Story has been trending for some time as the cure-all for creating engaging content – presentations, blogs, sales pages, a PR-blurbs, newsletters, etc. Story, apparently, is the fast-track to connecting us!
Neuroscience shows that story ticks all the important boxes to create impact. It touches us deeply, releases ‘happy hormones’, builds relationships, supports memory, makes identification easier and quicker, etc. etc. And the relevance of all that for business was reduced to one goal? Story sells!
So, everyone scrambled onto the storytelling bandwagon to grab the attention the masses with their manipulative stories and to sell, sell sell.
However, the wheels soon began to fall off that bandwagon – for obvious reasons.
How story gets our attention and holds it
According to recent research, we are not suffering from a growing attention deficit. We’ve just become more selective about where we focus our attention.
Simply put, if something is boring, irrelevant, repetitive, re-cycled, manipulative we switch off almost immediately. If something arouses our curiosity, engages us, we can’t seem to get enough of it – we ‘binge’ on it!
Back to that stationary storytelling bandwagon mentioned above. Story in itself does not make engaging content. According to the same research findings, the winners on getting our attention and holding it are: “compelling stories” combined with “compelling visuals”! Note the word COMPELLING here!
How do you tell a “compelling” story?
A good way to answer that is to flip the question. Why does a story not grab our attention and hold it?
Here’s a few basics ‘Don’ts’.
- Your story is a thinly disguised sales pitch! People do not like to feel they are being manipulated or have their trust abused. Do not promise to tell a ‘story’ when you really intend to sell!
- Your stories are monologues about you. To make a story engaging, the audience has to identify with it and want to own it. It gets boring very quickly when you constantly talk about the same character – you!
- The story you tell is not relevant for the audience. Just because you think a particular story is good, interesting, funny, worked for others, etc., doesn’t mean it’s relevant! Always ask yourself before adding a story, “How does this story help the audience understand the point I’m making?”
- Your story is too long. For example, if you include stories in your 20- minute-presentation, then make sure that each story is about 2-3 minutes long – and only use 2-3 stories.
- You waste too much of your audience’s time on the backstory. Get to the primary story the goal, the problem, the challenge straight away and briefly include the backstory as the main story unfolds.
- Your story isn’t integrated into your content. Too often the story feels part of a ‘cut and paste’ activity. It interrupts the message instead of illuminating it. It takes know-how and practice to seamlessly integrate a story into your content, so that it feels ‘compelling” for the audience.
The goal of all our communication is to create connection, inspire engagement and start a dialogue
Through dialogue we organically build trust by adding value that invites participation, inspires action and eventually investment. Knowing how to integrate a “compelling” story into your dialogue is a powerful tool to achieve this. It’s also the quickest way to get off the storytelling bandwagon – for good!
If you want to find out more about how to do this, make an appointment and let’s talk about dialogue!Learn More
I love going to local markets. Apart from my interest in hand-made, sustainable items and quirky creations, I am curious about the ‘marketing’ approach at each stall – how do the semi-professionals and the amateurs sell their products?
Unfortunately, very similar to how big stores, small stores and huge conglomerates sell. Some personalise the whole experience and you end up buying a product imbued with love, care, skill and a great story. Others are just there to move merchandise as quickly and profitably as possible.
When we give value, we don’t need to sell
Here’s why I love to buy at my local market, whether seasonal or regular. Maria sells clothes made from recycled and ethically-sourced materials at my local flea market. As I browsed her rack of skirts we chatted about the various materials she works with and why some are not up to her ethical standards – yet. But she’s working on it with the help of her family back home and her business partner, who does the sowing and helps out with the design. When I handed her a skirt to try on she advised me that it didn’t suit my size or shape (I’m on the smallish, skinny side). She’d have a wider selection ready for next week – if I was around again.
Story trumps hustle
Guess what? I did call again and I bought two! I didn’t just buy two skirts. I bought the stories woven into the fabric of those two skirts – of Maria’s family in Central America, of her small workshop with her business partner in Berlin where they rotate parenting with running a new business and of how challenging it is to live your sustainability standards working in fashion. I’ve shared the story of my skirts with everyone who asks me about them and tell them where they buy them.
Don’t Sell Scarcity
Last weekend I visited our local Christmas Market to find a new winter cap – handmade, soft, warm, colourful and made for small heads. WhiIe trying on one in my favourite colour, I asked the stall owner if she made the caps herself. She evaded my question, but immediately remarked on how much the cap suited me. The mirror clearly told me otherwise. While trying on another one, I asked her where she sources the wool . This time I got an abrupt response that ignored my question, before she declared with authority that this cap definitely suited me better. The pompon was bigger than my head! As I put it back with the others, she then delivered the conventional sales pitch. Her caps were selling so quickly they’d all be gone very soon.
I don’t buy scarcity or desperation, so I left her stall and continued to browse.
We buy connections, not commodities
Whether you stand behind a market stall, offer online courses or the latest technical invention the same rule applies: We are in the market for good stories, told by people who show us they care and ones we can share with others. Or, in the words of the marketing guru, Seth Godin: “People don’t buy goods and services. They buy relationships, stories and magic.”
As I wandered through the stalls afterwards, I smelled the magic of the market wafting through the crowds. I followed that smell to the mulled wine stall and gladly joined the queue.Learn More