Good storytelling has become an essential skill for businesses in the digital age. Yes, there is great value in optimizing your website and blog posts for the search engines.
But you know what? Search engines don’t buy your product or service.
So unless you tell a story that customers (a.k.a. – human beings) believe, you’re wasting your time.
For centuries, history was passed down by word-of-mouth through rich, descriptive stories.
Today, facts and figures are just the click of a mouse or swipe of a screen away. Consumers have access to more information than they could ever consume in a lifetime. But even the most compelling statistics won’t help your business make a sale unless you can put them into context and/or create an emotional connection with your audience.
So why should we, as business owners, care about telling a good story?
“The better your story resonates with your customers, the more willing they will be to share it on your behalf.” Tweet This Quote
And the more willing they are to share it (both online and off), the more likely you are to earn new customers – and greater sales. So without further ado, here is our four-step approach on how to craft an unforgettable story for your business.
Problem, Agitate, Solve
Even in a digital era, certain concepts still remain valuable. I first learned “Problem, Agitate, Solve” from Dan Kennedy’s classic book, The Ultimate Sales Letter. The technique is fairly straight-forward: identify the biggest pain point of your customer(s), agitate the problem (throw some salt on the wound), and then offer up a solution.
Do This - Spend 5 minutes in your ideal customer’s shoes. What are the biggest challenges, obstacles, and problems he/she faces that your business can solve?
Come up with as many variations as possible and write them out as quickly as they pop into your head. Jot down everything; no problem is too small or insignificant. Quantity breeds quality, so let ‘er rip.
Edit, Edit, Edit
Now that you’ve listed out the biggest pain points your customers have, it’s time to condense.
You will likely notice that many of the problems you recorded fall into two or three main categories. This is good, as it will help you to demonstrate solutions more quickly.
One of the biggest mistakes we see small business make when marketing themselves (both online and off) is a lack of focus in their brand promise.
Brevity is especially important online.
It is estimated that the average visitor to a website spends somewhere between 8 and 30 seconds on any given web page. Do visitors “get” what your company has to offer in 10 seconds? If not, you’re trying to say too much. And when you say too much, you end up saying nothing at all.
(SIDENOTE: ChatterJet worked to refine our message over and over again, until we landed on a short, succinct and accurate delivery of our brand promise: “Your entire social media campaign in 5 minutes a day.” Paired with the visual representation of our service (an email packed with tweets and posts), we feel we’ve got it as short and sweet as possible.)
Use the SUCCESs Formula
Want your site to “go viral?” So does every other website owner in the world.
Not surprisingly, only a small handful do. But what is surprising is that you’ll find many of the top breakout sites share some shocking similarities.
In Dan and Chip Heath’s 2007 best-selling book Made to Stick, the authors create their own framework to explain why some ideas survive and others die. They argue that the most memorable and shared stories contain a consistent set of traits, which they outline in their own “sticky” SUCCESs formula:
- Simple: A sticky story is one that is easy to grasp and understand almost immediately.
- Unexpected: Use an unexpected twist to help grab your audience’s attention.
- Credible: Ideas are infinitely more believable when there are statistics or sources backing your argument.
- Concrete: People have a hard time grasping abstract concepts. Work to make your solutions as concrete as possible.
- Emotional: Emotions are what set humans apart. Do your best to tap into the sadness/anger/pain/joy/happiness that your customers will have before and after they do business with you when crafting your message.
- Stories: People love to share stories; the better the story, the more likely they are to share it. “A service that helps small business with social media” is much less interesting than “a jet that helps small businesses take flight online.” How can a story help your company?
Create a Tangible Call-to-Action
You’re almost there. Can you taste it? You have now successfully identified your customers’ biggest problems, agitated those problems with unexpected, emotional stories, and delivered your value proposition simply and concretely.
Now it’s time to craft a tangible call-to-action for your audience. This doesn’t necessarily mean adding a big “Buy It Now” button on your website, but it should be something (or a series of things) that prospects can act on when they have decided to make a “buying” decision with your company.
Each situation is unique, based on what your company has to offer. The goal is to make the
- Sell the Lifestyle (Personal Value) – Apple is the best in the business at this approach. You will never, ever see a commercial for a discounted iPad. Why? Because they focus on selling the lifestyle their products offer. And when you tell your product’s story as eloquently as they do, financial value becomes much less of a concern in the eyes of the customer.
- Sell the Savings (Financial Value) – On the other end of the spectrum, Groupon’s primary value proposition is deep discounts on the things and places you already love. Customers flock to and continually buy from Groupon, not because of the uniqueness of the deals but because they are cheap.
- Sell the Benefits (Strategic Value) – Last but not least, proving the strategic value of a product or service is especially useful when selling B2B. (“You can either hire an intern who doesn’t know what he’s doing at $10 an hour to run your social media, or you can subscribe to ChatterJet for $29 a month.” Now THAT’S a benefit.)
Creating an unforgettable story isn’t rocket science, but it is one of the most underrated tasks a small business can perform. Take some time this morning or this afternoon to go through the four steps to and craft your own messaging. The sooner you can streamline your message, the greater the likelihood of increasing your online conversions.
Come up with something you love? Getting close but hit a roadblock? Drop your progress into the Comments section below and we’ll give you our feedback.