Creating a Story

Posted on May 28, 2015 by Gilbert S

storytellingOne of the best marketing ideas for small businesses: give every customer a story to tell.

Think about how you relate to the brands that mean something to you. Maybe you loved a certain musical performer in middle school so you bought all their songs on iTunes the first chance you got. You may love Coca Cola because you remember sipping Cokes on a beach with your first girlfriend or boyfriend. Maybe the best used car you ever drove was a Honda and it ran for a good eight years, so you’ve been a loyal Honda driver ever since. Chances are, if you’re loyal to a brand, you have a story to go with it.

Being the best at what you do doesn’t cut it. “Best” and “favorite” are two different things, and Citizen Kane may be the “best movie ever” according to many critics, but we’re willing to bet that a theatrical re-release wouldn’t earn nearly the box office revenue that a theatrical re-release for Star Wars might.

It’s easy for big brands to secure a new generation of devotees through these emotional connections: they permeate the culture. Coca Cola is everywhere, and sooner or later, you’re going to have an emotional experience with the brand. If some dweeb at a bar spills his soda all over you, that soda is a lot more likely to be a Coke product than a Shasta.

You, as a small business owner, have a much shorter window of opportunity in which to give your customer a story worth telling.

An example of a story that works: 8Bit Zombie is a website that sells t-shirts and various trinkets related to 80’s nostalgia. If you buy, say, a replica of Roddy Piper’s sunglasses from They Live, the package will arrive with a goodie bag full of sour candies, buttons and trading cards, all with an 80’s pop culture theme. This is a very literal interpretation of Seth Godin’s “Free prize inside.” These little prizes deliver what the customer wants: a brief trip back to their childhood. They simply send you more than you expect, and this gives you a story to tell a friend about the brand.

So here’s the question: how do we do this with content marketing? How do you create an emotional connection to your brand when all you’ve got is maybe 100-500 words in which to get your message across?

First- make sure that you’re providing relevant content for free so that your customer might want to subscribe to your feed even if they don’t intend to ever buy anything from you.

Second- make sure that if they do buy something from you, they’ll have a reason to tell somebody. Hint: “It does exactly what it said it would do in the description on the Amazon page” is not an interesting story.

Gilbert S is a writer and artist who lives in rural New Mexico with his wife and his dog, Sir Kay.


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