’re speaking in the first person. This type of language is more confessional. It can help you establish a personal connection with the reader or build authority.
In the second-person point of view, the character is your audience. It’s when you say things like, “You’ll see,” or, “You’ll learn.” When using “you” language, it’s important to understand your buyer personas and know their pain points and goals. Tell the story in a way that shows empathy.
The third person is the “he said/she said” type of language. Case studies about your customers are a good example of using the third-person point of view. These stories can be fictional or nonfictional.
Present, and resolve, your conflict
Once you know who the character is for your story, it’s important to understand the conflict they face. If your story lacks conflict, you’re probably not telling a story.
Instead, you’re telling a pitch, a tagline, a unique selling point, or a plain statement. This approach won’t resonate with your audience, and from a content marketing perspective, it won’t get you views, shares, conversions, or customers.
Finally, get to the resolution
Where there’s conflict, your audience will naturally want some sort of resolution. It should wrap up the story but should also clearly call your audience to action. It should fulfill the story’s purpose. For content marketing, a resolution could be next steps or even a call to action for more content. Either way, don’t leave the audience hanging.
Share a better brand story
“Find a way to infuse your story into every piece of content you create,” concludes Champion. “Storytelling is the perfect way to help readers begin the journey from stranger to customer, and it can deepen your relationship with your existing clients. Remember, people want and need to feel connected. If you tell the right story, you can capture their attention, connect with them emotionally, and win their loyalty.”
Justin Champion is the author of Inbound Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing Content Marketing the Inbound Way. He has been a digital marketer for nine years, working with clients like Majestic Athletic, Wrangler Jeans, and Pendleton Whisky. Justin works as HubSpot Academy’s content marketing professor and is the creator of HubSpot Academy’s Content Marketing Certification, which is a globally recognized course. Justin is a digital nomad—a full-time remote worker who lives and works from the road in his Airstream and DIYed truck camper. Follow him and his journeys on Instagram at @wildwewander.