Are you running your venture single-handed and getting frequent calls from your clients asking for the same information you have painfully put of on your own website? Do they prefer talking to you instead, even after you have shared the FAQ, case study or a specific page with them?
If YES, then congrats for waking up to this fact –
“On the average Web page users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely” – Nielsen Norman
So, we need to make the most of the 20% of attention to convince the visitor that it is you who is talking to the client’s specific problem across all the content in your website. Comes to our rescue – an age old weapon
Personalization through Storytelling
I will tell you a story by my grandfather that taught me a lot about the power of good storytelling.
There was this mighty Persian king Shahryar who was cheated on by his wife with his brother. To make sure this does not happen again, he started marrying one virgin girl each day and then executed her the next day. (It seriously doesn’t make sense how killing girls was part of a solution to his pain of betrayal. P.S.- When the storytelling is good you choose to miss the small parts because there is already something else that interests you). So this ritual went on for a while, till it was Scheherazade’s turn. She was a quick-witted minister’s daughter who was exceptionally beautiful. She had gone through thousands of ancient scrolls and stories and could recite them anytime. Each night she would tell the king a fascinating story and leave it halfway for the next day. The king, as anxious as ever to finish the last night’s story and so wouldn’t execute her.
What Scheherazade aced in this game, is what Inbound Content Marketers call – an unending 1-on-1 engagement with a potential client.
Storytelling is not actually a new concept; it dates back to prehistoric times. Hard to imagine our hairy forefathers sitting around in caves and listening to stories, right? But it isn’t that weird, our human brains are deeply rooted with the need for stories. We humans, are obsessed with stories because it allows us to feel or live an experience without risking anything of our own. They engage the emotional part of our brains, which stays longer than the information part. People don’t tune in for the information, they tune in for the drama. Be it entertainment, sports, lifestyle or politics. This element of recall factor helps it become Unforgettable.
So, if you are a blogger and are wondering how could you possibly put storytelling to use in your blogs, keep reading. Pack any information that you want to be passed to your audience in form of a story and it will stay with them. People don’t remember the hundreds of lessons they take from the web because life comes in the way. Even if your reader doesn’t realize, always remember that they are surfing on the internet as a distraction. Your job as a blogger is to make the best out of that distraction, make it an informative story.
5 Ways Narrative writing has helped in Inbound Marketing
- Stories make your blog seem real and credible
- Stories help you bond with your audience
- Stories make you unique because your story will be different from the blogger in the next block.
- Stories grab your audience’s attention and keep them glued to you
- Stories are a very smart way of encouraging audiences to take the desired action.
As I have told you earlier you can make a story out of any topic once you relate it to people. i.e.- Artificial Intelligence as a future, You can make up a story about Sophia, the Robot who has funny conversations with Chrissy Teigen.
Below am listing the 10 Best Formats where narrative writing can help personalize your content.
1. Ultimate Guides
These are the fundamental “How to” and “Why to” blogs that you write in areas of core expertise. Though very old school, these type of write ups gives you the best chance to write a narrative story. Make the best use of these by talking about your experiences or about someone else’s experience that you read on the internet. Or just frame up a story with the ideal scenario. Trust me, that’s okay.
When I first wrote my guide blog, I just wrote it as if you are talking to reader helping them through all the steps 1-by-1. It helps you strike an informal and more real bond with the readers by walking them through the tips & tricks that you have to offer from personal experience. If the blog topic has complicated steps that an average audience cannot follow though a 10 min read, it makes all sense to create a video to sell your narration though all steps.
2. Case Studies
These are basically well-framed stories, that have beginning-middle-end and a protagonist. Good case studies are your customer’s journey and not about a company. And this is the very reason why most company case studies are bland. The more compelling the story the better a case study it is. A well-written case study should make the reader feel like the protagonist. They should be able to imagine that your customer and he are alike and have similar problems. Only then will he choose you like the protagonist(customer) in the case study.
3. Opinion pieces
These are about experiences in life that led you to make an opinion. Similarly, brands can have opinions too and can take a stand based on it’s argument. It is one of the best types of content which helps bring a soul to a brand. Makes it human. The above screenshot is of the Melbourne Law School Blog on the Opinions on High Court Rulings. Students and professors speak on this platform to share their opinion on the latest rulings of the High Court.
You can always state how a specific perspective on a present issue that concerns your target customers and be vocal about how it matters to your brand as well. This will make the audience connect with you. Typical topics that are related to the millennial’s would be Gender inequality, the right to sexuality, Gay Liberation, Privacy on the Internet and so on. Please note that the opinion pieces have to be based on issues not necessarily a part of your industry but about what matters most to your clients. Narrative accounts of past experiences helps the brand pitch as a human, so that your audience can relate more to it. These type of write-ups if written well can get you very strong sentiments from your target audience.
4. Personal Account/Experience Blogs
These are the type of write-ups where you write about your own personal experience. A childhood story, a travel blog or an experience you had with a charmer from the transgender community. It is upon you how to make the story more interesting. Also the audience is more interested into your own experience instead of the facts and methods of the process. The above screenshot is of a popular travel blog by Matthew Karsten, where he shares exciting personal accounts of traveling to exotic locations across the world. I personally ask my friends/close clients if they would want to read about opinions on a specific topic and think about it’s relevance to my audience, before I go ahead with it. Even if I might think my experience with a generous neighbor is good, but it might not be a value addition to my audience.
5. Confessional & Reflective Narrative
These are a personal life experience blogs and are very dramatic and confessional in tone. They are dramatic for a reason though; they focus on highlighting a shock value to captivate the attention of the audience. The intention is to instigate, shock or irritate the audience. These write-ups aren’t always entirely true; they might be exaggerated to instigate the irritation. These are on topics like the time when I was caught stealing from my house OR That night s/he was molested in front of my eyes. There are motivational reflective narratives as well like the one featured in the screenshot above of Adriel Booker’s Blog where she shares her personal experience to empower girls and women in the developing world.
6. Investigative Blogging
Investigative blogging involves writing about sharing first hand information about a topic which is otherwise not available elsewhere. The screenshot above is of Independent Australia through investigative blogger Peter Wicks and managing editor David Donovan, have undertaken a comprehensive investigation into the HSU affair. Today it covers many other investigative stories and has a decent amount of audience across Australia.
Even if your brand/personal blog does not cover such disputed topics, you can use Google search to find topics that audience in your niche is interested in. Any information which helps the audience make a buyer’s decision will help you nail it with tons of information supporting your observations. Getting the first hand response from your audience would give you an idea of sub-areas that your followers wants to know more about or want solutions to. Be fast to grab this opportunity and do your research. These write-ups are framed in a manner that the audience follows the clues interlaced in the issues they have faced and is led towards the solution in the end.
7. Product or Service Landing Pages
Firstly, it is very important to know what you are trying to achieve with this landing page. While writing a landing page I personally suggest getting into the user’s shoes. One of the best service landing pages is that of Neil Patel’s marketing blog, where an useful blog has been cleverly used to make the audience believe that he is the best guy for the job. The story telling journey goes ahead with the step by step process that would follow once the prospective client fills up the details on that page.
So, to make one such a hell-of-a-landing-page, you would need to know – What would a user want to know here? Keep checking with all sections and sub-sections and slash off anything that doesn’t help in achieving that goal. I follow these steps that work flawlessly.
- Introduce (Problem faced, specific details of what all went wrong, symptoms of the issue in hand)
- Seduce (Show evidence, trust building collateral, share the solution to the problem, make it sound very doable)
- Convert (Share professionalism, introduce transparency in the ordering process, implicit Call-To-Action form or bot chat)
One must use Lead Tracking tools to check the performance of a landing page in terms of visits vs conversion ratio. Try to replicate whatever seems working for your blog.
8. Personal Interviews & Expert Round-Ups
Expert Roundups are aggregated format write-up that can be written after carrying out personal interviews of each of the experts covered for your story. The above screenshot showcases a impressive blog on SMH about the Heroes of Australian Content Marketing where the famous experts Alex Malley, Andrew Cornell, Craig Hodges and many others shared their insights on content marketing industry in Australia. The quoted content in these blogs gives the opportunity to use narrative writing to make it appear as if all these experts have together written the blog for the audience.
Like I was worried how to have more followers on Instagram when I started. And then I did a roundup on that topic with certain experts that I follow and believe in. These type of write-ups can be very useful to your audience. Be sure of the topic or genre you are doing your interview/round up about and how it can be relevant for the experts as well and to their reputation. Put extra effort into sounding genuine while writing these. They will help you gain lots of good recognition among viewers and experts.
9. Open Letter
These are usually known to incorporate personal insults and that’s why they get tons of eyeballs if put in the right words. These are usually intended for the general public to read while giving these blogs a sense of shame or encouragement. They usually call out a personality or brand for something they have done or said in public. That’s why social media platforms and third party blogging platforms like Medium are best suited for writing an open letter. The above screenshot is of Open Letter by Mitch Joel aiming at all the brands who are neglecting the mobile experience of their websites. Also, you must already be aware of Jamie Dimon , there are open letters floating on the web for him.
10. Testimonial Posts
Writing fake testimonials is clearly unethical and will not help in the long run. Keeping it aside, we must make sure we are listening to our clients and capturing feedback form them through all channels – chat, email, phone call, comments, and the like. The best testimonials are those from the repeat clients who have been ordering with you for a long time. Only they can tell, as to what makes them order every time. You must reach out to them if they have not shared their feedback already. Looking up for Brand mentions across the internet also helps in spotting testimonials across multiple platforms.
The above screenshot is a sample testimonial layout developed by CodeCanyon and it shows how the reputation of the clients sharing feedback is important to make an impression. The chosen testimonials should be linked to a wide variety of products & services through case studies, products, Web pages, Social media, Blog posts and Podcasts. It is usually written in first person by customers as a review, which could be either good or bad. Sharing a mixed bag of such responses is always preferred. With the right expectation setting, retaining the clients will get easier for your brand.
As these testimonials are in quoted text and speak the customer’s requirement, they help in on-page optimization for all long tail keywords that your potential target audience searches over the internet every day. It is also recommended to add a testimonial section to each landing page instead of only a dedicated web page for testimonials.
And what happened to Scheherazade – the storyteller?
She made it through every night, talking about stories revolving around the practices carried out in the rule of the king. Through several stories, the king was able to look into what’s expected out of him as a king. Those relevant stories made him reflect on his deeds and soon he stopped the practice of killing his newly wed brides. Definitely she would have used one form or the other or even more formats of narrative story telling in her stories.
You too can use the above formats of narrative content in your blog for your audience. It is highly recommended to learn from those who have successfully executed each of the narrative content forms as stated in the examples above. Please do share any other narrative content format which has helped or can help a brand improve over personalization and be more of a human to their audience.
Moral of the story – Keep it real, thread it in a story and be human!