Many of us experience the fond childhood memory of being read ‘bedtime stories’. These stories stayed with us but we’ve failed to take an important lesson from them into the business world. People want to be given stories, not information.
Parables were how we learnt what’s good from what’s evil, how to empathise, why you shouldn’t trust a stranger and how to make friends. To this day I still remember many stories from my childhood like Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood. They are ingrained.
The fact is, stories stick in our minds more than information does. Consider this experiment published in the journal NeuroImage. Spanish researchers asked participants to read words with strong odour associations along with neutral words. They found that words like ‘perfume’ and ‘coffee’ not only lit up the language centres of the brain but also lit up the area of the brain associated with smells (olfactory cortex).
It seems that the brain isn’t making much of a distinction between a real life experience and a written one. We must love stories because they help us to experience life just as much as life does. They help us ‘feel’.
As we read the words etched into paper we actually feel them. Just as our emotion is important in the role of telling stories, it’s important in the role of making decisions. If it weren’t for emotions we would really struggle to make any decisions at all. We know this because people who have damaged the emotional centres of their brain struggle to make a decision.
Take a look at this video interview with neuroscientist Antonio Demasio.
The Role of Emotion in Business
So now we know the power of storytelling for the brain and the power of emotions to make a decision we can only assume that consumers also make decisions using their emotions.
Research referenced in Psychology Today shows that consumers make decisions using emotions instead of facts, features and attributes…horah! The Advertising Research Foundation were able to conclude that the emotion of ‘likeability’ in an advertisement was paramount to whether the advert will actually increase sales.
This point was made very clear by The Content Marketing Institute whilst hosting Content Marketing World in 2014. Kevin Spacey was the keynote speech. Asking an actor to keynote a marketing conference? Have a watch of the highlights.
Just like Kevin Spacey explains, our brands are the stage. We must then provide actors, set the scene, create a plot and sell tickets to the show.
How Your Company Needs to Adapt
With this information at hand we can look back at our old marketing strategies and our old sales strategies and see where we can improve.
Consider your sales phone calls. Are you spending time on hard sales? Do your sales representatives continue to push out information on product benefits, attributes and features? How much do you think this is really working for you?
Neil Rackham published a very good book called SPIN selling which literally rips apart the old sales model and replaces it with one where you spend more time listening to a client’s needs.
In an ideal world, your marketing department should be organising the actors in your organisation, setting the scene and creating the plot. It is then up to the salesperson to sell the tickets to the show.
If the work is done well in the beginning stages then all your sales team need to do is ask the right questions to discover a prospects needs, wants and desires. Then instead of reading out a full list of product benefits, they only need to explain the ones that meet the prospects needs, wants and desires.
As a prospect I only want to hear the solutions that go with my problem so this is a perfect scenario. And with the preliminary marketing work I already know and trust the company so I am half way to sold before I speak to a sales person.
The important part of this process is to adapt your business so that sales and marketing are close aligned. Sales teams should be helping marketing teams to better understand prospects so that they can evolve your story. As your story evolves it will meet the needs
How You Can Apply This to Your Content Marketing
Once upon a time there was a content marketer….wait. Sorry, wrong article. What I meant to say was, you shouldn’t take this article too literally and start writing fiction for your blog posts. You need to start looking at your content as a whole story and each article as a piece of that story.
If you would like to attend a Blog Strategy Masterclass. Click here to apply. (Limited spaces are available)
A plan for your content will help you map out your story in stages. At each stage you need to have a purpose or goal. This goal should of course be aligned with the ultimate goals and aims of your company. Working backwards often helps with this.
As an example think of a recruitment company. Like many companies they have a goal to grow and increase revenue. Their story is all about the kinds of people they recruit and how they help people find jobs that they love. As a result they have created an article about the story of someone who has become very successful in their career. The aim of the post is to attract people who want a similar job title or career to submit their CV and register on their recruitment portal. Sound familiar?
This is a B2B example and I have made it very ‘straight arrow’ for the purpose of explanation but you can really have fun with B2B storytelling, just as much as you can with B2C.
Forrester research tells u that 90% of the purchasing decision is already made before a sales call is made. Brands often have more than one story to tell so the job of a marketer is to decide how to drip out these stories and on what channels.
In a webinar by Conductor, John C Fernandez shows how you can analyse your content using your target buyer personas and stages of the buyer cycle. I believe that you can use this as a storytelling map for your brand too.
|Job Title||Stage: Awareness||Consideration||Decision||Post-Sale|
What story do you need to be telling at each stage of a buyer’s journey? And how can you make that story more interesting to each of your buyer personas.
We’ve all been privy to the trend reports and whitepapers explaining how personalised content is winning content marketing. Of course it is, we all want to be talked to personally. Use this table to map out the stories that will help your prospects journey through the sales cycle.
Once you have the idea for the story decide how you will break it up onto different marketing channels and how you will make it valuable and shareable for your audience.
Are you having trouble thinking of your brand story or turning your brand story into content? I would love to help. Just tweet your questions to me using the hashtag #DigitalHeartache and I will reply.
I’m a very practical person who has to have everything in place before I am happy to hand anything over to a client. I have been working in the Technical & Operation sectors since 2006 and have loved every moment. On a personal level, I love to do anything involving computers and home entertainment, playing the drums and last of all, being a husband and a dad.