How To Improve Your Sales Emphatically Through Storytelling

By zhiyuan on May 15, 2015

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The Psychology of Storytelling

Which marketing approach is more appealing to you:

“Cold, hard facts about a product’s nutritional value and a long list of indecipherable and obscure ingredients.”

Or

“A compelling story about one company’s mission to bring the sweet tang of blueberries and the comforting warmth of a bowl of oatmeal to kitchen tables throughout the entire world”?

Although both may be true of a particular brand, it’s pretty clear that the second option is more interesting.

But why? Because the story appeals to personal emotions and engages sensory triggers, and this is what we, as humans and consumers, desire most in the way that we gather information.

Storytelling is What Sets Your Brand Apart from the Competition

Don’t just take our word for it. Numerous studies have proven time and again that our brains are hardwired to prefer storytelling in marketing over raw data. This is because evolution has wired our brains for storytelling.

When reading straight data, only the language parts of the brain light up to decipher the meaning. When a story is read, on the other hand, the language parts of the brain are joined by any other part of the brain that would be activated if the reader were actually experiencing the story themselves.

In other words, it’s easier for us to recall stories than facts because our brains don’t make much of a distinction between an experience we’re reading about and an experience that’s actually happening to us.

Watch this video to know more about the science behind storytelling.

So what does this mean for your marketing strategy?

Simply put, by effectively practicing the art of storytelling in marketing, you can better connect with your consumer audience and compel buyers to choose your brand. The more that your message resonates with people, the more likely they are to make a buying decision and pass your story on to others.

When we tell stories to others that have really helped us shape our thinking and way of life, we can have the same effect on them too. The brains of the person telling a story and listening to it can synchronize, says Uri Hasson from Princeton:

“When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized. When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too. When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.”

Neural Coupling Model

Anything you’ve experienced, you can get others to experience the same. Or at least, get their brain areas that you’ve activated that way, active too.

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The Psychology of Storytelling in Marketing

Storytelling_and the brain

Before you can actually put your story together, you need to understand how to use this strategy to connect with consumers on an emotional level. Psychology Today highlights the consumer behaviors that enable storytelling to influence the decision to make a purchase and establish brand loyalty.

Take a look at these 4 points and what they mean for you. We’ll delve into how to best apply these points to your marketing strategy a bit later…

  • First, the important thing to know is that as customers evaluate brands, they will primarily make use of their emotions over actual information (like product facts and features or specific brand attributes). This means that your marketing approach should put far more emphasis on personalized storytelling than on hard data.
  • Secondly, keep in mind that research has proven that a consumer’s emotional response to an ad is far more likely to influence their intent to purchase a product than does the ad’s content – by a factor of 3-to-1 for TV commercials and by a factor of 2-to-1 for printed ads. Therefore, your advertising efforts must be focused in on how your customers will feel about the message over what the message actually says.
  • Third, you should be familiar with research conducted by The Advertising Research Foundation. The Foundation has found conclusive evidence that the emotion of “likeability” is the most predictive measure of whether or not an advertisement will boost a brand’s sales. As a result, it’s imperative that you know exactly what your consumer’s desire and are looking for.
  • Finally, consider consumer loyalty. Think that selling a reliable product and offering fair prices is enough to keep your customer’s happy? Studies have proven that positive emotions toward a brand are a much stronger influence on brand loyalty than trust and judgments based on that brand’s attributes. Be constantly aware of your customer’s evolving needs.

This data provides you with the information on why storytelling is such a valuable marketing tool, but it doesn’t tell you how to go about finding stories that will appeal to consumers and positively impact sales and brand image. Let’s take a look at best practices for developing your story…

John Lewis’ 2013 Christmas Advert is an example of marketing through storytelling that has been done exceptionally well.

The Fundamentals of Storytelling in Marketing

Storytelling in marketing

Storytelling in marketing involves far more than weaving some imaginary tale in an attempt to impress your consumer audience.

Instead of crafting a fictional story, you need to take the time to find your story – a story specific to your brand that will enable your customers to relate to you. Here’s how to go about doing just that:

Know Your Brand

It may seem obvious, but the first step to good storytelling in marketing is to actually having a working understanding of what your brand is and what it stands for.

In order to be successful, every business needs to meet a specific market demand – what problems does your brand actually solve?

Be aware of what you have to offer to your customers, and which types of consumers will actually need to have these specific needs met.

Take the time to figure out what types of problems your customers are faced with and what drives them to begin seeking out a solution. Learn about the questions and concerns they may have had prior to making a buying decision, and what drove them to your brand and your solution on an emotional level.

This will enable you to create an in-depth profile of your target audience so that you can create customized content that will tell a story that is appealing to them on a personal level.

Define Your “It” Factor

There may be a number of competing brands at any given time that offer goods and services comparable to yours. So what is it that actually sets you apart and makes you different – better?

Instead of just compiling a list of facts and features, work to list factors that will speak to consumer emotions. Detail your brand’s values, develop insights into your team, and state what it is that you believe in.

Understand Your Customers

We already took a look at creating a customer profile, but don’t just stop there. Beyond determining what it is that makes your customers tick in terms of finding a solution to their problems, you should know your existing and prospective clientele inside out.

Take the time to learn what your consumer audience really wants out of life, including hopes, dreams, goals, and aspirations. This will enable you to align your brand with your customers on a deeper level than ever before.

Put It All Together

By taking what you know about your brand, your defining qualities, and your customers you can create an umbrella theme that ties your entire story together. This is a summation of who you are as a brand that will make it clear to your target audience exactly what you stand for.

The Art of Storytelling in Marketing

The art of storytelling

Now that you’ve taken what you know and developed a rock solid theme for your brand, you’re ready to actually put your story together.

The best instances of storytelling in marketing typically come directly from customers or the people that you serve. The great thing about going this direction with your story is that it will be easy for others to relate to, it actually happened, and you won’t have to put a lot of work into developing your content.

You can take customer stories “as is”, or you might make the decision to put your own spin on things. In either instance, there are several things you should keep in mind as you tell the story:

Keep It Real

Consumers want an honest, authentic story from your brand and they will se right through something that isn’t true to your brand message. It’s always wise to try to use actual details like names, settings, and outcomes in storytelling for marketing.

Establish Strong Characters

Image source: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Spider-Man-versus-Venom-155238163
Image source: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Spider-Man-versus-Venom-155238163

Every good story needs a hero and a villain. In storytelling for marketing, you should consider consumer problems to be your villains and the solutions that you have to offer should be portrayed as the heroes. Creating a relatable hero will pull your audience into your story and help them to better identify with your brand.

Appeal to Senses

Our senses are strongly tied in with emotions and memory and, as we have seen, emotions are a key part of consumer decision-making. The more the senses are stimulated within your story, the more likely it is that consumers will remember the message and respond to it in the future.

Choose and Cater to the Format

Any medium can be used for storytelling in marketing, from blogs to social media to multimedia. Every different medium will work to elicit a different reaction from consumers. As such, your stories must be tailored to fit the medium being used. You may need to adapt the story to fit specific constraints.

For example, to reach out to Twitter followers, you’ll need to narrow the story down to 140 characters whereas, in other instances, you may need to create a multi-episodic video series.

Be Smart with Structure and Pace

A solid story has an introduction, a conflict, and a resolution. Sticking with this structural format is essential to getting the most out of your marketing strategy.

It’s also smart to not give everything away all at once. Perpetuate your marketing by adding continuous updates to the story. You might even consider including “Watch This Space” hooks to ensure that readers get hooked on your stories and keep coming back for more.

Conclusion

Storytelling in marketing is the key to attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. There may be a lot of content and stories out there, but when you know how to properly put yours together, you’ll gain a competitive edge.

So, do you have a story to tell?

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    Updated: 21 November 2017

    Zhi Yuan

    About Zhi Yuan

    Zhi Yuan is an inbound marketer who has expertise in both SEO and content marketing. He is on a never-ending quest to understand the mysteries of the search engine world, and sometimes, on his way to the ice-cream parlor.

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