Monday, May 7, 2012

Storytelling sounds like a great idea, but how do I make it work for my brand?

If you enter the phrase “storytelling as a marketing tool” into Google search, you will get 1,650,000 results.  Obviously a lot of people are talking about the value of storytelling in building awareness and trust for your marketing message.

So is the PSAMA.  This month’s luncheon meeting on Wednesday, May 9, will feature Hanson Hosein, director of the UW Masters in Digital Communications program.  He will offer his thoughts on what he describes as a “storyteller uprising” that can provide a product or service with “trust and persuasion in the digital age”. Click here for event details and to register.

A case study is a great way to tell your brand story.
Some companies confuse the idea of storytelling with the need to create a narrative from scratch and don’t realize they have been storytelling all along through case studies.  For anyone that hasn’t used a case study example in your direct or indirect communications, here are a few thoughts on why you should consider this important tool to market your company: 
•    Storytelling through case studies can bring your product or service story to life in the mind of your prospects.  A case study that is written from the customer’s perspective can often explain benefits and features better than a typical marketing message can.
•    Storytelling through case studies can educate your audience in a non-threatening, more believable way.  Good case studies use a problem/solution format to identify the challenge that a customer faced and how their solution addressed the customer’s problem.
•    Storytelling through case studies can help potential customers determine if the product or service will meet their specific needs.  A case study will speak directly to those who share a similar background through belonging to the same industry or facing a similar challenge, much better result than a generic marketing pitch.

Another advantage to storytelling through case studies is the positive impact they can have on a company’s own employees.  Case studies remind employees of the value of their product or services as well as provide them an easy way to offer an anecdotal answer to the question we have all faced “what do you do for a living”?

A good storytelling case study should have these key elements:
  1.  Overview of market situation.
  2.  Specific challenge(s) the client faced.
  3.  Your creative solution.
  4.  Any details or specifics that can highlight the uniqueness of your process or solution.
  5.  How the client benefited from your solution. 
  6.  Customer testimonial statement.

Some thoughts on the last two points above. 
Business results are sometimes difficult to quantify (or contrary to client wishes to communicate to their competitors).  That still doesn’t mean that you can’t find some way to communicate that you understand the purpose of your solution was to generate results.  Something happened –find a creative way to communicate that to your audience.

And I can’t overemphasize the importance of the customer testimonial statement relating to the case.  Consumers are more sensitive than ever to the “hype” of corporate marketing messages.  A statement from a business peer can help to add an element of truth and trust to the marketing sales message in your case study.  But make sure you get your client’s agreement to any statements you make.  I’ve seen ad agencies lose clients for overstating (or taking sole credit) for positive results.

Case studies are not the only storytelling tool you can use, but they are one thing every company should consider as they look for ways to build a relationship with their target audience.

Still wondering if storytelling is right for your company’s product or service?

-- Don Morgan

Don Morgan is VP Communications for PSAMA and Head Rainmaker at Raindance Consulting, a business development and social media consultant in Seattle.

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