Despite fluctuations in our economy, it seems fair to say that by and large we live in a time of abundance. Retail stores offer a dizzying variety of all manner of goods, from dishwashing gloves and trash cans to any conceivable ply of toilet paper your heart or hind-end desires.
While variety may be the spice of life, it can also be overwhelming. With all that choice, what do you buy? This is a crucial question to ask yourself, because it’s what your clients and customers will be asking, too. When people are faced with your product or service on the Internet or store shelves, how do you distinguish yourself from the rest?
The answer will often boil down to one factor: story.
Think about the last purchasing decision you made. Was it in some way based on the story behind the product or company that made it? If it’s dishwashing soap, maybe you just buy whatever is cheapest — or maybe not. Did mom have a favorite brand she raised you on that you now buy because of that story? Or do you seek out an environmentally-friendly brand because the story of what the steeper price implies for the planet?
For better or worse, an emotional connection to a product or service through the story of what it is and why it exists will influence people’s purchasing decisions. This is why knowing your niche and perfecting your brand story is so crucial. Obviously that story also needs to include quality and value, (that doesn’t have to mean a low price but the value behind the price needs to make sense) but there’s more to your brand’s story than pricing alone.
Here are three ways to make your brand strategy employ good storytelling techniques for success:
Match your story to your style. Is your business style quirky and bright? Funny and innovative? Conservative and established? Whatever your corporate tone, you should match your story to your style for authenticity. Think of Apple’s branding, which is instantly recognizable and matches the style of their products. It’s simple, easy and clean. Nothing feels more forced than a conservative company trying to toss around a hipster-casual #hashtag. Equally as irritating is a new startup trying to market its products like the oldest store on the block. Make sure the story of your product is told through the style of your culture.
Make an emotional connection. This isn’t about making all your clients weep with some harrowing tale of loss or redemption (although you certainly can — it worked in Google Glass’s Mother’s Day commercial), it’s about conveying a true emotional connection with your clients about what they need and what you provide. Tell the story of your amazing individual employees. Share success stories and testimonials of others who have benefitted from your product. Tell stories that matter — whether they’re humorous, heartwarming or inspiring. Help others make an emotional connection to you and they’ll always return to your brand. As Simon Sinek said in his TED Talk, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Make it easy to share. There’s a reason it’s called “storytelling.” People want to tell and share a great story with others. With so many social-media outlets and tools for sharing, make it easy for organic word to spread about your story. If you think storytelling isn’t important, just take a moment to look at any Facebook page, Twitter feed or Reddit thread and you will soon realize they all feature stories in some form. Ensure your brand’s message can spread by incorporating all the calls-to-action, share widgets and social tools your clients will need to spread the word.
Matthew Torren is a Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com