Guest Post: Storytelling—Humanity's Oldest Marketing Tool
For almost as long as people have been around, we’ve been telling each other stories. In the early days, it was stories about where to find the best hunting and fishing grounds (those stories are still around, we’re just a lot less honest about them these days).
Then it moved on to where you could find a certain object that was super desirable. This changed from culture to culture, but it was often something valuable or an abundant food/water source.
As we grew and civilizations developed, so did our stories. Over time, we have been driven to hunt for lost cities of gold, fountains that promise life everlasting, lost civilizations and, even in recent years, the slight possibility that there could be something valuable buried at the bottom of that hole.
Stories have that power over us. They connect with us on a level that almost seems to run deep into our souls and they fill us with the desire to act. We’re not as driven to chase the possibility of lost treasure as we used to be, but stories still hold that power.
Which is why, if you’re not telling your story on your website, you’re losing out on a chance to connect to your audience on that deeper level and even if your website is sprinkled with CTA’s from here to eternity, it’s harder when you’re not connecting through your story.
How do stories help
I’ve already talked about this a little bit, but to recap, people relate to stories. We take them in and we find a way to relate. We might think of the time something similar happened to us or to someone we know. We might think of a dream we once had to do the same thing. We might even remember a time when we tried something, failed and gave up.
Whatever that connection is, stories help make it happen.
Think back to a job you’ve had where selling was a part of what you’re doing. Maybe you were working at a coffee shop, maybe you were working on a phone store, it doesn’t really matter where it was because chances are, as you’re talking to customers about why they need that product, you’re somehow inserting your own personal experiences into the spiel. You bring up what it was like the first time you had that coffee or used that phone or tried out that fishing rod. You walk the customer through the experience and you talk about how it helped (or didn’t) and why you think they need to try it for themselves.
This story, however basic it may seem, helps your customer understand how the product will enhance their lives.
You want that connection to happen on your website.
You need to reach out and, through your own life experiences (or the ones that led you to coming up with the product/service/course or whatever it is you offer), reach that person on a deeper level.
Best of all, people share stories that they connect with. Even way back in the beginning people would share the stories that drove us around the world and back again. People who connect with your story (and your business) are much more likely to share your name with others.
What story should I be telling?
This is the tough one.
Our stories are long, complicated things that have a lot of parts to them and, as much as we’d all like think that every part of our story is important, it’s not (to your customers, anyway. It’s important to you).
For example, I do a lot of writing for the outdoors and travel industry and, when I’m talking to people in that industry, I don’t spend a lot of time on the 11 years I spent living in Canada’s biggest city or what life was like for me in high school. I talk about things like sailing around Tonga in the South Pacific, getting lost in the mountains behind my time and I talk about the time I encountered a polar bear.
These are the parts of my story that resonate with potential customers. It tells them that I get what they’re selling. It tells them I get their industry. It tells them I’ve been there, done that.
That’s what you want.
If you’re not sure what aspects of your story to talk about, ask your customers. Reaching out to people who’ve purchased from you in the past in an excellent way to help understand why they decided to go with you, instead of someone else. A short interview or survey asking them what made the hit buy can really help you narrow down the parts of your story that are relevant.
Talk to your friends and family, as well. This isn’t going to be as revealing as talking to your customers, but your friends and family know all your stories. They know what you do. They know why you do it. They know just about everything (unless you’re the kind of person who doesn’t really talk about what you do). They’re going to be the ones who help you connect the dots between product and story.
Where should I tell my story?
The best answer here is as soon as you can.
The longer it takes you to make that connection, the more you risk losing that sale.
The obvious spot to tell the story is your About Page. This is your chance to not only tell your story, but it allows you to connect it to the service you’re offering and how it’s going to help potential customers.
On your blog is another great place to tell your story. It’s almost why the blog is there. You’re showing of your knowledge, your product and how much you know about what you do (which is the foundation of building authority) and, if you’re smart, you’re weaving your story into that every chance you get. It makes the information relevant to the person and it’s going to make the post more engaging.
If you can find a way to tell your story on the Home Page of your website, do it. Welcome videos are an excellent way to reach out and connect. And being able to see your smiling face as you talk, gives it a personal touch that just can’t be beat.
Finally, if you’re really serious about connecting through stories, get on podcasts and talk about what you do and why you do it absolutely anyone who will listen.
Podcasts (or any place people interview you) will open you up to people you likely wouldn’t have been able to connect with otherwise and opens up doors that might have taken years to open.
You’re more interesting than you think
This is the biggest factor holding people back from telling their stories, they just don’t think they’re interesting.
And, sure. You may actually be one of the most boring people in the world, but there’s someone out there who is going to find it interesting. You’re never alone, but if you don’t put your story out there, you’ll never know who the people are who connect.
That’s the fun thing about telling stories.
Once you send it out there into the world, you never know who it’s going to find or who it’s going to connect with.
Douglas Patton is a copywriter and master of storytelling at PatonContent.com.