4 Things to Consider When Using Storytelling in Marketing

Oct 2, 2018

Not convinced storytelling is a good approach for marketing your business? Check out this excerpt from Donald Miller’s Story Brand:

“In every line of copy we write, we’re either serving the customer’s story or descending into confusion; we’re either making music or making noise.”

In today’s market, you are either telling a story that draws your customer in, or you are adding to the confusion. So how do you tell an effective story in your marketing efforts? Here are four tips to get you started.

Tell Your Customer’s Story

It isn’t enough to just tell any story. Telling the story about how you were voted most popular in high school or how you gathered a team of award laden, technically trained experts probably won’t come across as warm and inviting in the eyes of your customers. It is important to focus on telling the story from your customer’s point of view; positioning them as the hero.

Often times, business’s get stuck on the idea of telling their own story. This isn’t necessarily bad, as long as you are not the hero of your own story. You can certainly tell a compelling story about your business, but the key is positioning yourself as the guide and placing your customer in the spotlight. In most cases, it might be easiest to simply focus on telling the customer’s story.

Tell the story about how your customer lived a happy life, until one day they encountered a problem. This problem was stealing their joy. Then, they met a guide (your company), and this guide helped them to overcome their problem by showing them their proven plan. Now, they are loving life again, thanks to the guide and their plan.

Donald Miller frames it this way in his book:

“Here is nearly every story you see or hear in a nutshell: A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.”

Tell One Story

You might protest, “My customers have so many stories, how can I possibly tell them all?”

It is true that each customer who has interacted with your business has a story filled with variation, nuance and individuality. Sharing those stories in the form of testimonials is an important part of your marketing. As you consider the overall brand you are creating in your marketing efforts, it is important to stick to one overarching story.

You should be using storytelling in your:

  • Website
  • Videos
  • Social media posts/ads
  • Digital ads
  • Traditional marketing

The most effective way to tell a story is to tell one story. Tell the same story across all of your marketing platforms. In other words, share the same messages, solve the same problems, use the same imagery. Your customers are far more likely to see themselves in your story and engage if they can trace a coherent storyline across your brand.

Businesses sabotage their own marketing efforts by:

  1. Trying to be all things to all people
  2. Attempting to regurgitate their whole business model in every marketing opportunity

Tell a Compelling Story

Now that we are telling one story, focused on our customers, how can we ensure this story will be compelling? Right off the bat, it is important to note,  any story that casts you as the hero and solves your problems is sure to be compelling. There are ways to make certain your story will compel your customers to listen and take action.

A compelling story is problem-driven but does not resolve until the problem is solved. Sure, focus on the problems your customers experience, then move quickly to your plan for success. Nothing ruins a story like a bad ending.

A compelling story has high stakes. The higher the stakes, the more intriguing the story becomes. This is why it is essential to get to the heart of the problem your customers experience. It is easy to focus on simple external problems, but tracing the roots to the internal problems will increase the stakes and draw more attention.

Tell The Complete Story

We have all experienced a story riddled with plot holes. They are the worst. And more importantly, they fail to fully capture the attention of your customers. But telling a complete story is not just about providing all the details; sometimes it means withholding the unimportant ones. So make sure you tell a well rounded story, and tie up every loose end.

IAM Storytelling Framework

A complete story chronologically lists:

  1. a hero
  2. a problem
  3. a guide
  4. a plan
  5. a resolution

If you come across a story line that doesn’t fit into these categories, there is a good chance you would best serve the overall story by leaving it out. And likewise, any plots that are included in the problem section of your story must reach a resolution. A full, complete story is essential to your marketing storytelling efforts.

Need Help Telling Your Story?

At InnerAction Media, we help businesses reach their goals by telling their customer’s stories through web, digital marketing, social media and video. We understand the challenges businesses face each day and know how difficult it can be to develop a custom strategic marketing plan. That is why we have created the Marketing Blueprint.

The Marketing Blueprint is a 10+ page document that outlines a business’s unique target audiences, geographic targets, key messages and priority business segments, while recommending actionable items including web pages, pillar pages, video concepts, lead magnets, topic clusters, content calendar and much more. But the Marketing Blueprint is more than just a document. It is a two hour experience, where our marketing team will sit down with your company and discuss each item at length, with the goal of inspiring internal conversation, leading to greater company branding and success.  

If that sounds like something your company is interested in, we would love to talk with you. 


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