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  • 12.07.09

Good Marketing Starts With Good Story Telling

Your product/service vastly improves your customers’ lives.  In today’s world of stimulus saturation, how do you get your message across?  Let’s look at two approaches. This example is taken from a company whose product helps organizations manage their IT resources.  

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Your product/service vastly improves your customers’
lives.  In today’s world of stimulus
saturation, how do you get your message across? 
Let’s look at two approaches. This example is taken from a company whose
product helps organizations manage their IT resources.

 

·        
“It takes 82% of companies with over
1000 employees, up to 10 days, to retrieve an employee’s PC when the employee
is terminated.  During this time, 25% of
ex-employees access their former employer’s computer, causing an estimated
$54.6 million in damage.”

 

·        
“About 6 months ago, an account
manager at Company X, a financial services company, was let go, but HR never
retrieved his computer. He immediately went home and transferred all his
accounts to a home computer. He then sent his customers an email notifying them
that his company was changing their email addresses and phone numbers. Two
months later, Company X noticed a high rate of customer defections. Turns out,
the account manager joined a competitor and recruited many of his former
clients….many of the clients never realized they had changed service
providers…The impact, as you can imagine, was enormous…”

 

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Which one of these approaches is more convincing?

 

People like stories – regardless of age position, title, or
educational background, humans are social creatures.  Therefore, good marketing starts with good
story telling.

 

One place where people typically “blow it” is the classic
sales presentation. How many presentations have you sat through, where the
presenter spews statistics and market figures like Mt. Vesuvius
on a bad day. People’s eyes glaze over, heads bonk on the table, and then the
presenter says, “and this reminds me of a story…” All of a sudden, eyes are
open, people are wake up, and there is electricity in the air. Now, the
audience is engaged.

 

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We have all been there. And it seems so obvious. Why then, do
people continue to present numbing statistics and marketing figures?  I think a lot of this has to do with people’s
fear of public speaking. It is much easier to stick to dry facts, rather than to
“be yourself” in front of a group of customers, bosses, or peers.

 

Here are some practical tips for engaging your audience in
order to get your message across:

 

·        
A theme or metaphor for you message
can be extremely powerful, if it is familiar and if it fits the situation. For
example, if you are offering a service to help organizations achieve regulatory
compliance, a metaphor about the complexity of planning a vacation would be
intuitive, since both are quite complex and difficult – even more so, when you
don’t know the landscape. Note: beware of jaded metaphors, such as “the
Internet as a highway of information” – these are awful.

·        
Make sure what you are saying is
sincere. It is easier than you think to detect BS. And it is a major turnoff.

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·        
Come up with a story, anecdote,
joke you feel comfortable telling. One of the most embarrassing
presentations I sat through was where a presenter tried to tell a personal, emotional
story. He was so nervous that it took him about 10 minutes to tell a 2 minute
story. All the while, the audience was looking at the floor and shuffling their
feet…just waiting for the presenter to stop already.

·        
Be respectful. Be careful about
poking fun- your joke may be misunderstood or misconstrued and might offend
someone in the audience. I was once present in a presentation where someone
made an innocuous joke about the current situation being at DEFCON 5. One of
the audience members was an old submarine hand, and he found the reference
offensive.

·        
If you aren’t funny, don’t try and
tell a joke. Test out your story with a friendly, but honest audience before
you go “live.”

·        
Keep it short. The story help you
promote your message, not take on a life of its own.

 

About the author

A technology strategist for an enterprise software company in the collaboration and social business space. I am particularly interested in studying how people, organizations, and technology interact, with a focus on why particular technologies are successfully adopted while others fail in their mission.

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