Telling Your Story: Questions, objections and confusion... plus a few answers

Pat Bowen
Pat Bowenposted on on September 17, 2014

If you’ve read our Project Kickstart Guide you know one of the three key points we try to make is effectively telling your story. If you haven’t read the guide you can get a copy for free here:

Some companies are eager to start telling their story. Others are apprehensive for a few reasons. Others feel stuck not knowing where to start. Below are a few questions and statements we hear and our responses.

Customers don't want to hear a long story. They just aren't interested in hearing about our history.

You’re right. They don’t want to be forced to watch a 15 minutes video about your beginnings, and they don’t always want to read a long story either. Potential customers do, however, want to trust you. They also are more likely to buy when they identify with you on a values or emotional level.

“Emotions drive decisions, prompt actions, and change mind-sets, leading to strong loyalty and a deep personal connection with a given brand that can extend beyond its rational attributes.” – Content Marketing Institute 9/8/13

In the article “How branded Content Can Make An Emotional Connection” from the Content Marketing Institute they explain how subconscious feelings and psychological connections cause consumers to pick a brand and stick with it. They pick one that is consistent with their image of themselves. For this reason it is important that your company takes the time to determine who you are. This is your story. What you represent (beyond pricing, features, and benefits of your product) is what creates this foundation.

Telling your story doesn’t have to be in a single sitting. It doesn’t need to be a long article and it doesn’t need to be forced. Using it as a foundation for the voice your company speaks with is important in creating consistency though. On your website you can tell your story in parts. You may have a history or values page, but you can also work parts of your story into other marketing pieces. You can use a short story to explain why you developed a product on a landing page for that product. At Pageworks we spend time at the start of a project understanding your story so we can work elements of it into the design of your site or printed material. We use your story as the base for design, copy, and photography selection.

The short version? Having a solid story can drive all elements of your brand, and it will help you connect with customers even if the whole story isn’t told all of the time.

Telling a story might be good if we sold to consumers, but we sell direct to other businesses.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that telling a story and creating an emotional connection is only good for brands like Apple, Starbucks, or the bakery down the street that sells to consumers. That’s simply not true. If that were true great sales people wouldn’t spend so much time on developing relationships with their customers. You need to remember that people buy your products whether they are doing it on behalf of their employer or for their own use.

Kapost summarized research by Google, the CEB and Motista that shows business to consumer brands have emotional connections with 10-40% of consumers while business to business brands have an emotional connection with over 50% of their buyers.

 business value vs. emotionBrought to you by Kapost

The short version? It’s even more important for you to develop a story and connect with customers if you sell directly to other businesses.

People only buy products like mine based on price.

Are you operating in an area that buyers have classified as a commodity? You’re probably dealing with categorical thinking. Because you and your competitors have played the price game, buyers have started to categorize your product as one that is a commodity. They’re ignoring the context that makes you different from your competitors. You need to help these potential customers understand that your company doesn’t necessarily fit in that category. Once they see that they can’t just lump you in with your competitors you will have a much easier time speaking to them about the benefits of what your company offers. One way to get a person to realize you don’t fit into a lumped up category is to effectively tell your story. When told effectively your story offers context that sets you apart.

We’re also talking about price versus value. When someone tells us they sell on price the first thing we ask is “Does the customer really mean price or are they talking about value when they say you’re priced too high?”. Let’s look at Pageworks as an example.

I was talking to one of the sales reps a few weeks ago about a brochure we printed. The cover included some detail that was particularly hard to print. During the press checks the team had to adjust the press numerous times. Apparently it wasn’t a fun process. At the end of the story she said something like “But that’s why Client X uses us. We take the time to make sure the work is at or above their standards.” There are obviously budget printers out there who can print a brochure cheaper than what Pageworks does, but there aren’t a lot who have the expert team and willingness to obtain the same level of detail and perfection that we do. For a client like Client X the value of that is worth paying a little more… even in an industry that, to an extent, has become commoditized. Additionally Pageworks has invested in presses and technology that allowed us to make up the production time that was lost during that run.

That’s part of our story. When we tell the story of Pageworks and use examples like the one above we change the conversation from price to value and give context from which to evaluate the decision of where to get printed materials.

The short version? Even in a price conscious industry a story can help reframe the decision.

Our company doesn't have a story or I don't know how to effectively tell our story.

First, your company does have a story. It may not be a linear history, but there’s a reason why you do what you do. Try answering these questions:

  • What’s at the core of what you (as a company) do everyday and how does that relate to what the company did when it started?
  • What have your best customers said you’re doing right?
  • How are you different than your competitors and why is that important?

Take the answers and read through them. You’ll probably find a common thread. That could be the basis of your story. Now tell that story. How?

  • Take your story from above and commit to using it as the foundation for every custom interaction. That creates consistency.
  • Find more examples of satisfied customers that fit your story and tell those in short pieces on social media, in meetings, on your website when explaining products, or in printed pieces.
  • Distill the core of your story into a sentence or feeling and build a campaign around that.

Other resources:

On Storytelling:Content Marketing Institute
On B2C vs B2B:Sprout Content
On Price vs. Value:Inc.

Still want more help? We’re here to help. Contact us or post a comment below to start a conversation.

Tagged with Content Strategy