How to Incorporate Business Stories into Marketing Materials

Like a treasure chest, here’s how your business’s core stories can enhance websites, e-mails, social media, and any other print and online marketing and promotional materials you need.

Integrate story into websites

To successfully build a website in a storied format requires these inputs: the organization’s brand, the organization’s persona embedded in this brand, along with those personas that represent various market segments, and the narrative to be shared on the site.

With these in hand, here are three ways to integrate story into website design:

  • The architecture of the site: Architecture encompasses all navigation and page flow. Design this flow similarly to how a story logically follows the flow of the plot. Storyboarding can help.

    You can also storyboard what website viewers experience as they move through the site. Because people jump back and forth between pages, go through the discipline of thinking about how the pages flow together as a narrative, even when accessed in random order.

  • The storified graphic layout of the site: Try these approaches:

    • Strategically place visual content throughout the site so that it collectively tells a story. Add visuals that enhance individual stories: photos, images, illustrations, slides, videos, graphic scribing, infographics, cartoons, and the like. A 2012 study by ROI Research showed that 44 percent of Facebook users are more likely to engage with brands that post photos.

    • Use mascots to transmit your organization’s story. Axure has done this on its website. The Geico gecko is seen frequently on TV commercials (see how he came to be here). There’s also an entire page devoted to his journey across the U.S., including a graphic map and a rolling blog with photos.

    • Build interactivity into a story.

    • Use scrolling. Have a story unfold as the viewer moves down a page.

  • The content used to populate the site. Populate individual stories throughout a website using varied media (written, audio, and visual, to name a few). In this engaging video that uses beavers as mascots, technology company Loggly relays a story on its home page.

    As you design each page, ask yourself what type of story would be beneficial to share. Capitalize on “audio branding” by linking music (after you get have permission) into key organizational business stories.

“About” pages

About pages are one of the most underutilized parts of a website. On this page, your enterprise has the opportunity to reveal its personality and offer a real story about who it is and why it does what it does. It’s the perfect place to draw people in and start building a relationship with them.

What sorts of stories can be placed on or linked from your About Page? Consider these options:

  • How the organization was conceived — its founding story.

  • A story that demonstrates what your firm stands for.

  • A story that showcases what your enterprise does.

  • Stories about the founder or key leaders — or the entire organization, if it’s small. Include photos.

Before you design your About Page, ask yourself, “Who’s going to visit it?” People who want to work with your enterprise? Absolutely. Prospects? Yep. First-time visitors? Probably. Current clients? Maybe. Then ask, “What do they want to learn that will also get them to take action? And, “What do we as an organization need them to learn so they’ll take action?”

For action, you’re looking for a call, e-mail for more information, or ping your organization via social media. Then share a story or two with these action steps embedded at the end.

Forms

Ever been to a wonderfully designed website and wanted to take action — fill out a contact form, survey, or application of some kind — but that moment of interaction was so cumbersome or ugly that you left the site and did nothing? What’s a business to do? Consider narrative web forms. These are forms that literally follow narrative structure. Look at the differences here.

These forms have been shown to increase conversions by 25 to 40 percent. Why? D. Bnonn Tennant, author of “How to Increase Your Conversions With Narrative web Forms,” says they work for three reasons:

  • “Narrative forms create a context your prospect cares about.”

  • “Narrative forms closely mimic your prospect’s thought sequence.”

  • “Narrative forms reduce visual friction. [They look] easier to complete.”

Create dynamic e-mail campaigns

How do you get people to open up a marketing e-mail and actually read it? Having an interesting or provocative subject line is critical.

What type of stories work well in e-mails? To connect on a personal level to customers, Replacements — the world’s largest supplier of old and new china, crystal, silver, and collectibles — has been known to put stories about employees’ pets into its electronic correspondence.

You can also share raving fan stories, customer-of-the-week stories, or other kinds of marketing stories. Or ask customers to send in photos and stories and run a contest with prizes for the best ones.

To maintain reader interest, when sharing stories in e-mail campaigns, on a website, and in blog posts, do the following:

  • Break a single story into shorter paragraphs or add a few bullet points. You aren’t changing the story; you’re changing its visual display so people can quickly digest it. If the story is short enough, superimpose the text over pictures, drawings, and so on.

  • Block the story into three major sections and send them in separate e-mails over a designated time period. The first section is the setting and the setup. The second is the conflict. In the third section is the resolution.

    Each section could be divided further into two to three e-mails, depending on the length of the story. Don’t drag the story out too long or people will lose interest. Ensure the transitions between the e-mails lead from one part of the story into the next.

  • Send different but related stories over a span of weeks.

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