Content marketing’s greatest asset: the viral power of storytelling

Once upon a time, in an unknown city, there lived an office in an unheard of street; in that unknown office, there was a company, the company lived on shrouded in mystery and obscurity without anyone ever finding out about it all because people didn’t know it existed and company neglected to tell everyone about itself…

Imagine if that scenario were to happen to your business. Do you think your company would survive for long living in the shadows? The basic rule is, people do business with companies or organisations they know about, can read about and research before buying that company’s product or services. If they can’t find you, how do you expect them to do business with you?

Today’s consumer is greedy for information and just data and some specifications aren’t going to cut it with them! And it needs to be easily accessible too, people are now accustomed to getting their news, ideas, information, and knowledge to right where they are sitting; any marketing that involves being persistent and annoying (too many promotional lines) will be ignored so it has to be of good quality as well. This is where the wonderful art of storytelling comes in, and not only that it can revive your dying marketing campaign too.

Everyone loves stories; it’s a medium through which you can connect with people easily, if the story is told well. You should aim to touch a chord with them, a shared experience or a similar experience will make them connect with your story, your story should be weaved so well that even delving into dirty laundry won’t feel icky, you should get them invested in the story. This makes storytelling a powerful weapon that content creators can employ to reel in customers. Your story should influence their emotions and get them to like and share it others as well.

“Content is King” has been said too many times and while it is true and applicable in certain situations, it’s kind of rather stale. But great content is not just an expectation from the customers, it’s their right. When you get them emotionally invested, they won’t be going anywhere else. Build their trust in you. Patrick Moreau once said “Story is, quite literally, the retelling of events. And this retelling is often from a single perspective.” You need to understand your customer’s perspective too and cater to that.

So, is “concept” really a thing? And how are content strategists related to concept? Why is it considered to be one of the most valuable tools in the content marketing repertoire?

How can your marketing strategy benefit from stories?

If you’re still wondering how storytelling plays a crucial role in your marketing strategy, here are a few reasons that will give you an answer.

Firstly, stories are captivating; it plays to the curious nature of people, and when you have a genuinely impressive narrative, you’ve got their undivided attention and they will look forward to these stories. Even the most asocial of creatures tend to read and connect with characters, so if you have an excellent story half your content marketing woes are over.

Secondly, an audience that is enraptured with the narrative will find it easier to place their trust in you, because they connect with you through that story. For example: when you share personal confidences with strangers, it brings you closer because you now trust each other, right? It’s similar with stories, you’ll be building an intimate relationship with your customer with that engaging story because sharing confidences or swapping stories is never easy; but once done it builds trust. Similarly an engaging story on your website will help in forging a closer relationship with your readers and when they trust you they’ll come back for more stories and bring others too.

Lastly, people are keen listeners and they’ll receptive towards stories that touch them, whereas dry statistics and facts make it very impersonal and sterile. We humans are social creatures with a tendency to compare ourselves to other people, when creating the story we need to put ourselves in the readers’ shoes and connect with them.

Defining the goal

What is it that you want out of your marketing campaign? What goals need to be achieved?

When you ask that question, you’ll think up several different answers but all of them will echo the same simple goal, “to sell”. Truthfully speaking, that is what you need from your marketing campaign but focusing solely on this goal while working on your storytelling content is not very useful and the only thing you’ll you will get in the end is a big advertising bill.

While selling is your ultimate goal, focus on other goals as well which will aid in achieving the ultimate goal; like conversing with our audience, building relationships with your potential buyers and urging them to trust you.

Consider the example of Best Made publication (an American company specializing in clothing and equipment for adventures). Their content indicates that their goal seems to be to tell people how their products are created and tested diligently by the company.

They have short stories on all the exciting adventures that the Best Made team has on their travels to test their products, like a meeting with a world renowned chef living in a remote house in the Andes.

“Fall 2015: Patagonia, Argentina

La Isla (The Island) is the creative refuge for one of the world’s greatest chefs, Francis Mallmann. It was here Francis stoked the first fires that helped make his name household, and forged an inimitable way of life that transcends the world of food. This small island is nestled at the end of a distant lake in Patagonia, facing a wall of rock called the Andes. If the island were a small skiff, Francis’s cabin is at the prow; his bedroom window faces defiantly into the storms that roll off the mountains and batter the island. This past winter (summer back north) we landed on the shores of La Isla, after almost three full days of travel from our offices in New York. We lobbed onto the dock: two whole pigs, boxes of vegetables and fruit, duffle bags of gear, an early edition of Robert Service’s Rhymes of a Rolling Stone, and the first run of our new down outerwear program.

“When you set foot on La Isla, thigh-deep in snow, the distance sets in: between you and home, between you and family, between you and the nearest hospital. There’s no margin for error here; everything you bring must perform. And so the details we obsessed over in the months of prior product development were put to the test.” – Peter Buchanan-Smith, Founder / CEO

Thanks to: Cristian Menendez, José Luis Medina, Martin Benitez, Leah Benitez, Maria Du Luynes, Tom Wesley, Reminginton Kendall, Francis Mallmann, Carlos Mallmann, and Laura Austin.

We extend special thanks to Francis for letting us into his beautiful world and telling its magnificent story.”

They’re conversing with you, telling you a personal story while still talking about their products. See how it gives the impression that the team puts a lot of effort into testing their equipment? And they did realize their goal, did they not?

So, for each of your publications, have a small and concrete goal. Use that to spin your tale and captivate the audience. Once you’ve gained their trust, you’ve still got work to do because you cannot survive on just those few loyal customers, however frequently they buy. You’re going to need some new people looking to do business with you every day, so your content needs to be liked and shared and go viral on social media to attract a lot of attention. But how do you do that? Follow the recipe below and build your community block by block.

Authentic Brand Voice + Good Storytelling = Strong Community

The readers should be allowed to form their own opinion

Your stories have to be different from the conventional brand messages a.k.a. advertising. But how do you distinguish between the two? Simple really, a story transports us into another fictional world; and when we’re invested in it we tend to change our beliefs and start identifying with the story more and more. When you identify with the story, it’s less likely that you will question the truth behind it. Recognize this, for its powerful stuff. And weave a web that mesmerizes your audience.

How to write an engaging story?

Personalize the story

Abstract texts with some random information about the products thrown in will not interest the audience. For one, it’s too impersonal and secondly it isn’t attractive enough to get some attention. On the other hand a story that the audience connects with, which evokes empathy in them will definitely strike a chord. So moral of the story is it should be told from your perspective or someone else’s (give them a name too for effect); this person should resemble your audience or your customers, having similar problems and worries so that they can resonate with them. This is the perfect approach for a marketing campaign wherein you have a main character talking about your products or services and answer any queries that the reader might ask.

Example: Consider this page by the company Vokra. Their main character is cat who tells his story of his experience with the company and requests the audience to donate so they can save more animals.

Emotionalise your narrative

You want to get an emotional reaction from your audience, so your story needs some emotion to evoke the same reaction in the reader. A pinch of nostalgia, a dash of humour, some admiration or even healthy dose of fear – mix this into your rhetoric to appeal to your readers’ emotions.

Example:  SolidWorks – on their page you’ll find that the company doles out the technical information for industrial designs in the form of funny and witty stories or anecdotes. In one instance, there is an article on their page giving solutions for the amount of material needed to board up a door. On another page, you’d have some information written down in a straightforward style. But how would you like it if they told you that they can help you count how much material you would need to board up your door in case of a zombie apocalypse? You’d love it, right?

At the least it’ll these informal bits will get a smile out of your reader and that’s a perfectly good place to start!

Or you can show how your product offers a solution to their problems by taking into consideration their fears, doubts, and insecurities.

For example: If your product helps in controlling acne, use a video to explain to your audience why people get acne and how they can cure it. Now your story has the validation of being told by a professional, so it’ll get the people to trust in you as well.

Support your story with data

Research, statistics, irrefutable facts and some rare and exciting information is what makes for a remarkable story. Step away from anything mediocre, people do think nowadays you know. And fudged facts will only lessen your story’s trustworthiness which is why you need to delve deep and do a thorough research before plunging in deep to write your story.

For example: Consider these two statements –

  • A serious problem that plagues big enterprises these days is security violations.
  • Did you know that big enterprises are more prone to security violations; in fact 60% of security violations take place in these places.

The second example has a number attached, so it appeals to your reader logically – and this will influence their buying decisions. Some homework before creating content is absolutely necessary.

Organize an exciting adventure for your readers

The “About Us” page of many a brand will leave you cold! Such bland descriptions and content that is absolutely lifeless. People need to know more about you, tell them how your company came to be, the story of your brands origin will help your readers feel like they are part of the brand’s journey with you.

Consider this example of Clif bars –

The story gives you a glimpse into the person’s life; the personal touch gives the feeling that it’s not a robotic page anymore, but a living, breathing individual behind the scenes.

The Visual Side

With the advent of social networks, the information stream is greater than before, but people know to process that information and choose what they need. And even with all this, they haven’t stopped reading. While nobody is going to wait around a read a long book with information on the advantages of your brand, they won’t stick around if all you have is a few paragraphs of technical information and some pictures of the product.

The visual part of your story is to help readers connect with the story better. And don’t limit yourself to just pictures; you can try adding in a few illustrations, GIFs, infographics, videos, etc that works with your story’s context.

Bottom line

A product message gets a huge boost from warmth and humanity of a story. You can use the story to define how much your business corresponds to your audience’s interests and beliefs.

For your product to move off the shelves fast you need to alter your thinking to story-oriented and you’ll have no difficulty in understanding the problems of your target audience. Like we’ve said before, focus less on the benefits of your product and concentrate more on how your product solves their problems.

Competition is fierce

Now that you know the importance of stories in building emotional ties with the consumers, think about how a content strategist or marketer can use this to their advantage. It’s never enough for customers to just buy one of your products and forget about you. It’s never about the price but more about the love and trust for the brand. When the consumer has formed an emotional attachment with your company, they’ll return and sometimes bring others too. And you can’t always stick to the tried and tested methods that others or your competition is doing, you’ll need to come up with something original if you want to stay on top. Strong story telling will help you out here, because you need to connect with your customer and you don’t have a lot of time to do it, because our attention spans aren’t what it used to be and the constant stream of information makes it hard to focus on one task or one specific message. You’ll need a story that makes an impact immediately; the customer should remember your story and spread the word about it.

As we’ve said before, you need to weave a web of magic around our customer with your story; don’t just tell them how great you and your products are, appeal to their emotions and get them to connect with you and build yourself a community. It’s all about being authentic and humanizing it, and then watch the magic unfold.