Thursday, April 03, 2014

Selling through Storytelling: 5 Brands Whose Narratives Win Over Buyers

This article originally appeared on RainToday.
Storytelling isn't everything; it's the only thing.
And in the professional services industry, telling a good story is the strategy that gets buyers to pay attention and want to work with you.
The question is what makes a good story?
A good story is one that buyers enjoy believing.
In this article we'll explore five examples of brands, companies, and service organizations that sell through story. Each mini case study contains a "moral," aka, practical advice, for how to improve the quality of the stories your firm tells.

1. Tell a Story that Mitigates Fear

Covestor is the world's largest online platform for investment management. It's a world of great investors that allows you to automatically mirror their strategies, trade for trade, all from the comfort and safety of your own account. But that's still scary. When money moves, we take notice.
Covestor understands that fear, so its site tells a story to mitigate that. Users can try the service using one hundred thousand virtual dollars, simulated functionality, account mirroring, and performance tracking for free. No obligation and no payment details required.
Most important, it's a compelling case for why investing doesn't have to be scary. And it's a reminder to people that they're all good investors; they just don't know it.
The moral of the story: Fear is a significant factor in most people's lives. It's the story they tell themselves. If your organization wants to matter to those buyers, you need a tool that tells a story to make customers feel less afraid. You need some platform, some interaction, or some mechanism that gets their jitters out and gives them something to help them face the world.

2. Tell a Story about a Revolution

Holstee isn't just another design studio. In fact, they never intended for their manifesto to go viral, but it became an iconic example 
of office art and inspired millions of people around the world to claim a mindful and purposeful existence. The owners of the company just wanted to sit down and create a cool, visual reminder of what they live for, what they want from life, and why they go into work every day.
If you're not familiar, here's their famous message:
"This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often. If you don't like your job, quit. If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love. Stop over analyzing, life is simple. All emotions are beautiful. When you eat, appreciate every last bite. Open your mind, arms, and heart to new things and people, we are united in our differences. Ask the next person you see what their passion is, and share your inspiring dream with them. Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself. Some opportunities only come once, seize them. Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them so go out and start creating. Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion."
Because of this document and subsequent viral video, this heartfelt statement that connected and infected so many of us, their brand became more followable, their organization became more joinable, their philosophy became more spreadable, and best yet, their bottom line became more profitable.
The moral of the story: If you want to start a movement, you have to write a manifesto. Create a short, concise, inspiring declaration written in your brand's trademark language that gives your values a voice, becomes a powerful social object, and paints a compelling, detailed picture of the desired future you want people to help you create. Once you share that story publicly, everything changes.

3. Tell a Story about the Mundane

Paddi Lund, a renowned dentist from down under, has completely redefined the patient experience. In his office, you won't find a reception desk. But you will see cappuccino machines, fresh baked buns for clients, 30 varieties of tea served in fine china, and an overall vibe of happiness unmatched by any dentist on the planet.
His team members never leave, and his customers clamor to buy his services. Why? Because he turned going to the dentist––an activity people typically dread and avoid––into a remarkable service experience worth talking about.
The moral of the story: Every business has experiences that most people have always hated. Some transaction, some activity, some part of the process that customers usually view as a hassle. This is a golden opportunity to tell a new story. How can you turn a painful process into a pleasurable practice? Can you give people an excuse for spending more time doing something mundane?

4. Tell a Story about Atmosphere

For the past 30 years, Trader Joe's has mastered the art of creating an atmosphere worth coming to, a second home where customers happen to shop and an entire universe people can become a part of.
With its friendly and helpful staff, organic and locally sourced food options, engaging cooking demonstrations and drink tastings, and energetic cashiers who wear flowered shirts and ring bells when customers bring their own shopping bags, Trader Joe's has become a place that feeds the heart and soul of everyone who comes in contact with it. That's the story their brand tells. Is it any surprise that they have the highest sales per square foot of any grocer in the country?
The moral of the story: Stores, offices, and physical locations can become temples to belief systems. Your brand can tell that story. That your place of business is also a place to enter into a fantasy world, experience products that inspire fervor, humbly walk in reverie, soak up the ambience, kibbutz with people who share your worldview, take refuge from everyday life, seek shelter from the winds of the world, and feel something closer to love than simple convenience.

5. Tell a Story about Generosity

Postmark Cafe is always busy. It isn't because the location is ideal, the Wi-Fi is free, the coffee is organic, the food is tasty, the staff is friendly, the music is cool, and the art is inspiring. It's because they donate 100% of their tips to charity.
Every month, they select an organization that does meaningful work in the world, whether it's donating livestock to poor countries or building wells in drought-prone areas of Africa. They write a summary of that group's mission on the chalkboard to inform customers exactly where the money is going. And at the end of the month, they post the total amount donated on the wall and keep it on the wall until the next month.
The moral of the story: Postmark lets their customers have a say in the causes they select, which gives them ownership of the process. They're telling a story that demonstrates accountability, transparency, and class. Their story tells customers their donations actually come from people's pockets each month, not just from the president writing a check at the end of the year and forgetting about it until tax season.
Those are five very different brands and five very different stories. But they all have one thing in common.
They're telling stories buyers enjoy believing.
What story is your firm telling?