Using Stories in Your Marketing

Stories are powerful.

They help you communicate emotions, concepts and the benefits in a depth that traditional sales writing can never achieve.

I could write for pages now desiccating why stories are so powerful, but I think the best way to show you their power is by showing you an example from one of the masters of storytelling.

John Lewis never fail to hit the spot. Every Christmas the marketing world is on their edge of its seat waiting for the retail giant’s latest advert. Their 2014 effort didn’t disappoint. I’m sure you were sat there with a tear in your eye as you watched the little boy and his penguin:

 

Why are stories so powerful?

Their power comes from the fact that we’ve grown up with them.

We are predisposed to listen to them, so they are a great way to get your personal brand out there.

If you’re not sure where to start, how about at the beginning?

Think about how you started in business. What’s your story?

This is mine:

After leaving school with a fist full of O and A levels, I didn’t have the belief in myself to go to University so I joined a high street bank on their Management Development Programme. I was there for 7 years before leaving to start a family.

Two children later I began to feel as though I needed more from life than just changing nappies and doing pre-school runs, but I still wanted to be a full time mum. Finally, after a lot of searching I found a home-based job for a charity that I could do during term time. For a couple of years it was great, but part of me still felt unfulfilled. The fact that I’d passed up university nagged me and, at the age of 31, I embarked on a 6 year BA(Hons) degree course in English Language and Literature with the Open University.

After a couple of years trying to study, work and care for my family I realised I couldn’t do it all so I gave up my job. I loved the study (although it was incredibly tough) and began to feel as though I was finally achieving something for myself. Then, one evening we went to a friend’s dinner party. I was sat next to a chap who turned to me and asked what I did. When I told him I was a full time mum and studying for a degree, he looked at me and said, “Oh, you don’t work?” and then turned to talk to the person the other side of him.

It was at that point that I vowed I would do something with my degree when I completed it. A couple of years later I graduated with First Class Honours. Still at a loss as to what I wanted to do, my husband suggested I start something up on my own. It wasn’t something I’d contemplated before, but when a local businessman asked me to do some writing for a web project he was working on, I realised that was what I wanted to do. I set up my first website, taught myself internet marketing and began Briar Copywriting.

That was 7 years ago and I haven’t looked back.

 

Marketing stories

Stories in your marketing great a buzz. They go further than just showing benefits and adding a call to action; a story helps you make a real connection with your customers, generating awareness of your product or service in a context that they can relate to.

An article in The Guardian looks at the scientific side of story telling. Jennifer Aaker (a marketing professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business) got her students to give a 1-minute pitch. Only 1 in 10 used a story with the others sticking to a more traditional approach with facts and figures. Afterwards, they were asked to write down what they remembered from the pitches:

  • 5% cited a statistic
  • 63% remembered the story

“Research shows our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understand and retain stories,” Aaker says. “A story is a journey that moves the listener, and when the listener goes on that journey they feel different and the result is persuasion and sometimes action.”

How to use story telling

Here are 5 tips to help you incorporate story telling into your marketing:

  1. Understand your audience – Ask them why they bought from you? What made them look for a solution? How they found your brand? What was their experience of working with you like?
  2. What are their emotional drivers? – Find out what they really care about
  3. Be authentic – Use real life stories from employees, customers and people from your industry
  4. Credibility – Data (facts and figures) combined with stories is very powerful
  5. User-generated content – A great way to explore different perspectives. Run a competition, create a hashtag or interview someone

When you come to create your next marketing piece try story telling and see what difference it makes.

Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd

How to Write Sales Letters That Work

Is there a definitive template that will guarantee a successful sales letter?

No.

The only reason I say “no” is because there are far more factors that have to be taken into consideration when it comes to successful sales letters.

Yes, you can include all the elements that draw your reader in (I’ll talk more about that in a minute), but you must remember that there are external factors that could scupper your chances of a sale, including:

  • Your audience
  • How they’re feeling when they get your letter
  • What you’re offering them
  • When you send your letter

Now I’ve got that out the way, let’s take a look at the humble sales letter.

Once the bread and butter of your marketing department, they have been usurped by email marketing because it’s faster and cheaper. The problem is that now so many companies are doing email marketing, its effectiveness is being watered down. So, a well crafted letter could be more effective.

Earlier I mentioned there are certain elements in a sales letter that will draw your reader in. So, without further ado, here they are.

1. Powerful start

If you want someone to read your letter it has to grab them from the start.

Think carefully about your headline (if you’re using one), or first sentence. Either must tell the reader instantly why they should continue reading – that means outlining the main benefit you are offering.

Some companies will try to be clever and write something that’s so creative it completely misses the point. The best advice I can give is always go for clarity over creativity.

2. Problem/solution

There are lots of different ways to structure a sales letter, but the problem-solution approach is the most powerful.

Empathise with the reader and then show them how your product or service will get rid of their pain and enhance their life.

There’s no need for paragraphs of elaborate prose. Just get straight to the point.

3. Benefits

Always, always focus on the benefits not the features. The number of colours or sizes your widget comes in isn’t going to sell. The fact that it will make the reader the envy of their friends will.

4. Offer

Your audience would much rather accept your offer than buy from you any day.

Eh?

When you go to the opticians you don’t buy a pair of glasses, you go for the buy one get one free offer.

It’s the deal people want more than the price.

5. Guarantee

If someone is thinking about buying from you for the first time they will want to know that they can get their money back if they want to.

Providing a no quibble guarantee not only puts their mind at rest it also shows your confidence in your product or service.

6. What’s next?

Once your reader has stuck with you and got to the end of your letter they’ll want to know what to do next. That’s where your call to action comes in to play.

Make it as simple as possible to buy from you. Let them do it through email, over the phone, even snail mail (always include a stamped addressed envelope) and give clear instructions.

 

That’s as close to a sales letter template as you’ll get. Just remember by making sure you include each of these you’ll give your sales letter the best possible chance of success. Even though there are several factors you can’t anticipate, if the content of your letter is focused on the needs and wants of your audience you won’t go too far wrong.

 

Knowledge is Killing Your Business

too much knowledge is a bad thing

Do you write your own marketing materials?

How is that going for you?

Is your website converting visitors?

Are your brochures being read or are they used as coffee mats?

Do your emails hit the right spot or are they deleted as soon as they arrive?

Thought so.

Want to know why?

It’s because you have too much knowledge about your business.

Too much knowledge is bad

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking - how can too much knowledge be a bad thing?

The simple answer is because you start to make assumptions.

Your writing takes on a level that your customers don’t understand. You’re writing as though they have the same inside knowledge you do.

Look at it this way, if you have kids you’ve probably been asked for help with their homework. Because you’re older and more educated, you immediately launch into an explanation that’s several layers above them, telling them stuff they haven’t even learnt yet. And when they don’t get it, you start to get frustrated because the answer is obvious to you.

The same thing happens when writing your marketing materials.

Instead of starting at the beginning and building on knowledge, you write in a convoluted high-brow fashion that confuses your reader.

Overcoming the knowledge block

Once you know stuff it’s really difficult to ignore it. It feels as though you’re dumbing it down, but you’re not.

That’s why it’s often easier to outsource your writing.

When I work with clients, during the initial briefing session I always ask them to treat me like a customer. They mustn’t assume I have any knowledge of their industry, so they have to brief me without using any jargon, acronyms or technical terms that I wouldn’t understand.

If any sneak in I just stop them and ask them to explain and keep asking until I completely understand what they’re telling me.

It can get frustrating, but rather that than them putting out marketing materials that their customers can’t understand.

If you don’t have the budget for a copywriter, try out these tips:

  1. Write down what you want to say
  2. Review it to make sure it is aimed at your customer and not about you and your company, highlighting the benefits
  3. Review it again and simplify the language and remove any jargon
  4. Get someone not connected with your business to read it to see if they understand what you’re saying and whether it would make them buy/get in touch etc.
  5. If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board and start again
  6. Keep going until you write something that’s simple, clear, engaging and compelling

I did’t say it would be easy.

Writing effective copy is hard. It takes a lot of though, a lot of time and a lot of determination, but when done well it will bring in more sales, traffic, enquiries and brand loyalty.

 

Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd

Getting The Most From Your Corporate Video Investment

Maximise your corporate video investment

It’s been a long hard slog, but finally it’s finished.

You’ve shown it to the Board and they love it, but will your audience?

Now the hard work begins. Now you have to make sure your investment brings in a healthy return.

Maximising your investment

It’s time to unleash your baby and send it out into the big bad world.

Your initial thoughts are probably to get it loaded up to YouTube, get it on your website and optimise it for SEO (search engine optimisation) to grab a bit of traffic.

That’s a good start, but there’s so much more you could be doing to get a better return on your investment.

Website

 Of course you’re going to use it on your website, but why only use it once?

Let’s say it’s a video demonstrating your new product. Don’t just hide it away on your product pages, put it on your home page too to highlight your latest offering.

It goes without saying you have a blog (how else will you build your brand identity?), so write an article about it and embed the video.

Here’s a thought, how about creating a resource section on your website? Over time it will become a useful resource where your customers can view all your videos to learn about your products and how they will help them.

Using the video widely across your website will generate traffic and boost your customer service levels because you’re taking the time to educate your customers.

Social media

Never underestimate the power of social media.

All the channels you use, such as YouTube, Vimeo Facebook and Twitter will push your video out to a wider audience. Create a number of tweets that focus on different aspects of the video and post them at different times of day. You could do the same on Facebook and, assuming you do your job well, your viewers will help you get your message out by sharing and re-tweeting.

When you’re posting your video its well worth taking the time to post different thumbnails and headlines to draw in different audiences.

Shows

Do you exhibit at a lot of trade shows and exhibitions?

They are so crowded it’s important to make your company stand out.

Showing your videos is a great way to draw people to you and creates a talking point. Whether they show your latest product, or an overview that explains what your company is about and what it does for its customers, a video will make an impact.

Of course, it’s worth remembering that it’s likely to be noisy so adding sub titles is a great idea.

Summary

Repurposing content in this way will extend its longevity and help get the information out to a range of audiences.

There’s a lot of potential in a corporate video if you use it wisely. Using it in multiple formats, using social media to spread the news and repurposing its content will make your investment go a long way.

Do you have any other ideas about how a corporate video can be used? I’d love to hear your ideas – the more inventive the better. Leave a comment below.

 

 

How Many People Are You Writing To?

how many people are you writing to?

Every piece of marketing you write will be aimed at someone.

There are times when that will be one specific person and others when it will be for a large audience.

If you’re writing to one specific person (a rarity, but it can happen), you immediately know their likes and dislikes so it creating persuasive copy should be fairly straightforward.

But happens when you’re writing for a wide audience that could be made up from those who are highly educated, highflying executives, busy mums, or just normal everyday people?

How can you possibly write to a diverse audience like that?

OK, let’s go back a step.

What are you selling?

Burglar alarms.

OK. Think about how your product benefits them.

They don’t seem quite so diverse now, do they?

They all want to keep their families and possessions safe.

None of them want to feel the agony of the loss of sentimental or valuable items.

None of them want to experience the violation of having someone break into their home.

Now you have identified the pain points you have something to work with.

So what language should you use?

My view is, regardless of the level of someone’s education, they are still a person who experiences real emotions.

That means one thing – simple language.

I don’t care how many degrees they have or whether or not they passed their 11+, by keeping your language simple and to the point, your persuasiveness will be heightened.

Talk to them (yes, that means using a conversational tone) about their problems and fears and tell them you have the answer that will help them sleep soundly at night, or be able to enjoy their holiday without worrying about whether everything is hunky-dory at home.

Even if you’re addressing an audience of 1000s, each of them are listening to only one person – you.

As far as they’re concerned your writing is aimed directly at them.

So, for every piece of writing create a persona for your ideal reader. Think about who they are, what they do, what keeps them awake at night, that sort of thing. Then convince them yours is the company that’s going to make everything better.

Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd