Storytelling: Why Stories Attract More Customers

What’s the story of your business?

Are you wondering how storytelling can help your marketing and sales?

To learn about the power of storytelling, I interview Dave Kerpen for this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast.

More About This Show

Social Media Marketing Podcast w/ Michael Stelzner

The Social Media Marketing podcast is a show from Social Media Examiner.

It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).

In this episode, I interview Dave Kerpen, author of  Likeable Social Media. He’s also the co-founder of Likeable, an INC 500 social media marketing firm. His newest book is Likeable Business: Why Today’s Consumers Demand More and How Leaders Can Deliver.

Dave shares his story of how a creative idea for his wedding turned into a successful business. You’ll learn how your story can help your business connect with people, both prospects and customers.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

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Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Business and Storytelling

Dave’s story

Dave shares his story of how the creative idea he and his wife had for their wedding led them into starting a business.

Both Dave and his wife have a traditional sales and marketing background and both were working in radio sales and sales management at the time.

They decided to have their wedding at a baseball game. So they pitched their idea to a minor league baseball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, an affiliate of the New York Mets. The deal was that they would take over the inventory from the game and do sponsorships in exchange for being able to get married at the end of the game and create the promotion. They created a promotion called Our Field of Dreams.

our story likeable

From wedding to business.

Just from getting sponsors for the event, a total of $100,000 was raised in goods and services and $20,000 for charity. The advantage for the sponsors was they received a large amount of media attention. Not only did the sponsors get in front of 8,000 people at the game, they also were featured in CBS The Early Show, ABC World News Tonight and CNBC, plus thousands of blogs.

One of the sponsors, 1-800-Flowers, was then featured on 86 television stations, all from a $6,000 trade sponsorship. Dave and his wife generated $20 million worth of earned media for their sponsors. It wasn’t until 1-800-Flowers contacted Dave afterward and asked what he was doing next that he and his wife decided to start a company.

Dave believes that telling their story showed their prospects that it’s not just about understanding the tools, it’s about understanding how to be creative and think outside of the box. Just because you understand the tools of social media, radio or television doesn’t mean the idea isn’t just as important. You still have to do marketing.

By being able to tell a story, you’re able to bring some real personality to what it is you do, and at the same time, convince people that you know what you are doing.

Listen to the show to hear how they worked all their sponsors into the game so the wedding itself could be sponsor-free.

Why should your businesses care about storytelling?

Dave believes that storytelling is important because people don’t care about you. It’s really important to truly listen because people would rather talk about themselves.

Storytelling is much more effective than going through data or any kind of sales pitch. It connects people, and gets people engaged and interested. The reason why people love going to the movies and reading books is because we love to be engaged by stories.

Whether you are at a boardroom talking to your staff, or pitching to a prospect or putting content out there to the world, storytelling can bring your business alive. It can help you connect with your audience. And it can eventually persuade people.

Listen to the show to find out how storytelling can help generate leads for your business.

Why my story?

An example that Dave shares in his book is a story about a woman named Angela Shaefers, who was diagnosed with cancer and started writing a book just for her children. She showed it to her friends, who thought it was amazing and encouraged her to share it with the world.

Angela printed 500 copies, which sold very quickly through word of mouth. This made her realize that her story matters. From this, she started a company called Your Story Matters. Today, she helps people tell their stories and show people that their story matters.

Dave believes that everyone in business has a story to tell about how they started. Even the largest companies in the world can tell a story of how they were founded. For example, Mark Zuckerburg was in a dorm room at college and the founders of HP were in their garage. Wherever a company is started, no matter how big it is, it has a humble start.

It’s the story of your founding that can often humanize you and make your company more likable and more appealing, no matter how big or unlikable the company is today.

Listen to the show to learn how you can use different types of stories within your company or organization to make your company much more interesting.

What makes a good story?

When Dave thinks about storytelling, he goes to the analogy of a movie, book or television show. If he is crafting a story, he wants to think like a director or an author. Stories should have a beginning, a middle and an end. The story should also have some conflict and have at least one, preferably more, interesting characters that people can believe in.

Your ability to take a piece of history and turn it into a story has to do with applying the traditional elements of storytelling with what really happens. You need to be truthful, but you can embellish a little bit. Make the characters come alive. Make sure you set the stage and build a story that resonates with people.

Storytelling today is a lot easier, cheaper and a lot less of a risk. With today’s technology, if it doesn’t resonate with people, you can recut it or try something new. We can all keep practicing storytelling until we get it right.

Listen to the show to find out different ways you can share your story.

How do you cross over from storytelling to selling?

Some of the most successful business books of all time at their core are a collection of stories. Although Likeable Business is a business book and Dave is a business owner, to him it’s like social media—you can use all the best content in the world, but if it doesn’t drive sales, none of it matters.

It’s the same with storytelling. You can be the best storyteller in the world, but if you’re a business owner and you are telling that story and you are not converting people to becoming customers, then it’s virtually meaningless.

The process of taking people from actively listening to a story to actively listening to a sales pitch has to be subtle. If you’ve done a good job with prospecting and listening, then this process can be natural. But if you have the wrong people in the room and they don’t have a need for what you sell, then the best story in the world is not going to mean anything.

The first step is making sure you’ve done your homework, you’ve listened and you’ve prospected right. The next step is to help to connect the dots for people from the start.

When it opened up beyond college students, Facebook became a much better way to create buzz. It helped Dave connect the dots between great creative marketers to great creative social media consultants.

As powerful as your story is, it still needs to convey “I can solve your problems.” Your overall goal isn’t to become the best storyteller in the world, but to grow your business. You’re going to develop a story that helps people connect the dots between what their problems are and how you can solve them.

Listen to the show to hear why Dave believes that everyone is a salesperson.

How can social media impact the delivery of stories?

Dave shares how social media has changed the barrier to entry to tell stories at scale. It used to be that if you wanted to tell your story at scale, you had to buy your way in through media; for example, television or radio. You used to have to spend a significant amount of money on storytelling.

likeable media case studies

A few of Likeable's past social campaigns and promotions.

Now social media makes it easy to tell your story and for people to share it. You can have hundreds, thousands and even millions of people see your story. This has an impact.

Listen to the show to hear how Dave Carroll’s YouTube video, “United Breaks Guitars” turned his story alone into a business.

Dave’s Tip

Dave’s advice is to write down whatever you think your story is, share it with somebody whom you know and trust and start talking about how to make it into a better story.

Listen the show to find out what you need to look at to craft your story.

Cool Resources

Are you thinking about New Year’s resolutions for next year? Do you need more balance in your life? You might want to check out Michael Hyatt‘s podcast called This Is Your Life, where he talks about intentional leadership. There’s everything you need to know from how to keep your life balanced to how to be a good leader.

this is your life podcast

Michael Hyatt's "This Is Your Life" Podcast.

One of the cool things Michael does at the end of his show is to take caller questions. So we have decided to follow Michael’s lead and we now have a voicemail hotline at Social Media Examiner.

sme voicemail center

Leave a social media–related question at Social Media Examiner's Voicemail Center.

Simply visit our voicemail hotline from your computer to leave a message with your social media marketing–related questions. When you leave a message, don’t forget to mention your blog or the name of your company. It will add an interesting dynamic to the podcast.

Listen to the show to learn more and maybe leave your questions so we may include them in a future show.

Other Show Mentions

Social Media Marketing World is Social Media Examiner’s latest mega-conference—taking place at the waterfront San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina in San Diego, California on April 7-9, 2013.

As you’d expect, Social Media Examiner recruited the biggest and best names in the world of social media marketing for this conference. Only the best for you! Be sure to check it out.

Check out this amazing new video showcasing all the event has to offer, PLUS you can save $300 if you register by Dec. 31.

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Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

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About the Author, Michael Stelzner

Michael Stelzner is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, founder of My Kids' Adventures and author of the books Launch and Writing White Papers. He's also the host of the Social Media Marketing podcast. Other posts by »




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