I fell in the shower the other day. Not exactly a proud moment. Don’t worry; I’m ok – minus a few bruises, including my ego, of course.
But the fall got me to thinking. What if I wasn’t ok? What if I hit my head and was really hurt? How long would it be before someone would notice? I started to imagine the person who would discover me and how they would get in touch with my family. I was at a hotel so it would probably be a stranger—awkward! The story could go on and on.
Writers do this often. We build narratives in our head based on things that happen throughout our day. It’s a little game we play to flex our muscles, just like athletes spend time lifting weights in the gym to prepare for the big game.
And if you remember anything from this article—it will likely be that you now know I can be clumsy and maybe even a bit paranoid. But you will probably remember. And that’s one of the first benefits of storytelling.
1. Storytelling Builds Memories
This is not rocket science. It’s psychology 101. As humans, we are primed to remember stories. At a young age, our parents read us nursery rhymes with morals that are designed to help us grow up to be better people. These life lessons are told in story format because that makes them interesting, entertaining, and memorable.
The impact that stories have on us does not change much in adulthood. We still like stories. And we remember them. We may not always remember all of the in-between details – but we remember the important things, which is why they can be powerful for marketers!
Storytelling that is crafted strategically will build the memories you want to leave with your readers and listeners.
And it doesn’t have to be a groundbreaking, tear-jerking, Oscar-worthy tale. I love this quote from storyteller extraordinaire, Kindra Hall, “You don’t have to make someone cry. You just have to make them see the story and imagine themselves in it.”
This is because storytelling is tactile. Stories help people see, hear, taste, smell, and feel your message.
All of these senses are turning on more parts of their brain, helping them visualize the story, and building their memories. So make sure they are the right memories!
Focus your storytelling around important messages and calls to action and you will build memories that insight action in your customers. And that brings us to number two.
2. Storytelling is a Natural Motivator
Think back to your favorite TEDTalk. The best TED speakers all start with a story, usually something pretty personal, that drives to their point or primary message. They rope you in with the story and then build excitement for their CTA.
With just a few words strung together, these expert speakers are motivating you – whether that is motivation toward emotion, toward action, or toward sharing. They’ve designed their talk with something precise in mind; which is, by the way, in direct alignment with the TED mission of “ideas worth spreading.”
Think about what you want your audience to do when you start thinking about the story you want to share. For example, if your primary call to action is that stories help people remember things, it could be useful to tell a somewhat embarrassing story with humor sprinkled throughout (perhaps about a shower incident).
Stories are a natural fit for marketers because our job is to get people to act upon a call to action. And what do all good stories have? A moral. Make the point of your story drive to your desired outcome and you will motivate your readers much more naturally than you would with a more forced sales pitch or cold message.
But make sure you know your audience to get the biggest bang for your story buck! Knowing your audience helps ensure that your story builds relationships.
3. Storytelling Builds Relationships
Relationships are marketing gold. Individuals who feel a connection to your brand are likely to not only be repeat purchasers, but they will probably phone a friend or two, too! The trick to selecting stories your ideal customer can directly relate to is to have a detailed map of each of your customer segments.
Whether you call these maps profiles, or personas, or segments — they work! They help you to understand your customer at a more personal level and start speaking their language.
This is what turns a good story into a great story – the kind that your audience is hanging onto until the very end. When you know what your audience responds to, they will start to picture themselves in your story and relate to you. They will start experiencing the humans behind your brand for themselves and forging a true, meaningful relationship.
We are all in this falling out of the shower, clumsy world together, right? Kidding. Sort of.
4. Storytelling Makes Content Exciting
One of the most common questions I get is how to develop a content strategy for “boring” industries. First of all, there really is no such thing as a boring industry. Sure, there are a lot of businesses that lend themselves more easily to exciting content. But if there is a market for your business, there is a way to make interesting, engaging content.
Storytelling is an excellent tactic to use for both exciting and dry industries. Stories tap into the emotions and motivations that are characteristic of the people in your industry.
I’ll be honest with you. As a content marketer, there are times that I feel if I read another listicle I may pull out my own hair. But you can’t deny that lists are a clear and simple way to organize information.
Sometimes there is just no more effective way to put pen to paper than a list. But it’s not hard for lists to come across dry and choppy. Stories are useful to compensate for this by weaving a common thread throughout the list that connects A to Z.
5. Storytelling can Make Something Old, New
Last, but certainly not least, another common problem content marketers face is coming up with new ideas. Just as lists have been used in about a million different ways, blogging, search engine optimization, and content marketing have all been around for a while now.
There is a lot of competition out there for your target audience. And chances are that someone has already written something similar to the “brand new” idea you thought up on your drive home from work.
It can be challenging to think of new ideas that truly add value to the conversation. This is a big problem when nearly half of content marketers reported publishing new content to their website daily, or at least several times a week, according to the Content Marketing Institute. You have to come up with a lot of new ideas, and often!
Storytelling will help you take something that someone has already written about and put a new spin on it that specifically addresses the needs and interests of your audience. Not only will this customer-centric (or audience specific) content help make the process of polishing stale old ideas smoother for you, but it will perform better for you and increase conversions.
Get Your Story On!
There is a reason that storytelling has become somewhat of a buzzword in the marketing industry lately. Stories are a simple, natural way to make interesting content that motivates your audience to act. What more could you ask for as a content marketer?
If you are not entirely convinced, check out some of these examples of brands that do a phenomenal job of sharing their message through stories. Which brands tell stories that you’ve found to be the most memorable?
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!