Storytelling 2015: Story Ideas For Any Business

StorytellingStorytelling for business is a hot topic right now in marketing circles.  It’s commonly thought that the business that masters storytelling will rule the universe. Or at least the online universe.  In our last article we talked about why stories are a powerful tool in business.  This article will focus on how to use stories and a few ideas that will work in any business or industry.

Variety equals interest

Stories can be built using a variety of styles.  And mixing it up keeps your audience engaged and interested.  For example, you might mimic a well known storyline like the Wizard of Oz, Humpty Dumpty or Star Wars.  To add an element of fun we used Mini Me earlier this year as a jump off to discuss mobile websites.  Another idea is to create a character to represent your typical customer such as an avatar or caricature.  Like the carrot with the big muscles above tell the story of your business process or customer experience through that character.

What we have in common

Every business shares a set of common components regardless of your product, service or industry.  We all have employees, customers, sales challenges, product or service development, vendors and suppliers just to name a few. Look at every aspect of your business and make a list of potential story topics. You may find one specific area is the best fit for your specific business and industry. But don’t limit yourself to just one. A multitude of storytelling ideas can be generated from every corner of your business.

Be brave and experiment

You have probably noticed by now that using storytelling requires a bit of guts to step out of traditional reporter style writing.  Don’t be afraid to have some fun and experiment with different styles of storytelling to figure out what works best for your business.  Another idea is to write about a business failure you experienced.  Describe the challenge, what you tried and what you learned from it.  And don’t forget to include how your business has improved as a result.  Or write a story about the various challenges you face and how you and your team tackle them every day.  The possible story ideas really are endless.

So what will you do with your storytelling ideas?  Once you get on a roll with this effort you might find yourself swimming in a sea of ideas and topics.  Well stay tuned because in our next article we’ll introduce the concept of a story bank.

Have you heard of a story bank?  Does your company use one?  Share your story in the comments below.

 

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So What’s The Story for 2015?

Hard to believe that 20storytelling in business14 will be over in just 26 days.  So what should be on the horizon for your business and online presence for 2015? In a word, storytelling.  The business that masters the art of storytelling will rule the universe.  Or at least the online universe that brings new visitors to your website and your doorstep. But does storytelling really have a place in business?  You bet. Take a look at why this technique is the hottest discussion topic on the online marketing airwaves.

Stories stand out

The majority of articles online are written in how-to or reporter style making them clinical, predictable and somewhat boring. Take a look back through your own company blogs and news articles to see if you recognize that style.  In an effort to be serious and credible we can become a bit dull.  A good story stands out from the pack.  Hubspot’s article on storytelling for business makes a great point:

Good stories surprise us. They have compelling characters. They make us think, make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.

Stories hold your interest

Watch a group of kids as a really good story is read aloud. They are riveted.  Even if they’ve heard the story five times they are still engaged and delighted.  A really good business story can capture the audience in much the same way.   Every good story should include the classic elements of some drama or suspense to hold the readers interest as well as a few twists and turns. The unexpected makes the story interesting. Make a point to weave these classic elements into your business writing to keep your audience coming back for more.

Stories are relatable

Think for a moment about your own favorite stories from childhood or as an adult. Chances are that you made a connection with the lead character or the storyline itself. Something about that story was endearing because you could relate it directly to your own personal experience.  The human side of a story has a powerful impact on its audience. And making your business seem more human and relatable also makes it more attractive to your target audience.

At this point you might be thinking “I get the power of storytelling but what kinds of stories are appropriate for my business to tell?”  So glad you asked!  In our next article we’ll share a bunch of story ideas that can be adapted to work for a variety of business models and industries.

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Build It And They Will Come: Your 2015 Marketing Calendar

Content ideas

Image credit: Constant Contact

2014 brought with it significant change in the way you market and connect with your customers.  Your online presence, your choices for reaching your audience and your frequency of messaging must all work together to be truly effective.  And whether your company is brand new to the online marketing game or been at it for a while, establishing a calendar for 2015 will make your marketing efforts more effective and easier to manage.

Set your foundation

Not all social media platforms are created equal.  So depending on your business and industry only some platforms will reach your specific target audience.  Check out this article at Entrepreneur.com for a nice summary on how to choose the right platform for your business.  Then once you have determined which platforms you will use it’s time to focus on your frequency of messaging.  Our advice is to post often enough to get noticed but not so often that you lose impact.  Your plan should also include email marketing.

Plan your topics

A lack of ideas can easily throw your marketing calendar off track.  It’s probably the main reason you fell behind this past year. Give yourself a gift this holiday season and develop at least 6 months of topics to post. Look at each month and determine what topics are relevant to your customers during that month as well as what is happening in your business.  Don’t hesitate to revisit topics you posted in 2014 to update your audience on recent trends or developments.  When you plan this way your message becomes much more consistent and cohesive.  You may even want to select a larger overarching theme to weave into every story you post.  We included the graphic from our friends at Constant Contact that provides a few sample ideas for holiday topics.

Build it and they will come

The goal of your marketing calendar at it’s very core is to create a well designed, interconnected and balanced schedule of storytelling that creates interest among your followers and prospects.  And our use of the word ‘build’ in this article was intentional.  As the word suggests you cannot just throw something together and expect great results. Plan, build, execute.  Social media and a marketing calendar will generate the results you desire over time. But only if you plan, build and execute consistently.  And it’s important to emphasize the point that marketing does not produce immediate results.  Your patience is required.

In our next article we’ll dive into the topic of storytelling and how it will change marketing in 2015.  In the meantime, if you need some help with building your marketing calendar give us a call.

 

 

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Year End Update Tips For Your Website

2014 2015With only a few weeks left to 2014 it’s a good time to turn your attention to your website. If you haven’t refreshed the content yet this year you are missing out on a simple way to drive more visitors to your site.  To simplify the process we’ve put together a checklist of key items from two categories to review before the end of the year.  Don’t wait until January to make this a priority.  Because we all know how January turns into February, then March, then November…you get the point.

Content updates

Content is one of the simplest cost effective ways to update your website.  And content written in the first person is considered a more contemporary way to present your message. We recommend you pay particular attention to a couple of pages.

  • About Us – update it with current staff members, bios, company history and major company milestones.  Visitors do want to read about who they are doing business with and will look at this page to establish a sense of your credibility.
  • Products or Services – update by editing descriptions where possible to make them shorter. Visitors can get bored if the page is text heavy.  And check to be sure your industry ‘lingo’ or terminology is current as well.
  • News or events – reorder the events on the page so the most recent appears on the top.  If your news is more than 6 months old find a story to add or update an older one to keep it as current as possible.

Design updates

The overall look needs to be contemporary and fresh.  If you don’t have the budget to have your site redesigned consider these simple suggestions.

  • Color and layout – the homepage should have a vibrant look and simple layout. Check to see where you can eliminate a box or button to cut down on visual clutter.  Most sites are built on a template that should allow simple color changes to refresh the look. Take a few minutes to check out your competitors’ sites to make sure you are keeping pace and still look relevant in your industry.
  • Navigation options – review the labels for each option to be sure they are sensible and make for easy navigation. Make sure your logo is a clickable link that returns visitors to Homepage.  Make sure every link and option works and actually takes the visitor to the right place.
  • Images – add or update images periodically to keep the search engines interested as well as your visitors.  Make sure the images you use are purchased with a license for website use or that you have copyright permission to use them.

This list just scratches the surface of what to consider for updating your website.  We are happy to help if you are too busy or just don’t care to make the changes yourself. But do plan to keep your site fresh and updated to kick off 2015.

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Is Shopping Online Truly Safe?

Online securityAs the holiday season approaches many of us will head to our computer instead of the mall to shop for gifts.  The convenience of shopping online to avoid the holiday hassle simply cannot be beat.  But is it truly safe? Stories of security breaches still top the news headlines every week putting us all on edge.  Although nothing is completely foolproof there are steps you can take to protect yourself and shop online with confidence.

Be an educated shopper

Don’t just use the internet to shop. Take time to research the sites you are buying from especially if you have not purchased from them before.  Web hackers have gotten rather good at making fake sites appear legitimate.  Look for contact information on the site itself and do a bit of research on customer reviews.  And be sure to check the address that appears in your web browser is valid before you provide any personal information.

We found this great tool for tips on verifying the validity of a website at GetNetWise.

Look for security signs

Be sure to check for signs that the site is secure before you enter your personal and financial details. The website URL should begin with shttp or https which indicates that the purchase data will be secured using encryption. Another indicator to look for is a closed yellow padlock icon in your web browser’s address bar.  If you don’t see either of these you may want to find another place to shop. And a good rule to follow if you are using a public network is to never use unsecured wireless networks to make an online purchase.

Credit cards or debit cards?

Debit cards are another truly convenient tool for consumers.  But they should be a last choice option for two reasons.  First, debit cards do not have a monetary limit so your bank account could get wiped out if your data is stolen or compromised. And if you have automatic overdraft in place things could get ugly fast.  Second, debit cards do not offer the same buyer protections that most credit cards offer.  In the event that your purchase isn’t delivered or not what was ordered a credit card will generally allow a credit on the purchase.  And credit cards don’t hold you responsible for charges made on a stolen or lost card.

Another great resource for tips and information about safe online shopping is StaySafeOnline. They offer a host of educational materials to help the online shopper make smart choices and safe purchases.  It’s holiday shopping time.  And yes, shopping online can be safe, convenient and a lot of fun.

How much of your holiday shopping will you do online?  Let us know in the comments below.

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