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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Apr 19, 2016 9 min read

Why Stories Are Critical For Inbound Marketing Success

Inbound Marketing Is Designed For People, And People Love Stories

Inbound Marketing Needs StoriesYou can look at your marketing as an academic exercise, and you can consider it business as usual, but if you want your investment in marketing to pay off, you need to keep the customer’s human condition in mind. There’s a reason why the team at HubSpot took a stuffed animal to meetings as a way to represent the customer. There’s also a reason why we spend two months working with clients to come up with the stories that prospects need to hear in order to feel comfortable enough to become new customers.

People and stories go back to the beginning of time. Our brains are designed to retain stories, to share stories, to connect with stories. This is why your stories are such a critical aspect of your inbound marketing strategy. This is also why some inbound marketing programs fail to deliver results: If the stories are missing, your program is lacking a major component. Don’t believe me? Check out this great article from Fast Company on how our brains crave stories.

Here are a few ways to weave stories into your marketing for a major lift in results.

What’s Your Why?

Looking for a compelling story to connect prospects with your business? Start with the reason why you started your business. Yes, I’m sure feeding your family and wanting to send your kids to college were both big reasons for starting your business, but there was probably another one, right? We call this your why.

Square 2 Marketing was started to help business owners, CEOs and marketing people take advantage of the major shift in how people buy. We wanted to teach them inbound marketing and inbound sales so they could adjust their go-to-market strategy. We wanted to teach them what to do, when to do it and how to do it. If they don’t want to learn, we’re here to do it for them. We’re part of the inbound movement.

We have a client who sells safety products to companies with manufacturing operations. Their why is to send every one of their customers’ employees home safe every night. For them, it’s not about selling safety products, and for us, it’s not about getting new clients. Both companies have a more compelling, more emotional and more memorable “why.” You need this for your business, too.

Skip The Features And Benefits

Most businesses love talking about the features and benefits of their products or services. It’s easy to list out all the features and benefits. It’s also reasonable to think that people want this information, and they do, but not before they have some compelling stories about your business. Features and benefits are not easy to remember, and people aren’t interested in sharing the features and benefits of your business.

That’s why you want to lead with stories. You have 10 seconds to grab someone’s attention on the Web. That means if you lead with features and benefits, you’re done before you even get started. What’s emotional about the details of your equipment, software or services? If you start with a story, you pull your prospects in, you get their attention, their brains start processing the story and, if it’s good enough, you capture their interest. Now you have the ability to encourage them to spend time getting to know, like and trust your business. This is the essence of good marketing.

Make Your Prospects The Heroes

Another mistake marketers typically make when it comes to stories is designating their business, product or service as the hero of the story. Nope. You want to make the prospect the hero. Or, you want to feature your customer as the hero of the story so that your prospects see the potential for themselves to be the heroes at their own companies.

Good storytelling has a beginning, middle and end. Great storytelling has a hero, someone who faced a challenge and overcame it to achieve success. It’s this kind of story that you want to create for your business. You want to have as many stories as possible. The more stories you develop, the more memorable your business is going to be. The more stories you develop, the more people will be talking about your business.

Here’s an example.

I recently got a puppy, and we needed someone to look after him a few times each week. We searched online and found a service that comes to your home and looks after your dog. The stories they told helped us feel safe and closed the sale.

We’ll take pics of your dog and text them to you so you can see how he’s doing. We’ll also include a short description of what he did during our visit. You can schedule us anytime with our online scheduling tool. These are short, simple stories that we can remember and understand.

The challenges these stories helped me with included: How will I know when you come? How will I know what you did with the dog when you came by? How will I know how the dog is doing? How do I request a visit, and how much notice do I need to give you? These are simple questions, answered with simple stories.

They made me the hero because I feel like I’m taking good care of my puppy even though I’m leaving him home. Notice the emotional terminology used throughout the story and across my descriptions. People make purchase decisions emotionally, so the stories have to include emotional elements.

The result? We’ve shared these stories with almost everyone we’ve talked to about our puppy over the last few days, and we’ve even shared the texts and pics that the service sent us as proof to go along with our story. I’m sure their website traffic is up, and they might have even picked up a few new customers, too. This is how stories drive results from marketing.

I know this is a simplistic example, but every business needs these stories, and every business can create these stories. They become part of an inventory that is used on your website, in email marketing, for social media conversation starters, as content for educational materials (like long-form e-books and blogs) and infused throughout your inbound sales process so that salespeople are able to share the stories at the right time, with the right people, to help your prospects feel safe enough to hire you and only you.

The Science Of Inbound Marketing StrategyStart Today Tip – Once you understand how you help your customers, you should be able to translate that into stories. This is one of the exercises we do with our clients during the marketing strategy phase of the engagement. You want to translate what makes your business special into stories that highlight the value to your prospects and customers. Create your “why,” as that is going to be one of your most important stories. What makes your business remarkable? That is going to be an important story, too. Package these stories up and infuse them into all of your marketing messaging. Once you add this upgrade, I’m sure you’ll see the business results moving up and to the right.

Square 2 Marketing – Inbound Results Start With ME!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.