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How to Tell a Good Marketing Story: Don't Talk About Yourself

Business.com / Last Modified: January 10, 2018
Photo credit: Tuan_Azizi/Shutterstock

The biggest mistake I see businesses make with their marketing is they talk about themselves. There is a better way ... tell a story instead.

Telling a good brand story is essential to communicating with and engaging your audience

The most prominent mistake I see, continuously, across industries and company size is people and companies talking about themselves and providing facts about their business. 

I can just go to my LinkedIn and grab just about any Inmail I have received. Here's one example:

"I am the co-founder of an innovative AI company based in Silicon Valley.

Our A.I. travel manager lets employees reserve flights which they can book, change and cancel simply by chatting with her."

 

Dozens of these emails show up in my inbox every month. I picked this one because it was well written and concise. Most of the emails in my inbox go on for paragraphs and include all caps and lots of exclamation points.  

Regardless, they all blend into the noisy background of social media and electronic communications. These appeals just aren't interesting enough to pique my interest, and I don't have the energy to decipher why they might be interesting.  

This is the challenge we face when designing marketing messages: People aren't interested in you. In fact, in marketing your product or service, it is not about you. In fact, it is never about you.

And just to add water to the fire, your audience won't do the work to understand why what you do matters to them. 

Start telling a story

To market efficiently, stop talking about yourself and informing your market. It doesn't work, and you are wasting your time. Instead, start engaging with consumers in a way that speaks to their needs and draws them into your solution. 

This may sound daunting, but the good news is that humanity has been working on this problem for millennia. And it isn't difficult at all. You just have to follow a storytelling framework.   

You can see this framework at work in fairy tales and Hollywood and large marketing campaigns. Everybody remembers Cinderella, and most people know the Star Wars story – even those who haven't seen the movies get the gist.  

The Most Interesting Man is inexorably linked to Dos Equis, and Tesla is enabling us to change the world one electron at a time. That is because all of these examples tell good stories. To connect with your market: you just need to follow the same framework. Tell a good brand story.

What a story looks like

There is a simple outline to follow, which includes the following five elements: 

  1. The audience is always the hero.  

  2. Your hero wants something that they don't have.  

  3. There is a reason why your hero can't achieve what they are trying to achieve.  

  4. You are the mentor who will help the audience achieve what they want by overcoming the villain. 

  5. You have a clear call to action with explicit stakes.

You don't always have to tell the full story, and you'll change the order to tell it in a way that works for your audience. But you should know these five pieces and how they fit together. 

If we bring this back to the AI travel example above, the story may focus on the problem that their target customers have with travel and how their product solves the problem. Maybe their new pitch looks something like this:

We help small and medium-sized companies save time and money when managing their travel.

The problem is the complexity of booking and changing travel plans and then tracking expenses. This can take an inordinate amount of time, and the solutions that exist are difficult and costly.

We have an AI solution that designed to help small and medium businesses specifically. Our product can save you money, time and effort while providing much better records. And it is easy to use.

Just respond to this e-mail and we can set up a few minutes to talk about how you can avoid travel cost blowout, travel more efficiently and get more done. 

 

If you are trying to grow your business and stand out, don't talk about yourself. Talk about your customer and their problems. 

Create a brand story that engages with your customer. This isn't hard, and it can make your marketing monumentally more effective.  

I am passionate about making stories work and would love to see examples of what you create.

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