Marketing Strategy Must Include A Conversation About Your Stories, Or Else Your Lead Generation Is Dead On Arrival
Here I am talking about marketing strategy again. But do yourself a big favor and read this article, because you’re not going to want to miss it. I’m talking about strategy again because it continues to be the key to successful lead generation and the most overlooked, under-delivered part of every inbound marketing engagement.
Think about your own inbound marketing program. How much time did you or your inbound marketing agency spend on strategy? A couple of hours in an initial meeting? A day or two? Maybe a week? I know, you did personas, which took you a couple of days or maybe a week to create. Then what else did you do? Did you map out each persona’s buyer journey?
Did you dig deep into the challenges (we call them pains) that each persona faces every day? Did you connect your solutions (products or services) to each of the challenges? Did you look at how you differentiate your company against all of your competition (both obvious and substitute)? Did you objectively evaluate that differentiation? When you said your people were great, did anyone challenge you? Don’t your competitors say their people are great too?
But most importantly, when all of this hard work was completed (yes, it takes more than a week), did you end up with a story or stories that clearly move targeted prospects to say, “wow, your company sounds amazing and we’d like to talk about doing business with you”? If the answer is “no,” then you have more marketing strategy work to do and you might need a different kind of agency to help you do it.
Here’s why the story and its connection to your marketing strategies is so important.
Stories Are In Our DNA
We’ve been telling stories since the first days of man. It’s hard-coded into our DNA. Don’t believe me, I’m just a marketing guy, but here’s an article from the Harvard Business Review that helps you understand how the brain works and why stories are so much better than features, benefits and technical information.
Just as the brain detects patterns in the visual forms of nature — a face, a figure, a flower — and in sound, it also detects patterns in information. Stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. Stories cut through the clutter, seemingly to stand out. Stories are easier to remember, stories are shared and stories can make deep personal connections with people.
People Buy Emotionally First And Stories Trigger Emotions
As marketers, we have a big task. Cut through the clutter, get someone’s attention, retain that attention long enough to tell them something and then get them to act. But that should not be the end game, even for marketers. After they take that initial action, we must encourage them to actually buy something. It’s an insanely daunting task in today’s world of personal devices and mass marketing tools.
Human beings are designed to defend themselves from unwanted interruptions and from change. Another obstacle when it comes to marketing is that “we already do something like that” is a phrase we all use to put off thinking about change.
But stories have the incredible ability to cut through ALL of that. A good story gets your attention, and I mean your actual attention. You’ll put down your device, you’ll listen with both ears, you’ll internalize it and you might even react emotionally (get angry, feel sad, smile or laugh).
Your business needs these stories. Your business is already amazing and you have the potential to create the most incredible stories. You just have to spend the time to build the stories.
You’re going to need stories that disrupt your prospect’s status quo. So instead of thinking, “we already do something like that,” they think, “we should really look into this, just in case.”
You’re going to need stories that emotionally connect with your prospects. They need to be the hero in your stories and they need to see themselves succeeding or achieving something valuable. “How would you feel if we generated enough leads that you exceeded your sales targets by 300%?” Maybe the message is a little soft, but it’s emotional and it gets you to feel something.
You’re going to need stories that move people to action and get them to want to do something. “How would you feel if we could get you to exceed your sales targets by 300% in just 30 days? We’re giving you the first step in our 10-step process to start your journey toward 300% sales growth. Just click here to download step one.”
Crafting a compelling story isn’t easy. Even these examples could be better with more time and thought, but you get the idea. For examples from actual clients, click here to see the stories a safety products company is using, click here to see the stories a welding company is using and click here to see the stories a bank is using. In each of these examples, they’re leading with stories, not features, products or company info.
Stories Impact Every Single Marketing Tactic
You saw a handful of client websites using high-value stories to drive their multimedia storytelling. However, the key to inbound marketing is not one tactic (like the website) but many tactics all firing simultaneously. Emails trigger clicks to landing pages, searches trigger links to website pages, conversions trigger ongoing lead nurturing, stories posted on social media trigger clicks to the website and stories on other websites trigger more visitors to your home page. The list could go on and on.
The one consistent thread across all those diverse sets of marketing tactics is the story. Is it consistent? Is it emotional? Is it compelling? Does it cause me to take action? Does it disrupt the status quo? Does it produce results? Today, all aspects of marketing are 100% quantifiable. I can tell you in real time whether my stories are working or not, where they’re working and where they’re not, and who they’re working with and who is not responding. It has all become very scientific.
In situations where performance is below expectations, we adjust the stories accordingly. Sometimes it takes adjustments based on data to get the stories right. Rarely would we ever get all the stories for all the personas exactly right out of the gate, but the data and the processes for optimizing program performance helps us quickly respond and make adjustments.
Stories Impact Every Single Sales Touch
Stories don’t only impact your marketing, they also impact your sales efforts. Compelling stories that are tactically connected to your prospects’ buyer journey within the sales process result in higher close rates, shorter sales cycles and higher average revenue per new client. These are real numbers that have real impact on your top and bottom line.
I’m sure now you’re thinking about how you’d even start getting all of your salespeople to tell the same story at the same time in the sales process to the right people across all your prospects. Yes, that’s a big task, but there are ways to make that much easier. CRM systems like Salesforce.com and HubSpot are a first step. Having defined sales processes, well-crafted email templates and a library of educational content that supports the right stories at the right time for the right prospects all combine to make the goal of improving storytelling within the sales team very doable.
Stories Have The Potential To Improve Your Performance Metrics By 10x
You may be wondering, why even bother? After all, it sounds like a lot of hard work, even if you believe adding stories is going to improve your marketing.
It’s a fair question. The answer is all about the numbers. We’ve seen clients that were getting three leads a month jump to 30 leads a month. Is that worth it? We’ve seen clients that were getting 30 leads a month jump to 300 leads a month. Is that worth it? We’ve seen clients that were closing two or three new customers a month improve to 20 to 30 customers a month. That definitely seems worth it, but only you can decide.
You already have the marketing and sales piece down. It’s time to see what improving your stories, messaging and differentiation can do to drive your leads, new customers and revenue growth. It seems like a relatively low-risk proposition to me.
There are a lot of smart marketers, smart businesspeople and smart CEOs. I know a lot of people who read our blog are in this category, and I know sometimes it might seem like we think you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s not the case. What we do think is that inbound is new and most people doing it haven’t been doing it for very long. They’re doing the best they can with the knowledge and experience they have. But it can be better.
We know that marketing strategy involves a lot of heavy lifting. It involves consensus building and even changes in operations. We know most people would prefer to not do this work and instead use marketing to produce the demand, leads and new customers required to hit your targets. We get all of that. Our hope is that through our no-fluff approach to our own stories and our attempt to disrupt your status quo that you start to consider other options, approaches and solutions to your marketing and sales challenges.
What makes smart people successful is they know when to get help. They know when to ask experts for their guidance and advice. They know when their expertise and background needs to be supplemented with other skills and experience. That’s who we want to work with, and articles like these are designed to get you thinking, introduce you to alternatives and help you identify weak spots in your current marketing so that improvements can be applied and results move up to the right month over month.
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