If marketers learn nothing else from the growth of online media and communications, they should, at the very least, take away the fact that people are engaged more deeply with the content they interact with online than they are with traditional, mainstream media. Millions of people go about their days interacting on social media, reading blogs or websites, uploading and watching video, commenting and interacting on forums and doing tons of other activities on the web with a passion not seen (and probably not possible) with traditional forms of media. As such, it is important for businesses to harness this phenomenon and learn how to let storytelling drive their marketing messages. Storytelling can help elicit a level of engagement from consumers that will open new doors for businesses and allow them to close more deals.
Letting Customers Tell Your Story
The old mantra for business referrals was that treating your customers right meant they might tell one person about you, while treating them wrong meant they’d tell ten. The new mantra states that thousands of people could potentially learn about your treatment of customers, regardless of whether you treat them well or handle them poorly. Social media outlets and other sites that are almost purely made up of user-generated content provide platforms for devoted customers to tell the stories of businesses they love. This environment is also ripe for businesses to tell their stories and offer helpful, useful and informative content for their current and potential customers. A notable company that is excelling in this area is Target. Jeff Jones, Target’s Chief Marketing Officer, understands how consumers are interacting with businesses in different ways as a result of the internet and the phenomenon surrounding it.
Part of what makes Target’s strategy so successful is that they are telling their story with such clarity. They are forming deep connections with consumers and, in a way, becoming a part of their everyday lives. This is a part of what makes great content and what makes great content go viral.
Through its content strategy, Target encourages customers to tell their stories. This not only strengthens their connection with the brand, but it creates a much more powerful message for those who may not know it so well.
Let People Learn About Who You Are
Marketing in any fashion is really about telling a story. It’s about letting consumers know who you are as a business and why you should matter to them. This doesn’t mean paying tons of money for exposure or coming up with gimmicky slogans. It means being transparent and conveying your company values to customers. Too often, businesses can appear cold and lifeless. When you think about it, a good business is a group of people with a common mission, and like most groups of people, there are interesting stories to tell. What’s more, the group shares a history of where the business started and where it plans to go in the future. By conveying that message to consumers, companies can stand out from all the rest, while allowing their images to metastasize themselves in the minds of consumers and become something more.
One company that continues to make an impact in this area is Zappos. The online retailer does a fantastic job of carrying out its company values in its everyday business. Customer service is at the forefront of the company’s mission. Zappos seeks to exceed people’s expectations, and the company spends a lot of time and energy letting people know this about them. Zappos says, “We are not an average company; our service is not average, and we don’t want our people to be average.”
Beneath the company’s mantra (Powered by Service) and quirky work environment are people who have a real stake in the business. Everyone who works there has been well-vetted to ensure they really care about the experience customers have with the business. By telling that story to the world, Zappos opens up and shows people who they really are, which goes a long way with consumers.
Having a great service or product, being useful and, in general, making great content are all good steps, but companies must also learn to be transparent with their values. They have to tell a story about who they are in order to form more meaningful connections with consumers. With the rise of a global economy and few borders left for trade, it is more important now than ever for businesses to form strong bonds with their customers and their prospects.