There’s a million and one ways to sell a product or service, but only one will leave a lasting impact on your audience—only one will sweep them off their feet and have them coming back for more. Only one will convince them that they made the right decision. And that way is storytelling.
Despite being used for centuries as a means of communicating, the power of storytelling in the spaces of marketing, branding and sales is often overlooked. Not because we have evolved beyond storytelling itself, but because we are still trying to navigate all the new and different mediums through which we can sell our services and products. Technology may have brought us to an entire new level of communication, but we can’t forget how storytelling must be intertwined within these mediums before we can elevate our brand from one that sells through facts, discounts, and information, to one that sells through emotion, beliefs, values, and history.
Storytelling goes beyond the facts.
Facts are great. Numbers are sometimes necessary, but they can’t get the job done on their own. In other words, they can’t turn your audience from viewers, into believers. They can inform and educate, yes, but seldom do they excite or engage (unless those numbers equal 70% off your favourite pair of shoes or your dream car). And contrary to popular belief, everyone wants to be engaged with. We crave connection, and we seek out relative content.
Instead of trying to sell your audience with impressive numbers, try a story. Instead of telling them why they should buy your product using facts, show them why they need your product through a story of a previous customer whose life was changed, or a current employee who believed in the product so much, they had to join the team.
Storytelling is where your brand’s personality lives.
Traditionally, brands have avoided exposing and playing with the personality of their brand. But today, this couldn’t be any further from reality. Not only does your brand need a personality, but it needs to be unique (funny, witty, clever, silly, etc.), and thankfully, good storytelling can help you achieve this.
Use stories (both real and fictional) to familiarize your audience with your brand’s personality. Don’t be afraid to get creative, too! Once upon a time, the most well put together brands with the most predictable content would have gotten the gold star. But today? Well, let’s just say that those who are getting creative with the stories they tell are the ones who are soaring to new heights.
Hint: do you remember the Molson Canadian fridges that were placed around the world and told the story of a very average Canadian beer that brought a sense of identity and unity to Canadians abroad? Yeah, that would be a great example of a creative storytelling method done right.
Storytelling allows you to hit home.
No matter how you sugar coat it, no one wants to be sold on products or services. Period. As consumers, we don’t want to be convinced that we need something, and we certainly don’t want to hear your one-minute elevator pitch. We want to be reminded of our story; we want to be reminded of how a certain product or service out there ties into our core values, beliefs, and of course, our history.
As a business owner you need to remember that nothing can benefit your brand more than telling stories that reconnect your target audience to what they believe in, reminding them of memories, moments, and themes that they are, or once were familiar with. Doing so will not only associate your brand with that emotional state, but it will bring them home—a place that traditional marketing struggles to reach.
Remember—their story is your brand’s story. If you can strike an emotional chord with your audience, they will open up to opportunities from your brand in ways you never imagined possible.
Storytelling will keep them coming back.
What’s the difference between a brand that sells a customer something through convenience and low price and a brand that sells a buyer something through emotional connection and a story they can relate to? The latter customer will keep coming back. Again, and again and again.
You can sell something once through numerical strategy, but there’s only one way to keep your customers coming back: tell them a story that will remind them again and again why they chose your brand in the first place.
- Tim Hortons reminds us of why we love being Canadian—their coffee is a part of our all-Canadian morning routine.
- Lululemon reminds us of why we actually enjoy sweating—their yoga pants are synonymous with the word yoga in Vancouver.
- Mountain Equipment Co-op reminds us why we love to get outside and explore our beautiful backyard—their store is our first stop for anything adventure related that we may need.
At the end of the day, your brand is only as strong as the stories you tell. Why? Because we’ve evolved so far past beyond traditional marketing sale-purchase strategies. Today, our marketing mix must involve emotions, values, beliefs, and history if we want to rise above the competition. Humans are natural storytellers and if you aren’t telling stories yourself, you can bet that your target market will want to buy from brands who are.