For many, the term “storytelling” conjures up memories of reading nursery rhymes or fantastical childhood tales like “Sleeping Beauty” or “Cinderella”.
It often has the connotation of being fuzzy-feely, make-believe, or something best reserved for novels.
So how, then, does storytelling apply to the often fact and data-filled world of marketing?
Believe it or not, some of the same principles of storytelling apply to marketing – weaving a tale with words, speaking to emotion, and leaving readers with a lasting impression.
Marketers & Brands Can Be Storytellers, Too
Storytelling, if done effectively, can do wonders to engage with one’s target audience and entice them to buy.
The issue is, many brands and marketers don’t fancy themselves as storytellers.
The question, Is an analytical mind incongruent with the creativity and emotion of storytelling?
Fortunately, there’s a way to take a data-focused approach to storytelling that will help you make the most of your content when it comes to traffic, shares, and conversions.
Here are five story types that you can use to broaden reach and draw in new clients or customers.
5 Story Types to Engage Your Audience & Drive Them to Take Action
The basic “story types” have been covered ad nauseam in the past, mostly in relation to what kind of emotion they provoke in the reader.
Instead of putting my own spin on these types (most of which marketers have already heard) of, I am bringing up some story types that I have seen pick up traction lately.
The tried-and-true still work, but why be boring?
Apply these to your own brand’s content or incorporate them into the content marketing strategy for your clients.
1. SEO Search Journeys
In late 2018, Google introduced what they call Search Journeys. To me, this is amazing.
Search Journeys takes “user intent” to a whole new level.
Rather than identifying the intent of the user based on the keywords and context used, Google is now using AI to predict where users are at in their Search Journey. Then, Google shows the user content based on what they are likely to be looking for – more information, to weigh their options, or to buy.
This maps closely to our understanding of the buyer’s journey.
A user may be “Problem Aware” and are searching for possible solutions online.
Then, they become “Solution Aware” and start comparing different brands and service providers to each other.
Finally, the user is ready to make a decision, becomes “Product Aware”, and is looking for ways to buy what they want.
Google is working to pinpoint where users are at in the buyer’s journey and then present them with content that will urge them along that journey.
For brands and marketers, this presents that opportunity to create content that draws in users at each stage.
How to Create Story Content that Aligns with the Buyer’s Journey
Brands and marketers alike can take advantage of this Google update by creating content for each step of the target audience’s buyer’s journey.
For example, say someone is looking to remodel their home.
They may first search for “home remodel ideas” or “kitchen remodel examples” to get get some ideas. Google will present them with informative content, assuming they are at the beginning of their search journey.
As a brand or marketer, you can create blog content that addresses “Top 65 Home Remodel Ideas” or “12 Kitchen Remodel Examples Under $5k” to draw in users at this stage.
Then, assume the searcher takes a break and a week later comes back searching for similar terms.
Only this time, Google knows that what they really want are ways to achieve the ideas and examples they saw during their last search. Now, they want to weigh their options.
Google will present them with things like “DIY kitchen remodel or hire a contractor” or even construction contractors in their area.
This is where you may want to target industry-related terms and create content like “Should You Hire a Contractor for Your Kitchen Remodel?” or a service page for “kitchen remodel services in (location)”.
Finally, once they have weighed their options and have visited a few commercial websites, Google can determine that they are about ready to buy.
If they decide to take the DIY route, they may be searching “buy used kitchen cabinets in (location)” or the like.
If they are leaning toward hiring a contractor, they may have gotten as far as to search for a specific company with “(brand) free consultation” or “(brand) costs”.
To draw in users that are right on the edge of buying, you could create content like “(brand) discounts”, “(brand) pricing sheet”, or “buy kitchen remodel materials online”.
Use Search Journeys to Generate More Organic Traffic
By following along with the buyer’s journey, you are essentially creating content that tells a story and leads users down a sales funnel.
For example, “If you are looking for information on [insert product/service here], here’s where to start. After that, here’s how to decide which solution is best for you. Ready to buy? Here’s where to look.”
Google’s intention with search journeys is to predict what users what to know next.
If you are able to create content that maps to each stage of your target audience’s journey, you are already leaps ahead of your competitors when it comes to hopping on this SEO goldmine.
2. Breaking False Beliefs
You spend a lot of time telling your target audience what makes you stand out from the competition, why you should be trusted, and how you understand their pain points better than anyone.
But how much time do you spend breaking down the false beliefs they have about your industry and the types of services you offer?
What Is a False Belief?
First things first: a false belief is an inaccurate belief that your target audience has about your industry, the kinds of services they offer, other service providers, or their own abilities.
These false beliefs often prevent them from seeing the value that you have to offer or from recognizing how much power they themselves have in terms of making monumental changes in their business.
An example of this is the belief that “SEO is all about rankings”.
As marketers, we know this isn’t true. Yet, the brands we aim to help often come to us with this false belief. It then becomes a struggle trying to convince them that rankings are less important than other KPIs, ROI, etc.
What’s a marketer (or savvy brand) to do?
How to Break False Beliefs in Your Story Content
Simply telling someone “You’re wrong and this is why” isn’t going to work. Often, these beliefs are so deeply ingrained that the only way to shake them is through storytelling.
Essentially, you are going to create a story that is so relatable that they can’t help but question whether what they believe has been incorrect all along.
Here’s what it looks like in action:
Say you have a landing page that talks about your SEO services. Let’s assume you target local restaurants.
Based on market research, you happen to know that your target audience assumes that their ranking in Google is the number 1 indicator of whether SEO is working for them.
Knowing this, instead of listing one of the benefits of SEO as being “increased rankings”, you dive into a case study (i.e., story) instead…
“(Brand) came to us on even when they were #1 in Google. The problem? They simply weren’t seeing an influx of new customers. That’s because their website and content didn’t fit what users were actually searching for. Basically, they were targeting the wrong terms. It didn’t matter if they were #1… they wanted their reservation book to be full.
That’s why we optimized their site to draw in customers that were psyched to reserve a table. We didn’t care whether they were #1 or #47 – we were focused on 2x their restaurant revenue. The result? They actually got 3x more reservations after the first 2 months!”
With this story, you create a relatable situation for your target audience: being a restaurant in desperate in of more reservations.
Then, you appeal to their false belief by showing that they aren’t alone – your client had this false belief too – but that your client came around when they saw that they could get more reservations without focusing on rankings.
The increase in revenue was the proof they needed in order to know that SEO works.
Instead of driving home the “what we offer” bits of your business, sometimes all it takes is one false-belief-killing story to get them to trust you. With storytelling, you can prove that you understand their pain points and that you have the right solution, despite what they may have heard elsewhere.