Content Marketing: What Do Customers Know That Marketers Often Miss?

Skip Once Upon A Time –Tell the Story You Have

Take your content marketing cue from L.L. Bean, the founder of the Freeport Maine based company built around his legendary hunting boots.

To understand the importance of his boots, here’s the story behind them – Returning home from a Maine hunting trip  with cold, wet feet, Bean wanted to prevent the problem in the future. He decided to sew leather boot uppers to a waterproof rubber sole. 

With the help of a local cobbler, the Maine Hunting Shoe was born in 1911, changing outdoor footwear. To sell the boots, Bean’s mail order flyer claimed they were designed by a hunter and guaranteed satisfaction.

Telling the story of how Bean got the idea for his Maine Hunting Shoe with the specifics makes it memorable. To make your product, brand and/or company similarly unforgettable, you need to tell a story to which your prospects and customers can relate. Stories are an integral part of your brandReal life Mad Man, David Ogilvy said it best: “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” Tweet This

When it comes to using stories in your content marketing, customers often know more than marketers. Roughly three out of four consumers want advertising to tell a unique story not just sell, according to recent research from Adobe. Tweet This

Shouting buy, buy, buy will cause customers to go bye, bye. Don’t worry. When they’re ready to purchase, they’ll seek out your best price. But until they reach that point, they’re looking for other information and that’s where stories come in.

If your organization doesn’t have a legendary founder, work with the stories you do have. To understand how to find and tell your stories, here are three examples.

  1. Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, a cheap sleep in a pricey European city has turned its negatives into a badge of honor. On its website, it announces that “The Hans Brinker Budget Hotel has been proudly disappointing travelers for forty years. Boasting levels of comfort comparable to a minimum-security prison,” The hotel has accrued over 225 customer reviews ranging from excellent to terrible on TripAdvisor.
  2. Red Chair Travels. The owner of the Woods Hole Inn on Cape Cod found a red chair at a local swap shop. On the way home, she took a photo of the red chair sitting alone out on a nearby frozen pond and posted the photo on her Facebook page as part of a photography meme. This photo generated lots of comments leading to an off-season reservation from nature photographer, Julie Cromer, who took the red chair on a photo journey from inn to inn across Cape Cod and made it iconic.
  3. Hidden in Plain Sight. Written on Navy Live, a blog by and for members of the Navy and their families, this is a personal story about suicide targeted at preventing re-occurrences this terrible illness. This powerful piece tries help people cope with the open questions that remain after someone takes their own life. I give the Navy credit for confronting this growing issue head-on. If the Navy can share stories like this, surely, your firm can too, regardless of regulatory issues.

So how do you find your organization’s stories? Skip the once upon a time and tell the stories you have. Go through your collateral over time to see what you can highlight that sets you apart from your competitors in your prospects’ minds.

Here are seven options to help you find your firm’s unique stories.

  1. Your products. What sets your products apart from other options in your category? What reasons can you give prospects that makes your offering better? In the Hans Brinker Hotel example, staying at this low priced hotel is a badge of pride for a certain kind of traveler.
  2. Your customers. Have your customers shared their experiences using your offering? Do you have any high profile buyers? Understand that this can depend on your target audience as well.
  3. Your employees (especially founders and senior executives). While founders are great for your once upon a time, think broadly across your staff. Who else has an interesting angle to tell others? Does anyone have an unusual association?
  4. Your history. How did your product or company come into being? What happened that caused your product to be differentiated?  This is the LL Bean story.
  5. Your advertising. Is there something in your advertising over the years that sets your product apart? Has your advertising changed the way customers view your product category? For example, Apple Computer’s famous 1984 Super Bowl ad.
  6. Your physical location. What’s special about your organization’s connection with your location? Is there something in your history that makes you stand out in a way your customers will view positively?
  7. Your accidental connections. This story form is a newer vintage than most but it can work effectively. What sets the Woods Hole Inn apart is how its red chair has become symbolic of Cape Cod hospitality. What do your customers associate with your business? Is a special event or other symbol?

(For further help, here are 29 stories for your firm or brand.)

Stories make your content memorable and sticky. They provide context for your information that helps your target audience remember you.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Dedicated to Trey Pennington who showed us how to use stories in social media but was unable to reach out from the darkness.

Here are some related stories you may find of interest.

Photo credit: (c) 2012 Heidi Cohen

Tags , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • http://twitter.com/MauriceWLindsay Maurice Lindsay

    Great Post Heidi…You are so right, it s all about the story. If we cant relate to our audience by delivering a message that caters to them, then we wont last long. Enjoyed reading this!

  • http://twitter.com/RizzoMB Michael Rizzo

    Great Post, remember it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it. That normally can be found in the brand story.