I like to write down my musings occasionally, and when I remember, I share them here…
There's a lot of talk at the moment around telling your brand story, which is great. It's something I feel truly passionate about. But, it seems there's also a lot of confusion as to what this actually means... Storytelling isn't about spinning yarns or creating fairy tales. Telling your brand story is about connecting your business to your customers – in a way your brand story isn't really about you at all. It's all about the customer, and I think the best way to explain this is to look at an example. Let's try Google. One of the biggest brands in the world. A search engine. If I asked you to tell me Google's brand story, where would you start? Perhaps you'd think about how the company started. Why it's called Google. How it came to dominate the market... And while these are all very interesting facts (honest), they're not really doing much to connect with me as a customer. But, if I were to tell you about a elderly chap who, due to a military uprising, had to move suddenly when he was a child, separating him from his best friend, whom he had loved like a brother and had not seen since. Your ears would probably start to prick up. Now, if I went on to tell you that this chap told his granddaughter all about his childhood friend, and how they had run around together through the streets of his home town. He told her about how much he missed his friend and wondered what he was doing now. And using this information, she was able to search on Google Maps and find the family business of this old friend of her grandfather's. She then contacted them and arranged for her grandfather's friend to fly meet them. Everything they needed could be found through Google – maps, street view, business info, telephone numbers, flight details, travel information, weather... the list goes on and on. So now you see that Google's brand story isn't about data, or who founded them, or anything remotely dull. It's about people. Connecting people – bringing them together in real human stories. So, you may think that you don't really have a story to tell. You just offer a boring service. Or that your Instagram account isn't worth bothering with because you don't make anything pretty... But you'll most definitely be wrong on all accounts. The key to finding your brand story is to think about your customer. How do you add value to people's lives? How do you ease their troubles, or meet their needs? What is unique about you? Or the services you offer? Is there anything inspiring about what you do? Can you connect on a personal level with your customers? A compelling brand story gives your audience a way to connect with you. Not a faceless corporation, but a living, breathing you. If Google had an instagram account what would it look like? It would be full of people. People connecting with people. Meeting. Falling in love. Getting lost and then found again. Sharing first smiles, first walks, first days at school. Growing old and finding old friends. It would be a very interesting account. Get your brand story right and it's no more 'once upon a time, and a lot more 'happily ever after'.
In all my years of copywriting, the subject I've been asked most about is how to write good, compelling product descriptions – especially when you're not a natural copywriter. Bad copy, more than anything else has the power to destroy your online sales, because if you don't get your copy right, your customers won't even be able to find you... So let's get the technical stuff out of the way first. When you're writing product descriptions you have to be mindful of how search engines like google work. The first thing that will spring to mind is keywords and yes, they are important. But, not important enough to stuff your copy so full of them it explodes out of the realms of readibility. Good product descriptions will boost your SEO efforts, bad ones will render them useless. The second thing to consider is that your content should be unique. Not just so you don't upset your closest competitors by 'borrowing' their copy (even if it is innocently). But also so it doesn't affect your page rankings as google will prioritise sites that have unique content over ones that don't. Use your first 100 characters wisely. These can be used as meta descriptions and show up in google searches, especially product searches (sites like Etsy use them too). So, make sure they accurately describe the product and function as a standalone sentence too. So, now to the fun bit. How to write good, compelling product descriptions. First step – think like your ideal customer. To write truly compelling copy you need to be able to get into the mind of your ideal customer and understand what they want, why they like it and what motivates them. If you can think like your ideal customer then you'll be able to write in a way that will speak to them. Make them feel good about the purchase. Now, we all know that buyer's guilt. Where you've seen that new pair of silver tassel brogues and just have to have them, but your mind drags you back to the seven other pairs you have in the cupboard, or the three bills you have to pay this week. Our job here is to reassure the potential customer, make them feel good about the purchase, and leave them with happy feelings inside. Simple.
- Reassure them. Use soothing, comforting words that point out what a fabulous product it is.
- Make them feel that the product is exclusive or essential.
- Focus on the benefits of the product and how it will save them money, or have several uses etc.
- Don't focus on words like treat, or expensive (as this could remind them of the bills...)
As I wander through life as a small business owner, it often occurs to me how everything we do always leads back to stories. As humans, we've always communicated in stories. From the cave walls of 20,000 years ago, to the Victorian's Penny Dreadful, and the rise and rise of social media, we are consistently fascinated by what is going on in each others' lives. We are attracted to stories because at our basic level, we're social creatures and like to relate to other people. Because we depend on others for our survival and happiness, storytelling evokes a strong neurological response and has been shown in studies to significantly change attitudes and behaviours. Data has the power to persuade but it can't inspire people to act. To do that we need to wrap our vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul. It's the tool that powerful people have used to create great uprisings, to force change and to try and make the world a different place. Sometimes to great effect. So, how does storytelling relate to you? As a business owner, a crafter, a maker, a designer or just a do-er, you want your customers to know about what you do. To understand how your product works. What it's functions are. It's benefits. Its features too. But it's the components of your story that helps them to understand how it can change their life, or make them happy, or simply help them to survive. And it's the narrative of your story that makes this information persuasive and memorable. So the next time you need to write something for your business, whether it's content for your website or a simple product description. Think about why should your customers care about what you are proposing? How does it change the world or improve lives? How will they feel when it is complete? Consider what passion led you to start your business. Why was it important to you and what barriers did you overcome to achieve it. Your business has its own unique story in the same way that every one of us has our own unique DNA. It's woven into the very fabric of what makes us, well US. And if you want to motivate, persuade or simply be remembered then you need to capture people's hearts as well as attracting their brains.