Speak Up: Customers Are Craving Your Story

Speak Up: Customers Are Craving Your Story

People are tired of receiving email offers and sales pitches from companies. That’s because, deep down, humans crave stories. A well-told story can clearly articulate what your brand is all about in a truly engaging way.

Great stories make people care. For marketers, stories are a way to connect with customers and build lasting relationships.

The effectiveness of storytelling is backed by science, as shown in this infographic that illustrates how stories activate seven regions of the brain, while facts and figures activate only two. Simply put, we’re wired to pay attention to a good tale.

Practically speaking, good storytelling can build trust with customers, which fosters their loyalty and, in turn, can make them brand advocates who share with others all the great things about your products and services. All companies have to do is tell their story truthfully.

Patagonia And L’Occitane Have Mastered Storytelling

Some brands are managing to get their customers’ attention—as well as gain a competitive advantage—by delivering compelling experiences that tell a story.

Take Patagonia, which weaves its stories about the various causes the company is involved in through its communications with consumers. For example, Patagonia talks about its “1% for the planet” initiative, and it has run counterintuitive ads that encourage people to not buy their new products—rather, to reduce, reuse, and repair existing clothing. This is a story that helps build trust, loyalty, and brand advocacy among Patagonia consumers whose values are aligned with similar causes.

“We don’t produce glossy PR kits or throw elaborate parties at trade shows. We believe the best way to get attention is to have something to say,” said Patagonia founder and CEO Yvon Chouinard in the book Let My People Go Surfing .

Retailer L’Occitane also excels in storytelling, not only by understanding how to speak boldly about its story, but also by projecting that story across touch points and aligning content with different stages of a customer’s journey. L’Occitane integrates customer data from its stores and website to personalize every email, discussing “self-care Sundays,” for example, which encourages customers to recycle their empty packaging from previous purchases and provides replenishment reminders.

These communications are more than just an email campaign; they give L’Occitane customers more opportunities to hear the company’s stories. Leveraging the omnichannel environment, the story can evolve as the customer moves along the path to purchase.

Storytelling Steps

The best companies tell their stories in a way that pulls their customers in. So let’s talk about how you can tell your story well. Here are a few ways to start.

1. Develop a through line: What’s the purpose of your brand? What’s the importance of your product or service? How does it help people? Map this out. What you’ll find along the way is there may be many different messages that align with the brand’s core values, but you want to focus on a through line to tell your overarching story in a way that resonates with customers. This is the big step that companies often miss. They may be able to tell some facts about the brand or product, but not its story. Take the time to hammer out your narrative.

2. Focus on your audience: Consider the information you already know about your customers—where they are located, their preferences, what devices they are using, and which channels they frequent. You have this data (hopefully) made available to you through your cross-channel marketing technology. Now’s the time to use it to help give your message the reach it needs to be powerful.

**3. Decide where to tell your story:**It can be challenging for brands to tell a consistent story across the many touch points where customers engage. Email, social, and mobile are a handful on their own. But as long as your data and technology can surface the right customer insights, you can expand a consistent storytelling approach gradually to new touch points. As customers like what they’re seeing on a website, for example, people will be much more likely to give that brand permission to connect with them across more direct channels, such as email, SMS, and a mobile app.

It’s important to remember that you’re telling a story over time. Each communication with your customers can be a mini-story that contributes to the greater story—whether an email, social post, product demo, or product announcement. And each mini-story can give you further opportunities for telling your main story in better ways.

The better you tell your story, the more you may learn about your customers through their feedback. The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to tell meaningful stories across all touch points.

So ask yourself, “Do we focus enough on telling our brand story the way we want to?” If the answer is “no,” it’s time to start. Find your story, utilize data to personalize, humanize, and provide context, and create compelling content where your customers engage with your brand. Then, go tell your story with confidence.