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marketing is storytelling

Whenever a customer or prospect interacts with your business, you are telling them a story about how you're going to make their life better. That's the goal, anyway. 

When you tell this story, don't think of your brand as a hero (people don't want to hear about you, anyway), think of it as the mentor. In storytelling, the mentor is the person who gives the gift to the hero that makes the hero's transformation possible, whether that gift is a light saber ("Star Wars"), a feather ("Dumbo"), or  a pair of ruby slippers ("The Wizard of Oz"). 

Your craft, your professionalism, your curiosity, your generosity of spirit, and your authenticity all help tell a story. 

What gift do you give? What transformation do you make possible?

4 caveats

  1. People have to want to hear the story you're telling. And for them to want to hear it, you have to be consistently helpful.
  2. A marketer doesn't create your brand story, they uncover it.
  3. Your story has to be authentic. You can't fake it.
  4. Your product or service has to be remarkable. You have to be worth talking about.

There's a process

Just as there's a consistent structure when you're telling a story (hook, setup conflict, resolution), there's a consistent structure to creating the marketing content that will tell the story of your business. Here's the process:

1. Find your story.

The first step is to research your audience and your clients: 

The research then gets shaped into a usable document: 

  • One-page messaging document. This document is an invaluable reference that outlines your audience, the problem you solve for them, your "why," your positioning, as well as your voice, features, and benefits.
  • Messaging document, long-form. This document expands on the above, and includes 50- and 100-word core marketing messages, words you want to associate with the brand (and words you don't), as well as any supplemental content, such as taglines. 
  • Brand deck and brand book. The brand deck and book combine the above content with the site's visual requirements (image guidelines, logo specifications, etc.) to create a common frame of reference for your design work. 

2. Create your strategy. 

Capture it in a content strategy document. 

3. Create your content

You need content for each stage of the customer journey: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat refer. 

  • A long-form sales letter. It's a great frame for the rest of your content and forces you to make your story sticky and clear.  
  • Ads, SEO, launch plans, PR.  
  • Website content, blog, social media strategy and content, and employee onboarding and training.
  • Strategic white paper. This workhorse doc can serve as lead-generation document and serve as a narrative through-line for blog posts, social media content, speaking engagements, PR campaigns, and moreWhite papers are about teaching (about an industry). Teaching builds trust. Trust obviates concerns about price. Make the content riveting, make it helpful, and then repurpose the crap out of it.
  • Trial offer or free-sample content. 
  • Customer service content: Email templates, auto-responders, notification content, customer onboarding.
  • Email marketing content: Drip sequence(s); customer-retention content.
  • Retention content: 100-day post-purchase email campaign, auto-responder emails, newsletter. 
  • Referral content.
  • Professional content: boilerplate language for proposals.
  • Launch content.
  • Brandwriting content: manifestos, packaging. 
  • Supplemental and one-off content: sales sheets, brochures, leave-behinds, event signage, website landing pages, video scripts, etc. 

All the while, be remarkable, tell stories, be relentlessly helpful, and educate.

When the story comes together and when you're telling it consistently, you create long-lasting connections with people, your business thrives, and you make your customers' lives better. Isn't that great?

4. Make it a habit

Finally, you need content that will sustain your success. Checklists, boilerplate copy, process docs. 

hat tips

To John Jantsch, Seth Godin, Carol Schiller, and many other talented marketers.