By Alan Lopez
As marketers, we all see the digital arms race happening around us. It’s easy to believe that more is better when more outbound emails, more paid search, more paid social media ads are coming from our competitors and we have to follow (or lead!) in volume so that we stay top-of-mind with our audiences. In the midst of all this, does the storytelling still matter? Do touchpoints in 25 word bursts even qualify as storytelling?
The answer is yes! Why? Because strong storytelling and messaging solve an emerging problem: more is not always better. The collective flood of our digital advertising is polarizing our audience’s reaction into extremes. Reactions can span from annoyed and confused to curious and informed depending on the quality of the touchpoint. A recent survey illustrates the danger: 70% of respondents stated that they disliked mobile ads. The shrinking middle ground isn’t a good place either, as they are completely ignoring marketing and storytelling efforts. Increases in impressions may boost inquiries, but also create more people that are deaf to or even soured on our brand. So, how does storytelling help us avoid the void in the middle and the abyss of the negative?
The answer springs from an enduring marketing principle: make it about the customer, not about us. Rather than thinking of our total marketing volume, let’s solve for the highest number of positive touchpoints for each prospect that we can create (and the lowest number of negative ones). Two key areas have to work in tandem to accomplish that: (1) more accurate and timely targeting of audience sub-segments, and (2) more relevant messaging tailored to those groups. Many of us are using new targeting tools: audience buying, retargeting, cookie pools, contact profiling, location-based marketing and purchase-intent analytics. These tools are raising the stakes for our storytelling game! With the ability to reach specific targets that need a particular offering of ours at the time they are looking for it, we have the opportunity to create a much more relevant touchpoint. But, we’ve got to interest and inform them quickly once we get their attention. Some key considerations can be our guideposts in crafting the right stories for our touchpoints:
Align to purpose. When a prospect sees that our corporate purpose is centered on filling a need of theirs, it builds a sense of brand trust and authenticity over time. Each message, even the short bursts, must be aligned to our purpose.
Reinforce core promises. Our brand should consistently make a strong value-promise that is specific to each customer segment and use-case. Strong storytelling connects the core promise to a specific offering being communicated.
Personalize solutions messaging. As we further sub-segment our audiences, we have to work even harder to create a growing number of accurate personas and fully understand each use-case and value proposition. Data has shown that personalized marketing is 6 times more likely to create an inquiry – so this discipline is more important than ever! The messaging in each touchpoint should blend specifics about the prospect, like location, size, business environment, with the persona profile.
Even with the best storytelling and messaging, there is one more key ingredient that is easy to overlook: a consistent and disciplined application of the messaging across all customer touchpoints. Without this, our audiences will never remember our well-prepared marketing stories. Research has shown that marketing messages must be seen at least 5 and sometimes as much as 20 times before they are remembered. This is a process that can only work if similar or at least related messages are seen each time! So, once we have a strong and thoughtfully crafted set of storytelling themes, each marketing manager in an organization needs to apply it consistently in order to make the impression we want, and get the positive reaction we need in order to drive demand.
Finally, looking to the future of AI-driven marketing, having a well-defined messaging structure will help us create a body of organized and tagged content that is required by machine learning algorithms. By deepening our focus on storytelling as a key pillar of our marketing strategy, and combining that with informed digital marketing tactics, we can make sure that more marketing really is better.
Alan Lopez works at Motorola Solutions, Incorporated as the Senior Director of Marketing for the North America region, based in Chicago. He is passionate about excellence in strategic marketing communications and has been a marketing leader for 10 years. Prior to marketing, he gained experience in sales, product design and manufacturing and developed a global business perspective through positions held in Asia and Europe.
At the beginning of his career, Alan served as a U.S. Navy officer with a nuclear power specialty after graduating from Rice University with a B.S. in electrical engineering. Alan currently serves on the board of the Association of National Advertisers Business Marketing Chicago chapter and also does advocacy work for the Illinois Green Alliance.