We’re living in a world with more information than people to consume it.
Think about the articles you’ve read today, the podcasts you’ve listened to, the videos you’ve watched, the likes you’ve given on social media and all the ads you’ve encountered along the way.
How many of them can you truly remember?
With so much information constantly at their fingertips, consumers end up ignoring content that doesn’t truly stand out. And, even though businesses today can reach people easier than at any other time in human history, it’s never been more difficult to connect with them.
To rise above the content noise, marketers are placing their priorities back in the most impactful aspect of a successful content marketing strategy: the storytelling.
According to a LinkedIn report, the number of marketers listing storytelling as a skill on their profile has been steadily increasing since 2011.
Today’s brands are tuning back into what compels customers and prospects alike. The adage still rings true: there is no better way to connect with your audience than through a story.
Why stories matter
As social creatures, stories have allowed humans to pass information for thousands of years. Context and plot provide us with more complete information than statistics and plain facts ever could.
In the words of Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman: “No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.”
In a study conducted by Stanford, researchers found that people were much more likely to donate to a charity when given a story about a real child suffering from hunger, rather than when they were given broad facts about the overall hunger crisis. Statistics without context just don’t motivate people as much as tangible stories do.
Stories are such an integral part of how we operate as humans that we even create our own narratives where none exist. In the famous experiment, researchers showed audience members an animation of moving shapes and told them to write down what happened. Without aid, they all formed narratives about the actions and intent of the shapes.
If people can form stories about shapes, then your business can — and should — form stories about your brand’s identity.
With companies increasingly lacking in differentiation due to new competitors and technological innovation, storytelling helps your brand stand out. Because storytelling is about connecting with your audience rather than just selling a commodity, the successful narratives your brand builds about itself will lay the groundwork for lasting, loyal customer connections.
How to create a compelling story
Good storytelling starts with a good understanding of your audience. You have to know who you’re talking to, what challenges they face, what they want and why they choose you or your competitors.
1. Talk to Your Customers
The easiest way to get an understanding of your customers is to talk to them. You can’t know for sure what pains they’re trying to eliminate or their assumptions about your brand without hearing it from them.
2. Use Your Own Experience
Chances are, you’re familiar with the challenges your customers face, and your product solves similar problems across industries. Create compelling stories by narrating how you faced the same obstacles and how your product helped you overcome them.
Authentic experiences give you credibility and make it easier for prospective customers to trust and relate to you.
3. Tell Someone Else’s Story
When you watch a testimonial or read a case study about a product or service, that’s a brand making use of someone else’s story to sell their products.
Rather than just telling people what you do can do to improve their lives, you can show them how other people have achieved success with what you’re offering them.
4. Create an Empathy Map
Once you know more about your customers, putting what you’ve learned in an empathy map presents you with a clear view of who they are.
Empathy maps have less to do with who your customers are or their demographics and more to do with how they feel. The ability to empathize with your customers not only makes them trust your brand but helps you to serve them better content, products and experiences.
Using your story to improve your online presence
With an understanding of who your customers are, you can create amazing stories that enhance your brand’s thought leadership presence.
You can use your stories to amplify your content across multiple marketing channels.
Boost conversions on your landing pages
Proper storytelling allows you to create landing pages that feel more real to your customers because you’re narrating pain points they have. Acquity Scheduling uses a narrative technique that shows customers exactly how their lives will improve by using the brand’s product.
By addressing concrete pain points and providing solutions right off the bat on a website’s homepage, brands can prove their value to potential customers — increasing their chances of making a purchase.
Create better blog posts
In a space where everyone is obsessed over the next big buzzword, Groove has built one of the most popular startup blogs — using storytelling.
By chronicling their journey to creating a successful marketing blog, Groove has built a loyal audience. Tapping into storytelling has helped them increase engagement by almost 300 percent.
Increase engagement on social media
Since social media is such a battleground for attention, social media marketers have to be good storytellers. The only way you stand out from all the pictures of Justin Bieber and videos about cats is with stories that people can’t ignore.
Like this Instagram post from Airbnb, that outlines an exciting road trip that piques followers’ interests to learn more about the adventure.
It’s not just what you say that matters — it’s how you tell it.
Everything from software to hardware is being commoditized at a rapid pace, but with a strong brand message, you can stand out from the content noise. The fastest way to build a brand is with stories your audience truly connects with.
Storytelling might be an old technique, but it can help you survive this modern and information-dense world.
About the Author
Emil Kristensen is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote: a company that helps e-commerce brands engage their site visitors — without hurting the user experience.