The Storyteller’s Secret
New media is targeting each of us from every direction. Whether it be on our phones, our computers, our social media, or other platforms, we are inundated from every direction with media grappling desperately for our attention.
As marketers, technology has never made it easier to get your story out there, but at the same time, never easier for your story to get lost.
To truly gain traction, your story needs to connect deeply with your audience, empathizing with them so they identify with you.
Who’s the Hero?
Building a story does not begin from speaking, but from listening. Often enough, we get bogged down in data and focus so intently on increasing engagement by changing the wording or over-focusing on keywords and meta descriptions that we forget we are talking to living, breathing people, with emotions that factor heavily in decision-making. To truly engage with your target audience you must speak to them and not at them.
Many companies naturally try to tell their story from their perspective. “My company is the hero because we solved x, y and z.” But this is the wrong approach. To truly relate to your customer, you must make them the hero of their story which happens to be the same as yours. You must speak about the relatable conflict and adversary that inspired you to come up with your solution, the struggles faced, and how your solution overcame them. Your target is looking for a solution that fits in their - story, so they can overcome their challenges.
You need to be available at the right place and at the right time so the story’s hero (your audience) will find you.
To truly relate to your customer, you must make them the hero
Inspire them to Care
People want to hear from people - real, authentic people who are relatable and create a connection. The first step in creating this connection with a customer is to speak in their language and inspire them. When you show them you care, they feel this and relate to you. Inspiration is more than just a tool, it is a way to encourage independently motivated action. Provide your target not just with content, but other resources that give them additional information and ideas for how they can be more successful. Engage them in a two-way conversation and don’t just spray content at them w. When you engage with people on a peer-to-peer level, they are more open to what you have to say as you are showing them their ideal and how they can achieve it through your service or product.
What a customer wants to know is that you care, and you understand. It’s important to begin by figuring out for yourself as a company, who you are, and what your story inspires. If you don’t know how your offer is relevant, how will they?
Mapping the Journey
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Much like the famous philosophical experiment, if a story is told and nobody hears it, was it really told?
Stories need to be heard, so your story must be something worth hearing. Good stories are ones that are entertaining, educational, universal, organized, and memorable. Think back to your ideal customer (your hero) and build a map of content based on their needs and subsequent journey. Who are you targeting, and what do they need on their journey to success?
Remember, the customer wants to hear from someone real, but also only what is relevant to them and their journey. Look back at how you inspire them. What is unique about your offering that makes your customers care about what you have to offer? Once you are able to map this out, every landing page, advertisement, email, or other interaction you have should be designed to remind them why they should take the next step.
What is unique about your offering that makes your customers care about what you have to offer?
A good example of a company that engages with its customer’s story is Starbucks. For years, Starbucks barely invested in any paid promotions (Spending only about 1.5% of its revenue), relying on in-person parties and interactions with the customers personally to spread the word and gain popularity. They had a full-page ad every week in the New York Times Sunday edition, focusing on different world topics like environmental awareness or other movements that speak to their audience on a deeper level. They were able to connect with each customer by understanding their desires and empathizing with them.
Mapping the journey of your audience doesn’t need to be difficult if you keep in mind the core uniqueness of your service, and why the audience chooses you.
It’s time to take a break from the dashboards and start connecting with your target audience. Only when you are able to truly see their challenges and goals will you see where you can fit into their needs. Once you identify what your customer is looking for, you can build your story, with an authentic voice and content that speaks directly to them, reminding them why they care and entertaining, engaging, and informing of the need that you can help with.
If you don’t get the story right, nothing else will help you.