Time for a rant. The new buzzword all over the social media and content marketing space is storytelling. We've shared some infographics on storytelling versus corporate speak and visual storytelling… and I'm a fan of storytelling. With the right audience, there's nothing better than a good story to connect with your audience.
But we're now using the story for everything. Logos have to tell a story. Brands have to tell a story. Graphics have to tell a story. Infographics have to tell a story. Your website has to tell a story. Your blog post has to tell a story. The proposal has to tell a story. The presentation has to tell a story.
Enough with the damn stories, already! Just because some guru somewhere talked about storytelling doesn't mean it's the appropriate strategy for every marketing environment and audience. It reminds me of the scene in Life of Brian… the Shoe is a Sign!
Just as the shoe wasn't a sign from Brian, neither is storytelling the answer to all your marketing problems. I know some folks worship these marketing gurus… but take their advice with a grain of salt. They don't know your product, your industry, your pricing, your advantages and disadvantages, and ironically – they don't know your customers' stories.
- Sometimes, I don't want a story – I already heard the story.
- Sometimes, I don't want a story – I just want to sign up online.
- Sometimes, I don't want a story – I don't have time to listen.
- Sometimes, I don't want a story – I just need to see the features.
- Sometimes, I don't want a story – I just need to know the benefits.
- Sometimes, I don't want a story – I know your customers and want the same product.
- Sometimes, I don't want a story – I just need to see the demo.
- Sometimes, I don't want a story – I just need to test it.
- Sometimes, I don't want a story – I just need to know how much.
- Sometimes, I don't want a story – I just need to buy it.
Storytelling is difficult and requires real talent to craft the imagery in text, images or video to ensure comprehension. The timing, the tone, the characters… all of the pieces need to be in place for a story to work and to really touch the diverse audience you're speaking to.
A few months ago, I did some research on a product that appeared to fix the issues we were having with a client. I knew how much the client was paying. I knew how much the problem was costing them. I knew how much I was willing to pay to get rid of the issue. The site didn't have all of the necessary information, otherwise I may have signed up right then and there… but I had to sign up for a demo.
After I signed up for the demo, I received a pre-qualifying call where I was asked a series of questions. After a litany of questions, I complained and just asked for the demo. I had to finish answering the questions. Once done, I scheduled the demo. A day or so later, I got on the call for the demo, and the salesperson opened his custom deck tailored to my persona and started telling the story.
I asked them to stop. He resisted.
I asked if we were going to do the demo, and he sidestepped the question. So I told him to have his manager call me and I hung up. I was now frustrated. His manager called and I asked him to simply demonstrate the software, explaining that if the cost were within my budget and if the software fixed the problem, I was ready to buy.
He showed me the demo. He told me the price. I made the purchase.
At the end of the call, he admitted that he was going to go back and reformulate the sales process to accomodate companies like mine.
While I appreciate all the incredible work his team must have done to analyze win/loss scenarios, develop personas, write stories to those personas, set up a prequalification strategy and feed me a story that was so compelling that I would make the purchase… I didn't need nor want any of it. I didn't have time for a story. I just needed the solution.
Don't take this the wrong way, stories have their place in marketing. But storytelling is not the panacea of marketing strategies. Some of the visitors to your site aren't looking for a story… and they may even be frustrated and turned off by it. Give them other options.
Now that the rant is over, this is a damn good story you'll want to read… my friend (and client), Muhammad Yasin and Ryan Brock take a look at the long history of people who told the right story at the right time. Read along as they explore the world of social media in the digital age and look to the past to learn that when it comes to the art of storytelling, there’s nothing new under the sun.
Pick up a copy of Nothing New: An Irreverent History of Storytelling and Social Media.