Storytelling—it’s not just for your kids’ bedtime. On the contrary, storytelling can be one of the most effective marketing tactics for your business, when promoted in the right medium.
“Storytelling is what people remember. It gets them talking, and can inspire action and affinity,” says Carin Galletta of Ink Foundry, a marketing communications agency in San Francisco that relies on storytelling not just for clients, but also to promote its own business. “Storytelling works for small business if it’s done authentically because it allows potential customers to get to know your brand. And if they know you and trust your company, they will buy from you.”
Storytelling can be a successful tactic for a host of channels including:
1. Press releases: Eugenia Francis, based in Irvine, Calif., created a press release to tell the story of how she created TeaCHildMath. “When my son was in the third grade, he struggled to learn the times tables through memorization,” she says. “I knew there had to be a better way, so I developed a method based on patterns to aid memory.”
Francis blasted the press release across the Internet with help from a publicity firm. As a result of the blast, the release was printed in Education Matters magazine, and TeaCHildMath was exposed to a key audience.
2. Social media: William Wnekowicz, of Altum Design Studios in New Jersey, recently wrote a case study highlighting the success story of working with a nonprofit organization. The case study was published on the company’s website, but promoted via social media channels such as Facebook.
“The feedback has been great,” Wnekowicz says. “Not only does it give Facebook fans something to interact with, but we’ve also been gaining a lot of links back to our site from the story people disseminated and republished.” (See more Facebook tips with these downloadable presentations.)
3. Video: Online videos—whether posted on YouTube or on your own website—can be a powerful medium for storytelling. Business lawyer Jessica Eaves Mathews recently launched Business Brilliance University, an online learning center and legal library for entrepreneurs and small business owners. As part of the business, she has introduced BBU TV, a Web television show where entrepreneurs are interviewed about the stories behind their success.
In just one month, the TV show has gained viewers in 18 countries and more than 40,000 minutes of video have been viewed. “The interviews are very much story-driven and are captivating, entertaining and funny,” Mathews says. “These stories really resonate with people. The idea of a genuine, transparent story is such an incredible teaching tool.”
4. Newsletters: Rick Schwartz of Connecticut-based sales consultancy Sales Addiction leverages personal stories that resonate with prospective clients in his company newsletter. He often uses his wife as a recurring character in newsletter articles. “This might take the form of something self-deprecating, depicting my wife as someone who rolls her eyes at me a lot when I tell her about an idea,” he says. “Then I go on to talk about the idea.”
Doing so helps potential clients relate to Schwartz and forces them to think of him as a person rather than just a business entity. (See example of the NFIB Insight enewsletter.)
5. Blogging: Blogs are the ideal medium for storytelling, as they’re defined by conversational, relaxed writing and reader engagement.
Schwartz uses storytelling on his business’ blog to keep readers engaged and interested. In a recent post on why getting a sales lead isn’t the same as closing a sale, he referred to a scene from “Seinfeld,” in which Jerry Seinfeld explains to a rental car agent the difference between taking a reservation and holding a reservation. “At the end of the post, I embedded the YouTube video of the ‘Seinfeld’ clip,” he says.
6. Conferences: Not all marketing channels that are ideal for storytelling are digital. In-person events like conferences are prime opportunities for telling the story behind your business. Galletta recently attended a conference in which the founder of nonprofit organization Love 146 spoke. “The founder is an incredible storyteller. He has everyone there in tears,” she says.