The Art of Storytelling – Knowing the best way to communicate and reach out to your audience throughout the marketing and sales cycles.
We all love a good story, and it’s not just the story itself that draws you in wanting for more, but it’s how the story is communicated through the tone, language, structure, character profiles and messaging which allows your mind to project clear, precise images and emotions of what the words are invoking as they unfold.
These are just some of the areas that need careful consideration when you wish to communicate your Why, How and What to your designated audiences. You also need to decide how you are going to frame the content in a persuasive, engaging and evocative dialogue that emulates your organisation’s personality.
Everything you communicate must relate to your brand and identity, it must ensure consistency and clarity of who you are as an organisation, and why you do what you do. This applies to both internal and external messages. It also relates to the various communication methods and tactics you employ to express your messages: email marketing, social media advertising, videos, online and other paid advertising, whitepapers, e-books, events…the list goes on.
I have already discussed the importance of audience identification and profiling, data segmentation and identifying the right communication channels in previous articles, so let’s take this a step further and look at what’s involved in crafting “Your Story” to attract the right audience.
Your story needs structure, what better way to determine that structure than by leveraging your business and/or technology roadmap. If you have already defined your objectives and milestones for the year, build out your story accordingly. Not only will your Roadmap determine your ‘topics’ and the flow (sequence) in which they need to be told, but it will help you identify who will be interested in each of those ‘topics’ to direct your messages.
Your Roadmap, and therefore flow of your story, should be about taking your audience on a journey. Just remember, that while the focus of the story is about your organisation and where it is heading, the only way it will resonate is if you frame the content and context from your audience’s perspective. Ask yourself: Why should they be interested in our story? How are we addressing their issues? What will inspire them to want more?
2. Who’s telling the story?
Not one person in your organisation is going to tell your story the same as anyone else. You can develop Playbooks and create various sales communication tools, but depending on one’s personality and their role within the organisation, you will find that they each bring their own flare – some more than others. What you want to strive for is consistency in your messaging, no matter whether it’s being delivered by your Sales, Marketing or Technical Director, your CFO, or an intern. But above all, you need the team to use persuasive, positive language and tones to achieve the desired impact.Here are a few questions to consider prior to telling your story:
- Are you in a positive frame of mind? This will affect your language, tone, emotion, volume, pace, whether talking on the phone, meeting in person, drafting a proposal or emailing.
- How should you construct an email introduction to a cold versus warm prospect?
- Have you researched the person, company or industry you are reaching out to so your story resonates in alignment with their needs or pain points?
- Is there a specific Call To Action (CTA) you would like to achieve?
3. It’s not just the words that matter
No one knows who coined the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but whomever did, they were on the money! Websites, eDMs, data sheets, social media graphics, invitations, advertising, presentations, videos – there are so many applications and tactics which require appropriate and relevant graphics to communicate your story and brand. The art in finding the right ones, or employing someone to create them for you is crucially important.Whether you’re looking for images which personify your brand, or charts, diagrams or graphs to help your audience visualise complex data, ensure the quality of the image is high enough for the purpose it’s being used. I would avoid using screen shots from a webinar or slide deck as the resolution is typically poor when used in documentation or posted online.It’s worth noting, that the use of video as part of corporate storytelling has grown to the point that if someone can’t access a quick 1 – 3 minute video explaining your Why, How and What, chances are they will check out your competition instead. Younger generations aren’t just Googling to find information, they are searching on YouTube as video content is so much easier to digest.
4. Who are your champions and evangelists?
Think through who your internal and external fans are and put them to good use. Whether it’s a customer, partner or your family and friends who can help spread your story far and wide, identify multiple channels which will amplify your messages to the right audiences. Referrals have always been a successful way to develop new relationships and secure business opportunities, so use your success stories as part of the storytelling process to showcase your strengths and relevancy.Everyone involved in your organisation should be evangelising your story, but chances are only a few key spokespeople will shine through. Your internal evangelists should be across your strategy, roadmap and key messages so that as your story unfolds throughout the year, they are building up momentum throughout their fan base and followers.
5. Are we on the same frequency?
We are bombarded daily by a multitude of invitations, newsletters, product or software updates, sales incentives, webinars…the list goes on. When it comes to effectively communicating your story throughout the year, be aware that when announcing a key milestone from your roadmap, it’s treated differently to a monthly update. You should employ tactics that will help you soar above the noise, so why not create a teaser campaign where your announcement constantly builds until the official unveiling.While major announcements require specific attention, regular updates are also key to your storytelling structure, and ultimately to your sales cycle. But what’s considered too much or not enough? Is your content being spread across a variety of platforms and mediums? Are you only focusing on specific audiences? These are just some of the questions to consider when designing your communications strategy so that your story and messages get the right traction throughout the year.
In summary, by planning your annual business strategy, roadmap and key objectives you are defining the framework of “Your Story” for the year ahead. The effectiveness of your storytelling will therefore shine through in a range of measurable results: the number of new logos obtained, by exceeding revenue targets, an increase in social media followers, a stronger company profile, and position within the industry. If you are clearly and persuasively communicating your Why, How and What throughout the year, you will attract more partners, customers and followers along your journey, as well as being invited to participate in their journey too.
Want to delve deeper into storytelling techniques? There are a couple of great books that you should consider buying. Check out “Strategic Storytelling” by Dave McKinsey and “The Pyramid Principle” by Barbara Minto.
 I would suggest only leveraging family and friends to Like, Share, Retweet your company posts unless they too are involved in your business and can clearly articulate your value proposition.