Anyone who has ever heard the story of Scheherazade (pictured in our featured image) knows that storytelling can be a lifesaving skill. In the tale, Scheherazade was destined for beheading by a bored and vengeful King. A skilled storyteller, however, Scheherazade managed to keep herself alive for 1,001 nights by telling the King stories. At the end of 1,001 nights, the King decided to spare her life and realized, in the process, that he had actually fallen in love with her.
For content marketers, the tale of Scheherazade is more than just entertaining – it’s a framework for success. Storytelling is one of the best ways for companies today to set themselves apart from the competition. Additionally, it is a fantastic way to reinforce company values and add interest to your products, goods and services.
In today’s world of competitive content marketing, the only way to truly be heard is to tell a story that is better than everyone else’s.
What is Storytelling In Content Marketing?
For many communications professionals, storytelling may seem unrelated to business. With tools like traditional advertising and PPC ads under their belts, many marketers fail to see the value of storytelling, which is often regarded as a fanciful pastime.
Storytelling can be fairytales, yes, but it can also be the process of producing a human connection through great business writing. Whether you realize it or not, there is no successful product, business or site on the web today that doesn’t utilize storytelling in its content marketing. This is because storytelling is one of the most effective ways to spike customer interest and encourage increased interaction.
In order to purchase a product, a customer needs to feel a connection with that product. This only happens when they can see themselves using the product or when they fully understand what makes it special. This, in turn, only happens when the person creating the content for a given company is capable of telling a story that sucks customers in and keeps them interested.
A great story transcends traditional facts and figures and evokes a strong response from customers. Additionally, telling a great story helps to create “sticky” memories that remain with customers long after the story has ended.
Content marketing provides the ideal vessel for great storytelling and, when done correctly, it can easily help a company reinforce their values in the eyes of their customers. It can be difficult, however, for Type-A company mindsets to wrap their heads around the fact that something as seemingly “fluffy” as storytelling can actually help boost their business in large ways. Fortunately, we’re not making this up and the first step of telling a great story is simply finding out whether or not your story is worth telling in the first place.
The 4 Types of Stories Worth Telling
Whether or not you realize it, storytelling in content marketing is almost exactly like storytelling in novels or journalistic content. Stories, at their core, are archetypal and storytelling in content marketing is no different. The 4 types of stories that are worth telling in a content marketing setting are as follows:
1. The Origin Story
Where did your company come from? How was it born? Was there a colossal failure that leads to success? Telling your origin story helps customers find something to relate to within your company, which in turn helps them build loyalty. Customers love a shared mindset. Take Cory’s Cookies for example. With an origin story like that, how could you resist?
2. The Product Story
Why did you create the product? If you answer is “to make a bunch of money and add more consumer junk to the mainstream” you can bet you won’t be very successful. People want to know why your product is different and what inspired it. Canadian clothing manufacturer Lululemon tells their product story by including a “why we made this” segment in every product description on their website.
3. The Customer Story
How has your product affected the life of your customers? Why do they love it? What do they do with it? Potential customers look to existing customer reviews as a main source of information when making purchasing decisions, which means that by including the customer story in your marketing, you can help inspire confidence in your potential clients.
4. The “What I Stand for Story”
Think about Apple’s wildly successful “Think Different” campaigns. Why were they such a runaway landslide of success? Because the marketing department of that company is and has always been great at extolling the virtues of exactly what the company stands for: end-to-end integration, beautiful products, seamless software, art and technology combined into one package. As a result, Apple has an absolute cult following of people who want to stand for those things, too.
Five Tips for Great Storytelling
In terms of execution, storytelling for content marketing and storytelling for book writing diverge slightly. Since content marketing storytelling is designed to invoke a response from customers, it follows a different set of guidelines than novel-based storytelling does. Incorporate these 5 tips for great storytelling in your content:
1. Give the Story a Message: As is true with other sectors of marketing, it is important to know whom you’re writing to and what you want to convey. In order to create great story, begin by asking yourself about your target audience. Are they young or old? What do they care about? Where do they live? What are the values experiences and concerns that they are most likely to connect with? How much money do they make? These questions will help you hone your statements to get right to the heart of your audience. Additionally, it will help you devise a moral and construct a story your target audience will love.
2. Include Your Experiences: We’ve all heard the saying “Write what you know” and storytelling in content marketing is no difference. In order to tell a great story, you need to mine your life experiences in order to pull the best example to illustrate your own message. People love vulnerability and by exposing your own hardships and truths, you make it easier for them to relate. Share a moment that your own poor decisions lead to ultimate success or how a failure translated into an important learning period. These things provide an important entry point to a great story and can go a long way toward making your content relatable and powerful.
3. Don’t be the Star: There is a difference between storytelling and ego and it’s possible to be helpful without being obnoxious. It’s a fine line, though, and the most important thing to remember in writing great stories is to avoid making yourself the star of the story. It’s fine to talk about your experiences, as mentioned in point #2, but you’ll want to avoid talking too much about yourself. Audiences don’t want to witness your ego, so keep your storytelling instructional, valuable and helpful without caving too much to self-congratulation.
4. Identify the Struggle: People are more likely to relate to your content if they feel like they can actually relate to your content. This means that you need to get inside of their heads and prove that you understand their struggle. In order to do that, place yourself in your reader’s shoes. What are they concerned about? What are their problems or fears? What is the conflict that drives them to change? Once you’ve established that, take some time to consider how you can cater to that and then tailor your stories to being your customer’s main partner in crime and including them in the journey to overcome the struggle.
5. Stay Simple: Content marketing is not the same thing as writing a novel and, as such, it’s a bit inappropriate to have 15 volumes meant to cover a single epic story. That said, it’s important to keep it simple. Less is more when it comes to storytelling in content marketing and a moving and compelling story doesn’t have to be an involved and drawn-out affair. Instead, write from the heart and prove to your audience that you can provide interesting, detailed content. This will help solidify your message and improve all facets of your marketing.
6. Practice: Storytelling takes time and not everyone can come out of the gate with a prize-winning tale. If you think you’ve got an important story to tell, practice with your friends and colleagues before you take it to your customers. This will give you a chance to perfect the art and hone the details before it truly matters. Great stories will easily go viral through word of mouth and shares, so it’s important to get it right before you get it out there. The return on a great story can be huge; so don’t be afraid to invest some time to perfecting the art before you present it to your customers.
Is Your Story Worth Telling?
Nowadays, customers are flooded with stories. Every television commercial, radio ad, piece of content and glossy magazine page seeks to tell a story. With that in mind, the key to great storytelling is simply to ask yourself if each piece of the story is useful and valuable.
When incorporating storytelling into your content marketing, it’s helpful to think of it as an introduction. When you meet a new person, you want to know where that person is from, what they do, what they love and what’s important to them. Determining which stories are worth telling in content marketing is no different. By telling your origin story, product story, customer story and “what I stand for” story, you can introduce your company to customers in a well-rounded and holistic way. This allows you to reach your audiences from a place of genuine interest and to touch their lives from a place of skill, excitement and helpfulness.
Remember, creative writers can sometimes be your best asset for increasing your storytelling power. We have some fantastic creative writers in our team – check out our creative writing!