In today’s hyper-competitive environment, brands and retailers need to connect with customers, whether it’s an emotional, financial, career or other type of connection. The many forms of storytelling can be a powerful tool to create that bond between your organization and your customers. And these bonds are essential to driving long-term, sustained revenue growth and customer loyalty. Here are several forms of storytelling, with a few examples of their impact on moving a company forward.
Build a Pipeline of Testimonials
Customer testimonials are an easy, effective way to build trust with your products. Testimonials enable customers to tell your story by telling their stories. However, there can be multiple obstacles to building a pipeline of testimonials. Customers can be reluctant to provide testimonials, either because their organization frowns on the practice, they are concerned that if there’s a problem with the product in the future, it will reflect poorly on them or other reasons.
In our experience, patience and time can get around many of these reservations. Rather than asking for a comprehensive testimonial, we might start by asking for a one-sentence comment to add to a press release. Then, we might expand it to a one-paragraph statement in a contributed article. As the customer gains confidence, they are often more willing to participate. Anonymous testimonials are another way around these concerns, as is asking the customer to talk about their situation without endorsing the product outright.
Tell the Story of How Your Product Came to Life
Telling the story of how you decided to create a product can often inspire people to try it. It demonstrates your commitment to the product and you may gain respect for taking the risk of bringing it to market.
We worked with a company that developed an automatic laundry-folding machine. Eliminating the most boring chore was reason enough to generate interest, but the founder’s story was just as compelling. He was a software engineer and a newlywed that returned with his wife from their honeymoon with mounds of laundry. He decided that folding laundry was not how the new couple should start their lives together, and an idea was born! Media loved this story and the product went viral on social media — the company’s Facebook followers jumped from a few hundred to more than 40,000 in just two weeks.
Weave Your Organizational Values into Your Company’s Story
Incorporating your organization’s values into your company story allows you to show prospects and customers what you stand for. While your values may not directly result in winning sales, they create a level of authenticity that builds trust.
A few years ago, in a routine review we conducted for a client’s thought leadership program, we found strong evidence of plagiarism in a new piece of content. We then revisited previous content the subject expert had drafted and found more evidence. The client conducted an internal review and terminated the subject expert shortly thereafter. They contacted their clients to inform them about the issue and the new internal controls they had implemented to ensure this wouldn’t happen again. By handling this issue quickly and effectively, our client demonstrated its values of honesty and integrity. When it comes to crisis communications, a proactive approach shows commitment to transparency.
Just as important as developing positive stories about your organization is telling these stories to customers, prospects, employees, investors and other important audiences.
Media will write case study-type articles about a particular situation and how a customer overcame a challenge. In this situation, the focus of the story is typically on the customer, with the product or service provider taking a back seat. Media that accept contributed articles may also accept case studies co-written by your organization and your customer. It’s crucial to avoid over-promoting your company or the media will likely reject the article.
Stories about how and why a company developed a product are essentially a company profile and very hard to land with the media. It’s essential to provide a dramatic, unique angle to the media to generate interest. The software engineer returning from his honeymoon with mounds of dirty laundry is one. Other angles might be disadvantaged people who taught themselves to code and then developed a popular app, or people who have developed multiple startups that failed, but tried again and finally succeeded.
Convincing media to write about your organization’s values will probably not occur as a standalone story. It’s much more likely to be included in another story. That story might focus on how your organization handled a crisis, incorporating the organization’s values, it might be a story on how your organization attracts and retains talent if you have especially low turnover, or it might be a story on corporate DEI initiatives, with your organization included as an example.
Storytelling is a powerful tool for communicating your organization’s key messages and creating the bonds that drive growth. Creating the stories can require significant legwork, but this work goes a long way to connect your organization and its essential audiences.
Do you have questions about storytelling? Would you like to brainstorm new ideas? Let us know.