No. 2 | Tell Your Story

In the first intallment of this marketing series, I wrote about how important it is to create and maintain a conversation with your customers.  I even gave you a couple ways to do it — specifically, via Twitter and direct mail.  I suppose the next topic would WHAT to say to your audience — clients, potential clients, referral sources, other fans of you and your widgets. 

It’s been said that copywriting is really “salesmanship in print.”  I don’t disagree with that, but you don’t want to sell, sell, sell in every piece of communication you send out. You don’t want to think about all this as purely advertising in the sense that most people think about advertising.  The ongoing conversation you’re developing with your fan base allows you to do more than shove “features and benefits” in their faces. 

The problem, then, is coming up with WHAT to say.  After all, you’ve perfected your elevator speech; condensed your entire enterprise into a 30-second sound bite that tells what you do and why someone ought to buy from you.  Now you have to figure out how to do more than simply repeat that 3-sentence-identity in every email, letter, postcard, tweet and newsletter.  So where do you start?

People love stories.

From the time we’re born, we’re entertained by stories.  As we grow, we learn from fables, parables and allegories.  One of my favorite authors says that one reason we love stories is because we always want to know what happens nextHow will it end?  As you begin communicating with your audience on a regular basis, marketing messages disguised as stories will keep things fresh and interesting.  You’ll probably get into it a little more, as you can be a little more creative.

What kind of stories can you tell?  Here’s an easy one that you can use over and over: tell your customers’ stories.  Why did they buy from you?  How did your widget help them?  How did they use your widget?  A great example of telling customer stories is The Shed Shop.  They have a section of their website devoted to showing the most interesting uses of their sheds.  Not only does it show off their product and its uses, but it also gets their customers involved and excited to be Shed Shop shed owners.  (I mean, it IS just a shed.)

Your story deserves to be told, too.

The one story you must make sure to include is your own.  I bet you have a pretty interesting story of how you got to where you are.  How did you start?  Why are you passionate about your business and your widgets?  How do you hope to change the world with your widgets?  Even if you think you have a ho-hum background, I guarantee that people will want to know.  Again, sheds aren’t that flashy.  I can pick one up at my local Home Depot.  But the folks at The Shed Shop have people sitting down and writing letters and emails about how they use their shed.

Trust me, your story is worthy of telling, and you ought to tell it whenever and wherever you can.  Even though you’re working to create an ongoing conversation with your audience, they may not read every single message you send their way.  Maybe your postcard gets stuck between credit card offers and goes in the trash.  Maybe they get too many emails in a particular day, and they only read the two or three most important ones and delete the others.  You never know, and you want them to know what you’re all about — what your widgets are all about. 

Storytelling is a chance to get creative with your marketing, but don’t think you have to spend all your time brainstorming story ideas.  You do, of course, have a business to run.  The point is simply to put your marketing messages in a form that will get them read.  Tell your story; tell your customers’ stories; and throw in some product benefits for good measure.

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