How to Use the Power of Storytelling Through Content Marketing to Connect with Customers and Tell Your Brand Story
Two years ago on the beach in the Dominican Republic, I decided to crack open a book while my husband peacefully napped back in our room. I had promised I wouldn’t work while on vacation, but there was something about the title of this book that kept pulling me in, and if he was napping. Who would know?
Well, two hours later when he came strolling out to the beach, towel in one hand and cerveza in the other, I was busted. The book was so fascinating that I couldn’t put it down, and I didn’t even notice that I had already read half the book!
When we returned from vacation, I immediately began implementing the practices I had learned from the book into both my business and my clients. It completely changed the way I created content from that day forward.
The book was Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller and I highly recommend you grab yourself a copy right now.
Honestly, what is it about stories that the human brain finds so intriguing?
For thousands of years, people have been telling stories around campfires, at the watercooler, at parties, at Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone loves a good story. They inspire us, fuel our imagination, and invoke emotion.
Whether you realize it or not, stories are in the content you consume through TV, radio, and print every single day. But it wasn’t until the last few years that it became popular amongst business owners.
In 2017, Donald Miller wrote a book breaking down this “story” framework and then used that same framework to grow his own business from $250k in yearly revenue to a multi-million dollar company in just 3 short years.
Coined the S7 framework, Donald Miller explains how for years, Hollywood writers have been using seven key elements when writing their scripts, and how most scripts that don’t follow this framework usually end up being major flops.
Seriously, once you read the book and learn the seven key elements of great storytelling, you will never be able to watch another movie, tv-show, or commercial without annoying the people around you as you continually break down the plot as it happens…
He goes on to say that there is a more advanced version of this framework, but as long as you cover those key points within any content you create, you will find success.
You see, the magic comes when he provides real-life stories of how the S7 framework has helped business owners invite customers into a story, and by doing so how they’ve successfully converted more viewers into customers, acquired better customers, and have successfully grown their business after years of plateauing because of it.
Not only will utilizing the power of story help you clarify your message so your customers will listen (and in turn help your business grow), but the S7 framework is so simple that once you learn it, it just makes sense!
“If your content is valuable and speaks to those pain points, you’re going to attract a highly qualified following. Don’t hesitate to boldly ask for the sale. People are going to be ready and downright excited to do business with you because they already like you, know you, and trust you.”
– Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand & Marketing Made Simple
When you invite your customers into a story, you’ll deepen the connection with them and those connections will begin to build trust. Over time that trust creates a relationship, and building relationships will lead people to want to buy from you.
Whether willing to admit it or not, most people tend to make purchases based on emotions. They are not drawn to the best products, they’re drawn to the ones that speak to a specific need the fastest.
It is only then that your “rational” brain begins to work through your subconscious checklist of requirements to satisfy itself with the purchase your “emotional” brain has just made.
What is this framework and how can you use it in your marketing?
Every good story contains seven key elements – the hero, the problem, the guide, the plan, the action, the stakes, and finally.. the happy ending.
These seven key elements of any story will become the framework you will utilize in all of your content marketing moving forward.
By using the story framework, your customers will ultimately pay attention to your message and understand it. You will build better relationships with your customers, and transform the way you talk about your business, as well as the unique value you provide your customers.
When you showcase the value you can provide and your understanding of your customers, you will truly set yourself apart from your competitors. Businesses with a clear message grow and thrive… And for businesses that don’t, well, in the words of Donald Miller – “If you confuse, you’ll lose”.
Let’s break down a few of these elements:
The Customer is the Hero of any Good Story
Every good story needs a hero, but note that you, the marketer, are NOT the hero of the story, your customer is!
Most companies spend a lot of time talking about themselves, but they never actually get around to talking about their customers.
- We’re the best in the business.
- We have the greatest products or services.
- We outshine our competitors at everything.
- We have all the best equipment.
Stop we-ing all over your customers! On average a business will use the word “we” roughly 20 times for every one mention of their customers.
From this day forward, you are going to pledge to yourself that you will no longer make your content about yourself. Think about how your customers want to be perceived by others when using your product.
- Do they want to be seen as rough and rugged in your hiking gear?
- Do they want to be elegant and chic in your designer sunglasses?
- Do they want to be the envy of the neighborhood with the nicest landscaping on the block?
Now capture that feeling. Because THAT is how you are going to start your story content marketing.
The Problem Exposed from Print, Web, or Social Media Content
Once you’ve captured the aspirations of your customers, the next step is to define the problem that led them to your product or service and how that problem is making them feel. In the story, the problem is always the hook, it’s what keeps the audience interested as they’ll want to know what happens next. If we don’t hook your customer in and capture their attention, they may not stick around.
To create the hook, we’re going to use empathetic statements to describe your customers’ problem, and then clearly define how our brand solves it. The more you focus on the problems your customers are facing, the more interest they will have in your content.
Here are a few good examples of a problem statement:
- From an online course for mothers returning to work after maternity leave:
Let’s be honest, waking up to a cluttered closet isn’t the greatest feeling. You may not realize it, but it subconsciously sets the tone for the rest of your day. In this article, we’re going to give you the tools needed to clear clutter, shop smart, and feel fabulous!
- From a commercial power washing company:
No one wants to eat on a dirty patio and no one wants to shop at a dirty store. There’s nothing that changes a customer’s mind about doing business with you faster than a property that looks unattractive, unhealthy, or poorly maintained. Read on to discover how to make the best impression on your customers before they even walk through the door!
From an orthopedic seat cushion company:
Most people suffer from poor posture, pain in their knees, hips, or feet, or numbness in their legs but never do anything about it thinking it’s just a part of aging. We want you to know that life doesn’t need to feel this way!
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The Brand Storytelling Action
Regardless of the content, your end goal should always remain the same, to encourage your customer to take some form of action.
I can’t tell you how many business owners create great content, but then never tell the reader what they should do next. It’s the equivalent of opening a store, but not including a cash register so people can make a purchase.
While it may seem obvious to you that you’d like the reader to download a guide or make a purchase, it may not be entirely obvious to the reader. By not asking them to take a specific action, you are leaving money on the table.
Take a minute to go back over some of your most recent content and see if you can easily distinguish what action you would like the reader to take after reading.
If your content is a blog, you can easily correct your past articles by inserting a Call To Action (or CTA) at the end of each post asking the reader to do something specific–such as downloading a free guide (which is a great way to collect emails by the way).
The Call To Action should be specific and clear, a few examples include:
- If you wanted someone to download lead gen, checklist, or white paper to collect an email address, which you can then use in your email marketing strategy:
Title: FREE DOWNLOAD: Download our guide and discover 5 Tips for “X”
CTA: Enter your email address
NOTE: You can use a service like Opt-in Monster to easily create and implement email sign-up forms in your content.
- If you’d like the reader to contact you for some sort of program or call:
Title: Join the “X” Coaching Program
CTA: If you’d like the opportunity to work with me directly to improve your “X”, click here to contact me directly.
- If you’d like the reader to purchase the product you mention in your content:
CTA: You can learn more about “X” product, as well as purchase your own by visiting URL.com
Final Thoughts for Marketing Campaigns
Just like any great movie script, it takes all seven key pieces to hook a reader in, keep them interested, and take them on a journey from visitor to customer.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, those movies that pick and choose only a few pieces of the story framework to end up being box office flops. I encourage you not to make the same mistake with your content marketing.
As long as you set your digital marketing goal toward creating a great story, speaking directly to the pain points of your target audience clearly and concisely, and show empathy within your message, you’ll be light years ahead of your competitors.
One final word of advice, don’t forget to ask for the sale!