Children learn this as soon as they can talk. Telling stories usually gets you further along with other people than not talking.
They start early, learning the benefits of engaging people. Many of these people they tell stories to are the very people who can do things for them, like bring them food and toys, and help them go to sleep at night (a.k.a. parents). My middle child was, and is, an astute receiver of small favors. He was the four year old at parties who would ask a friendly-looking adult, usually a complete stranger, “Can you please make me a hot dog, because I would like a hotdog please.” Then he’d toss in some conversation like “Did you know snakes smell with their tongues?”
I miss those days.
Brands have figured this out, too, especially now that the consumer doesn’t have to take everything a brand dishes out as the gospel truth. The process of going from “Hello, stranger” to “Thanks for your business” can be a meandering path with no guarantees, unless you you have a plan to engage your customer.
Just as consumers have plenty of ways of getting information about you and your brand (like influencers’ blogs, reviews, and social media), the marketplace is increasingly full of competition from people who offer similar wares, information or services.
That’s why telling your story is the best way to earn your clients’ and customers’ business. Before the first phone call is made, before the purchase button is clicked, or before they walk through shop door, that’s mainly your content’s job.
A good story gets people nodding their heads, and sharing…
Good copywriting is a must, so please don’t think you can chatter away about your story without paying attention to conversion tactics you must use. But a little background history and content that adds value to is the way you develop customer loyalty.
In “real life” I know a local fashion retail shop owner who chats with everyone who walks through his door. Telling the story about his business seems to be an important pastime at the shop. Some benefits include:
- Increases familiarity with customers
- Helps to describe and sell his product
- Naturally elicits feedback
- Generates new relationships and referrals
- Helps become memorable to his customers.
All of those positive perks intermingle with each other. In the physical world, telling your story also makes it easy to ask for an email address in person, so that you can continue your relationship online.
Let’s break this down for doing business in the world of digital content.
Generous with information, my friend the shop owner makes visiting his store a social and educational experience. He enjoys curating new fashions for his customers. For example, he shares something about the brand that makes the sweater I’m trying on, and tells me which line of jewelry introduces the most new styles each season. Before long he mentions one of his wife’s tips for packing light and fashionably for the Midwest. When I share that I, too, have ties to Nebraska, we discover a mutual connection.
By the way, he quietly hangs back if you’re just looking so customers feel unhurried, valued, and appreciated. Is that possible online? Of course. All of the topics above are great ideas for content if you’re in the retail business.
Fashion retail brands are able to design their sites to suit the personal styles of their shoppers. One brand that does that really well is Top Shop, a large site complete with an online magazine, separate departments of styles, and even a quiz you can take to narrow down the selection a bit. New styles are chosen based on your responses and dropped into your “personalized edit” page, inviting you to check back weekly.
Apparently, online shoppers also enjoy learning more about the people behind the products. Top Shop currently features a fitness line co-designed with Beyonce, including a video with the backstory.
The Email Ask
Due to the story telling and insightful information, both in an actual store and a virtual store; when I am asked for my email address, I am happy to give it. The shopper’s promised recommendations, coupons and/or notifications of sales. The online shop actually has an edge here because it already has your personal preferences in their digital bank. My shop owner friend down the street has his email addresses compiled in a lovely guest book on the counter next to an array of fabulous rings.
If you’re a local shop collecting addresses in person, don’t forget to check the spelling and send a welcome email immediately, if possible (your email service provider may have an app for that, like Mail Chimp’s Subscribe app), or at least within a day or two. You could keep a tablet handy for easy and beautiful email address collection.
The Brand Story
Being friendly and open with helpful content doesn’t necessarily equate to a strong brand story, but every time you tell your stories you contribute to your brand story. Slowly, over time, you add important pieces to the puzzle.
Meanwhile, the story telling itself becomes part of your brand. Customers will remember that friendliness, open-ness and sharing quality of your content.
I advise creating one foundational piece of content as soon as possible. That way your brand has a pillar around which your story can be told. As you layer on the stories and they take on a memorable theme or tone, that’s when your brand begins to stand on the legs of its own strong “brand story.”
Go ahead; don’t be shy. Tell your story at networking events, in blog posts, and on social media. Transparency and regular story-telling makes it easier to ask for email addresses, referrals, and even input regarding your offer, products or services. Asking for the business or the next yes, will feel natural to both you and your prospect.
Customers, expecting reciprocity will completely expect your ask and may even be a little miffed if they don’t get it. Just like the little kid asking for a hotdog “because he wants one,” a reasonable ask is the obvious request after you begin telling your story.