My first venture into the world of content marketing took place in 2005. The name of the company was “Storyteller Web Text.” My capture image was the cute cat picture posted here. The first words on the home page were, “We found this adorable pussycat outside the office one day. Do you want to read more?”
The story of my feline friend unfolded as you moved from page to page in the website. I thought it was brilliant, and it seemed to work. Average page views per visitor were over three and inquiries started coming in immediately. I scored my first job three hours after launch: Erotic fantasy articles for a Vegas escort service – 2 cents a word.
Obviously, this was not what I was looking for. I took the job because I needed the work. I even had some fun writing the articles, but the real value was in the lesson I learned. Sometimes you can be too clever. Cool and cutesy images may attract attention, but if they’re not relevant to your story, you gain nothing.
What’s Your Story?
I’ve seen several different approaches to content marketing in the fifteen years since I created Storyteller. That company, after several evolutions, is now called Flynn Creations. The name itself is a testament to how I’ve changed as an online marketer. In two very simple words, I tell you who I am and what I do. What can you tell me about your firm?
Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, once said, “You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built in the human plan. We come with it.” I spent over twenty years of my life in sales positions of one kind or another and I wholeheartedly agree with her. The best way to get someone to listen to you is to tell them a story.
How do you tell your story? When someone meets you for the first time and asks you what you do, what is your response? You’re likely not a sales professional, so a prepared response is not on the tip of your tongue. What happens when you think about it for a few minutes? Do that, and then write down what you came up with. Not easy, is it?
Hubspot recently published an article titled The Strange Thing That Happens In Your Brain When You Hear a Good Story — And How to Use It to Your Advantage. It’s an engaging piece about how reading or listening to a story gets all the neurons in the brain firing. I prefer to think of it as engaging all five sense. If you see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, and feel it, you will remember it. Good storytellers are able to give that to you.
One of the first writing tricks I learned was the “senses” exercise. Take a real life situation and write about about what each of your senses is detecting in that moment. Here’s an example:
“The tantalizing smell of grilled meat cooked in garlic butter and smothered in onions nearly overwhelms me as I drive home from the restaurant. Despite having already dined on a southwestern chicken and rice bowl, the take-out meal for my son is still tempting. I reach over and open the bag just enough to take a peak. I feel for the tab of the plastic lid on the take-out container and pop it open. A single tip won’t be missed. I tease one out slowly and take a bite. Pure heaven. I look down longingly at the rest of the meal, taking my eyes from the road for the briefest of moments. Suddenly, I feel myself lurching forward, hearing the squeal of brakes behind me and a crunching sound in front of me. I lose consciousness … “
Your senses are now engaged and your emotions have been triggered. What happened? Is the storyteller hurt? Is there a way to learn more about this situation? These are the reactions you want when telling the story of your life, or your firm, or your great idea that will change the world. If you want people to listen, you need to tell them a story.
Or you can let me tell your story for you.