Storytelling. It seems to be one of the popular trending themes on social media right now.
But is it just a fad? Or an age-old practice simply re-labelled? Can it really generate more sales? And if so, how quickly? Because these days, we're more impatient than ever for business success and revenue growth.
Is it worth bothering with storytelling?
Yes. In my experience, the best stories can absolutely drive sales on a sustained basis. They can do so efficiently and they can create lasting customer relationships.
Although never in sales or marketing roles, I worked for many years during the noughties under the iconic De Beers banner of 'A diamond is forever'. There, I watched the magic of great storytelling unlock difficult markets, change customer behaviour and inspire generation after generation of consumers to make emotionally driven decisions that override strict financial logic. I've seen firsthand just what's in the power of creating enduring customer connection through beautifully crafted, story-based ad campaigns. I saw what these campaigns could do as far as consumer behaviour was concerned, not just once, but generally many times over, with the same customers, and it was hard not to be impressed.
And you don't need a multi-million dollar budget to get these results. Many great brands achieve similar levels of success and on far lesser budgets. Social media provides great platforms to publish convincing and authentic storytelling.
The benefits of storytelling and how to do it well
According to the author of the linked article below, Rob Wormley, there are several very good reasons to bother with storytelling and he sets them out very clearly. The article is a good read, full of examples and also solid advice on how to best support your brand by identifying and telling credible and compelling stories. It is certainly worth taking the time.
There's nothing particularly new about storytelling techniques in sales and marketing. Great salespeople and marketers have been weaving sales and marketing magic with storytelling since ancient times of trading and bartering. It's a great technique to educate your target audience about why they should choose your product. Many of us use case-studies and examples on web-sites, in pitches and marketing materials, to help create this understanding. These case studies and examples are a form of storytelling after all.
But at this level, stopping here misses an essential piece…
Storytelling has a further, pivotal role to play. This additional element is particularly critical to new projects and new businesses. And the opportunity to make it work to your advantage arrives much earlier in the customer relationship process…
Storytelling helps to shine a spotlight on your business
It clears the crowds from a competitive market place so that your customer sees you the most clearly. It establishes trust in your products or services long before they’ve been bought and consumed.
In essence, it helps your customers to choose you. To trust you. Before they are ready to buy your product(s) and long after any purchase.
It all comes down to building a brand, not just a business.
Storytelling creates a brand
Brands are enduring, they are the names we remember when we want to buy a particular product or commission a service. Our favourites are those to whom we are loyal, to whom we return and buy more, and they are those whom we readily recommend.
As Wormley says in the linked article, 'people buy products from a business, but they follow a brand'.
And 'the follow' is what you should be after.
Brands create the fans and the evangelists
Your audience. They still see you clearly even when the marketplace for your product or service is crowded and they do not forget you.
And if you haven't got enough fans and evangelists already, I'd recommend following the pragmatic advice of people like Wormley, because storytelling is a well-proven route to growing them and to keeping them.
But remember: don’t just tell stories about the product or service you’re offering. Make sure your own story is in the spotlight long ahead of then.
And as Wormley recommends, also tell the stories that provide your audience with a vision of their own world that is much improved by having your brand as a part of it. Stories centred around other customers' delight about the outcome of using what you offer are especially powerful.
So build your following, generate a loyal audience who understands and admires what you stand for, selling will be easier, a lot faster and far more likely to be repeated, if your target customers already know and relate to you.
And as for those sales results? Well if you've got a great proposition and you're putting Wormley's advice into practice, they should be looking pretty good too.
You can’t fake storytelling, otherwise it will not work as an effective driver of sales. In order to get any sort of ROI from storytelling, you need to take time to develop a personality for your brand... Remember: you need to be able to show visitors and customers what makes you different. Why should they choose to interact with you and not someone else? Let your voice and style shine through the stories you craft and share with customers, and they’ll start to better understand who you are and why you do what you do.