What Makes (and Ruins) Great Company Stories

By Vistage speaker Jeff Ogden

Does your company convey a remarkable story about its products or services? To make your products competitive in a world filled with marketing chatter, you need a memorable story that people want to share with each other. When you use a great story to convey your brand, people start talking about your business.

Seth Godin, the best-selling author of marketing books, writes frequently about the need to develop remarkable content—content, he says, that “the reader finds so interesting, people remark to each other about it.”

Great story-telling engages people on an emotional level and makes them want more. Don Hewitt , the late creator of 60 Minutes, said the success of that show relied on telling great stories.

Story telling can come in many forms. Most companies tell their stories through a mix of media (video, print, web, and audio) across a mix of delivery mechanisms which might include online and print advertising, company Web site, social media, television, events, publicity, or other avenues.

So what are some rules of story-telling that marketers can follow? Let’s look at what makes (and ruins) a great company, brand and product story.

What ruins a great story?
The following elements tend to make a story unremarkable and totally forgettable:

  • Making claims that your company, service or products are “great” or “the best ever”
  • Using technical terms or industry jargon that customers don’t understand
  • Discussing your company history and awards

Check over your marketing collateral, your web site and your advertising. Are you allowing your brand to be totally forgettable?

What makes a great story?
The following elements help make a story remarkable, and so compelling to the reader that they may start telling the others about it.  A great story:

  • Revolves around a single theme
  • Contains interesting characters
  • Builds on or is congruent with a back story
  • Uses engrossing plots with surprises, suspense or twists and turns
  • Employs vivid language or images that engage the mind
  • Leverages the voice of your customers
  • Uses “hooks” that transition from one “chapter” to another. (A hook is a tease of what’s to come, and it keeps the reader looking forward to what’s next.)
  • Speaks to a specific audience, with specific interests.

Here are two example of remarkable content:

The software company Kinaxis launched a video series entitled Suitemates that makes fun of big software firms.

The blender manufacturer BlendTec created a video series titled Will it Blend? in which the company’s president demonstrates the power of his products by blending everything from golf balls to iPhones. With the enormously popular videos, BlendTec has seen a five-fold increase in sales since launching the series.

So how do you tell a remarkable story? Start with deeply knowing the buyers of your products and services, what I term your customer personas. Once you have a deep understanding of what they care about, you can begin to think about how to create content that gets their attention.  Use your imagination and brainstorm.  Think of how to entertain and engage.

Vistage speaker Jeff Ogden, is President of Find New Customers lead generation made simple”  – focused on helping companies use demand generation processes to improve sales leads. He’s also the author of three highly acclaimed white papers:

  1. How to Find New Customers (sponsored by Marketo)
  2. Definitive Guide to Making Quota (sponsored by Marketo)
  3. Moving from Transcational to Conversational Email Marketing (sponsored by Genius.com)

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