WordWizards Blog

From campouts to corporate communications, everyone loves a good story

Among my fondest childhood memories are the camp outings our family did. Over the years, our campsite accommodations evolved — from canvas tent to popup camper to hard-sided trailer. However, one thing stayed the same: stories told by my Dad around the campfire. Some stories were silly and some were scary, but there was no doubt that Dad was a masterful storyteller.

While we may outgrow story time with Dad, we never outgrow our appreciation for a good story. This includes the stories your customers could tell about you and their experiences with your products or services. The question is, are you capturing and sharing these stories in your marketing communications?

One of my business acquaintances, Joan Moser, owns Spoken Impact, a company that provides training in public speaking and presentations. Joan’s a big believer in storytelling, and I like the way she describes it in her blog:

“Storytelling is an extremely effective way to share information with an audience. It makes complex data easier to understand. It can clarify or emphasize an important point. It also has more sticking power so your audience can hold on to what they’ve just heard a lot longer.”

These principles apply just as much to marketing as they do to public speaking.

One of my clients, a provider of ERP software for hospitals and medical centers, might have simply stated the following in a marketing piece:

“Our supply chain solution could save your organization thousands, perhaps even millions, of dollars by centralizing and standardizing your purchasing processes.”

But what if the company took a different tack — communicating the actual savings attained by an actual customer, along with the real-life story behind it. Here’s an excerpt from an eight-page customer case study I wrote for this client:

The healthcare system “achieved its target of $30 million in direct supply chain cost savings by the end of 2002, primarily through negotiating better vendor terms coupled with organization-wide end-user contract compliance.”

The case study continues with a quote from the vice president of supply chain:

“By the end of 2003, we had saved a total of more than $50 million, and we’ve targeted another $12 million for 2004.”

In a world rife with pie-in-the-sky promises and over-the-top hype, a well-told story stands out from the crowd. The simple reason? It actually happened to one of your customers — a customer who may be a lot like of your prospective customers. And, if you can convey this story in your customer’s own words (i.e., direct quote), so much the better.

I encourage you to think about how you can add storytelling to your marketing mix. It doesn’t have to be a case study. It might be an a vignette on your website or an anecdote in a product brochure. It could also be a short article in your next eNewsletter.

Just remember, everyone has a story to tell, and everyone loves a good story.

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