As we explore the resurgence of art in marketing, this post is part one of a two-part series on the art of storytelling. This post explores why storytelling matters when marketing a professional services firm. See post two here.
“You won’t believe what just happened!” If I hear that intro, I am immediately invested in what that person has to say next. Why? Because it sounds like a great story is on the way. Everyone loves a good story. Stories are the very foundation of how we learn and what we recall. Stories connect us because we are curious by nature – we want to know everything. Enter, storytelling in thought leadership marketing.
Storytelling isn’t a new concept. In fact, it is one of oldest. It’s an ancient art form that’s been around for centuries. Stories are a fundamental part of our culture and society. The reason why storytelling has been around for so long is because it works. Stories often stick with us for years. Some stay with us our entire lives. But not just any story can do that. It’s the great stories that change the way we think. The way we live. A story can change our entire perspective and how we relate with ourselves and with one another. Stories allow us to feel connected on a deeper level. They allow us to share in both overwhelming joy and deep sorrow; we find commonalities with others. It is truly a powerful thing.
Recently, “storytelling” has become a buzzword in the marketing world. And, for good reason. A well told story is powerful. When using this concept in B2B marketing, storytelling has the ability to instill a relationship with your audience that can resonate with them for a very long time. But a caveat applies — the story has to be good. In fact, it has to be better than good – it has to be great. In our digital world, everyone can tell a story, but it’s the great ones that get noticed. When done right, storytelling is a magnificent way to attract an audience, but, when done poorly, it’s essentially pointless. Worse yet, it could actually do damage to your firm’s reputation.
So, what’s a bad story? Let’s look at a familiar example. Your firm just completed an in-depth, innovative research project that uncovered some pretty compelling data. Next step – how do you get this new research into the world? All too often, thought leadership marketers allow the research to dictate what is published, resulting in a giant deluge of data that only a robot would find compelling. When, in actuality, we should be looking at the narrative we want to tell. The research needs to help us develop insights that result in a story that people want to read or listen to. People don’t remember dry statistics and figures, they remember the things they connected to emotionally. Basically, if your story isn’t relevant, nobody is going to listen.
Telling a Great Story
Although storytelling is as old as humanity itself, it is still an art form that takes perfecting. In thought leadership marketing, great stories come from the content itself, not the promotion of it. A good story calls your audience to action by giving them a takeaway that provides value; a way for the reader to fulfill the purpose behind the story. By using storytelling, we prove to our audience that we know what it is like to be in their shoes. Ultimately, storytelling builds trust, which is undeniably important in business-to-business buying decisions.
In order to capture your audience through storytelling, your narrative needs to be personal, genuine, relatable, and relevant. When our stories are genuinely personal, it allows us to set ourselves apart from competitors because there’s not a single better person to tell your story than you. Plus, no one wants to read the same exact thing over and over again. By making your story relatable and relevant, you are giving the reader an explanation of how your story benefits them. By sharing how your story, and you specifically, can help them, you immediately establish a connection with your ideal audience.
Perhaps most importantly, your story requires applicable experience. Not only does this boost that all-important trust level, but it shows HOW you can help your audience. If the goal of your story is to convert leads, applicable experience is absolutely crucial. After all, the primary purpose of thought leadership is to educate a client about issues that really matter to them, eventually inspiring them to take action. So, make sure the story you are telling matters to your ideal audience.
Throughout history, all great stories can be distilled down to seven story archetypes. In his book, The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker labels the seven plots as:
- Overcoming the Monster
- Rags to Riches
- The Quest
- The Voyage and Return
Although heavily prevalent in fictional storytelling, these archetypes can be invaluable in reaching your firm’s ideal clients. Think about it, at some point in all of our lives, we, to some degree, experience at least one of the seven basic plot lines. That’s why they exist. They are relatable to all of us at a fundamental level. Your potential client is likely living out a moment in one of these plotlines right now. It’s up to your firm to connect with them where they are in their journey and define the narrative that will progress them forward.
Stay tuned for next week’s post that takes a deeper dive into these archetypes and their significance in your firm’s marketing efforts.
Stand Out, Be Authentic, Build Trust
In the end, storytelling will always matter because there will always be problems that can be solved through the lessons a story offers. By turning your firm’s thought leadership research or even your firm’s entire brand story into a narrative, you are more likely to be hooked into your audience’s memory. To master the art of storytelling and engage your audience, your stories need to be genuine, entertaining, and useful. Doing this will position your firm to be a part of your prospects’ lives for years to come.