Why Does a Business Need Story Time?

business storytellingTwo very different conversations about business storytelling struck me today.

The first was Seth Godin’s post about the rational marketer (and the irrational customer):

The most common frustration I see, and I see it daily, comes from marketers who can’t figure out why more people won’t buy their product…Let’s say, for example, that you have a service that can deliver leads for five percent of what it costs to get them via a trade show. Why would any rational business, particularly one that says it wants qualified leads, spend that money on trade shows and not on you?…The problem is that your prospect doesn’t care about any of those things. He cares about his boss or the story you’re telling or the risk or the hassle of making a change.

The second was from a New York Times article about vitamins. It quoted a scientist who couldn’t understand why people buy vitamins (when study after study shows no positive effect from taking them).

I’m puzzled why the public in general ignores the results of well-done trials,’” said Dr. Eric Klein, national study coordinator for the prostate cancer trial and chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute. “’The public’s belief in the benefits of vitamins and nutrients is not supported by the available scientific data. (NY Times 2/17/09)

emotional business storytelling beats logic

The cold, hard dull facts may be truthful, but they’re not emotionally engaging.  Don’t give statistics, tell a business story instead.

Vitamin-takers (and prospects) don’t care what the studies say or how logical it is to skip the trade show and spend money on a different method of lead generation.

What they do care about it is how they feel about it. They “feel better” taking the vitamins. It doesn’t matter what the science says; the emotional payout is higher from taking the pills, plus it’s easier than changing your diet.

Going to the tradeshow is easier too, especially if it’s what you’ve always done.  Switching to a different lead generation method is hard. It takes work and it takes time to start working.

Emotional stories get more sales

Tell your prospects a story about how well your lead generation program worked for other customers: Customer XYZ started with three leads a month, struggling to stay afloat; after hiring us it was up to 10 per week. Now, they can make payroll easily every week, and they’re opening two new offices.

Focus on the emotional toll of the wrong solution, and then explain the feel-good payoff of the better choice.  Describe how your solution cuts your customers’ stress, or let’s them go home earlier, or may get them a raise.


Photo: yogi

Marketing Your Business in a Recession

I was flipping through the news channels and saw a viewer email saying that many are complaining that the auto companies are still advertising heavily. He said that years ago he worked for a company that cut back on advertising to save money in hard times. They then went out of business, because nobody knew who they were.

Don’t use the recession to market less, use the recession to market smart. Take a look at where and how you spend your marketing budget. Is that big TV sports buy the best thing? Or would you be better off making a funny video that could go viral?

How to Make Your Business Remarkable

How do you make your product stand out when it’s not unique? Say you have a coffee cart. It’s in a good location, and gets lots of traffic, but you’re no different from any of the thousands of other coffee carts in your area. What do you do?

The answer is to make the stand (and the experience) remarkable – build a tribe.  The key is to differentiate it from all the other stands and all the other coffee places in the area and make it a fun and special place to go and tell  your friends about.

Offer something worth talking about

1) Offer free Wifi – draw customers in, make your stand a place to hang out, stay, and order more coffee.

2) Hold a contest for customers to invent a new blend of coffee.  The winner gets a cash prize or say 10 pounds of the winning entry.

3) Have customers submit quotes (either their own or from famous people) about coffee, or just inspirational, to be printed on the cups.  Have a new quote each week or each month.  Have customers vote on the best ones.  Winners have their quote printed, along with their names.

Build a story around your company

This works for anything, t-shirts, music, dolls, Lego…make the product experience special:  be the company that gives away free t-shirts with every order, or the one with no time limits or scripts for customer service reps.  And, you don’t need a big budget to do it. What can you do with a $500 budget to make your product worth talking about?

(i) by Bonnie Larner