Business leaders in marketing, brand management and communications should implement a four-step process to tell better marketing stories, according to Gartner, Inc.
Reducing an organization's range of capabilities into a crisp, compelling story that leaves a lasting impression is one of the toughest things leaders in marketing and communications do. Even with the storytelling opportunities that social networks and video provide, most technology marketers lack good storytelling skills.
“Visit any website and you’ll quickly see lists of product features, functions and capabilities,” said Richard Fouts, research director at Gartner. “While features and capabilities are relevant buying criteria, marketers substitute this style of communication for good stories. We tend to remember a good story, even years after we’ve heard it. We tend to forget lists of bullet points.”
Gartner interviewed several marketing executives (including a few outside the IT industry) and professors at leading MBA schools to garner insight into best practices for telling good marketing stories. The results have been culminated into a four-step process to help marketers hone their storytelling skills:
Step 1: Start with the “End of the Story”
Unlike the classic storytelling model, which leads up to a dramatic ending following a series of events, effective marketers actually begin with the end of the story by revealing the ultimate business outcome they deliver for customers (for example. “We help you take market share.”) Starting with a compelling business outcome motivates the audience to keep listening and it forces marketers to make a link between what they do, and the ultimate results they produce for customers (versus a series of product features or capabilities).
Step 2: Flesh Out Your Value Proposition with Customer Testimonials, Third-Party Statements and Credible Truths
Once marketers arouse attention, they’re ready to develop their story, to defend it and to explain exactly how they help customers achieve that outcome. Gartner describes five techniques marketers can use to make their stories more relevant, engaging and memorable:
“Buyers say they are three times more likely to buy when the provider’s value proposition is quantified,” said Mr. Fouts. “Moreover, when asked to rank the marketing activities that influence them most, buyers named customer success stories and reference selling. Effective marketers use these findings to help make their stories more unique and memorable. Leading marketers also weave the independent observations of creditable third parties to validate their stories. For example, IBM cites data from the US government’s independent energy studies to support its arguments for how to reduce power in the data center.
Lastly, Gartner cited examples of marketers that make stories believable. “Most marketing stories are packed with clichés,” noted Mr. Fouts. “Prospects respond to truths. For example, we talked to a marketer who told the story of how his firm’s medical procedure was invented following the death of its CEO’s father, which could have been prevented. Hence, the CEO was inspired to start the company during his period of grief. These types of stories spark interest – and show a human side to the corporation.”
Step 3: Finish with a Call to Action
When a marketer has told their story, the challenge is what they expect, or want, the audience to do with it. The marketer’s next step, known as the “call to action” (CTA) is fundamental to any marketing communication. However, most marketers default to the usual “visit our web site” as opposed to really thinking through the action they would like the prospect to take.
For example, if a marketer is using stories to generate demand, they might recommend readers visit the case studies section on their website, respond to an offer for a free white paper, or request a conversation with an account executive. If the marketer is including stories in a proposal, they might urge their prospect to have a personal conversation with the reference story they’ve included. If marketers are using stories to keep existing customers engaged, they might push them to their rewards program, or download content that is exclusive only to current customers. The bottom line, marketers must make the CTA consistent with the intent of their story – and where their customers lie in the buying cycle.
Step 4: Build a Story Scrapbook
Gartner recommends marketers save those stories they come across in their daily life - that they consider effective. “At some point, the marketer can analyze why they think stories are good but it is always a good rule to save any sample stories they believe can help them later on, when they need it most,” said Mr. Fouts.
Additional information is available in the Gartner report “Marketing Essentials: How to Tell Better Marketing Stories.” The report is available on Gartner’s website at http://www.gartner.com/resId=1369613.
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