This is the second part in the series. To read Part 1 and learn how adverts tell effective stories, click here.
While it can be fun to see how big businesses use adverts to tell stories, it’s not amazingly helpful for your average business owner. How many of us have got the cash to burn producing an advert for our business? For most of us it’s never going to happen. However, virtually every business can afford to set up a website, a platform with the potential to reach around the globe. What’s the best way to use this opportunity? To tell stories of course.
Recap time from part 1: Stories are all sorts of crazy awesome, and grab readers much more than facts and figures ever will. For businesses, there’s three main stories. Your story, your product’s story, and best of all, your customer’s story. As a rule, people are far more interested in themselves than your company or your product. Click To Tweet
If you’re not telling a story on you website, your missing a great opportunity. Starting with the home page, the first page they see, you should be telling them a story. But what counts as a story? Take a look at three examples to help you get started.
Storytelling with the Big Boys
Microsoft are a big company, with a massive range of products and services. How do they welcome people to their site?
While it may not look like ‘War & Peace’, there are a few stories going on here. Beneath an advertisement for the new and funky Surface 4, we have a couple of photos for Microsoft products and services. At first you might figure this is all about them, but take a closer look at the wording.
Live healthier and be more productive.
Do more with your smartphone.
Stay entertained for hours with a brand new bundle.
Go beyond browsing.
These aren’t Microsoft’s stories. They’re the customer’s. They’re your stories.
Right now, you’re probably thinking that these aren’t stories. They don’t even look like stories. Where’s the good guys and bad guys? The thrilling action, the whirlwind romances? You’re totally right. But at their most basic, stories are about someone facing a challenge, then attempting to overcome it.
- Hamlet finds out his uncle had his dad killed (challenge), then sets out on a path of revenge.
- Katniss takes her sisters place in the Hunger Games (challenge), then has to survive the ordeal.
- Police chief Brody finds out there’s a shark terrorising his town (challenge), then sets out to capture it.
Along with a challenge, they also all had something or someone to help them.
Hamlet had his friend Horatio. Katniss had Haymitch as a mentor. Brody needed a bigger boat.
Now reread Microsoft’s messages. Can you see the story now?
You’re struggling to stay healthy and productive (challenge). With the Microsoft Band, you can overcome it.
You want to get more done (challenge). Hooray for the Lumia, that helps you do just that.
And so on. You get the idea. Microsoft tell you your story, and how they fit in helping you beat your challenges.
Once Upon a Trainer
Nike take a different angle on storytelling, as you can see on their homepage.
Whereas generally the best story is the customer’s, Nike focus on the product. The company has been around for over fifty years, and they play that card in their storytelling. However, rather than a long winded history of who founded the company and where and what the weather was like that day, they focus on what the customer is likely to actually care about. The product. They play on the theme, using words like legendary and heritage, building up the mystique.
Taking the basic outline of the story from above, we have the following story:
Basic boring trainer is basic and boring (challenge), but thanks to Nike’s vast experience it becomes awesome trainer, engineered for the elements while making you more attractive to members of the opposite sex.
Well, maybe that last bit isn’t specifically stated, but the rest is all there.
Nike shows that product stories can work. In fact, when your product is providing a similar benefit to other products, then telling a story that differentiates the product is an awesome idea. There’s approximately a zillion trainers out there, so Nike want to make sure you remember their trainers before anyone else’s. Sure, it helps if you have a funky looking product, one that looks good in a photo. But even if it doesn’t look good, as long as it has a story that your customer will care about, you’re way ahead of the pack. Just remember not to get lost down a particularly dull part of memory lane. The stories you care about as a business owner don’t necessarily mean anything to the customer.
Stories for Services
Very few of us are ever going to be running a company the size of Microsoft (though if you do, remember me when you’re looking for a writer). You may not have a product to tell a story about, as Nike do. You might just be one person, with one service on offer. How many stories can you possibly tell? It’s simple when you remember to tell the client’s story. For a top class example, check out my friend Lauren Tharp’s site, LittleZotz Writing.
First of all, notice how many times Lauren uses the word ‘you’ on her homepage. Compare this to how many times she uses the word ‘I’. That’s a great start for any site, and a sign of a business focused on their customer and their needs.
She follows this up with three ‘stories’ that follow our basic outline, three challenges her ideal customer would be familiar with.
You have a vision, and need to give that vision a voice.
You need written content, but hate writing it.
You already having written content, but it’s failing to connect with the audience.
Although not as dramatic as a murderous uncle, killer shark, or the Hunger Games, these are still challenges. In fact, these are real challenges, not works of fiction. To the right person, these are the most important stories that can be told. Lauren then follows this up with the solution (her services), and a nice big CTA (Call To Action) for you to click on and learn more.
Most importantly, this approach can work for anyone providing a service, no matter what it is.
- Electricians might tell stories of customers who need the power restored, fast, and how the electrician can save the day.
- Wedding photographers might tell stories of romance and love, culminating in a special day that they’ll want captured by the photographer, so they can remember it forever.
- A belly dance instructor might tell stories of someone who wants to get fit and have fun at the same time, and how the instructors classes help them meet their goals.
And They All Lived Happily Ever After
Notice that none of these examples are stories in the traditional sense. None of them are going to be nominated for the Booker prize. But they present challenges, and solutions. They elevate the copy from facts and figures, creating something that will resonate with the ideal audience.
Next time you work on your homepage, look for opportunities to tell stories. Think about your company, your product, and most important of all your customer and client. Think about their challenges, the monsters and villains they’re facing. Then show how you can help them win day, get the girl, and ride off into the sunset.
How do you tell stories on your homepage? Let me know in the comments below. Need a hand with your stories? Get in touch to find out how I can help.