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Inbound Marketing & the art of storytelling

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Posted by: Alison Schroeder on Wed, Oct 28, 2015

One of the first jobs I applied for fresh out of college was as an obituary writer for the St. Cloud Times. It had nothing to do with morbid fascination or macabre curiosity and everything to do with storytelling – which is what I do as part of our inbound marketing team. As the Creative Content Lead, I help clients find their voice and use it in such a way that not only appeals to their audience, but also gets them results. Storytelling and inbound marketing go together like beer and Leighton Interactive. Let me tell you a little about how your brand benefits from this age-old practice.

Once Upon a Time

One of the core responsibilities I have is to get to the root of “why”. I continually ask clients what their “why” is – why are you doing what you’re doing? Why cars, commercial construction, healthcare, garage doors, jewelry, life coaching? Everyone has a reason for being in the business they’re in. That’s their “why” – as one of our heroes Simon Sinek asks as a profession. Whys reveal the foundation of individual stories, and that’s the first connection we make to our clients. As their marketing team’s sixth man, we need to eat, sleep, research, drink, and breathe their “why” so we can help them find their voice, and deliver the messages their audience wants to hear.

And, audiences everywhere want to hear stories. Our brains crave it. 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story. Stories are what people remember. They are relatable. Inbound marketing portrays clients and customers as the hero, and people respond to that protagonist everywhere. Storytelling as part of marketing efforts makes brands, big and small, more personable. It gives them a name, humanizing the brand. There is no brand too large or too small to benefit from storytelling.

Proof

Storytelling is so much more than telling stories in marketing and advertising. It’s an essential content marketing technique that has an integral place in marketing strategies. We’re living in a social and content-intensive time, and storytelling is a surefire way to grab hold of the elusive attention span – which we all know by now is less than that of a goldfish. So much of what we see day in and day out when we live online is standard attention-grabbing headlines. Six Ways to be Smarter. What You’re Missing in Your Life. The Benefits of This Product. The list goes on. While often attention garnering, this type of content can’t grab someone by the heart and look into his or her eyes like storytelling can.

Good stories compel people to change – if it’s authentic, creative, emotional, and inspiring. At Leighton Interactive we’re always innovating. Thinking of new ways to make the inbound methodology better. Storytelling is a way for us to do that on behalf of our clients. It’s not always the first choice of clients. It might expose them. Make them uncomfortable. Yet, that’s kind of the entire point. The world is catching on and capitalizing on storytelling as part of their strategies. The New York Times published a roundup in 2014 of the best interactive storytelling the newspaper icon covered within the year. It’s quite the list of beautiful, compelling, and eye-opening topics, everything from finishing in fourth place at the Olympics and why we experienced an Ebola catastrophe, to what America eats for Thanksgiving dinner across the nation. What’s the connection to journalism from a marketer’s point of view? Everything. Reporters are natural storytellers who seek the truth. They write because they’re sworn to disseminate for the greater good of people. That’s what marketers do, too.

Turning to Storytelling in Inbound Marketing

If you’re unsure why, where, or how storytelling can be used in marketing, start at the beginning: your website. 61% of global Internet users research products online; they are utilizing your website before they know anything else about you. You have about eight seconds to keep your audience rapt – use it to tell a story. Start with your “why”. Build that into your mission, vision, and values, and weave it throughout the bios on your page. Fortify your headlines with your story. Tell the story of your inception. Why you chose the business name. Maybe you failed spectacularly somewhere along the way. Tell that story, too. The more real and transparent you are, the greater the chances your audience and potential consumers or clients will view you and your brand in appealing light. The oldest adage on the planet is people buy from people … it’s true. Be a person. Tell a story.

Consider the methods you employ when you blog. Are you following inbound marketing’s methodology with awareness, consideration, and decision-type posts? Using this platform to tell your story, as well as one hundred others, is easy. Write what you know, follow the methodology, and great things will happen. A recent example of this from my point of view has to do with a blog we published on behalf of our client, Walker Methodist. They are a senior living organization with 11 campuses in the twin cities-metro area. Their brand is extremely human. But even when your business is all about people, as theirs is, it can be hard to attach a story to it. Last month, the blog post titled A Walker Methodist Miracle: Meet Tracy featured a resident’s story directly relating to her home – Walker Methodist. It was pure journalism, a blog post that to date has garnered 312 views. For comparison, Walker Methodist’s blog with 5-7 posts a month has averaged 293 views per month, total, in 2015.

That’s just one example of great storytelling to boost your brand and reinforce to your audience that you, too, are a human. Check out other examples of inbound marketing storytelling here, here, and here. If you don’t think anything about you, your business, or service constitutes a story, I’m willing to bet you’re wrong. Let’s discuss. I love stories.

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Alison Schroeder

About The Author

Alison Schroeder

My fire is fueled by the relationships I make, build, and cherish. I love hearing people’s stories, what makes them who they are, and where I fit into their lives. As the Creative Content Lead at Leighton Interactive, I'm a storyteller. I’m lucky that I can use my natural ability to help people find their voices, tell their stories, and reach their goals so their businesses can get results. Outside the office I get excited to find sunshine, consume iced coffee, work out, or add unique pieces of jewelry to my ever-growing collection. I also tell stories on behalf of my local AAF chapter, and serve as the Board's President.

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