As marketers, we often focus on the “next big thing,” straying from the perennial principles of effective marketing to pursue the latest fads or rehash metrics. Yet virtually every new marketing strategy or platform is simply one more way to do the same thing: share a captivating story. As we increasingly seek authenticity and clarity in a cluttered world, the ability to share a story will become more important than ever.
Forget the Tall Tales
How many opportunities to you and your colleagues have each day, to talk one-on-one with current clients or prospects? And how do you use these interactions? The best approach may be to tell a story. Made to Stick authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath identify six principles for “sticky ideas”:
Note that the first element, stories, should really incorporate the other six in order to be effective. We crave stories that surprise us; are easy to understand; and contain believable events and characters. But marketing is no place for fairy tales or hyperbole. Over-the-top stories, à la Paul Bunyan, may be great for putting the kids to bed, but they can detract from a company’s aura of legitimacy.
Crafting Your Company Stories
Take a moment to consider your company’s history, values, and customers. Undoubtedly there are several good stories just waiting to be discovered. But just as important is the story itself is how that story is packaged and presented.
- Strive for authenticity: Capture the character and voice of your company. Don’t tell a story that your competitor can also tell, but rather a story that illustrates your point of difference. Think about those moments where your company has truly sparkled.
- Keep it relevant: Identify your market segment (or segments) and craft a story that appeals to each. It may be necessary to come up with a sort of “story arsenal” that includes stories for a variety of situations and clients.
- Make it retell-able: Simplicity is key. Anyone–from the company CEO to your customer’s kindergartener–should be able to recall your story and repeat it to someone else. Why not create an opportunity for free word-of-mouth advertising?
- Skip the predictable: If your company is already well known for working in a particular vertical, or for working with a high-profile client, go for a different angle. Explore other successes that could become great stories.
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