Tell Me a Story

Stories are memorable, so using them in your marketing communications efforts can make your messaging more effective.

Consumers choose between products and services offered by you and your many competitors. On the surface, many offerings can seem similar—how does a customer choose? What will make yours stand apart?

Customers associate your brand with the stories you share—that’s your brand identity. As unique human beings, customers are naturally drawn to the product or service that has an interesting and powerful story associated with them. An appealing brand identity has more value to a consumer—that’s why Starbucks sells more coffee (and can charge more) than store-brand coffee. There are several companies making computers, but I will only buy a Mac because it makes me feel creative and hip. (My kids remind me that using the word hip only serves to illustrate how unhip I am.)

The best stories draw the customer in and let them experience the “why” and “how” the product or service might improve their own life. For example, Glenmeadow, a life plan community founded in 1884, provides independent and assisted living for people 62 and over. It’s not enough to share that they were founded in 1884. It’s an interesting fact, but who cares?

Instead, Glenmeadow shares the full story: in the 1800s, people without money or family who needed help as they got older had to go live at “the poor farm.” Poor farms were real, working farms, with daily chores, a sketchy mix of people down on their luck, and a pretty grim atmosphere. A group of charitable-minded people thought they should provide better for the nannies and maids they employed. They all contributed money, bought a house on Main Street, and started The Springfield Home for Aged Women, which later became Glenmeadow. This was the beginning of what we now know as retirement homes and assisted living offerings. Glenmeadow has continued their tradition of providing elders with a dignified aging experience, and families with peace of mind.

My 93-year-old mother was beginning to have some health challenges and forgetfulness. She wanted to maintain her independence, and not be a burden, so moving in with one of her five children was not what she wanted to do. She lives at Glenmeadow now—she has a circle of friends she chats with at meals served to her in a lovely dining room, a nurse and doctor who visit with her in her private apartment, and independence that allows her to do as much or little as she cares to. My siblings and I dote on her as much as we want, but we don’t worry about her at 3:00 a.m. and wonder if she’s fallen on the way to the bathroom. All of these are benefits that could be shared as stories, with photos that illustrate.

Think about the ways you might share stories of how and why your product or service fills a need. Your customer has to be in the story—not just your product or service. How will their life get better? How is their problem going to be solved? How is your product or service going to do that? What do they need to do to make that happen?

Tell me a story and help me understand the value of being your customer.

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