Guest blog: Alice Hollis – Storytelling for beginners

Guest blog: Alice Hollis – Storytelling for beginners

Meet this month’s guest blogger 

Alice is a B2B copywriter who helps small businesses scale up to the next level by writing regular top of the funnel content, such as blogging, thought leadership articles, white papers, guides and case studies, to create the tribe  that ensures a constant drip feed of leads. 

She has 14 years’ experience and works across the Thames Valley.  

You can find Alice…

 

Once upon a time…

Stop! No, that’s all wrong. I’m not here to read you a bedtime story, or talk about how you can turn your company into some magical fairy-tale. Stories aren’t confined to the pages of children’s books, where Little Red Riding Hood was eaten by ‘grandma’. But our love of stories does stretch back to our childhood when bedtime stories were a wonderful treat.

Storytelling is a powerful technique that needs to be applied to your content if you want to better engage your customers. From blogging to case studies and tender documents, there’s a way to sprinkle a little storytelling magic into everything.

To attempt to tell you everything there is to know about storytelling technique would be foolish. Instead, I’m going to share four simple tips to get you started:

1. Change your mindset

The mistake I see a lot of companies make, is that they talk about themselves:

“Established in 2000, our team of consultants have a combined experience of 200 years. We also have a number of awards and accolades…blah, blah, blah”.

The uncomfortable truth is that your customer doesn’t care about you, they only care about themselves.

With storytelling technique, you have to imagine that there are always three characters – the hero, the villain and the guide:

  • The hero is always (and I mean ALWAYS) going to be your customer because they must emerge victorious at the end.
  • The villain represents the pain your hero faces, the root cause of their frustration that must be defeated.
  • And you are the guide, because once the hero takes your hand, you’ll help them overcome the evil so they can live happily ever after.

When you place the customer front and centre in your communications, the focus instantly changes so it’s all about them. And all those wonderful credentials you hold become the way in which you’re going to help your hero to win the day.

For example:

“When the new regulations come into effect it’s going to place huge pressure onto your customer success team to implement the systems and processes needed to demonstrate your compliance. We were recently recognised at the Constructing Excellence Awards for a project in which we helped one client to transform their operations by…”

By applying storytelling technique, you’re still able to talk about yourself, but it’s pitched from a different angle, so your clients actually want to listen.

2. Make them feel something

If your client doesn’t feel it, they’re not going to buy it, because people buy based on emotions and rationalise their decisions using reason and facts.

It’s why ending your communications with a call-to-action like “Sign up for a free assessment” rarely peaks someone’s interest. But “1,257 companies have already signed up to our free assessment” does. In the second example, you’ve made the person feel like they’re missing out, so it compels them to take action.

Take a moment to think about how the frustration from your ‘villain’ is making your hero feel:

  • Scared about the consequences of non-compliance?
  • Overwhelmed about where to start?
  • Excited about new opportunities?
  • Apathy because they’re focused on business-as-usual?

Throughout your copy, think about how you can hook into these emotions through the reader’s senses. Use your language in clever ways to help them visualise what you’re trying to tell them. It doesn’t have to be a flowery, over-descriptive narrative, keep it simple and direct.

For example:

“You’ve probably seen the headlines and heard a lot of stories in the media about the looming regulations, and it probably feels a bit overwhelming and like you’re unsure about where to start with ensuring your compliance.”

Applying storytelling technique, it forces you to think about inserting trigger words that resonate with the audience and hook them in.

3. Talk to them

What better way to talk to your audience than to literally talk to them? Inserting dialogue into your copy is a hugely powerful technique for helping the audience to zone in on something important, while demonstrating that you empathise with them.

Dialogue is also a great way of introducing an impartial observer into your story – someone who has no vested interest in the situation, but who you and your client can both relate to.

‘And who could this impartial observer be’ I hear you ask? Another client of course.

For example:

Last week I was speaking to the Operations Manager at BID Construction who was really anxious when he said, “If I don’t get this right it’s my head on the chopping block.”

By lightly sprinkling a few sentences of dialogue throughout your copy, you can talk to your clients in their terms and this starts to build their trust in you – because if you were able to help the Operations Manager at BID Construction, you can probably help them too.

4. Use data to strengthen your argument

Everybody has an opinion – but your opinion is instantly more credible if someone else thinks the same as you.

Your audience isn’t necessarily interested in all the facts and figures, and they’re definitely not going to be able to recall them if you were to set them a test afterwards. But, the data you share will start to align your brand with trustworthy figures in your industry, and add more weight to your argument.

For example:

“We know that organisations are always fearful of new regulations – when speaking to our clients they’re most worried about the huge potential fines for non-compliance. In a recent report from the Construction Industry Council, it claimed that 80% of organisations are so worried about the fines that they’re ‘burying their heads in the sand’.”

The other wonderful thing about using data is that it draws the reader’s eye. When we read, we tend to scan to find the useful/interesting/relevant information and one of the things we naturally seek are numbers. Pepper your copy with figures and it forces your audience to stop scanning and start engaging with your content.

And because everyone loves a beautiful bonus…

By choosing to tell a story, rather than regurgitate your carefully crafted credentials, your words will naturally come across as more personal and friendly.

It’s cliché, but people really do buy from people. So while the corporate façade is great for providing the reassurance that you’re going to do what you say you can do, ultimately, your customer wants to talk to a person. They want to find:

  • Someone they can trust to act in their best interests.
  • Someone they can call whenever they’re worried or have a question.
  • Someone they can hold to account if something goes wrong.
  • Someone they can celebrate with when they feel on top of the world.

They want you.

Applying storytelling technique, your personality and the things that really matter to your customer will be right there in black and white. Yes, it’s still professional but it’s personal and that’s what’s going to help you stand out in your market.

Learn more about storytelling technique…

I’m fascinated by storytelling technique and it’s something I’ve read about extensively and studied in great depth. If you want to find out more, I can highly recommend:

And of course, you’re always more than welcome to ask me anything…

 

Guest blog series

Guest blog series

I’ll be publishing a guest blog series over the next 12 months and have some fantastic people lined up to write and share their expertise. Some of these people will be either bid or construction-related, but many won’t be. One guest post will be published per month, beginning in a few weeks, and if you’d like to contribute, please feel free to get in touch!