Why your customers want stories, not ego

What’s your story? hands holding an open book background message

Remember when you were a child and your parents taught you right from wrong via a story? Stories like this convey meaning and teach a lesson to those they are told to.

Throughout the generations, storytelling has been used as a vehicle to disseminate information. If it’s a story with rich meaning, it can be retold for centuries.

The power of storytelling makes sense. According to Stanford University research, when statistics are shared alone they have a retention rate of five-10 per cent, but when coupled with anecdotes (or stories), the retention rate rises to 65-70 per cent.

But do small-business owners tell their stories in the content they create? Often they don’t. It’s ironic that the very thing allowing small-business owners to tell stories is stopping most from doing it. Blame digital media.

You have access to a large array of tools with which to share information. Blogs, ebooks, webinars, podcasts or videos and this is overwhelmingly positive but it’s also open to mass saturation.

The barrier to entry to business is incredibly low these days. Anybody with a social media account can pontificate about their business success and bombard you with crass ego-driven content that only benefits them. Unfortunately, this white noise is drowning the value you can add.

These “entrepreneurs” are quick to post selfies in front of expensive (rented) cars with motivational quotes encouraging you to quit the “nine to five” and live a dream life like them.

You didn’t get to where you are in business by being fooled by this false-economy and neither have your ideal customers. They want your content to be engaging and offer a solution to their problem – you can do that by sharing a story, but not delivered egotistically.

In order to stay clear of creating ego-driven content, you need to truly understand your ideal customer and what they want to engage with to turn them from an audience to a follower, to a loyal customer.

It’s important to have a content strategy in place, but the following tips are the beginnings of a content-process that will ensure that you avoid “look at me” content.

SEO is a huge component of this. If you understand what your market is searching for, you can create content around what they need. Going beyond this though is the ability to create stories out of the keywords/themes being searched – otherwise, you’re just uploading content and so is everybody else.

Compile a list of your customers whose opinion you trust and survey them (use an online program) to get their input about the themes and topics you should focus content on. Trust me, they will give you ideas that you never thought of.

You’ll get plenty that you can work with. This will be the beginning of a story catalogue you can continue to build and use throughout your content. It will also relieve the pressure of constantly trying to identify topics to use in your content.

In fact, you can even include customers in your content if they tell a ripping yarn. This will even further remove you from creating ego-driven content because others are fronting it for you. If created well, it will also become a giant testimonial for you.

Blogs, ebooks, webinars, podcasts and videos are great lead generators, but only if you do it for the benefit of your ideal customers. Remember, you don’t add value by telling everyone you’re awesome.

Luke Buesnel, Content Director, Story League