3 Ways to Use Storytelling in Your Marketing

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Jay Dillon

Director of Strategy and Creative at Inbound Experts
Jay is a digital marketer and producer whose creative and technical skills have developed digital brand strategies and sales campaigns using a range of complex internet applications from stand-alone websites through to Facebook API integrations.
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Everyone is instinctively familiar with stories.

From the fairy tales we learned as children to the stories that we exchange with our friends and family every day, storytelling is an inherent part of the human condition.

So why are Australian marketers having so much trouble with it?

Based on information released in Experian’s 2015 Digital Marketer study, 40% of marketers in Australia and New Zealand say that branding by telling their stories to stand out from competitors is one of their top challenges.

Additionally, 52% of marketers in New Zealand and Australia report that “telling our story so we stand out amongst our competitors” is one of their top 3 priorities in 2015.

It’s clear that even though marketers are devoting a lot of time to storytelling, it’s still a concept that many are struggling with. And storytelling is a critical skill for inbound marketing, since it helps attract people to your brand.

What does storytelling mean, anyway?

The core definition of storytelling is simple: conveying an event or series of events, real or fictional, using words, text, or visual elements.

But storytelling in a marketing sense doesn’t strictly mean telling a story with a specific set of characters, a beginning, and an end. It’s much more broad than that.

Storytelling could be found in the quality of work that your business offers. Your organisation’s philosophy might be a story in and of itself. Your last company party or picnic could be a great opportunity for storytelling.

You can even allow customers to create their own stories, as Coca-Cola did with their new Share a Coke campaign. Entrepreneur points out the genius in this marketing tactic: it allows Coke customers to express themselves by creating their own stories using Coca-Cola products.

If you’re one of the marketers who is having trouble with storytelling, here are three tips that can help you carve out a stronghold in your industry, even if you’re facing heavy marketing competition:

  • Make your storytelling a two-way street – in today’s world where social media is ever-present, there’s no excuse for you to not involve your customers in your storytelling. The best marketers aren’t telling stories at their customers and prospects: they are doing it with them. Make sure you’re creating marketing campaigns that give your audience the chance to have some input into your brand story.
  • Add value with your storytelling – stories by themselves are great, but it’s rare that a story will exist just for the sake of being a story. Every story needs to have some type of value proposition for readers: whether it makes them laugh, gives them insight into your brand philosophy, or helps show people what your company culture is like, your stories should convey something that readers can take away: even if that takeaway is just a few minutes of entertainment.
  • Understand where your audience personas are and how to reach themNo matter how good your message is, if you don’t align your story with the platform used by your target audience, you won’t get the results that you’re after. Digital marketing specialist and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk says that the path to true success with storytelling is understanding how to tell stories natively on each platform. Think about which stories might be best suited for Facebook, and which ones might be best for Instagram or YouTube. Some stories might not be suitable for social media at all, and instead should be told in person (e.g. in a workshop or at a presentation). Your story’s medium should depend on the persona you want to reach.

Effective storytelling doesn’t have to be complicated. If you can involve your customers, give them value, and reach them the right way in the right places, you can set your brand apart from others in your field.

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