What is storytelling in marketing?

Jenai Laignel headshot

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1 min read

Once upon a time… 

How often have you seen that line? From our first experience of being read to, storytelling has been a powerful tool for conveying an emotion, a lesson or a particular view of the world. We’ve been doing it since the dawn of time. Why? Well, it gets our point across better. Politicians know it. Authors know it. In fact, just about everyone uses storytelling in one way or another. 

Storytelling content helps you to make your point more succinctly and helps it to be understood by your audience. As marketers, providing clarity about our mission, our products and our service is our number one aim, which is why storytelling in content marketing is such a hot topic right now. Coming up, we’ll unpack what storytelling marketing actually entails, with tips on how you can come up with a winning storytelling marketing strategy for your business that’ll really work. 

If you need help with incorporating storytelling in your content marketing strategy, get in touch with the FINALLY team. 

 

What is storytelling in marketing?

Put simply, storytelling is the mechanism to convey information within a narrative. It’s not a set word count or a bland advertisement of your product, brand or service. It’s your truth – everything that’s brought you to where you are now, and why that’s important. 

But, the distinction between storytelling and a sales pitch is very narrow. To help you to spot the difference, here’s what storytelling is (and isn’t) courtesy of a nifty infographic from HubSpot and ReferralCandy:

 

 

When to use storytelling? 

Really, you should think about incorporating some element of storytelling in all of your outreach efforts – from your company blogs, to your emails. Why? Because it is one of the easiest ways to convey your message. 

We’re all familiar with storytelling from the books we read to the shows we binge on Netflix. It comforts us when a company’s rhetoric – which can at times be dry and onerous – is framed in a way that’s more akin to what we’re used to. With something as important as reaching prospective customers, it stands to reason that we’ll want to use the most powerful communication tool we have: storytelling. 

 

Content marketing and storytelling: how to make it a success?

 

Nail your story

How did your business come about? Now, we know not everyone has a killer inception story – maybe the reality is convoluted and not so easily distilled. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t get a great story out of it. Speak to your colleagues – especially those who’ve been with you since the beginning – to plot what to include in your story. 

Bear in mind that it’s not only your heritage you need to include. The really important part is the moral: what’s happened in your history that’s made you, well, you? Perhaps you were in your customers’ shoes once upon a time and could’ve used the exact product or service you now supply? To nail your story effectively, you should think about including: 

  • Where you came from.
  • Where you currently are.
  • Where you are going.
  • What makes you stand out.

 

Be simple and human

Storytelling is at its most effective when the writer is clear about what they mean. A useful way to do this, particularly if your product or service is hard to explain, is to connect your business to a real-life situation that your audience can relate to. 

Remember to put yourself in your audience’s shoes at all times. What do they want to know, and how do they want to know it? If you think alternative content formats such as video guides would help to explain what you do, divert some resources here (or get in touch with FINALLY to do this for you).

Top tip: customer testimonials are a great way to show how your existing clients engage with your products or services, and the impact this has had on their lives. By having a dedicated platform – either on your website, in the form of a case study or reviews section, or off it, on dedicated reviews websites like TrustPilot – you’re better able to share your customers’ experiences in a powerful storytelling format. 

 

Address their pain points

Think about your customer’s pain points: what will they have experienced before finding you, and how can you make their lives easier? By humanising your offering, you’ll be a better storyteller. 

Professional storytellers do it all the time. In fact, one of the most common narrative structures includes what authors refer to as “a dark night of the soul”. This is a transition between your two acts – the midpoint and the resolution – traditionally a moment when your lead character (or customer) is at their lowest ebb. 

This also works in storytelling marketing. Once you’ve introduced what it is you do, consider your audience’s pain points – perhaps they are spending too much time at the desk doing admin and not enough on their actual job? Wherever possible, address your readers' problems and include a resolution that puts your product or service front and centre. 

 

Reach a satisfying resolution

Drawing each of the threads of your narrative together into some kind of resolution helps to keep your story in your reader’s mind long after they’ve left your website. Identify some of the take-homes you want your audience to remember. Recap on your key points and feature elements of your story designed to inspire and motivate your prospects to take further action. 

 

At a glance: what is storytelling in marketing?

  1. Storytelling is your truth.
    Where did you come from, where are you now and where are you going? Spend some time developing an answer for each question before you write your story. 

  2. Storytelling should be used in all of your outreach efforts.
    Why? Because it helps you to be understood by your audience. 

  3. Storytelling is at its most effective when you’re human.
    Simplify what you want to say, and always remember to level with your reader as a human being. 

  4. Stories don't always have to be happy.
    By addressing the problems and stresses in your audience’s life, you’re better able to earn your satisfying conclusion. 

  5. Storytelling is designed to inspire and motivate.
    Reach a resolution that puts your product or service front and centre, helping your audience to feel inspired and motivated to let you help them. 

For help with devising your story, get in touch with the FINALLY team. 

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