How is Storytelling Critical to Marketing and Clarity?
We’ve heard about the power of storytelling for brands and marketing for a few years now. We love stories. It’s in our DNA.
I’ve read a few books on the topic, listened to podcasts, read the blogs. I’m convinced this is a great idea, but I’ve never seriously tried to apply it.
Deciding to get more serious, I read, Sell with a Story, by Paul Smith. I wasn’t expecting this to intersect with Clarity, my primary interest. So that was a pleasant surprise. I’ll get to that part later.
Smith has written a few books on the theme of “story” each applicable to a different application—such as inside organizations and parenting. He’s also a former P&G exec.
This is a great book and at the same time, it’s not, at least for me.
It’s great, in that it covers essential data we need to use in order to craft a story about ourselves our business and our product or service.
It’s not great, in that its target reader seems to be a sales rep pitching to buyers for in-person sales calls in a B2B situation. I guess people still do that.
About 80% of the book is about those sales calls. It’s also written much like a text book, which makes it less effective. Who wants to read a text book anymore?
I’ll summarize for anyone that doesn’t feel in the textbook mood. This comes from my perspective as an online guy trying to use Story in a marketing context.
There are also lessons to be learned by anyone in a work-from-home role, MLMer, solopreneurs, homeschooling parents and small business folks. At the end, I’ll explain how this is critical to clarity.
The Essentials of Storytelling
Why Story is Important
- People tend to make decisions based on emotion. It’s easier to reach people at an emotional level when you tell a story.
- People tend to purchase (or opt-in) with those they trust. Stories about yourself and your business build trust.
- Stories are easier to remember vs features & benefits.
- Stories are easier to share.
Note: Storytelling isn’t about presenting something that is a false narrative or a sleazy sales tactic. This is simply a more effective way to getting at the truth of you and your product or service.
Preparation for the Story
- What is my main message—the big “take-away”?
- What do I want my audience to think, feel or do after reading the story?
Structure of the Story
- Context: The who, when, where and why. Will the reader sympathize with the story and or people? Without a context, the story may be irrelevant to the reader. Make sure the context is one that your ideal reader will care about.
- The Challenge: What is the main character trying to achieve? What is their goal? What is at stake? The main character could be a company, but individuals are much more relatable.
- The Conflict: What are the obstacles, the villains or situations that are making the challenge difficult? What events occur during the conflict?
- The Resolution: How the conflict resolves, who won or lost, how are they changed?
- The Moral: What lesson was learned by the people involved?
- The Application: How can the reader benefit from this?
The Don’t List
- Don’t start your story by saying, “Let me tell you a story.”
- Don’t write your story like it’s a novel, such as: “It was a frigid night in December when I pulled into my driveway after finishing my 2nd shift at the spatula factory. The wind howled against my car windows and the snow was starting to accumulate, flake by flake, inching ever higher. I couldn’t tolerate another 2nd shift at that soul-sucking factory. If I have to pack another spatula into a shipping carton my head would explode. Monday morning, I’ll deliver my notice. My friends and I would finally start our own business: An organic avocado-based shampoo and conditioner. And that’s why you should buy a case of this fantastic product.
It’s easy to get lost in the story and forget your goals. After you’ve finished, ask yourself.
- Does the story convey the intended message?
- Does the story effectively move the reader so they are thinking, feeling or taking the action I desired?
How Does Clarity Come Into Play?
Earlier I noted that stories apply to us, our business and our products/service.When writing this post, it finally dawned on.
The first two of those (ourselves and our biz) is where clarity comes becomes relevant.
It’s important to communicate the story of ourselves and our business to a prospect. But, it’s also critical to explain this to ourselves. This is where clarity occurs.
When you’re writing those stories, it may create a lot of introspection as you describe you (the hero) and your challenges and how you overcame those—or didn’t.
In the end, who was the winner? What lesson was learned? How is the lesson applied in the future, YOUR future?
Does this motivate you to CHANGE the direction of your story because you don’t like where it’s headed. This is YOUR story, you can decide to change it.
All of this leads to more Clarity.
Below is a piece I wrote recently about my story, at least one of my stories. I tried to apply the concepts in a natural way. I’m still a student, learning the craft, hopefully improving each time.
Check it my story and see if it fits the criteria I’ve outline. Let me know. https://medium.com/@edwardstanfield/the-origins-of-clarity-679801eb47fc
As I mentioned earlier, I think the ability to tell our own story is important for everyone. But, especially for those of us that are in a self-directed role, such as:
- Work-from-home jobs
- MLM roles (Multi-Level Marketing)
- Homeschool parents
- Small business owners
These roles all have one thing in common, a great deal of freedom, a lot of hats-to-wear, and no one to blame but ourselves when it all goes wrong.
You can start growing in Clarity today—by telling your story.
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