“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin
This is a brilliant, and relevant, quote by marketing guru, Seth Godin. My singular objection is that marketing has always been about the stories we tell; some have just done it better than others. The exponential increase we are seeing in competition, and content, is requiring marketers to dissect effective marketing, only to conclude that story was always the foundation of successful marketing.
They key is to understand the elements that make an effective story, and who are the key players in your story.
First, every story has a hero. Your customer is always the hero of your story. Too often companies cast themselves as the hero in their story which confuses the customer. This is usually the result of over emphasis on company history, or product features and benefits, without a spotlight on the customer’s challenge or obstacle.
In a story, every hero faces a challenge they need to overcome. Identifying this challenge should be the crux of your business model.
The hero then meets a guide who helps them overcome the challenge. This is where you come in. Your role is to guide the hero through the obstacle. Combining your customers challenge with your solution is what establishes your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Finally, they face their challenge, with the help of their guide, which results in eithersuccess or failure.
Developing your company story and incorporating it in your marketing efforts has numerous advantages including:
Author and marketer, Donald Miller, clarifies, “Consumers don’t always purchase the best product, they usually purchase the product that is easiest for them to understand.” Story is a tool that allows us to make sense out of information in the same way that music organizes notes, creating beauty out of noise.
The interesting advantage of this is that story not only clarifies your mission to your customers, but to your employees as well. Defining a company story brings all of your employees/departments together to deliver the same message.
“If you’re going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all” – Joseph Campbell
In my last article (A Better Approach to Content Marketing) I emphasized the value of content marketing, as well as, the increasing difficulty to standout in a world saturated with information.
Story allows you to step outside the traditional methods of content distribution and standout. As Maya Angelou reminds us, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The goal of your marketing is not to distribute information, it is to make your customers feel.
“Story telling is about connecting to other people and helping people to see what you see.” – Michael Margolis
In addition to standing out, your story allows you to connect with your customers. People not only buy products they understand, they buy products from people they like. When you use story to engage your customer, you are displaying empathy. You are showing your customers that you not only understand who they are, and what their challenges are, but that you are just like them.
Through connection we break down walls and objections. We are no longer selling, we are helping. This is a tremendous paradigm shift in the sales process.
This is a personal mantra of mine, “If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.” It is possible, and perfectly acceptable, to have fun while also taking your task very seriously. Have fun with your story.
Fun doesn’t have to equate to humor. Fun simply means to enjoy your task, your colleagues, and your customers. And, story, as shown above, is a way to connect, standout, and show your empathy. When you successfully combine these elements your passion will show to your customers and they will reciprocate.
Seth Godin reminds us that marketing is about the stories that we tell. Of course, this is not a substitute for inferior products or service. Your story needs to start with, and be based on, the quality and consistency of your business.
Assuming you have these parts in place, the next natural step is to create and share your story. Because your customers will not only listen, but they will share it as well.