You’re telling a story.
Whether you know it or not, or intend to or not … you absolutely are.
Everything you do to market your business is another paragraph, page, or chapter in the story people hear from you. And the story people hear is the one they act (or don’t act) on, and repeat (or don’t repeat) to others.
Now, it’s not necessarily fatal if you’re not aware you’re telling a story, and you’ll never completely control your story anyway. But purposeful storytelling is the mark of the great novelist, screenwriter, and playwright — and purposeful marketing stories are a sure sign of a great content marketer.
So why not tell your story on purpose? Here’s how.
1. Know your audience
The battle is won or lost, right here. Put me up against the greatest writer in the world, and if I understand the audience better, I will kick his or her ass every time when it comes to connection, engagement, and conversion.
What do you need to know? You need to know whom they admire, and what they aspire to, despise, fear, and cherish.
Instead of sitting around dreaming up content you guess people might react favorably to, you tell an educated story based on one or more archetypal individuals who represent the whole.
Understanding your audience at such an intimate level makes creating buyer personas important. It also helps you be a part of the market you’re speaking to, which results in a more authentic story and easier leadership of the community you form.
Research doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s the foundation of any smart marketing plan. The more time you spend understanding the people you’re talking to, the better story you’ll tell them.
2. Select your frame
When you know your audience well, what you’re really tuning in to is the way your people view the world. And when you understand the worldview your prospects share — the things they believe — you can frame your story in a way that resonates so strongly with them that you enjoy an “unfair” advantage over your competition.
Consider these competing worldviews, framed differently by simple word choice:
- Fitness Enthusiast vs. Gym Rat
- Progressive vs. Moonbat
- Businessman vs. The Man
These are extreme examples, and you can cater to audience beliefs and worldviews without resorting to name-calling. For example, the simple word “green” can provoke visceral reactions at the far sides of the environmental worldview spectrum, while also prompting less-intense emotions in the vast middle.
Framing your story against a polar opposite, by definition, will make some love you and others ignore or even despise you. That’s not only okay, it’s necessary.
You’ll likely never convert those at the other end of the spectrum, but your core base will share your content and help you penetrate the vast group in the middle — and that’s where growth comes from.
3. Choose your premise
The premise is the way you choose to tell the story so that you get the conclusion you desire. It’s the delivery of the framed message with dramatic tension and one or more relatable heroes so that your goals are achieved.
- It’s the hook, the angle, the purple cow.
- It’s the difference between a good story and an ignored story.
- It’s the clear path between attention and action.
It’s important to understand the difference between the beliefs or worldview of your audience (the frame) and the expression of that belief or worldview back to them.
Think about your favorite novel or film … the same information could have been transmitted another way, but just not as well. In fact, stories have been retold over and over throughout the ages — some are just better told than others.
Content marketing as storytelling
“Marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldviews come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them cost-effectively.” – Seth Godin
That’s exactly what content marketing allows you to do. In fact, it’s the most cost-effective (and just plain ol’ effective) online marketing method ever devised when done properly.
Even better, people aren’t just coming together. They’re coming together around you.
You’re telling a story.
Why not make it remarkable?
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Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on December 2, 2010.
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