Storyselling: When Your Customers Don’t Want to Be Sold

by 7 10/03/2013

Everyone knows what storytelling is—but what about storyselling?

Storyselling is the act of selling your product or service through telling a story.  But this simple definition encompasses so much more.  It puts a human angle to the traditionally dry and boring concept of selling.  It connects people to people rather than a faceless corporation to its followers.

The fact is, people have been hard-wired since our caveman days to pay attention to stories.  Uncle Uggh’s riveting tale of almost becoming a sabre-toothed tiger’s lunch taught our knuckle-dragging ancestors how to avoid being eaten.

By the same token, smart marketers are leveraging the art of the story to engage users on a level that puts traditional broadcast marketing to shame.

But how do you sell to customers when customers don’t want to be sold to?

That’s where the ‘story’ part comes in—and done right, it can weave a connection with your prospect that no amount of classic promoting can compare to.

Let’s take a look at how some companies and organizations are leveraging this ancient platform with a digital spin:

Example #1:  A Worry-Free Lesson

drink

Wondering how many drinks you can have until you’re over the legal limit?  Town Centre Car Parks in the UK decided to help out by letting patrons choose their drink type and number of drinks from an infographic slider, then shows the results, as well as some startling statistics on drunk driving.

The company manages to effortlessly weave its own brand into the mix by giving drivers an alternative: Park your car with us over the holiday season and avoid an accident or, worse, jail time.

Key Takeaway:  By focusing on educating consumers about the legal blood alcohol level for their favorite spirits, and then reminding them of the consequences of driving drunk, Town Center Car Parks has situated itself as a more realistic choice for enjoying all the festivities.

When looking for ways to tell your story, don’t make yourself the center of attention. Showcase your brand as the best possible alternative to a more unfortunate or unpleasant outcome.

Example #2: Visual Fizz

activate

Activate is a beverage with a unique cap that dispenses a vitamin-infusion into the drink, letting consumers directly control and ‘activate’ the vitamins and herbal compounds right when they open the bottle.

Not only does the site take the visitor through a fizzy whirlwind tour of the products and how they work, but it also explains why Activate is different from your typical vitamin waters and other energy drinks.

By establishing itself as a different player in the insanely competitive beverage market, Activate is capturing the minds (and dollars) of active consumers who want the freshest drink possible along with all of the health benefits—but don’t want to mix the two in a watered-down version off the shelf.

Key Takeaway:  Make your uniqueness a selling point by demonstrating to customers through the power of a story how you’re different—and why it should matter to them.  How will they gain from it?  Why should they care about that?

Example #3: The Dangers of Fracking

fracking

Organizations are also leveraging storyselling to help sway the hearts and minds of people who are (or want to be) active in causes that matter to them.

Case in point is an interactive infographic called The Dangers of Fracking. Dive down as a drop on a mission to explore how fracking can damage the environment and pollute the water system we all depend on.

Dangers of Fracking also gives customers a call-to-action that implores them to take what they’ve learned and act on it by contacting their local governmental representatives and sharing the message across social networks.

Key Takeaway: This story illustrates the dangers and pitfalls of a controversial subject.  By including statistics and showing the actual process in an illustrated form, you’re showing exactly how a picture is worth a thousand words, and how to get involved in a mission that matters.

Example #4: Evolution of the Cloud

cloud

Symantec has used a timeline infographic to show how the cloud has evolved over time from a simple network storage service, to full-fledged go-anywhere personal computing. Symantec also manages to track its own progress through the years and emphasize how its products keep the cloud a safer, more secure place to do business.

Key Takeaway: Rather than completely reinventing the wheel, look at what is quickly becoming a staple of your industry and piggyback on its success by showing how your company has either paved the way or become a noticeable force that’s on the cutting edge of a sizable change in the way we do things.

More than Just Infographics

Before you think that storyselling is just fancy, interactive infographics, think again.  While infographics are a great way to showcase statistics and data, it’s still the ‘story’ part that gets people to remember and act on what they’ve learned.

If you’d like to create your own storyselling platform, there are several services to look into that make it easy to do:

Brickflow: A service which allows you to create or leverage a hashtag, and then turn those communications into a slideshow. Works with posts and pictures from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr.

Thinglink: Add rich media to images.  You can integrate buy-now links, video, other images and text as well as comments of your own.

Tapestry: A tappable story for the mobile generation.  Tell your story and let users tap their way through education, entertainment or enlightenment.

Hello Slide: Don’t like how you sound on a recording? Fear not, Hello Slide is here to help.  Just type your text and Hello Slide will record the audio for you while making your presentation searchable. Available in 20 different languages.

What are your thoughts on storyselling?  Effective advertising tool or useless fad?  Share your thoughts below in the comments!

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About 

Sherice Jacob helps website owners improve conversion rates with custom design, copywriting and website reviews.  Get your free conversion checklist and web copy tune-up by visiting iElectrify.com.

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7 COMMENTS

Jason Thibeault

I have a better idea. How about…STOP SELLING! The problem, whether with story or broadcast marketing, is that the underlying message is all about “me, me, me.” Buy from me. How about rather than doing that, you just be helpful? Give content to people (storyform is great because we create emotional connection to narrative frameworks) just because you want to be part of the conversation. Build credibility and authenticity. Stop acting like a used car salesman all the time. I agree there is a time and place for outbound/demand-gen related content. And a place for what you have described as well. But constantly selling is NOT acknowledging the one thing that can undermine every sales effort: consumers have choice (especially in today’s digital age).

October 15, 2013 Reply

    Sherice Jacob

    Hi Jason,
    I agree, most people think that selling = who can yell the loudest and get the most people to focus on “me, me, me”. But isn’t building credibility and authenticity also a form of selling? You’re still trying to convince people “this is why you should pay attention to ME”, but in a way where they win too (benefitting from your expertise).

    The old-fashioned “top-down” tradtional sales model has (thankfully!) run its course — to be replaced by equal exchange of talent and quality / give-and-take / content marketing. And I for one am glad to see that happening!

    October 15, 2013 Reply

      Kathryn Aragon

      Well said, Sherice. I agree. The customer has a voice now, so old-style selling doesn’t work. We use a softer approach now, but the aim is the same. We still want to engage our customers and persuade them to buy.

      October 15, 2013 Reply

Clive Portman

“Park your car with us over the holiday season and avoid an accident or, worse, jail time.” – jail is worse than an accident? Depends on the accident, right.

February 16, 2014 Reply


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