When you’re writing content for your website, or explaining the benefits of a product to a potential client, you can quote them lots of facts and figures about why your product or service is great. But people don’t typically become emotionally engaged with numbers.
If you can say “Ninety percent of our customers will recommend us” that’s a great achievement - you’re clearly doing something right. But, that number doesn’t tell us why your customers recommend you. It doesn’t, by itself, reassure new customers that they want to buy from you. Numbers can be abstract, they’re not personal. They don’t make that potential customer think about what you could do for them.
A lot of purchase decisions, essentially, come down to “What’s in it for me?” To help people imagine the answer to that question, tell them stories.
Make your marketing about your customers
Don’t make your marketing about you - make it about what your customers care about. You care passionately about your business, of course you do. But, what your customers care about is what your product or service can do for them and their lives.
So, show them.
This is where the old writer’s rule ‘Show Don’t Tell’ comes into play. Don’t just tell potential customers how great your business is; show them examples of you offering great service to your customers.
If you repair heating, tell them about that pensioner you saved from the big winter freeze. Tell them about the cup of tea she made you. You’re not just providing a service; you’re making a positive impact on the lives of your customers.
If you run a restaurant, tell people about that couple who got engaged. It was a special moment that they chose to share with you. Your restaurant isn’t just there to serve food; it’s a place people go to create memories. Show potential customers this and they’ll want to come along to make their own memories.
If potential customers can identify positively with your previous customers, that will encourage them to become your next customers. They will understand why 90% of your customers recommend you. Suddenly, the number has come to life.
In such stories, you aren’t marketing your business; you’re marketing the results of your work and the benefits that can bring.
Make life into stories
People identify with other people. If you can get your customers to tell their own story on your behalf, that’s even better - their story becomes a testimonial. Good testimonials are not abstract or generic, they’re human stories and potential customers respond well to positive human stories.
Satisfied customers are your best brand advocates and a few well-told stories from those satisfied customers will be far more persuasive than a cold statistic on its own.
After all, a testimonial from a happy customer is going to feel much more authentic than anything you can say about yourself. This is where the power lies in platforms like Trustpilot and Tripadvisor, for example. It’s user-generated content that other potential users are likely to be persuaded by.
Make stories based on research
It makes good business sense to know who your customers are, where they are and what motivates them to purchase from you.
We wrote, previously, about how to go about creating customer personas. It’s a great way of knowing who your customers are. Personas are an effective way of taking dry facts and figures about your customers and bringing them to life in the form of a persona.
They help you to know that you’re doing the right thing in the right way for the right people. That’s essential for a successful business.
That information can also help you decide what stories to tell and what details to focus on.
So, if your research tells you that your customers are typically females aged 30 to 50, you’ll want to tell stories about customers who fit into that profile. By the same token, if your typical customers are couples in their fifties whose kids have moved out, you’ll want to craft your stories accordingly.
Even if you want to expand your business into new markets, it’s important to understand your existing market, so you can tell stories that relate to the profile of the new customers you’d like.
If you ask business people who their customers are, many of them will say “everyone”. While that’s a perfectly understandable ambition, it’s rarely the case. There are many variables which will dictate who your customers really are: your location, the needs and wants of your customers, what time of year it is, etc.
Take note of who your customers are, of what their motivations for buying are, and you’ll not only be able to plan a strategy which will sustain your business, you’ll have the material you need to write great stories.
How to structure your stories
But, how do you turn a real life event into a satisfying story? Think of it like a movie.
Stories typically fall into this structure: Beginning, Middle, End. Yes, it’s really that simple.
At the Beginning, you introduce the characters, in the Middle something challenging happens and, at the End, the problem is solved (by you). It seems insultingly simple and, yet, that is the basic structure of just about every hit movie you’ve ever seen.
So, if you were to turn this into a structure for telling your own stories, it could look something like:
- The Beginning: Introduce your customer and explain the problem that is vexing them.
- The Middle: Introduce the hero (you) and show how you helped your customer with their problem.
- The End: Explain how you, the hero, bravely solved the problem and ensured a happy ending for your customer.
That’s basically it.
So, how do I turn stats into stories?
Telling stories about people isn’t something to do instead of presenting stats; it is a way of helping those stats come to life. Presenting facts and figures - especially good ones - can be very persuasive, especially if you present them in the right way.
Share your good news and communicate how excited you are about it. After all, it is genuinely rewarding to know that people are benefiting from the product or service you’re working so hard to produce. Again, you’re bringing a number to life by adding a human dimension.
When you tell such stories - always try to put the emphasis on the customer. It’s your success that you’re celebrating, but credit the customer with making that success a reality because, without your customers, you have no stories to tell.
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