Jun 30, 2016

How to Tell a Great Business Story

Copywriters and content strategists all converge on one subject — the story. Telling the story of a business, a product or service — no matter how seemingly mundane — turns something from ordinary to extraordinary.

Whether you’re overhauling a website for a firm of certified public accountants or launching a new ale for a craft brewery, it’s up to you as a content marketer to find the heart of the story. Don’t worry about trying to make it sexy or outlandish, worry instead about the discovery process. If you ask the right questions, if you put content above all else first, you’ll tell a damn good story that keeps people wanting more.

Ask yourself: is this a new story? Find out if renditions of the story have been passed down by generations. Does the company have existing website, social, email or print marketing collateral? Discover what the audience liked about the old messaging, what sections worked and what didn’t, with tools like a content audit. Next, ask yourself, is someone telling a similar story but better? A competitor analysis can help you hone in on your message.

Define your audience. Even the best stories fall on deaf ears if you’ve targeted the wrong listeners. Developing buyer personas will help you craft a story that meets the needs — real or perceived — of the listeners you’re trying to attract. Remember, these people hear stories every day. You need to perk their ears at just the right time along the buyer’s journey.

Start with a single message. Is this story about a business? A group of people? A service? A mission, vision or values? Start here, then get into the thick of things, examining the best way to convey this message. Choose your words wisely. Define your story’s voice and tone before drafting any content. Without clear and consistent messaging, your story will be disjointed.

Outline the arc of the story, but keep it simple. If your tale and its main characters aren’t interesting and fleshed out, you won’t build reader engagement. Define the arc of your story with tools like a content outline. As you build the framework of the story, ask yourself what the reader already knows about the tale. Do you want them to choose their own adventure and bounce around the website? Or, should they have a distinct path which leads to a desired outcome or resolution (purchase or contact form) that signals the end of this story and the beginning of another?

Attack their senses. Show them, don’t tell them. Everyone knows that by now. Once you have the content to tell a great story, weave in sensory visuals with design elements that not only enhance the user experience, but help the tale come to life.

The art of telling a great story — and perhaps the hardest part of all — is not only catching and keeping the listener’s attention, but leaving them wanting more. A great business story is just like telling a great love story or mystery. Your reader should always be left seeking answers or a resolution.

A great story should make them question their own mundane life, business or products, and direct them to the source — the call to action — where they can leave the ordinary and become part of the extraordinary. A great story pulls people in. It invites listeners to the heart of it all and allows them to become part of the tale.


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