A few weeks ago, we talked about 5 ways story can help your marketing. Today, I’d like to focus on 4 types of marketing stories that are particularly effective for connecting with and building relationship with your ideal customers.
1. Your origin story
Every business has a back story. But let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s compelling, and sometimes it isn’t. If it is, use it. If it isn’t, you can’t fix that. Don’t try to create a story where one doesn’t exist.
Here are some examples of origin stories that work.
The folks at Unbounce had a problem creating landing pages, so they do what many of us do—they dug in and fixed it. Only they went one step further and turned their solution into a product.
Here’s how they explain it on their About page:
Unbounce was developed after experiencing first hand the frustration of trying to get effective landing pages launched for our own online marketing campaigns.
If your product was developed to solve a problem, you probably have a powerful origin story. Leverage it.
Mr. Cory’s Cookies.
How could you not want to buy this kid’s cookies? He started his business to be able to buy his mom a car. And the main ingredient is love? That’s adorable.
Why bother with your origin story? It can help you create a “shared mindset” with your customers and followers. It helps people understand your mission and why you do what you do. As Ian Rhodes says,
The story of why your business is here in the first place is a great place to start. Just don’t tell me how your founder targeted a hole in the market. Tell me about how she lived that moment in my own shoes.
2. Your product story
Like your origin story, your product story is how (and why) your product came to be.
Perhaps you have a unique feature that your competitors don’t have. I remember hearing about a piano manufacturer who always added an iron bar (or something similar; I can’t remember the details) to keep the piano in tune.
This is the distinguishing feature that sets this product apart—and it ties in to a key benefit that sets your product apart.
If your product has a unique feature, a key difference, or was invented to solve a big problem, by all means, turn it into a story.
3. The customer experience story
The most common form of story in marketing isn’t told through straight-up storytelling. It’s told through messaging, testimonials, and case studies. It’s the story of what your customers gain from doing business with you.
It’s really the thing you do best, but told in a way that doesn’t put all the focus on you. Instead, it features your customers, the “you” who should always take the starring role in your marketing.
This is something ConversionXL’s editor, Tommy Walker, emphasizes a lot in his work, so I asked him to share his approach with you. Here’s what he said:
With individual pieces, I recommend the writer have an idea of what the overall goal of the piece is (for example, tell the boss “we need to do this!) then use the research to tell the story: What happens before, during & after whatever the given piece is about.
In terms of marketing & funnels are concerned, it’s the same idea. Where is your customer at before the sale, what hesitations might they have during the sales process, and what will life be like after (and how are you going to keep track of that, with a customer success program, on-boarding series? )
With many of the online products that are out there, there is certainly a “beginning, middle, and end” that potential customers are imagining, so when I build a funnel, I try to take those pieces, understand what that story is people are telling themselves, then create the content that allows them to keep seeing themselves moving forward in that story in their own head.
Notice that story, when used like this, isn’t a stand-alone story. It’s the before, during, and after experience someone has with your brand. You can try to architect it, but it isn’t something you talk about. It’s something you create.
For this type of story, think about your funnel. Think about the impact you make on people’s lives.
- The beginning of your story: your ideal customer. You need to know exactly who that is.
- The middle of the story: what your customer gets (and what they think and feel) when they buy from you.
- The end of the story: the difference it made to have bought from you.
4. The ongoing story of what you stand for (and against)
According to Content Marketing Institute, “story identifies what your passions are.” What that means is each piece of content, each Web page, and each landing page you create is just one piece in the puzzle of who you (the brand) are.
I like how they express it here:
Developing the content in our content marketing strategy is developing the stories of us. It’s the big ideas that we represent. It’s the differentiated experiences we want to create. It’s what we REALLY do for a living. For better or worse — it’s that simple.
We tend to think about “story” as a narrative that has a hero, plot, a beginning and end. That’s true in some cases. But the concept of story is bigger than that.
Your brand’s story is told in bits and pieces. The hero may take center stage on your About page. One scene is told through a case study. Another through a testimonial. The plot is your value statement, which should tell people what end result they can expect when they work with you.
Each time you write an article for your blog or an email, you’re adding to your story. You’re telling people what matters, what you care about, and how your story intersects with theirs.
Warning: Don’t try to create this story. Just focus on your brand mission and your value statement, and the story will tell itself.
That’s the key, really…
The point is, story evolves. It isn’t something you create like a best-selling novel. It starts in the minds and hearts of the customers, not on some marketer’s desktop.
That said, if you’re trying to come up with a story for your brand so you can make people think or feel a certain way about you, you’re doing it wrong. Marketing isn’t mind control. (Influence, yes, but not control. There’s a big difference.)
So take time to focus on who you are and who you serve. Create a powerful value statement and really get to know your ideal customer. But beyond that, keep doing what you’re doing.
Your story is already taking shape. Don’t force it.