Telling Your Marketing Story


I begin with the icing on the cake.  Once you have a marketing story, how do you promote it?  Why start here?  My first priority is to show how a good story is necessary for marketing.  This sequence of posts focuses on storytelling and as we get into detail it is important we don’t lose sight of the reason we tell stories as business owners.

How do you know whether you have a good marketing story?

  1. Does it directly address the interests of your market by posing a problem and offering a solution?
  2. Does the story help you stand out from your competitors? How does it position you in the marketplace?
  3. Does the story appeal to your market at an emotional level? Does it move them so they are likely to respond to your call to action?

If you answer no to one or more of these questions, don’t abandon your story just yet.

  • It may be possible to tweak your story to fits all three tests. Stories take time to mature.  They need to be rehearsed and told in public several times before they comfortably fit with the questions.
  • If it really doesn’t work and you move to another story, don’t abandon it altogether. Maybe you can use it in other ways, eg a social media campaign.

How Marketing Has Changed

We’re all familiar with the rise of the Internet and understand it opens up opportunities for small businesses.

We’ve moved from a world where broadcast marketing was commonplace to one where targeted marketing is more common.

30 years ago you were in one of two possible places.  You were a big player who could afford broadcast marketing.  Television and radio, hoardings and publications were the main places to advertise.  Most of this was brand marketing although sometimes businesses used ingenious approaches to direct marketing.  Most direct marketing was through the post, once people signed up for something.  Mailshots were expensive.

There is little doubt these methods worked because businesses deployed them.  However, smaller businesses were at a disadvantage.  They were forced to use more localised methods, eg flyers handed out on streets or put through letterboxes.  Local publications might carry adverts at reasonable prices.

Perhaps the most effective marketing was through shop premises where there were several methods business owners used as people passed by or entered their shop.

All these approaches are available today but the big change has been the advent of the Internet.  This brings on board many new approaches and makes traditional approaches more affordable.

Hub and Spokes

Perhaps the easiest way to think of this is the Hub and Spokes analogy.  The spokes bring traffic to the hub.  The hub is where your keynote story is heard in full and where you build relationships with your market.

Your Hub

The hub is the focus of your marketing and you aim to bring people into the hub and retain them there.

Here are some hubs:

  • Your website, with reasons to frequently return to it.
  • A mailing list – this is usually an email list these days but some businesses still use the postal system. Some businesses claim to manage without a website. It is possible to persuade people to order via a landing page.
  • A shop
  • Possibly networking, depending on how you look at it

Your Spokes

You use the spokes to get your market to visit your hub and return to it.  Their aim is not to sell but to generate traffic for the hub.  They include:

  • Social media
  • Flyers and business cards
  • Displays and exhibitions
  • Networking and speaking

Consistency and Innovation

Assume you have a keynote story, a hub and spokes.  How often and when do you tell your keynote story?

First consider traffic and conversion.  You may find your story works better for one of these.  Does it lead people to find out more or to buy?  Does the way you tell it favour one or the other?

It’s worth having versions of different lengths.  A one minute or less version is useful for networking and equips you with a quick summary.  A short version sparks interest, longer versions build relationships.

Do you tell the story in the hub or the spoke?  In the spoke, your audience is unlikely to be familiar with you.  You excite their interest and tell them how to stay in touch.  You need a clear, compelling call to action.  At the hub, can you assume people are interested in your offer?  How often have they heard your story?

Always the Same Story?

How consistent do you need to be?  Most people think their market gets bored.  The only thing that matters is whether your story creates interest and generate income.  Some say you stop telling your story only at your accountant’s request.

So consistency or innovation?  To a degree storytelling is always innovative. You tell the same story over and again but always experiment with the way you tell it.  Even the time available rings significant changes.  Once you have a good story that resonates with your market, why change it?

When you address a room full of people, they can’t get out.  They have to hear you even if they are distracted by their mobile phones.  On social media, it is much easier to opt out of listening.  You may find you need more innovation there because people actively seek novelty.  You may need a range of stories or anecdotes to generate traffic.

Looking Forwards

In my next three posts I work further down through the layer cake.  When we get to layer one, it opens up seven more posts as we explore traditional stories.

So, next time we’ll look at the next layer down – your market’s story – their problem and your solution.

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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Telling Your Traditional Story - Market Together Blog - July 11, 2018 Reply

[…] walked you through the three layer cake, including icing and decorations.  Your marketing story is the icing, then your market’s story, your personal story and finally your foundational […]

How to Design Your Business Story - Market Together Blog - December 7, 2018 Reply

[…] So, next time we look at the topmost layer – the icing and decorations – your marketing story. […]

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