Oftentimes as a marketer and publicist I get asked, “How do I grow my business?” While I strongly dislike those who answer a question with a question, my response is this, “Do you have a storytelling strategy?” In other words, let’s first dive deep into the communication strategy that you have (or don't have yet).
It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of launching a business or a new product. You spend hours, weeks and thousands of dollars mulling over a logo design, company name, brand color scheme or even new imagery of that shiny new product you’re adding to inventory — but somehow skip over crucial steps of how to effectively communicate it all to your audience. Don’t get me wrong, a strong visual brand identity is super important but it essentially holds no value if it’s not being supported through good storytelling.
So, where to begin with crafting a plan that works? Check out these 6 essentials that should be in your storytelling starter kit:
1. Brand Messaging
Is your brand story clear and defined throughout your messaging?
Every story has a beginning and yours should start here. Crafting brand messaging is not an easy process but one that pays off in the long run. It ultimately helps you establish your overall brand identity and purpose. It is your why, your reason for operating, your roots and your path forward.
Brand messaging is not only critical to introducing your brand, but is often the foundation for crafting essentials like your About page, knowing what tone of voice you want to use, phrases to use or avoid when describing your company and your key selling points.
Understanding the core of the brand you are building (or might have already launched) helps you build the right connections with your consumers. With every piece of marketing that you create and distribute, you can reference back to your brand messaging and ask yourself if it’s communicating what you need it to.
Do you have an engaging and informative website?
You’ve purchased the domain name and laid out a beautifully designed website. What’s next? Your content, of course. But not just any content, the right mix of content. A successful website is fully primed for functionality and a user-friendly experience. If your content is boring, too salesy or irrelevant, you’re not giving your prospects much reason to hang around and explore through your website.
First thing’s first, make sure your homepage is compelling and straightforward. The average user spends about 10-20 seconds on your website which means that’s how little you have to capture their attention and reel them in. You want your audience to know exactly who you are and what you do without having to scroll through or click on any other pages. In other words, don’t make them work too hard. And in addition to having all the information they may need about you, make sure you’re offering up helpful information and resources that help them. This is where a good and consistent blog strategy comes into play.
Regularly sharing news or helpful articles on your website is a great way to drive traffic to your site. Not to mention, it improves your search engine rankings — aka makes your site easier to find. By serving engaging content that aims to inform, you are also empowering your audience to make an educated decision about buying your product or hiring your services.
3. Content Strategy
Are you creating and sharing cohesive content with a purpose?
Before getting into the nitty gritty of each marketing channel, mapping out an overarching plan for your content will make marketing your business much easier. The trick to capturing and converting audiences is creating and sharing content with a purpose. Make sure that your content is offering them value and relevant to their needs. That it’s answering their questions or equipping them with useful information and resources.
Define attainable goals like audience growth or lead generation, outline your audience profile to remind yourself who you’re communicating with and organize ideas into categories that are easy to follow. Create a system that works for you and helps you plan your month in advance, whether it’s a scheduling app or a Google Sheets spreadsheet. This will help you get a bird’s eye view of your overall content and ensure that you’re consistent throughout your channels.
4. Social Media Presence
Is your social media stopping the scroll and creating an engaged online community?
Diving deep into your social media strategy once your overall content plan is laid out involves a bit more research on your part. The first step is narrowing down the platforms you will focus on. Basically, you want to be where your audience is consuming content. If they’re slightly older and spending more time on Facebook, there’s your sweet spot. If you’re marketing to professionals and executives then LinkedIn might be your best bet.
Next up, focus on creating valuable and shareable social media content that works for that specific platform. What might work on YouTube may not work on Pinterest, and vice versa. Each platform has its own features, best practices and recommendations when it comes to creating and publishing content on there. With all that in mind, the rule of thumb is making sure what you post is compelling enough to “stop the scroll” and cultivate an engaged online community who become invested in your brand.
5. Emails & Newsletters
Are you growing and making good use of your email list?
What good is knowing how to grow an email database if you are not making good use of it. While growing your subscriber base is half the battle, there are ways to make this slightly easier. The first is to create content interesting enough on your website and social platforms that will entice a user to want to sign up for more. For a stronger push, opt for incentives such as free tips or insights — or even an exclusive offer that can only be unlocked by signing up.
Once you’ve earned their trust and captured their emails, treat that list like a prized possession or a new love interest who is just getting to know you. You want to nurture that relationship and court them, but at the same time you do not want to come across as stalker-ish. Knowing the difference between spamming their inboxes and strategically “popping in” is key. Plan to touch base once or twice a month with relevant information, news or announcements. Use emails and newsletters as a means of amplifying your brand message and sharing relevant stories and content such as recent articles posted and drive traffic back to your website. And last but not least, pay attention to what emails they are opening and clicking on to learn what they’re looking for.
6. Sales Materials
How are you converting your audience into customers?
When all is said and done, your sales and business materials should be reflective of your brand story and feel like a natural extension of your overall messaging. Be careful of the language you are using. Incorporate key selling points that reinforce the story you have been telling your prospects throughout your website, social and more. At this point, they have invested time by consuming your content and engaging with you. You’ve built up some trust and reeled them in. So if your endpoint experience is disconnected from everything you have put out, you might have just taken five steps back.
Whether it’s a sales flyer, a pitch deck or a catalog, weave in wording that is easy to understand, easy to read, short and punchy and helps you close that sale.
Storytelling is an essential part of any business. It sets the record straight about your brand and sets the stage for success. Whether it’s been years since you’ve launched your company or you’re new to this game, take some time to pause and go back to basics.
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