Customer TrustEngagement

Storytelling Is Really the Only Marketing

Maybe the inverse of my title is more true:  if you’re not telling a story, you’re not really marketing.  As marketers, we’ve all spent plenty of time analyzing features and benefits of our offerings, figuring out just the right messaging and discovering the right ways to talk to our prospects and customers.

In more recent years, notably with the rise of online marketing of every sort, we’ve started talking about conversations, storytelling, and how to engage our prospective customers and build relationships.  This is also an important part of marketing work.

But no matter what you sell and no matter what audience you want to engage, if you’re not telling them a good story and engaging them with that story, you’re not going to garner much interest.

Why Storytelling Matters

Kathy Klotz-Guest, CEO of Keeping It Human, (also a friend and sometime MENG speaker) recently released a book, Stop Boring Me! How to Create Kick-Ass Marketing Content, Products and Ideas Through the Power of Improv, based on her years as an improvisational actor, then as a storytelling marketing adviser to Silicon Valley businesses.  Her premise is that all business is human (also the premise of my work, which is one reason I admire her!).

Kathy cites marketing professor and author Jennifer Aaker of Stanford University, who notes that people remember stories as much as twenty-two times more than they do facts alone


You should be.  If you’re “talking” to your prospects by showing them features and benefits, and your competitors are telling engaging stories, it might explain why you’re having trouble with your conversion rates.

One of the most important pieces of advice Kathy offers is that marketing is about change, as are stories.  If you help your prospect see and understand the possibilities and how to change to realize them, you have a far better opportunity to engage and, eventually, sell to that prospect.

How do I do that?

Three Steps to Better Storytelling

Like me, you’ve probably heard that advice from way too many marketers and so-called experts. But doing it seems to escape you.  Here’s one person doing it well every single day.  Megan DeGruttola heads storytelling and content marketing for Stitch Labs and uses these three guideposts to create a story:

1.  Know your audience

Who is the person you want to hear your story?   What interests them?  Why is your story going to matter to them?  This is nothing more than knowing your target audience but in a much more human way.

2.  Understand their problems and aspirations 

This is not about the problems you think they should have (sorry, we’re marketers, you know you think that way even though you shouldn’t).  Make certain you are addressing the problems that person faces in their daily life.  Maybe it’s something that frustrates them endlessly or maybe it’s something they never thought they could solve.

Then make sure you know their aspirations.  What do they want to change?  What do they hope to become?  How, very specifically, do they think they can get there―and how can you help them?

3.  Take them on a journey 

Show them where they are and make clear the problems.  Show them the way forward to achieving their aspirations.  In other words, tell a powerful story.

Remember, journeys are never a single step, and they are fraught with setbacks. Don’t forget that your story shouldn’t be a carefree romp to the finish line. It should be an honest and credible account of the challenges and motivations that keep the story going.

Are you worried you don’t tell good stories (it’s the worry I hear most often from marketers about storytelling)?  Don’t worry.  You do.  Ask your family or friends.  At least some of them love your storytelling.  Go find out why and use those strengths to get better.

And as with everything else in marketing, keep trying and experimenting.  You’ll get to what gives you and your company that twenty-two times engagement multiplier.

Then tell us the story of how you did it in the comments!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *