Pen and paper

The Art of Storytelling as a Marketing Tool

This is a guest post by Mitch O’Conner is an online marketer and writer. If you’d like to write a guest post please contact me.

The other day while at the bookstore, I came across a large crowd gathered around a man at table. Some were seated, others standing. The man was reading out loud a book about business. Through vocal animation and the way he poised such questions like “How do I get more fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter?” or “Am I selling the only widget or service that nobody seems to care about?” in a non-timid way, the crowd and even myself, were drawn in by this man reading about business.

But why? Simple. It was the way he told the story. Granted, reading about business facts sometimes isn’t very interesting, but it’s a type of literature that isn’t read in the right context. And a piece of literature can be read with passion and be interesting; it’s up to the storyteller on how to read it and a well-told story sticks in the mind of the listener. So how does storytelling benefit today’s small business owner? Would you believe that the art of storytelling as a marketing tool is actually well worth a second look?

The connection between storytelling and social media

Pen and paperThe magical connection that occurs during marketing and storytelling is the emotional bond that the consumer forges with the brand. Peter Guber, as quoted on Simon Mainwaring’s “We First” blog calls this the realization of the goal to transport your mission. Of course, getting to uncork the emotions of the audience in the first place is a hit or miss proposition. It takes practice, diligence and the commitment to keep at it consistently, learn from mistakes and improve upon success.

Learn to use storytelling in every piece of content you write, with some exceptions. For example, if you need to write an article on wireless Internet, you could create it very straightforward with the “nitty-gritty” information like the web developer did on this wireless Internet site. This works for the tech crowd that’s really just interested in the numbers. However, you might also decide to couple the “specs” content with some stories about how customers made the switch to your promoted company.

When the consumer makes a buying decision from the heart, rather than from the head, the effective marketer has succeeded in getting the emotional buy-in. It results in a stronger sense of brand loyalty, the rationalizing of a purchase that might involve more money than initially budgeted and also the willingness to work with a company on resolving a problem — rather than taking it to task with the Better Business Bureau.

Unfortunately, getting the emotional buy-in and active involvement in the woven tale is not always easy. As highlighted by Cloud Ave, passive observation has become an ingrained trait of character. Thus, the skilled entrepreneurial storyteller must make a concerted effort to engage the social networker in such a manner as to elicit a response. It is not necessary for the response to trigger an immediate click of the “buy now” button. Instead, getting the would-be consumer to “like” a product’s page or interact on the Facebook brand profile with a bit of helpful advice or a recollection is just as useful.

Citing Pew research, it still holds true that the 18 to 29 demographic is most heavily represented, but the 65 and over group is starting to make itself known. As of May 2010, about 26 percent were involved in social networking and the trend is growing steadily.

How to write a compelling story

Now that you recognize the importance of using storytelling as a marketing tool, you’re probably wondering what it will take to write a compelling narrative from the ground up. Fish Networks explains that a gripping story is a clever mix of a curious visual and an accompanying text that explains it. The initial written hook takes the form of a question: pose a question that makes the consumer wonder what the answer might be.

Much like a song the social media user cannot get out of his head, there will be an overwhelming need to discover the answer to the question. On the way to delivering the response, the clever marketer ensures that a lot of the brand information and product facts come through in even short text. College Grad suggests the interjection of personality, flair and interest. It sounds easier said than done, but really there is just one small trick to successful storytelling for marketing: put yourself into the shoes of the consumer.

What would you like to know about the product you sell or one like it? What would be the main reason for not buying it? What stands out the most about the item? From this intellectual exercise, take it up a notch and surmise the emotional component. Why would you worry about making a sound buying decision? Is it because you might feel taken advantage of? Do you worry about wasting money in a tough economy? Do you think that the widget is too big or odd and might make you seem un-cool in the eyes of others?

Storytelling as a marketing tool refutes feelings-based objections with intellectual data. This mix is an unbeatable combination that the small business owner can use to a marketing advantage. The goal is to elicit an emotional reaction in the social networker; the tools are the product facts, figures and stats. Who knew that entrepreneurs could now also be storytellers?

About the Author: Mitch O’Conner is an online marketer and writer. When he’s not busy testing sites, generating traffic or writing content, he enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, playing games and camping.

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