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Client growth

The basics of story telling

Draw a picture with words and describe the story as if you’re talking to a friend.

Storytelling is an art that requires creativity, imagination and a level of understanding of the subject. For our clients, we have to think about the position of the business and know the audience who we are speaking with and how they will best receive information, which requires emotional intelligence; put yourself in their shoes, imagine you are them – how would you want to receive this story? We have to give away just the right amount of detail, too much and you will collide with their collective amygdala (fight or flight/crocodile brain), so keep it concise because people have very short attention spans. But that is not enough by itself, you need your story to be novel and different. We also have to show expertise, give clues to brand values or archetype and provide confidence in the fact that we possess valuable knowledge that will benefit them. It can take many, many, many drafts and sometimes the ‘one-liner’, as I like to call them, can be simply written in-house — but sometimes taking external counsel can really help to distil the message to its true essence.

Think about the type of story you want to tell.

Storytelling helps a business create in-bound sales, via outbound marketing, but how and what something is said, sells, when you are not trying to sell. We are all familiar with the age old refrain ‘it’s not what you say, but how you say it’, right? Well, it’s an age-old refrain for a reason.

Do you want to talk about yourself to create new connections? Spark action? Motivate? Educate?Demonstrate social proof? You’ll need to briefly show how experienced and knowledgeable you are in the given topic, but, and I cannot stress this enough, you then must ask questions of your prospect and get them to tell you their story. Cast your mind back to a time where you sat and listened to a senior professional reel of their entire life’s work – dull right? No one wants to watch someone sniff their own farts for an excessive portion of a meeting. Remember: people’s interest in your affairs is limited, but their interest in their own is limitless.

If you’re talking about your work, and the clients you work for, the format is simple but remember if the story is for your website – make sure you explain the ‘characters’ so an outside could understand. Sometimes businesses are so quick to try and prove themselves, that the reader is lost on who the leading character is and what they’re about. Make it relatable.

One tip I read recently was to write in a single sitting; there could be a collective of characters, that bring out the best in you for example and that breadth of characters will develop the story well.

More advice; paint the scene and have good dialogue!

Some thoughts on what good stories are:

–       Entertaining – the reader is engaged

–       Educational – give something to the reader’s hunger for new information

–       Organised – convey the message in a methodical manner

–       Memorable – they go away feeling good about your story and talk about it in the pub with their friends, this provides you with as much control as exists over stopping buyer’s remorse as much as possible after the fact when the dopamine levels drop back down and new distractions push your story back down the priority queue. If you are not memorable then you won’t close. Fact.

What about the CTA (call to action)? Get people to donate? Follow you? Get in touch? Actionable steps – and make them accountable using time frames.

Where is your story going? Is it written, spoken, video or audio? Different people receive information differently, consider your audience – the more information you can gather in discovery phase of a pitch cycle (i.e. key decision maker loves visuals) will help you determine which medium to use/focus on.

Once you’ve got to this part of reading my article and when thinking of your story; start making notes and laying down the pieces of the jigsaw then make a structured plan. If there is language you use internally, explain it, if there are acronyms or industry jargon, explain them once at the top.

So go ahead and write your first draft. Re-organise it. Polish it. Then show it to someone. If you get writers block, just try to start putting copy down and don’t think too much about the rules. Just write.

If you want to check if you have a good story – get in touch. We’re EXT MKTG (External Marketing) and we work with small to medium sized creative businesses who can’t or won’t do marketing for themselves. We start with the brand then look at the comms.

Categories
Client growth

My Top 5 Tips for a Tip-Top Year!

Aaahh, 2021. A brand-new year, and hopefully a brand-new chapter for all of us, too. In other words, an opportunity to ensure you’ve pivoted in the direction you know you need to head: visualising and planning for the clients you want to target, the headcount you want to achieve, and the profits you are determined to report.

I’m being asked a lot “where do I start?” – well naturally it depends on what you have done before, and I can certainly help business on that deep analysis. Perhaps you’re already storming ahead, and just require some fine-tuning? Or, perhaps you’ve done the groundwork and are keen to ‘dig deeper’ this year: Or, like many firms, you might want to go back to basics and rebuild your business a little differently. Whatever stage you are at, I can help you. And, of course, remember that the groundwork always sets the scene for future in-depth analysis. So, as a “Light Guide to the Basics”, here’s what I would suggest:

1)    Measure where you are right now

It is so important to check the temperature of your brand; where (and how) your business is listed; what people, sites or bots are saying about you; how many followers you have; and who’s visiting your website. When you input a new lead into your CRM, do make a note of how you connected: were you introduced by a mutual contact? Did they find you via a search engine? Did you meet by online networking? Essentially, if you don’t track all of this, how can you know what’s working, and what isn’t?

2)    Tidy up your sales pipeline

Business owners and sales professionals often grow to hate their chosen CRM software, so do keep asking if what you’re using right now still suits your business needs. Don’t be embarrassed if your ‘tool’ of choice is a simple Excel spreadsheet: personally, I’m a big fan of Excel; all areas of my life are logged in a spreadsheet somewhere, but dig a level deeper, and check if the columns and formatting are working as well as they could. Maybe you need something more dynamic… more analytical? There are a lot of sales CRM that are free that might suit your sales process better. Ideally, you should allocate a dedicated amount of time each week to track and act upon your sales pipeline. So, whatever your choice of solution, make it works 100% for YOU, at your present stage of business development. And acknowledge that it may well change over time – because it probably will!

3)    Diarise time for creative inspiration and new business

I’ve worked with enough creative businesses – including some incredible minds – to know that spending time on client work, then supporting your team is how your days and weeks are going by, but is never going to get you the business growth you’re actually capable of. Schedule time in your diary to go down the rabbit hole of reading, scrolling, Googling…whatever it takes to seek out valuable inspiration. It’s worth it in order to conjure lots of ideas; and it will certainly benefit your client base.

On the flip side – do prioritise achieving your business goals. Your company may have a mission, but without a solid sales plan or an idea of how to attract and reel in those companies you’re desperate to work with – how are you going to do it? You do have to be in the right mindset, but half a day a week (let’s say a minimum of 3 hours) should get your head straight, and should motivate you to start chasing those leads, turning them into opportunities and winning more work.

4)    Write your idea of a sales and marketing plan

To me, sales & marketing sit in the same box. Marketing draws them in, but for the purpose of sales. And, really, 2021 is just like any other year: it has four quarters and 52 weeks, so your commitment to developing sales targets and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely) marketing plans should still apply. Being a business leader means you’ll always have a lot of ‘urgent’, ‘critical’ tasks to attend to; but, without the compass and map that your sales & marketing plans should provide, how will you know where you’re going?  

5)    Ask for help!

Ah yes. This old chestnut! I know that marketers, outsourced business developers, PRs etc don’t always have the best reputation. But if you pick the right expertise to partner with you, getting the right help can be a massive time-saving exercise. You went to the effort of getting a great accountant, right? So, do the same for the other aspects of your business that you want managing perfectly. After all, at the end of the day it all boils down to money.

So, those are my top 5 tips on where to start (if you haven’t already!) Sending you all my very best wishes for a profitable, killer year, and if you want to learn more about External Marketing’s expertise, you can contact me on zara [@] extmktg.co.uk, #externalmarketing #salestargets #marketinggoals #B2Bmarketing #creativeminds #positivity