Exchanging stories is something us humans have been doing for centuries.
Think carefully about your favorite novels or television shows, perhaps it’s To Kill a Mockingbird, or maybe Game of Thrones?
No matter what platform is used to tell these stories, there’s obviously something deeply personal about why a narrative has you hooked and keeps you coming back for more.
Which begs the question, why should this be any different in other walks of life – your marketing strategy, for example?
Creating a culture around your business communications can connect deeply with an audience, but when done correctly, you can build relationships that last a lifetime.
With so much uncertainty in the world at the moment, customers are looking for something to believe in, so if you aren’t creating something that has a sincere desire to connect with people, then you won’t fool anyone for long.
Products and Services Alone Aren’t Enough
When you think of a business, particularly a small business or a newly-formed one, you tend to imagine their product range or service offerings immediately, or the ‘what’ of a business in other words.
But these products and services standing alone aren’t good enough.
Of course, it’s true to say that what you sell is incredibly important; it’s your livelihood and the reason you’re able to make your money.
So, in this sense, the ‘what’ is the most important thing.
But, just having a product or service and a plan to market it, simply isn’t enough.
A quick search for the phrase, ‘why marketing isn’t enough’, and you’ll get something like this:
The fact that blogs like this even exist in the first place is a good indication that businesses with decent products and services are discovering that their marketing practices are presenting them with challenges they didn’t anticipate.
And, this is because bringing a product to market, pricing it and showing it off are only cogs in a larger machine.
But, when it comes to marketing, there’s another problem.
No matter how you choose to market your product, the platform you choose will always dictate how a user can play the game, so to speak.
For example, Facebook decides how it presents your images, and unfortunately doesn’t offer much opportunity for organic reach these days.
Search engines marketing is an uphill climb too, and in fact, it may take you many months and even years of hard graft to succeed.
No matter what platform you choose to use, your message is coordinated by the powers that be, which, to some degree, controls how you interact with your audience.
After all that, you need to stand back and understand the landscape of the competition in your niche. For instance, just take a look at this list of all of the UK’s energy suppliers. There are so many companies in the same sector all fighting for the same audience, using the same platforms, which means they are all limited by the same problems.
Creating a better product and pumping more capital into marketing alone guarantees absolutely nothing.
We’re living in an interconnected world, with access to more technology than ever before, but this means that you’ve already been beaten to the punch, which, ironically, makes it so much harder to create your own captive audience.
So, what’s the answer?
Well, the answer lies within you and within your business; it’s your business story and your company ideals that hit home with an audience, and that’s where your focus should lie.
Consumers Crave a Narrative
The most successful businesses in the world understand the power of a good yarn.
Think about how Nike, Costa, or Apple market their products, it’s not merely a matter of creating a product and then putting up a few social media posts, sure it helps, but they also grasp the opportunity to show why and how a something came to be.
Just watch the famous ‘Think Different’ advertisement from Apple:
It doesn’t even specifically promote a product, but what it does do is deliver a startling narrative about revolution and how those who think differently can achieve great things.
It’s a simple notion, but it packs a punch.
But, why do we crave narratives?
Human beings are complex, and the art of storytelling gives us the opportunity to understand what we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. This Medium post by Joshua VanDeBrake gives us a fascinating insight into the science of storytelling.
Understanding why we tell stories is one thing, but unless we can stir up some form of emotion, it’s not a story worth telling. A great story can induce laughter, tears, empathy and a whole gamut of emotional ups and downs.
Translating this into the marketing arena is something, as we’ve already mentioned, that the world’s best brands are incredible at – after all, how did that Apple ad make you feel?
This One Spot infographic gives us a fascinating insight into how businesses should approach their storytelling. It shows us that stories can be up 22x more memorable than being presented with the facts alone.
What this tells us is that there is a massive appetite in your niche for all sorts of extraordinary and exciting content.
This is all very well and good, I hear you cry, but how can I do that?
Firstly, you need to figure out what kind of tale you wish to tell and going back to the infographic from earlier almost 80% of consumers say that relevance is something they value quite highly, so you must bear this in mind.
Firstly, you need to create a story that is both relevant, sincere and worthy of a customer’s emotional connection. Then you need to find a platform where you can best convey your story.
70% of emotionally engaged customers spend two times more on brands they have a real connection to, which is less than half of customers with no emotional investment at all, which is why it pays to really take your time at this juncture, to reap the rewards.
Once you get the skeleton in place, your business story begins to write itself, and your products, audience platforms and the industry as a whole will play their part within the overarching story arc.
As we’ve already covered, you’ll need to produce high-level, expert content that your audience can react to, and this needs to be driven by your knowledge of what your customers want.
If you craft the beginnings of an epic tale, which leaves your audience satisfied and wanting more, then you’ve made a great start.
Let Your Culture Define Your Consumer Experience
When talking about conversion rate optimisation and retaining customers, you can’t ignore the experiences of your customers, so don’t overlook it when you come to crafting your story either.
Everyone knows that the culture within your company benefits your employees in terms of increasing productivity, and therefore profitability. But what many business owners overlook is how important it is to try to see through the lens of the customer, after all, their experiences with your brand is what swings the pendulum in favour of doing business with you (or not).
A lousy experience costs you money and can eventually spread negativity through your customer base and your employees if left unchecked.
However, good experiences are just as compelling albeit in the opposite direction; which is what you want.
How your team deals with a customer, whether it begins as a negative or positive will leave an impression on that person.
Courtesy of ZenDesk
Companies who place immense importance on customer experience drive revenue 4-8% higher than other companies in their niche.
Despite that, though, customer experience is an afterthought for many companies.
So, if you want to stand any chance of creating anupbeat customer experience, you have to trace it back to the very beginning of the chain, which is your company culture.
Think of your business as a painting, more often than not, you must stand back in order to fully admire the picture in its entirety before inspecting each section in greater detail. Your business is your work of art, and when a customer comes to buy something from you, they will see every part of your creation, and if you’re too busy focusing your brush stoke in one small part of the canvas, and the rest remains untouched, it’s not especially impressive.
Your website is more than likely your potential customers’ first touchpoint. But, sometimes your customer will make a call before spending their money.
Sometimes, they may bypass that process altogether if they need help to troubleshoot something, that’s where the support team comes in.
They may even need to talk to management-level employees for more pressing concerns.
All these touchpoints give a potential customer a snapshot of your company and its processes and cultures – if this isn’t up to scratch, make no mistake they will notice.
On the flip side, though, if you have happy employees, their level of customer service will be much improved, and this is something they won’t forget in a hurry either.
When your employees are happy, your business will be in a much better position to expand.
And when that happens, your marketing and storytelling efforts are coming from a good place, which opens up more opportunities.
This is when brand power really starts to get exciting within a business.
Building a good company culture can only start at the top.
Which means that your ability to uphold your company’s values, deal with tricky situations and manage social scenarios will trickle down into your employee pool, which comes back full circle to explaining how and why you do and don’t do certain things, which places emphasis on storytelling again once again. What this means on a basic level, is that you must treat your employees like internal customers.
By developing a culture within your internal team first, you can then begin to roll out a robust framework that emphasises customer focus in all aspects of the business.
Google is an excellent example of this in action. They provide their teams with free gourmet meals, employee getaways as well as financial and time incentives, which allows its employees to dedicate 20% of their time to personal projects while in the office.
The results of this culture are evident to anyone who contributes to the 63,000 searches every second on Google, and that is a world-class search engine, unmatched by any competitor anywhere in the world.
Understanding and Outlining Your ‘Impact’
The word ‘impact’ is pretty broad and could well refer to pretty much anything. But, when you drill down into the detail, in marketing it translates to creating relationships with your customers that rely on a core of trust and open communication, and this is ultimately what brings customers back again and again.
A study featured on Social Media Today found that 57% of all consumers believe that less than half of all brands create authentic, truthful content.
This is not something you want tarnishing your brand, particularly if you’re trying to tell the kinds of stories that leave your audience hooked.
Think of yourself as a fisherman, the internet is the ocean, the fish are your customers, and you need to employ various tactics to get them out of the water. However, if you keep throwing the same, tired lures at them, they will eventually learn to avoid them. Throwing genuine, live bait is a much more authentic way to catch the attention of the fish.
It would be easy to dismiss your company story, culture and impact as ‘soft metrics’, after all, how can you measure the success of a story?
And how does outlining an impact make a difference for your brand?
But consider that a unique brand story will individualise your business in a way that no product or service ever could, because you’ll always have someone in your niche who can match or even improve the product you’ve created.
And you will be swimming against the tide if you’re genuinely attempting to create an individual brand using social media, SEO and other marketing channels.
But you will never have to change your story, that is a unique part of your company; its history, values and cultures will always remain the same, even if Google’s algorithms don’t.
So, what’s stopping you crafting a truly unique brand story that will impact your audience?