There’s something deeply human about our desire to tell and listen to stories – we’ve been doing it for centuries.
Think about your favourite stories – whether it be in the form of a novel or a television series – and consider why you’re drawn to the narrative and what it is that makes it so compelling?
Our brains are wired to detect patterns, whether that’s in a visual form, such as when we look at a flower or someone’s face, for example, or through sound waves. When we hear someone tell a story, we process the information to identify these patterns and attach meaning to them.
We use stories to inform what has been before, what is happening now and to understand those around us. In fact, so powerful is our desire to detect story patterns, that we are naturally inclined to see them even if they’re not really there.
Which begs the question, if our craving for a narrative is so intense, why aren’t we making the most of them to benefit our business and marketing strategies?
The truth is, if you’re not doing so already, you’re missing a trick.
Creating a company culture, brand voice and communicating it with those around you provide you with the ability to connect with your audience and build lasting relationships.
It seems that the only sure thing about the world these days is uncertainty itself, which means people are crying out for something to hang their hat on, and if your business is not doing its very best to connect sincerely with its customers, you won’t keep them for long.
Your Products & Services Only Take You So Far
Whenever you think of a company, your mind tends to associate their brand name with their products and services – like associating McDonald’s with burgers for example – or the ‘what’ of the business, in other words.
However, products and services on their own don’t hold much sway.
Obviously, what you sell is absolutely crucial, since it’s how you make your money, but simply taking a service or product and marketing it, is only one part of a broader process.
To illustrate the point further, try Googling, ‘why marketing isn’t enough’, and you’ll find something along these lines:
The very fact that these articles exist speaks volumes and tells us that even businesses with the very best products and services are finding marketing challenging in ways they never expected.
And that’s not the only problem; when it comes to marketing, the platform you choose will also set out of the rules of the game. So, for example, Facebook will decide how it displays your images and has severely restricted any opportunity for organic growth.
Ranking in search is also a challenge since it might take you many months, or even years of toil to succeed.
No matter which marketing platform works for your business, you’re always playing by the rules of someone else’s game in the end, which will impact how you’re able to interact with your customers.
So, what’s the solution?
Well, firstly, you need to take a long, hard look at the industry you operate in to understand who the major players are in your niche.
Let’s say; for instance, your company is a small banking firm. You’re competing in one of the most crowded markets in the world, and you’re up against some of the oldest, most prestigious financial institutions ever created, such as HSBC, Bank of America, Santander, Barclays and many, many more.
While this may sound daunting, the more positive news is that you’re fighting for the same audience, admittedly on a smaller scale, but no matter how big a competitor is, in some respects they’re still limited by the same constraints that you are.
While creating a better product and investing in marketing will give you that edge on some occasions, overall, it guarantees nothing.
This interconnected world of ours has been enriched with countless technological inventions which keep our fingers on the pulse at all times, but ironically this makes succeeding in business much harder; you’re a single droplet in the waterfall.
There is, however, a solution – a solution that has been in front of you the whole time…
Your business, it’s ideals, and the story behind why you do what you do is precisely what you need to create an emotional connection with your audience.
Satisfy the Need for a Story
Successful businesses understand that human beings long to connect emotional dots and create those patterns we mentioned earlier.
Think of any big brand; whether that’s Apple, Nike or McDonald’s, they know that merely putting a product out there, marketing it on social media and hoping for the best misses the point entirely.
No, instead they take the opportunity to tell a story that connects with their audience.
Just take a look at this 1999 advert from Nike, commemorating the great career of basketballer Michael Jordan:
It doesn’t sell a specific product, it doesn’t even feature any dialogue, but it shows us moving and compelling imagery from one of sports most celebrated athletes.
It’s really simple, but it really delivers an emotional narrative, which would’ve certainly resonated with anyone who had an interest in Jordan or his career.
We’ve already covered why we tell stories, but in the example above, Nike understood that without stirring some kind of emotion, no story is worth telling.
To reinforce this point, statistics according to One Spot, tell us that storytelling can be 22x more memorable than simply presenting facts. Which means there’s an enormous appetite out there if you’re willing to create exciting content for your audience to consume.
First, though, you need to figure out what kind of story you’re going to tell, since according to the same One Spot infographic, nearly 80% of consumers say that relevance is something that they deem to be very important, so you need to consider this and avoid going too ‘out there’ for the sake of it.
The most important thing is to create something that is a hearty mixture of relevance, sincerity and emotional triggers. And although that may seem like a good deal of effort, consider that 70% of emotionally connected consumers spend twice as much money with brands they feel connected to.
Let Your Culture Do the Talking
Everyone understands that influential company culture and clearly defined values are beneficial to employees – but have you ever considered how this may apply to your customers? After all, their experience and perceptions will impact their decision to work with you (or not).
A below-par experience costs the business money and will begin to spread seeds of doubt and negativity into every facet of company life.
On the other hand, though, positive experiences are just as powerful, only this time they’ll have the opposite effect.
How your team handles a customer, whether the query is a negative or positive one will leave the customer with an impression of how they’ve been treated.
Studies show that companies that place the customer experience at the forefront of their work are able to increase revenue 4-8% higher than similar companies in their sector.
Having said that, for many companies’ customer needs take a backseat, but if you’re serious about wanting to create an upbeat customer experience, you need to follow the trail back to the beginning – your company culture and ethos.
Think of your business as a painting, if you will. In order to fully admire the art, you must first step back to view everything as a whole, before taking a closer look at each section in finer detail. Your business is your creation, and when someone comes along to buy your product, they will be exposed to each part of the canvas. However, if you’re too busy trying to perfect your brush strokes in one tiny corner of the painting, leaving the rest untouched, there’s not much to admire.
Your website will, in most cases, be a potential customers first exposure to your brand. Sure, sometimes they’ll give you a call, but in most cases, this former will hold true.
In some scenarios, they may go miss this step if they need to troubleshoot something quickly, which is where your support team comes in.
They may even need to discuss something with yourself personally for more pressing concerns.
All of these touchpoints begin to fill in the gaps for a potential customer, and if they don’t like what they’re seeing, you’re fighting a losing battle.
Conversely, if you have happy, well-trained employees their level of service will naturally be a cut above, which customers will also notice. When this happens your storytelling efforts are coming from a genuine place, which makes everything significantly easier and much more effective.
It’s worth remembering, though, that company culture starts at the top. Your ability to handle situations, manage employees and business processes set the tone and will show employees why they should and shouldn’t do certain things – which on a fundamental level is another facet to your company story.
How Will You Brand Make an Impact?
We hear this word all the time in marketing circles, and we’ve even used it a few times in this article already, but what does it really mean?
In this sense, it translates simply into that which creates customer relationships based on a foundation of trust and honesty – that’s it.
According to Social Media Today, 57% of all consumers believe that less than half of big brands are creating content that is both truthful and authentic.
Should your brand ever be tarnished with this brush, it’s a reputation that is very hard to shake, especially when you’re trying to connect with your audience.
It’s all too easy to ignore your story, culture and impact as unidentifiable metrics.
But consider all the statistics that back up the fact that customers crave connection, and they are looking to you to make your values and culture count for more than any sinlge product ever could.
Your marketing techniques may change, but your story is a constant; history, values and cultures will remain the same, and just how you tailor this into a story worth telling is really down to you.
Guest Author: Richard LeCount is a branding and marketing expert and the managing director of usbmakers.com
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