Story is so important to word of mouth advertising that we are devoting several articles to it. Story is vital for small business marketing. You want–you need–to have your customers pass on the essence of your brand for you to succeed.
Earlier we discussed the concept of “sweet somethings”–little phrases which describe your brand. You can tactically place these all about your business to reinforce what you stand for to your customers and prospects. The use of these whispered reminders of what your small business does for its customers will remain critical for your marketing, whether or not you try and move on to the next step–the use of story.
The relationship is similar to a newspaper headline and the accompanying story…the headline is important, because it snags our attention and draws us in. The story is important, because it keeps us interacting with the paper and scanning those ads. The more we are involved with the paper, the more likely we’ll continue our subscription.
However, the extent you can use story to actively build your brand depends on the type of small business you are in. The greater the emotional involvement your product or service plays in the life of your customer, the better your chances for your small business to be able to use story as a weapon in your marketing arsenal.
Let’s return to a hypothetical small business mentioned in another article–Terry’s ATV Store. Terry sells All Terrain Vehicles, but he is really in the fun business. Even the farmers and ranchers who use his product in their everyday work lives just love the rush they get from driving their quads. Terry has a dozen places in his retail space to remind his customers his store sells fun.
But what about the coin-operated laundry across the street from Terry’s? It’s big, well lit, with a personal attendant, machines that are always in good repair, and a 3:1 ratio or washers to TVs. As a matter of fact, it’s the best laundry in town. There may be a way for the laundry to use an effective story that ties in with its customers’ emotions; but for the most part it will have to rely on features and benefits marketing techniques.
Does this mean the ATV business is somehow a better small business to be in than the coin-op laundry business? Not at all. Both can be profitable if managed properly. But it’s important to know up-front that diverse business types lend themselves to different marketing methods.
The advantage of story, of course, is that people are more likely to talk to their friends about a small business they are emotionally involved with rather than a place that supplies them superior benefits only. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. There are many sturdy small businesses that would have a hard time stretching their services into a story.
Enter the Rubber Band Man.
Office supplies are pretty mundane, but Office Max has revived an old Spinners song from thirty years ago, coupled it with an energetic if off-the-wall young actor, and invented one of the most upbeat ad storylines of the past few years.
Granted, Office Max isn’t a small business. They have the millions to roll out an expensive ad campaign. Your small business doesn’t. But at the heart of the campaign is still the creative use of story to help drive sales in a business segment that is typically viewed as emotionally flat.
And since we want word of mouth advertising to drive as much business to you as possible, it’s important to at least try and see if you can use story in your small business marketing.
As we’ll see in our review of the book Legendary Brands, the real story you need to interact with is the customer’s story.
Remember: Brand (who you are) + Package (your Face to the Customer) + People (customers and employees) = Marketing Success.
© 2006 Marketing Hawks