Too many business stories don’t break through because they’re too boring. Predictable. Plain vanilla.
To win attention, spice up your story
Why are many marketing messages so generic? Often, it’s because marketers assume that their audiences already know what they need to know.
I’m here to tell you: No, they don’t.
Never assume your audience knows your topic as well as you do
Chances are, you know your topic 10 times or 100 times better than they ever will. What’s everyday to you is not everyday to your audience.
Help people see what’s in it for them (WIIFM?) by telling the stories you can tell best. Spice up your story by adding customer stories, how-to stories, and origin stories.
As your story sinks in, customers will use it to inform their buying decisions.
This lesson hit me when a new spice shop opened up near my home
This shop displays each herb and spice with a simple label: rosemary, cinnamon, turmeric. The people inside are nice folks.
Shopping for spices in such a shop is wonderfully experiential: You open each canister and take a whiff, and get a sense of the flavor note each spice hits.
Unfortunately, the new shop takes a “generic list” approach to its marketing. Signs tell customers the names of spices, the prices, and … that’s it.
Telling too small a story commoditizes their spices. The only difference is price, and price shoppers can find cheaper spices at the grocery store.
For an experienced chef, this shop’s “generic list” approach to marketing offers all they need to make a choice. But it’s just not enough to convert me into a regular customer.
I buy into the romance of each spice’s story
I drive more than 10 miles to buy spices at my favorite spice shop, Penzey’s. Penzey’s knows full well how to tell 4 kinds of stories about each spice, in the store and on their website:
Origin Where does each spice come from, which country, what region?
Health How does each spice help people stay healthy?
Recipes What are good recipes to use this spice? How can cooks incorporate it into everyday cooking?
Stories What stories do customers tell about each spice? Do they associate it with a family recipe, or remember it from childhood?
Take cinnamon, for example. Penzey’s offers sticks, chunks and ground cinnamon.
Origin Penzey’s cinnamons come from 4 different countries: Ceylon, China, Indonesia and Vietnam. Or you can buy a blend.
As its website says, “Vietnamese cinnamon is the strongest, richest, and sweetest cinnamon around.” Of course, that makes it my favorite. I don’t know another shop that markets cinnamon from Vietnam.
Health The website includes a customer story from Carol Zokan-Cameron, a cancer survivor who’s using more spices in her cooking.
Recipes You’ll find 202 recipes on Penzey’s website that use cinnamon. The same recipes appear in their catalogs.
We’re talking cinnamon rolls, apple pie, Christmas cookies, and French toast. Mouth-watering. Yum.
Stories Customers tell stories in their own words and pictures, about their lives and what cooking means to them. For example, here’s a story from Brynne Garman that includes some ideas for what to do with cinnamon.
In any business, there’s always a better way to tell your story
No business is too simple or too boring to tell its story well. Don’t commoditize your business by failing to tell your story.
As the New York Times observed in a story about yogurt, “People want a story behind what they buy. That’s why craft beers and small organics are doing so well.”
Avoid the plain vanilla approach. Spice up your story!
Use a Message Map to capture your whole story on one page, so you can make it more clear, concise, and consistent than ever before. With a Message Map, your employees will learn to tell your story so well, you’ll add customers and grow your business.
Choose the right ingredients to spice up your story!
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.