Category Archives: marketing

When Marketing, Stories Simply Sell Better

The human brain is hard-wired to love stories. That’s why using them can add power to your marketing communications efforts. To learn more about why that’s the case, let me share a story with you…

He was a successful engineer with a nagging problem. It haunted him during his commute, in the shower, and when his golden retriever woke him up at 3:00 a.m. for a quick trip outside. Never was it far from his thoughts.

It involved a process that he knew could be improved. He had a hunch about what was involved, but just couldn’t pin it down. It gnawed at him until that Saturday afternoon. As he was mowing his lawn, the solution flashed through his brain. In what looked like a trance, he left the mower in the middle of the yard and raced inside, where he began to sketch out the idea.

What was it? I don’t have a clue. The solution is completely fictional. The engineer, his lawn, his problem, and his lawnmower don’t exist.

But you were captivated, weren’t you? The opening sentences drew you in, and the description of the process stoked your curiosity. Each line whetted your attention for the next step, and you couldn’t wait for the twist that would be revealed in the resolution. Right now, I suspect that you’re more than a little annoyed with me for failing to deliver that resolution.

Sorry about that, but I wanted to illustrate something in a compelling way. That something is the power and value of presenting information in the form of a story. All too often companies and organizations that want to share something with prospects and other stakeholders think the best way to do that is to present the facts in a straightforward manner. “Our customers are busy,” they insist. “We can’t afford to waste their time!”

Ah, but you’re wrong. You see, the human brain absolutely loves stories. We’re hardwired to respond to them, thanks to centuries of evolution. Long before someone came up with the idea for written language, our ancestors shared what they knew by telling stories. Keep in mind that printing has been part of our culture for less than six centuries, and widespread literacy for only about half that time.

When we were kids, a good story was one of the few things that could get us to focus for any length of time. As adults, stories still capture our attention. We may call them by names like “gossip” and “conversation,” but as soon as someone begins to recount what happened last weekend when they went to paint the living room or teed up on that par-four 14th, we’re hooked.

Stories are always more compelling than raw facts. Sure, you could list the reasons your product is better or why your service is superior. Your audience may even commit a point or two to memory. But when you cast that information in the form of a story, you connect with them on an entirely different level and dramatically increase the likelihood that they’ll remember what’s really important. When you share a story, you’re entertaining your audience as you inform them.

There are two forms of stories that are particularly effective in sales and marketing situations. The first is the case study, in which you share a real-life example of how someone used your company’s product or service to solve a problem or improve a process. Case studies are effective for two reasons. First, they make it easier for the reader to understand what makes your offering better and to apply the benefits to their own situation and challenges. Second, when a respected or well-known company appears in your case study, you benefit from their implicit endorsement. (If Amalgamated Industries trusts your product, my company can buy it with confidence.)

The second form is what I did in this article: creating a story around a fictional example that represents the typical customer or user of what you offer. There’s nothing unethical about doing that, as long as you own up to the fact that it’s a fictional representation (or as long as you don’t create misleading quotes from imaginary customers). Even though the reader understands that your customer is fictional, she’ll still be able to relate to the story and the message you’re conveying.

The next time you try to share a message with a prospect or other stakeholder, don’t think in terms of making it sound like an ad or a sales pitch. Tell them a story, and you’ll capture their attention and quietly convince them as they enjoy what you’re sharing. The fact that you’ve read this far proves it works with you.

Is Your Marketing Message Noisy? How To Get Rid Of The Static

Are you projecting a noisy marketing message?

Chances are, at least some of your marketing message represents static. That is, it interferes with your message’s clarity.

The purpose of marketing is to let people know the value that you offer. When you make that value very specific, you reach right into the hearts and souls of your ideal audience.

They light up. They jump up and respond, that’s for me! They take action and reach out to hire you.

To get that kind of response, you can’t afford a noisy message.

It’s so tempting to want to share the full breadth of what you offer. I get it. You’re multi-faceted! You certainly can do more than just one thing.

When it comes to marketing, though, it’s that one thing that will save you from obscurity.

It’s a noisy world out there. Many people are marketing what they do. You have to find a way to stand out from the noise. The way to do that is to be known for one thing.

After starting my first business, I very quickly made 6 figures, more than my previous corporate salary. One of the reasons that my business did so well so quickly is that I had clarity in my marketing message. I was known for one thing, a narrow niche.

This niche approach can feel limiting. So choose wisely. Choose what you want to known for.

Choose something where you can offer great value. For this niche to work for you, you have to be able to come through and do a great job. Quality is a baseline requirement for business success, so make sure you can deliver on your marketing message.

A narrow niche is the way to success. It doesn’t mean that people will never hire you for anything else. In fact, I started to get offers for all kinds of different work because people had had a great experience with me doing what I did best.

So your narrow niche doesn’t mean you’re limited. It does mean that it will very specifically draw people who want what you are choosing to be known for.

Face it. People will put you into a niche, whether you want them to or not. This can feel so unfair!

In a way, it is. But it’s also human nature. Especially in our noisy world, we have to categorize people and businesses and put them into a niche, just to be able to process all the information coming our way.

The niche that will draw a prospect’s attention is the one with the answer to their problem. There are many businesses out there. Your prospects will be focused on their problem. They will notice someone who presents a clear marketing message that offers them a solution.

If you’ve chosen what you want to be known for well, you’ll be able to provide them with a laser-focused solution that speaks right to them.

It’s this same clarity of niche that generates more energy and enthusiasm around your brand.

When you get super focused in your message, without the noise of all the other things you can offer, people respond. They recognize themselves in your message.

If you can then deliver and solve their problem, they’ll be strongly connected to you. They’ll talk about you. They’ll help spread the word.

Think of your marketing message as a signal you’re sending out from your business, like a radio broadcast.

At the receiving end, your prospect is going to be biased towards solutions to their problem. They are hearing all kinds of messages and filtering most of them out.

The one that cuts through the noise, the one they’ll tune into, is yours, the answer to what is keeping them up at night.

Your top priority as a marketer (and all small business owners are marketers!) is to free up the message-carrying signal from noise or interference. Everything you do in your marketing either enhances the signal or creates noise that causes the audience to tune out.

Communication is a complex process. There are many points where the signal can become distorted. Reduce or eliminate the noise as much as possible to speak to your audience clearly and effectively.

Is your marketing message clear?

Find your narrow niche by choosing what you want to be known for. Then start broadcasting with that singular clarity.

Your audience will get the message.