What is storytelling in marketing?
Storytelling is a process used by product marketers to communicate a message to their audience, via the combination of fact and narrative.
While many orgs use stories based on fact, others combine fiction and improvisation to drive home the key components of their brand's core message.
“Storytelling is the process of using fact and narrative to communicate something to your audience. Some stories are factual, and some are embellished or improvised to better explain the core message.” - HubSpot
“Brand storytelling is the cohesive narrative that weaves together the facts and emotions that your brand evokes.” - Forbes
“Storytelling is a powerful technique for building relationships. It’s an age-old concept that brings people together and keeps them engaged. It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re based or how much funding your startup has.” - QuickSprout
There are different definitions of storytelling in every corner of the web but they’re all tied by the same thread; they convey your product’s message with meaning and impact.
What is a product narrative?
A product narrative is used to communicate how you’re capable of fulfilling customer needs. It drives their desire to purchase your product.
What is a launch story?
A launch story focuses on how your product or service was created. Sometimes, this can include multiple stories, and focus on your experiences faced in the build-up to your product being released.
What a good user story looks like
A good user story needs to be succinct, before being incorporated into a product backlog as part of the prioritization process.
If possible, user stories should comply with the INVEST acronym:
- I (Independent) - The user story doesn’t hinge on any other story.
- N (Negotiable) - The story can be developed further and can be the subject of discussion.
- V (Valuable) - The story always communicates how the user/customer will benefit from using your product or service.
- E (Estimate) - Make sure your story is quantifiable and includes plenty of detail. Ask yourself: Would a team of experienced practitioners be able to understand and appreciate the level of detail that’s been included?
- S (Size) - Is the size of the story suitable?
- T (Testable) - Your story must contain enough detail to allow for testing.
How do you identify a sales story?
Before creating your sales story, you need to earmark the components that make your sales story compelling to your audience.
- Entertaining: The best stories hook the reader and make them interested in what’s coming next.
- Believable: When stories seem authentic, the reader trusts and engages with the material.
- Educational: Oftentimes, the most effective stories provoke curiosity and help the reader develop their understanding of key concepts.
- Relatable: Stories appeal when they resonate with the reader.
- Organized: Good stories are organized and immerse the reader in the narrative structure.
- Memorable: Whether through inspiration, scandal, or humor, good stories stick in the reader’s mind.
Why do brands tell stories?
1. Stories are easy to remember
People are much more likely to remember something they’re emotionally invested in - and you want people to remember you.
Take these two examples:
- Our email automation tool generates real-time reports.
- With real-time reports, you can quickly uncover and act on emerging trends.
The latter’s instantly more impactful because there’s something in it for the user, and that’s likely to stick.
2. Stories simplify complex concepts
Some products are more complicated than others, but even when they’re not, they can be tricky to articulate succinctly, without jargon, and in a way that resonates with end-users. But stories eradicate each.
They skip past the technical mumbo jumbo and present people with the facts that matter: how it benefits them.
3. Stories unite your audience
Whatever a person’s religion, race, language, location, age, or wealth, stories speak to everyone. Your market has shared pain points and aligned end goals and a solid story makes every prospect feel that emotion and understand what’s in it for them.
4. Stories inspire action
You know how great your product is, how simple it is to use, and how much easier it’s going to make your market’s day-to-day because you live and breathe it for a job, but they don’t. Until they’ve witnessed the benefits first-hand they’ll never truly understand its impact and storytelling is the next best alternative.
So, by showing people what the future could look like, you’ll entice them into taking that all-important first step.
Remember, storytelling isn’t about your company or product, it’s about your customer and what they get out of choosing you.
The science behind storytelling
So, we’ve set out the art of good storytelling and why brands tell stories from an emotional and marketing perspective… but what about the actual science and data behind why storytelling is so effective?
In the Harvard Business Review, Paul J. Zak, Founder, and Chief Immersion Officer at Immersion Neuroscience explained the science behind why you (or your brain) love good storytelling. He said,
“In subsequent studies, we have been able to deepen our understanding of why stories motivate voluntary cooperation. (This research was given a boost when, with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, we developed ways to measure oxytocin release noninvasively at up to one thousand times per second.)
“We discovered that, in order to motivate a desire to help others, a story must first sustain attention – a scarce resource in the brain – by developing tension during the narrative.
“If the story is able to create that tension then it is likely that attentive viewers/listeners will come to share the emotions of the characters in it, and after it ends, likely to continue mimicking the feelings and behaviors of those characters. This explains the feeling of dominance you have after James Bond saves the world, and your motivation to work out after watching the Spartans fight in 300.”
This phenomenon is what is often referred to as “neural coupling”, where the brain will hear or see a story, and its neurons will begin to fire the exact same pattern as the speaker or character’s brain.
From this, we can gather that we’re able to change the way a customer behaves depending on how you tell a story, and who is doing the telling. This could ultimately have an impact on their purchasing behavior, and decision-making process.
Furthering this argument, in a presentation, Paul J. Zak describes the relationship between the release of cortisol (the stress chemical) and oxytocin (the empathy chemical) when a person is watching or listening to a story.
In his experiment, he found that those who released more oxytocin and cortisol were more likely to donate money generously to either a stranger or charity (depending on the variable within the study). He then goes on to explain how they were able to determine with 80% accuracy who would donate their money depending on their physical reaction to any given story.
So, what we can learn from this is that there’s a notable difference in change of behavior depending on the change in brain chemistry.
Watch the short YouTube clip below to get the full view. 👇
From this, it’s solidified that how well you create your product’s story will determine your customer’s reaction and purchasing decision. Therefore, it’s rather important that you consider what reaction you want it to be, and how you’re going to go about gaining that reaction through the story that you decide to tell.
In summary, to quote Paul J. Zak, “When you want to motivate, persuade, or be remembered, start with a story of human struggle and eventual triumph. It will capture people’s hearts – by first attracting their brains.”
Examples of storytelling from successful brands
Guinness - Made of more
Disney - Where magic gets real
Nike - Equality campaign
Apple - Apple at work
Do product owners write user stories?
Technically, anyone can write stories, but they tend to be written by a product owner or product manager. Once the initial version has been completed, it’s then sent to be reviewed.
A sprint or iteration meeting is held, in which the attendees discuss what stories they'll be focusing on during that sprint. In addition, teams also share thoughts on the requirements and functionality they believe need to be taken into account to ensure each user journey is successful.
The recipe for storytelling
A good story has a compelling start to hook your interest, the right amount of suspense in the middle to keep you going, and an end you will remember forever.
Stories have been told for centuries, yet it is an art to master the skills of good storytelling and to lead the process with impactful and truthful conversations.
We like brevity and getting to the point, but that shouldn’t stop a good story from taking its time to reach its full potential. Andrew Stanton shares in his TED Talk a beautiful perspective on having a great punchline and telling stories that start at the end and work back to the beginning.
What’s your favorite story? Which story with a well-told premise did you connect with and continue to read or watch?
Let’s look into a good story framework and map it to the buyer's journey:
Discover > Learn > Try > Buy > Advocate
Every prospect is going through a phase of the buyer journey, and as Forrester shared, they have done their due diligence before reaching out to sales.
It’s not a linear process, but every customer is on their journey and has a different way to connect with you. Let’s tell a compelling story to bring them into our universe, and we can walk the transformation journey together.
Make it worth the time to care (discover/learn)
When we narrate our story to customers and users, we need to be mindful of our customers’ time and effort. We need to introduce new users to the company and technology, and also find out why they signed up in the first place.
Get them excited about their discovery and tell them why they need to explore the solution and have a conversation.
- What experiences do you resonate with?
- How do you craft stories to connect with your target audience in each phase of the buyer journey or customer flywheel (awareness, consideration, decision, adoption, and growth)?
In the discover and learn phase, understand your customer's pain points and speak their language. Help them understand that you care and are here to help.
Gain trust and credibility (try/buy)
When we think of competitive intelligence, many may think of Harvey Ball matrices that show the company’s core strengths. I’ve been inspired by GitLab’s transparency around this, and because of it, I encourage leaders to rethink what (and how) they want to tell the world.
Are we true to ourselves and our customers on what matters? Customers and partners often know more than we think.
I’ve found that customers value a trusted advisor versus a vendor trying to sell the product (which can lead to churn when the promise that got the sale isn’t fulfilled).
How often does your product team ask the question, “Why did we make this unreasonable promise?” We should be selling what is available today, and be transparent on what is on the roadmap and what doesn’t or will not exist.
It’s always important to have an understanding of what the platform or technology will not do, just as much as all the cool things it will do.
Would you trust a transparent company that knows its core strengths and weaknesses, and is self-aware? Or one that shows only the best capabilities and how great they are? In the “try” and “buy” phases, help your customers see the real world of possibilities with the platform and help them achieve their vision.
Find your true storyteller (advocate)
It’s easy for us to maintain our status quo and find supporting data for our actions with our own confirmation bias. Our customers are our best advocates, and we need to help them tell their stories at user groups, events, and customer programs to give them a voice.
Make them the heroes — not your product or your company. I find that customers appreciate our honesty and that we’re looking out for them — not just in it for revenue and that goes a long way. Now that is true customer lifetime value.
Think about your own experiences, when you write a review, do you immediately think about your negative experiences or the positive ones?
One negative review will be on a review site, but the positive reviews are often word of mouth, talking about how great the product, company, and team were to work with. In the advocate phase, provide opportunities for customers and partners to share their stories everywhere.
Before you embark on your next buyer journey mapping, take a minute and ask yourself: Are we trying to justify and prove we are the best? Or are we being true to ourselves?
What is product-led storytelling and how does it drive user acquisition?
What is product-led storytelling?
Product-led storytelling is a product-focused form of SaaS content marketing. In more detail, it’s the art of crafting discoverable stories that show how your product will help people will overcome a specific challenge.
The case for prioritizing product-led stories
Product-led storytelling isn’t a revolutionary way to approach SaaS content marketing. The fundamentals of using content marketing to generate and nurture leads, as well as establish your SaaS brand as a thought leader, still hold.
But this approach requires a significant mindset shift.
First, it calls for the thoughtful creation of content layered with relatable stories that resonate with your ideal customers. For example, DocSend’s content, which I found on the SERPs, began with a story of someone desperate to retrieve an email and immediately resonated with me right off the bat.
Also, it demands that you use each content piece to show (not tell) and properly educate prospects on how your product overcomes a problem for them. Doing this is critical, according to research by Simon Bel & Andreas Eisingerich.
Their study found that the more you educate your prospects, the more it affects the relative technical importance of your product, as well as builds customer trust.
Finally—and this is often omitted in the content marketing mix—this tactic calls for you to approach the creation of each content as a long sales page.
Aim to ensure any time an ideal customer consumes it, they’ll take action, sign up for at least a trial of your product, and start overcoming their problems that same moment.
You can see product-led storytelling as a process of blending content strategy, product storytelling, and SaaS copywriting into each content piece you produce.
This isn’t another theory to wave aside. Going with the PLG concept of using your product to acquire users, this theory works. And this is because each time ideal customers discover your product-led story, the chances increase that they’ll take action.
For example, product-led storytelling is the foundational theory Tim Soulo, Ahrefs CMO, leveraged to grow the company to over $40 million in ARR.“My theory is that people first learn how to use your [product]. And they sign up because they know how to use your tool.” - Tim Soulo, CMO, Ahrefs
In a Medium article where he shared how Ahrefs generates customers 24/7, Tim also said: “Each [Ahrefs] article is “a sales page” in disguise that shows readers how to solve the issue they were searching for with the help of our product.”
And it works well for Ahrefs. The intentional creation and distribution of product-led stories generate over 230k organic visitors monthly.
They publicly admit doing this represents [their] “second-best marketing channel, sending [them] hundreds of new users.”In an examination of how it helps Ahrefs to over 3k new users per week, Tim also confirmed this: “For most of our new users, when they sign up, they tell me: I read your articles. I saw how you use Ahrefs for this, and this made me sign up.”
Product-led storytelling is vital across roles and departments
In Scott Hanford’s article Building a System for Growth, he reminded us that growth is a team sport. He went on to state that ultimately, “Growth is a system… a mindset.”In other words, it’s not the singular job of your marketing, sales, or product teams to drive growth.
First, all hands must be on deck to ensure the product is great. And all eyes must be on end-users to help tweak the product based on what they need, what resonates with them, and what captures their interest most.
When you see growth as a system, the priority of any go-to-market strategy you choose shouldn’t be to generate or increase metrics. It should be to infuse a mindset shift by helping your prospects visualize a better life possible with your product.
Sieve through all the campaigns Apple leveraged to ascend into the tech behemoth it is today. You’ll see they all aimed to change our minds using short, memorable stories.
The reason for this is simple: Once a mindset shift happens, potential users start nurturing the need to take action, as their brains make sense of the decision to use your product.
Kevin Simler, who has degrees in philosophy and computer science, captures it excellently. He said:
“If a brain anticipates that it will be rewarded for adopting a particular belief, it’s perfectly happy to do so, and doesn’t much care where the reward comes from—whether it’s pragmatic (better outcomes resulting from better decisions), social (better treatment from one’s peers) or some mix of the two.”
So, it doesn’t matter whether your product, sales, or marketing team steers your go-to-market strategy. As long as you get potential users to anticipate a reward for using your product (a mindset shift), you’ll not only earn their attention and interest, you’ll influence their decisions favorably.
Stories play an indispensable role in creating such reward anticipation in people’s brains. Stories help form relationships between customers and your SaaS tool, as they come to appreciate why your brand exists.
Paul J. Zak’s research discovered this: “The ability to quickly form relationships allows humans to engage in the kinds of large-scale cooperation that builds massive bridges and sends humans into space. By knowing someone’s story—where they came from, what they do, and who you might know in common—relationships with strangers are formed.”
And most importantly, stories help us move through the complex decision-making process of trading hard-earned money on a monthly or yearly basis in exchange for using your SaaS product.
In his article The Power of Storytelling and How It Affects Your Brain, Micheál Heffernan observed:
“With around a hundred billion neurons and almost a quadrillion connections between the neurons, your brain is an extraordinarily complex organism—so complex it borders on the wondrous.
“Yet it’s still a pattern-seeking instrument that looks to put the chaos of the world into some kind of recognizable order. Stories represent our most powerful and meaningful way of doing that.”
Again, in real-time, we can see this play out in sales- and product-driven customer acquisition motions.
I’ve already used the case of Ahrefs to show how marketing teams can leverage product-led storytelling to acquire and activate product users. Another exceptional example is Mailchimp.
Their content marketing includes contextual stories showing potential users how to solve problems with their tools. Also, they’ve taken things to a whole new level with the introduction of Mailchimp Presents.
Mailchimp Presents documents the stories and successes of its customers and is shared heavily across social media channels. This way, potential customers can see how other small businesses like them ignite growth using Mailchimp and can be lured into signing up.
These efforts generate millions of organic visitors for Mailchimp and play a significant role in their acquisition of about 14k customers per day.
Product-led storytelling in sales and product-driven motions
While PLG advocates giving value upfront by allowing users to trial your product, bringing in sales is critical for closing complex and enterprise accounts. But even if it’s the product team steering your growth initiative, the primary goal is getting users to see value quickly and make sense of your product’s pricing.
In either case, you’d perform better with product-led storytelling, as is evident in two popular product sales decks to have graced the SaaS industry.
In both cases, marketing expert Andy Raskin observed that these sales decks perform so well by flashing the dreamlands their target audiences crave and the challenges they must overcome to get there in the form of stories.
They also ended the decks with success stories showing how to overcome those challenges and access that dreamland using their products.
But Drift and Zoura are big brands with deep pockets and connections to land spots at major events where such sales decks work, you say. Will product-led storytelling work in a product demo scenario? Again, DocSend proves it will.
Courtney Chuang Narrated how DocSend leveraged product-led stories to significantly improve the performance of their product’s sales pitch deck. According to her, they ditched their original branded sales deck for a sales story “focused on developing a strong narrative in which [their] product could live.”
The result of doing this spoke for itself. Going on to share more insights, Courtney said: “The ‘secret’ to sales content that closes more deals? A powerful story. And that’s a lesson we learned firsthand when we decided to overhaul our own sales deck.
“With our old sales deck [which wasn’t crafted with product-led stories], only 17.5% of all viewers made it to the last slide, and you can see the steep dropoff after viewers open the deck. Now, [after injecting product-led storytelling] 65.4% of all prospects who open our deck click through to the last slide, and, what’s more, our new deck is two slides longer.”
Recommendations to implement product-led storytelling
Naturally, storytelling has a way of making difficult things memorable, like your product’s features and how your product solves problems. A study by Stanford University found stories make facts and figures 2200% easier to remember. Take a close friend of mine, for example.
She ran from science class to pursue a career in arts because math, chemistry, and physics “were too tough.” But to this day, she vividly remembers the story of how Isaac Newton came up with the law of gravity after observing an apple fall from its tree.
The funny part is how, even now that she's a fashion designer, she still remembers the figure assigned to the gravitational pull on the earth: 9.8m/s2. That’s how powerful an excellent product-led story can be.
Product-led stories create a mindset shift, helping prospects to always remember how your product can help them overcome their challenges and reach their goals.
And then, when you show how someone can practically overcome those challenges with your product, product-led stories stir them to action. The action here could be anything from acquiring trial users, and paid customers, to even getting a non-customer to share your story to their network and introducing your product to new people in the process.
But here’s the thing: Product-led storytelling isn’t revolutionary to SaaS content marketing. I must stress this because the fundamentals of creating these stories with content marketing best practices are critical. Doing this ensures you keep the strategy, discoverability, and distribution of each story you create in mind.
Where it differs from regular content marketing is in the execution of each piece of content.
Each product-led story you create must aim to show how ONE of your ideal customers will overcome ONE problem. Before you even start creating content, look through all of your target audiences and pick just one ICP (ideal customer persona) who will benefit from consuming it, and create your content exclusively for them.
Next, consider each piece of your SaaS content a sales page. Show anyone who reads it how to solve a problem with your product, getting them to take action and start solving the problem right there.
To do this, you’ll need to blend content strategy, product storytelling, and copywriting into every piece of content you produce.
The last thing to think about is promotion. How will prospects discover your product-led stories? Don’t resort to copycat content in an attempt to meet ever-changing SEO ranking factors. After all, every story has to be original.
If it’s not possible to use SEO strategies to help your piece of content rank, turn to alternative distribution channels like paid ads on social media, or promotion in relevant community forums. Just remember: Always start stories with your end users in mind.
How to tell your product’s story (template included)
Albanian soccer player Ledio Pano is renowned for his penalty-kick prowess, taking over 50 spot-kicks in his career, without missing.
The point is, that his uncanny ability didn’t crop up from anywhere, it was the product of perseverance and practice. The storytelling process is no different - it’s an art, which follows a process.
So, why do you need to nail the process and make sure it’s 100% on-point?
For one, orgs and brands have a collection of messages they’ll be keen to communicate within their piece, and you need to be sure you have a coherent structure in place.
Unsure how to map your process? No worries - we’ve done it for you.
Familiarize yourself with your audience
Before you even begin to think about writing your story, you need to establish:
- Who wants to hear your story,
- Who’ll not only benefit from the story itself,
- Who'll provide a tangible response?
Researching your target audience is essential to establish who your buyer personas are for your respective product.
Whilst delving into the finer details, not only will you familiarize yourself with your audience, but it’ll also provide a platform for when you’re sculpting your story’s foundations.
Specify your key message
You may be writing a blog post or the modern-day equivalent of War and Peace. Either way, you must always have a core message in place.
While some pop together stories to sell a product, others are campaigning for change, you can define your message by simply summarizing your message in 6-10 words.
If it’s proving problematic, you need to go back to the drawing board and revisit your core message.
Establish the story you want to tell
Everyone wants to tell something different - if we were all telling the same story, it’d be plain boring.
And boring will never sit well with your target audience.
Not only do you need to consider the emotions you want your audience to experience when they read your story, but also the action you want them to take after they’ve finished reading, listening, or watching what's been put in front of them.
Ultimately, motives will change depending on your brand's mission. Orgs commonly set objectives to:
- Provoke action,
- Tell the audience about yourself,
- Demonstrate value,
- Bring people together and create a sense of community,
- Provide an educational insight.
Identify your CTA
In many ways, a company’s objective and CTA (call-to-action) have some similarities. However, a CTA establishes the action you want the audience to take when they’ve finished reading your story.
You may want your audience to sign up for a service, donate to a charity, buy a product, or enroll in a course.
For example, WWE may have a CTA along the lines of ‘Donate Now’, while sports fans may be sent an email with the CTA ‘renew your season ticket today.’
Select an appropriate medium
Once upon a time, stories commonly took shape in the form of a written story, but now, they’re available in a variety of formats, to suit the needs of different audiences.
Add to that, the story medium will also depend on the type of story you’re telling, while additional factors such as budget and time are also taken into consideration.
There are a variety of mediums that can be used, including:
- Written: These commonly take the form of blogs, articles, or books. Mainly comprising text and images, written stories are a popular choice, given their low costs. After all, anyone can set up a Google Docs account and get started writing their very own masterpiece, free of charge.
- Spoken: These types of stories are told in person, with presentations, pitches, or panels examples of spoken formats. As these take place there and then, speakers need to fine-tune their delivery and errors may occur, but with practice, these can be an effective means of communicating directly with an audience and provoking emotional responses.
- Audio: These types of stories are similar to spoken formats, but they do differ slightly, as they’re pre-recorded. With many people listening to podcasts such as Product Marketing Life and Product Marketing Insider, audio stories have enjoyed a meteoric rise, to the point there’s been a demand for podcast clubs. With technology now much more affordable, more companies are enjoying its many benefits.
- Digital: These stories are told via a combination of media formats, including video, animation, interactivity, and games to encourage the audience to involve themselves in the narrative. In terms of generating an emotional response, this method is considered the most effective, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it carries a hefty price tag.
Time to write!
Need a framework to help you set the ball rolling? Use our storytelling framework to alleviate your workload and raise the standards amongst their product marketing team.
Share the wealth
We’re sure you’ll be proud of your story, so why wouldn’t you want to show it off and promote it wherever possible?
Nonetheless, it’s not just a case of sharing it willy-nilly; there’s a method to the madness, and your platform will change, depending on what kind of story you’re telling.
For example, if you’ve opted for a business blog post, LinkedIn would be the perfect platform to do so. On the other hand, if you’ve opted for video content, the likes of Instagram, YouTube, or Vimeo will be more appropriate.
It’s also always recommended to host your content on your website. Include a hub section where visitors can find your podcasts, blogs, and written materials.
10 tips to improve your storytelling strategy
Hooked on the why but unsure of the how? Here are 10 tips to help make a good story great:
1. Know your audience
If you don’t get the fundamentals right you’re setting yourself up for a fall. So, if you haven’t already, run some research to:
- Solidify your target market,
- Define your buyer personas,
- Understand their pain points, and
- Discover how and where they’ll be.
With this in tow, you’ll have the intel you need to accurately shape all future stages of your story.
We can’t emphasize enough how important this step is so don’t be tempted to rush it. Without the right information on your market, you’re essentially putting your finger in the air and seeing what sticks, and that isn’t the sort of approach that secures sales.
2. Set your objective
Different products have different objectives. If you’re selling hair accessories online it might be an immediate sale. If you’re a counselor it might be to inquire. If you’re a car dealer it might be to browse your stock.
On top of that, some objectives might require more than one story level too. For example, someone buying a hair clip from a large chain’s probably less interested in the person behind the company than someone seeking a counselor.
With the latter, you need to portray what’s in it for the customer (i.e. less stress, better quality of life, reduced anxiety) while simultaneously showing the person/people behind the sale (i.e. what characteristics do they have that their patients want and need).
3. Speak to your audience one-on-one
If you somehow managed to skirt around it during the research phase, set some time aside to speak to your customers - whether that be over the phone, in person, or during a focus group. After all, no one knows what they want better than them.
To get the answers you need to ask questions like:
- How does our product help you?
- Can you imagine going back to a life without our product?
- What was the biggest turning point in taking out our product?
- What could someone have said to you to make you realize you needed our product sooner?
- How did you find out about us?
- Is that typical of how you normally research products in this field?
- What did your journey with us look like? Did you buy straight away? Watch a video first? Did you download a few guides?
- If you had to sum up our product in three words, what would they be?
As well as helping you understand key benefits and how and where to spread your story, with these kinds of questions, you could even find yourself with buzzwords to infuse into your messaging.
4. Know why people buy your product
Stories require context and if you want it to have an effect, context requires accuracy. Let’s say you’re a TV package provider and one of your main features is that you have more channels than any of your competitors. So, you use this as your hook. “More channels at your fingertips than any other provider.”
But, your market doesn’t primarily care about that. They want something cheap. All the channels in the world wouldn’t relate to their buying behavior and all your angle would do is alienate them from the outset - which is the exact opposite of connecting.
Instead, with the right info under your belt, you might go in with something like “Like John, you too could save £110 a year on your TV package - without compromising on your channels.”
Presuming is a route to failure (which is why we keep stressing the importance of research!).
5. Have a clear start, middle, and end
It’s not rocket science, but with so many other elements to worry about it’s a practice that’s easily forgotten, so, remember, stories have three core components:
The start: what life’s like right now without your product by their side.
The middle: light at the end of the tunnel; a solution that solves their problems.
The end: a better life without the problem they faced at the start.
Your story needs to take them through this journey because to truly understand the benefits, people need to see the stark contrast between where they are today and where they could be tomorrow.
Tip: To ensure action, make the end as inspirational as can be (without making outlandish claims, of course!).
6. Speak like a human
People can sniff out a disingenuous story from a mile off so make sure yours has got all the ingredients of an authentic one - and that means speaking like a human to a human.
If you’ve not got the luxury of a copywriter to help you with this bit here are a few nuggets to keep in mind:
- Write as you talk. Read what you’ve written aloud and if it’s not something you’d say in a conversation, tweak it till it is.
- Contractions are friendly. ‘You’re’ sounds more approachable than ‘you are’, ‘it’s’ than ‘it is’, ‘they’ve’ than ‘they have’, etc.
- Grammar rules can be broken. And sometimes your writing sounds better for it. See what we did there?
7. Scrap feature lists (or place them lower down)
Lists or matrices are a nifty way to outline key features but the reality is, that prospects care more about why they need to pick your product than its features.
How does the above make you feel? Does it enable you to understand how it’s going to benefit you? Or paint a picture of what the future you could look like? The answers are probably ‘not much, no, and no.’
Instead of putting the onus on other people to work out where your value lies, tell them yourself. Trust us, you’ll do your product more justice.
8. Keep your story consistent
Consistency is key and repetition gets you remembered. By this, we mean keep your core message the same whether it’s being used in a paid social ad, blog post, webinar, or event. If you start mixing it up it’ll get diluted, lose its impact, and fail its very purpose.
9. Never stop learning
Okay, so this might sound contradictory to point eight but bear with us. Just because something’s working it doesn’t mean it can’t do better so see your story as a continual work in progress...and if it’s not working full stop, don’t be afraid to shake things up.
Here are a few tips to help with this one:
- To see which parts of your story are and aren’t working get out there and speak to the people that matter. Ask for their feedback and if you spot any trends weave them into your next version.
- If you’re making any refinements consider rolling them out as an A/B test first. That way, you can measure which version works best before potentially pushing a less effective story out.
- When you’re tweaking and testing, remember to experiment with different aspects, like the words and images you use, the channels you share them on, and the type of asset (i.e. video, audio, blog, etc.).
- Always keep in mind that although your product might not have changed, people’s preferences, behaviors, and attitudes might have, and this could have a knock-on effect.
10. Put yourself on their level
We mentioned authenticity a little earlier and this one’s closely linked to it. To position yourself as genuine (and have people believe you!) you need to show you understand their pain points, their goals, and their barriers - and that means being on their level
Tip: if you want to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes, speak to them. Getting the information from the horse’s mouth is by far the best way to relate to their situation.
Achieving this requires a careful blend of the right message and the right language because remember, it’s not always what you say, but how you say it.
For example, let’s say you’re a social media management consultancy and you know the reason clients come to you is that they don’t have the expertise to do it themselves, but they also don’t have the budget to hire a full-time employee.
This is your message: Don’t know what you’re doing? Don’t worry, we’ll do it for you.
The intent’s there, but it just sounds patronizing and not on their level. You’re almost talking down to them.
This, on the other hand, sends the same message but with more tact, understanding, and sincerity: No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Let us help.
The moral of the story? Choose your words carefully and make sure your audience interprets them the way you intend.