By Maureen Jann and Paula Kiger
Let me elaborate. There was a time when soda sales topped the beverage market. Then the concerns started creeping in:
“You still need to stay hydrated,” said the soda companies (as they ramped up bottled water production).
“Just grab a water instead of a soda,” they urged (as consumers started shifting their habits and turning their backs on free, clean tap water).
The story: Bottled water keeps you refreshed and healthy wherever you go!
Storytelling Has Been Around Forever
Storytelling is as old as humans. When people recall something about a news item or a product or service, they’re not compelled by statistics so much as they’re driven by the story that is attached to those numbers.
How to Build an Amazing Story
Every effective story has a beginning, a middle and an end. It has a hero, an obstacle to be overcome, and a resolution of the story arc. It also offers, perhaps most importantly, a basic human truth that helps drive home the importance of the tale.
Who’s the hero here? The diaper-warmer maker, of course. They spent years designing the perfect implement to keep your most treasured new addition feeling loved and cared for.
The “5 Whys” and How They Help Tell Your Story
We all want to be good storytellers, especially in the context of our jobs. If you’re looking to hone your storytelling powers, here’s a great place to start.
When creating your story, begin by identifying what your product, service, or idea does to serve the person you’re trying to convince. Then from there, ask WHY up to 5 times to get to the heart of the matter. Let’s take a swipe at it with our perfectly toasty (but not too hot!) baby wipes.
WHY are we worried about the baby’s lifelong well-being?
BECAUSE it is our job to protect the baby.
WHY is it our job to protect the baby?
BECAUSE we are the baby’s parents; loving and protecting the baby is the most basic of human instincts. (Let's hope no one ever really asks that question.)
Universal truth: if you are a loving parent, you will do anything to make your baby’s life comfortable and safe — including purchasing a baby wipe warmer.
(ASIDE: I actually got one of these when I had my kiddo. I live in a house with no insulation. Don't judge me.)
You’ve Got the Story, Now Think About the Delivery
If you want an example of a convincing delivery, take a look at this video. This guy is just a parent, not an actor (maybe that’s why his pitch is so effective?), but his performance has me convinced that the justification for purchasing a baby wipe warmer is based in science — not to mention a choice that will prevent, um, messy projectile bodily excretions that cause secondary laundry disasters. (I don’t want to spoil it. just watch it!).
Does everyone want to watch a grown man simulate wiping his behind with a cold baby wipe? Maybe not. But admit it: for at least a split second you thought “who would do that to a baby?” Mission accomplished for the sellers of baby wipe warmers.
Great stories are unforgettable; they make us question our assumptions about what we don’t need, while introducing the idea that we may be able to fulfill a basic universal truth (all parents love their newborns and want to make them comfortable) by buying/drinking/eating something.
Humans are inherently built to tell and retain stories. When you layer values, characters and the ability to overcome an obstacle that is painful to your audience, you’ll make it easy for them to connect with your product, service or idea.
But Don't Facts Matter?
I like to think of each conversation and interaction with a potential customer as a series of micro-yeses. When you think of the sales path as a way to create a series of micro-yeses, each time they interact with you — the brand you represent, the product, the service or idea — you get a tiny commitment from them. Many tiny commitments aggregate into a larger commitment. And when you offer potential customers a story instead of a sales pitch, you get a much higher likelihood that the consumer on the other side will stick around.
Bottom line: we have an opportunity to put the consumer of this story right in the middle of it as the hero. And who doesn’t want to feel like a hero?
I'm a veteran digital marketer whose career has grown up with the Internet.