Great storytelling in marketing starts with keeping your audience’s time in mind.
While you’re probably not dressed in a loincloth and telling tales over a roaring fire in a cave, you do know the value of a good story.
When it comes to storytelling in marketing, businesses tell stories for a variety of reasons. Some share success (or horror) stories to entertain, promote awareness, create emotional triggers, make complex stats easier to digest–the reasons are countless.
Yet others share stories with a more strategic approach in mind–to create marketing campaigns that have a lasting impact on their customers’ minds.
Whatever your reason to market stories, one of the cardinal sins in storytelling is to waste your listeners’ time. After all, time is a nonrenewable resource.
Once you spend it, you never get it back. Not ever.
So, it’s vital to be mindful of your reader’s time.
But What Can You Do to Make Stories Time-Efficient?
Josh Bernoff, author of Writing Without Bullshit, considers saving time for your reader the “Iron Imperative.”
According to Bernoff, the big idea behind the Iron Imperative is to “treat the reader’s time as more valuable than your own.” He gives some brass tacks time-saving strategies for writing, such as:
- Getting rid of jargon whenever you can
- Contextualizing statistics you use
- Stripping away words that serve no purpose. Bernoff calls those “weasel words.”
Simply put, he tells you to use fewer words.
Bernoff says that marketers who don’t respect the economy of language “aren’t inherently selfish. They’re just busy. When you’re busy, you worry more about yourself and your deadlines. You create text to fill spaces and do jobs… So, you do the best you can.”
And we all know how hectic marketers’ schedules can be. From projects that suddenly creep up, to client meetings, to requisite research and competitive data analysis–it can be easy to use language that saves you time.
For example, if a prospect or customer would need a marketing glossary to figure out what the words in your content mean, it has too much jargon in it. It might save you time, but it doesn’t save the prospect or customer time.
To learn more about having clearly written content for your audience, read our rundown of the 52 best copywriting books.
Put another way, when you apply the Iron Imperative to stories that inform, what you get is highly effective content to sell to decision-makers. But decision-makers are all different, each with unique demands on their time.
It’s important, then, to craft your stories accordingly in order to accommodate these demands and not waste time. By prioritizing your audience’s time over your own, you get your point across while ensuring that your messaging is as efficient as possible.
The Iron Imperative reminds marketers that, when teaching through writing, it’s important to be efficient and focused. But…
What Makes Stories That Teach So Effective?
Annette Simmons, author of Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, promotes teaching with stories. In her words:
A Teaching story can reveal a little bit about who you are and why you are here simply by your choice of material. Yet it’s useful for us to treat Teaching stories as a distinct specialty…
At its best a Teaching story transports your listener to an experience that lets him or her feel, touch, hear, see, taste, and smell excellent performance. It demonstrates in the mind how new behaviors create new results.
This rings true when you consider how the brain records sensory information relative to memory. For instance, sensory memory can be activated with the descriptions in the stories you tell, but it has an ultra-short lifespan.
Because of this, you can pair it with a set of emotions when you tell stories in writing to help prospects and customers remember your message long-term. After all, most people remember emotions more than sensory details.
This is because emotionally-driven stories save your prospects and customers valuable time. By being able to remember content because of the way it made you feel, your brain can use that emotion as a shortcut to remember it.
And your brain is always looking for shortcuts. Think of it as an internal marketer; it’s stressed out, too, looking for the best way to solve problems.
All things considered, whether it’s creating time-saving content, or writing to elicit emotion in your stories, your readers’ time is best spent when you tell stories that save it.
What strategies do you use when leveraging storytelling in marketing? Drop us a message to start a conversation via chat below.