How to use stories to promote your product or service

What comes to your mind when you think of promotion? Social media? TV ads? Bill boards?

All of these can be made more effective by associating your product or service with inspiring and emotional stories.

In this article, I will discuss a few tips to create a story around your brand, that will help you improve your customer reach and market penetration.

Before we get into the tips, let us understand the different types of brand storytelling:

  1. Solving a problem/need out of enthusiasm: These are brands created out of sheer passion for creation and solving others’ problems. Warby Parker, an eye wear manufacturer which was founded with an intention to offer affordable designer eye wear is a good example.
  2. Inspiration: Inspiration is a powerful way to influence people. And Beardbrand, which sells beard and mustache grooming products, is a classic example of an inspiring brand story. Soulcycle, a US fitness and indoor cycling company, is another suitable example.
  3. David vs Goliath: These are brand stories of the small guy vs the big guy. Whole foods, Southwest airlines, FedEx etc are all examples of entrepreneurial Davids who fought against the Goliaths to make it big.
  4. Positive social change: Such brand stories and campaigns focus on encouraging consumers to make a positive impact on the society. NIke’s equality campaign is an example for this.
  5. Feedback based: These brands offer a solution based on customer feedback. Peter Shankman’s HARO (aka Help a Reporter Out) is an example of such a brand.

Now that we have understood the different types of brand stories, let us see how to use them to promote your product and service.

1. Think about associating your business to any of the above type of brand stories

The first step to creating or crafting a strong brand story is to identify the type of storytelling your brand or product would relate to the most. If you already have a story to tell, try to tweak it to improve its ’emotion factor’. Your story should be appealing to your target audience, or otherwise should be able to create a buzz among potential customers, influencers, reviewers, affiliate marketeers etc.

If you don’t have a story, do not hesitate to create one. In any case make sure that your story could potentially help you achieve your business goals.

2. Craft your story

Once you have identified the type of storytelling you want to use, the next step is to craft a brand story that attracts your prospects. Let us learn how to create a brand story from an example.

Assume you are into the business of corporate counseling and training. Your clients are predominantly businesses with 1000+ employees. How would you use storytelling to improve your brand value and attract more customers?

One of the major objectives of a corporate organization is to improve the performance of its employees through training, motivation and counseling. So in your story, talk about your mission to create a high performing work environment by empowering employees to stay motivated. Also talk about how your services can instill a sense of responsibility and commitment among them. If you are the founder of the company, you can talk about any personal experience you had at your previous work, that led to creating this business.

Image result for motivation

You don’t need to overdo it. But you get the intent here. The idea is to craft an ’emotional story’, that differentiates you in the ocean of competition.

3. Create a campaign using your story

You have your story ready. Now you need to tell that to the world. That requires some planning. The first step is to choose the media you want to promote your story.

For this, you need to see where your target audience spend most of the time. Facebook and LinkedIn are two of the most commonly used social media by businesses. You could also prefer to use any other social media platform which you are active in.

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Also, do not just depend on online media. Use a combination of both online and offline media to ensure you reach majority of your potential customers. Especially, if you are selling a commodity, offline promotions help to create more brand awareness.

Choosing the right promotion channel is the ‘what’ part of it. Now we need to look at the ‘how’, which is how to tell the story.

You could use a series of videos or attractive posters based on a common theme. For example, if you are into selling deodorants, your theme could be ‘staying fresh throughout a day at work’. The way you present your campaign is critical in using stories to promote your product or service.

4. Deliver talks and interviews to convey the story

I mentioned about using offline media to tell your stories. This is an extension of that.

If you are a new business which is trying to establish a brand, you need to be proactive to find opportunities to promote your business. And showcasing thought leadership is one of the ways to do it. Find opportunities to deliver talks in your niche, in the areas of your expertise.

Say, you are into the business of auto parts manufacturing. And you are the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the company. One sample topic you could talk about is ‘how Internet of Things will facilitate the factory floor of tomorrow’. You could connect with industrial forums, meetup groups, analyst firms etc. to speak in relevant events and conferences.

You could use the same technique for giving interviews. Leverage your contacts in the media world also to put your business in front of more pair of eyes.

5. Use the story in product packaging

This is a very common tactic used by many startup companies. Even with a unique product, selling high volumes is challenging without having a brand. And telling your story on the packaging helps to establish a brand, without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising.

It also improves the probability of purchase, as customers tend to associate themselves with the brand identity while purchasing its products.

Let us take an example to understand this.

Assume you own a business that sells a low calorie soft drink. Your direct competitors are giants like Coke and Pepsi, which have come up with low sugar variants of their drinks (Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi). You want to establish yourself as a brand that cares for it’s consumers’ health and hygiene. How would you use packaging to tell your story here?

First of all you have to craft a good brand story. Let us make it up for now. The story could go like this:

‘One of your close friends died due to chronic diabetes, for which the reason was over consumption of high calorie food and drinks. Hardly hit and inspired by this, you set off to create a drink that is low in sugar, but at the same time tasty.’

Here, you can use the real estate on your product package to give a glimpse of this inspiring story, and why the mission of reaching the product to more number of people is important to you. This is a very powerful way of using stories to promote your product or service.

6. Get the right influencers

You have crafted an excellent story, and you are utilizing all your network to take the story to maximum number of people. But there is only so much you could do.

At some point, you need to make use of influencers to give a boost to your marketing efforts. And you already know this.

But you should not end up choosing the wrong influencers, especially if you are spending a significant portion of your marketing budget on it.

You might be thinking it’s so easy to find an influencers in your domain. But to get the maximum results, you need to pick those who satisfy the following criteria

  • They should have a decent following among your potential customers
  • They should be active in the media (online and offline) that suit your product or service the most
  • Should have past experience in promoting brands or giving reviews. This is important because, a mere following might not always convert into leads and business.

And even when you choose influencers who meet all the above requirements, there is one more critical aspect that you need to look at. And this is where most of the businesses, especially new ones get it all wrong.

Don’t just look for some influencer in your industry. Go one level deeper and identify the most popular ones in your niche.

For example if you are into providing travel and transportation services in remote areas – such as hiking services , bird & animal watching etc – look for travel bloggers and social media influencers who are active hikers and are enthusiastic about exploring nature.

The idea is to get as specific as possible. This will improve your conversion rate and ROI from your marketing activities.

That wraps up my tips to use stories to promote your products and services. Are you already using stories for your branding and promotion? Let me know in the comments section. 

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