Storytelling in marketing should be a priority for businesses of all sizes, especially in 2020.
The digital sphere is packed with information and content, and a good story is the only thing setting businesses apart from each other.
Whether you choose to tell your story through a well-designed infographic, a blog post, or live-streamed videos, storytelling needs to be part of your marketing strategy.
We outline how to incorporate storytelling into your marketing campaigns.
Why Use Storytelling in Marketing?
The digital world has made it impossible for people to focus on content for long periods of time—there is so much content available alongside a constant stream of updates.
How is a person meant to pick and choose what they read or watch to completion? Marketers need to give them some incentive—by creating compelling stories.
In the glut of content that users now face, to elevate your social media or blog posts above others, you need to share a story, instead of trying to encourage people to buy products.
Stories are memorable—that’s why literature and cinema continue to be an integral part of the human experience. People love absorbing new stories.
And they also love sharing those stories with others—this kind of word-of-mouth marketing is excellent for boosting brand awareness, and eventually conversions.
Marketing is a difficult space to make an impact—use storytelling to stand out among the crowd.
If you’re wondering how to go about telling stories in marketing, we explain the do’s and don’ts of this marketing tactic below.
Do’s and Don’ts for Storytelling in Marketing
Storytelling has a few core elements that make it effective, as outlined in the graphic above.
Once you have those in the bag, there are a few more do’s and don’ts that need to be followed to ensure a smooth and productive marketing campaign.
Do Make the Customer the Protagonist
Storytelling in marketing isn’t about selling—it’s about convincing the audience to participate in your brand.
In essence, though your goal with every marketing campaign is to improve your brand’s presence and revenue, the brand is not the hero of the story. The customer is.
How do you execute this storytelling device in marketing form? Show the customer what their world is like now, and how it would improve with the addition of your products or services.
The story is about your customer’s journey—from conflict through to resolution. Your brand is the tool they can use to achieve victory—that is how you can improve your social post views.
Don’t Leave the Best Parts for the End
Stories must have a beginning, a middle, and an end—but that doesn’t mean you start off with a slow introduction.
Internet users barely watch the first five seconds of a video and rarely read further than the headline of a post.
To get their attention, put your most important message front and center—particularly in visual storytelling—before people can scroll past or click away.
Don’t waste time leading up to the story—open with your call-to-action and in the middle of an event. This will help capture and hold people’s attention.
Do Highlight Value Addition
Unless your company has managed to create such a unique product that you have no competitors, your products will always have competition.
How can you make your story stand out amongst competitors? The way to attract customers is to offer them some additional value.
Ask yourself: how does my product or service help my customers? How does my company help society at large? Those answers should be at the core of your marketing storytelling.
But then go a step further—what exclusive offers can you provide to customers? What are you doing that your competitors aren’t?
Those are the gaps that your marketing storytelling should be highlighting—you can use a SWOT analysis template to examine the gaps in the marketing that you can exploit.
Don’t Withhold Too Much
A great way to make your stories more attractive is by making them scarce—people always want what they can’t have.
Creating members-only content, or setting up content behind a paywall is a good way to make your content feel exclusive, and thus more worthy of attention.
Having said that, withholding content and access may come across as elitist and othering. Mix it up with sneak peeks to products, discount codes, or freebies.
Do Share User Stories
We have mentioned the importance of making the customer the protagonist. And one of the best ways to do that is to make the customer the face of your marketing stories.
User-generated content—sourced through a Facebook contest—is excellent for creating dynamic and diverse content for your platforms while also letting your followers shine.
Before and after photos and videos, or testimonials, make for great marketing collateral that allows customers to share their brand experiences—this will make your product more attractive to new users.
Behind the scenes looks into the making of a product or the workings of a company can tell users a great deal about your company ethos, as well.
Don’t Skimp on In-App Purchases
Most businesses create mobile apps now and these should be free to use in order to draw customers in.
However, to boost your in-app mobile marketing, consider making certain areas or benefits accessible only by paying, as many game apps do.
While you can still convey a strong brand story through a free app, you can boost revenue by including in-app purchases as an option for users.
Do Use the Power of FOMO
FOMO—the fear of missing out—is an essential cog in the marketing wheel. There are a number of ways to use FOMO in your marketing storytelling.
One way is to tell the story of what someone’s life would look like without your product or service—don’t be overdramatic about it, but highlight what they would miss out.
You can also induce FOMO by offering limited-time discounts—through newsletters or email popups—or by showing how popular or scarce a product is.
But remember not to overdo the sense of FOMO—you still want people to have a positive experience with your brand’s storytelling.
Don’t Forget Social Drivers
Emotions are key to storytelling—if your story can evoke some emotion, that’s a sign that you’ve created something compelling.
There is plenty to be angry about in the world right now—you can use that to rally people around a cause close to your brand.
Use compelling statistics to create a fact-based story that will drive people to do something.
But don’t parody or belittle real issues—this will leave a sour taste in the mouth and result in bad press.
Also, limit how many negative emotions your stories are meant to evoke—yes, anger and fear are powerful, but love and happiness are longer lasting.
Creating stories that make people go ‘awww’ will be more effective in the long run.
Do Remain Authentic
Authenticity is a struggle in 2020—brands are being called out on their inauthentic actions and it is impacting how storytelling in marketing works for other businesses.
There is a simple way to rectify this, though. Don’t promise something you can’t deliver on—don’t talk about climate change, but package your goods in plastic, for instance.
And don’t use a tone that is incongruent with your brand—if your brand isn’t humor-based, don’t be flippant in your storytelling. It will come across as jarring to audiences.
To ensure that your storytelling is uniform across the board, use a design collaboration software so your team can all be on the same page.
Don’t Forget to Listen
A crucial aspect of storytelling is listening—your stories don’t go out into a void. Real people with emotions and needs read, watch, and listen to them.
If you create stories without knowing what people actually want from your brand or your stories, they will fall flat, and even lead to bad press.
Find out whether people like your story. If they do, then what aspects do they like? And are there aspects they didn’t connect with? Did the story delivery system work for them?
Learn from the feedback you receive to improve your stories. You can do this by creating a survey or asking for comments on YouTube or social media.
Take note of what people have to say and adapt your storytelling method accordingly for successful marketing campaigns.
Storytelling in marketing is the best way to get the audience’s attention and to improve conversions.
But there are aspects that need to be highlighted, while others should be downplayed if your story is to be effective.
The most important thing that marketers need to remember is that the protagonist of the marketing story is the customer—their needs must trump the brand’s need for recognition.
With that thought at the core, you can create powerful stories that will elevate your marketing and boost your revenue.
About the Author: Ronita Mohan is a content marketer at Venngage, the online infographic maker and design platform. Ronita enjoys writing about visual content marketing, business development, pop culture, and diversity. Twitter: @Venngage