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How to Use Real Stories to Connect with Customers

10th Aug 2017
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Move hearts, not just minds.

Think of this rule when you’re reaching out to existing and potential customers. Sure, you can enumerate advantages and benefits as if reading a shopping list. But people can relate more to facts that get mentioned in a story.

In telling a story, you are tapping the ability of humans to see themselves in the situations you’ve laid out. You are triggering memories, which they in turn associate with certain emotions. When you evoke positive feelings in them, they are likely to remember you. That's the kind of effect you want to achieve as a brand. Here are some tactics to help you get started:

Message ‘on’ a bottle

So you have an interesting origin story to tell. It’s enough to make spoken word poets gush. But is it enough? It turns out that how — or where — you tell it also matters. You can place your message right where the customers can see it. And that’s not even referring to your website. Based on the experience of Sweet Leaf Tea, the back label of a bottle can be one of your most prized real estates. It is where the homemade iced tea maker chose to share its story.

It is a smart move. By giving drinkers something to read, you can expect them to hold on to their bottles a bit longer than usual. And because Sweet Leaf Tea combines the message with nice colors and typography, it offers customers an alternative to the common — and easy-to-ignore — nutritional facts. Further, the brand wants to create an emotional connection by touching on things that granny makes at home. This effort is highlighted all throughout in the label.

A moment in focus

Better if the moment is transferable. Yes, you may write the company history on the about page, but how many visitors actually read that part? In reality, some customers will reach your website while looking for something they need or want. One way to become remarkable to them is capturing a moment in their lives and empowering them to tell their experience.

Sanitary products brand Always is commendable in this area. Through the #LikeAGirl campaign, it asks girls to recall moments in which they felt crushed or challenged. Then it invites them to reclaim those times by sharing their unique stories. In this crowdsourcing effort, Always becomes more than just a seller of pads to the participants. It is able to show empathy on a large scale while positioning itself as a girl’s ally.

SWOT in context

Building a business does not take place in a vacuum. Your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) always have a context. For example, you can say you entered the market early, so you have the first-mover advantage. Or say you may be a latecomer but with a better product to offer. Focus on a component of your SWOT and take it from there.

Apple continues to be a cult favorite in this regard. According to a poll by creative agency Aesop, the company remains the top storytelling brand in the United Kingdom. It sure didn’t invent personal computers; but by the time it played the “1984” ad, Apple was ready to take on the giants (e.g. IBM) with the introduction of the Macintosh computer. In addition, Apple was also locking in its signature ad style: not showing the product or its specs but promising it would be revolutionary.

The spirit of collaboration

Never underestimate the power of networking. With the emerging trends among fledgling startups and entrepreneurs, such as coworking and meetups, it is easier to connect with like-minded groups and individuals. Social enterprises banding together make the perfect case study. While you should craft a story that can stand alone, collaborating with another company will let you gain wider reach and greater exposure. You can guest in panels, pool funds for an awareness campaign, and share startup joys and pains together.

In other words, if you can't move your story forward, you have to go out literally to find inspiration. If you feel like you have to expand your network first, try visiting a coworking space. This infographic points out that coworking spaces are currently the hottest hubs for freelancers, independent contractors, and solopreneurs as well as startups. They’re a good place to start finding one who can match your brand’s vision. While joining online groups is faster, the face-to-face interactions here provide an opportunity for you to know another company on a personal level.

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