Most of us have been brought up thinking about stories as structured with a beginning, middle and end. Most of them tend to unfold chronologically. If you miss the beginning, you have to work pretty hard to catch up with the middle.The Internet has changed this experience.
Information comes at your prospects from a variety of angles, viewpoints and places within the traditional linear structure. No longer must they start at the beginning. Consider that the beginning a prospect starts with may not be yours. Does that mean you're not prepared to help them step into your story from the point at which they leaped away from your competitor's story?The point I'm making here is that the availability of information online coupled with the rise in social media participation has altered the way stories get heard.
Another factor that influences the way stories get heard is the speed of change in business priorities. Due to shifts, a prospect may have to leap from initial research to constructing a short list faster than they thought, or they may have to abandon your story altogether, for now, to focus on some other priority that's gained prominence.Do you make these shifts easy for them?
Can your prospects effortlessly step back into your story when the time comes to resume consideration?Have you left flexibility in your story lines to incorporate new information that comes along as business evolves? Or have you painted yourself into a corner without room for expansion that demonstrates your company's ability to adapt?
I've talked about mapping content to buying stages based on business scenarios your prospects are facing. Although you may originally construct these in a linear format, breaking down the steps into relevant and valuable, related stories provides flexibility for your prospects to choose what they need at the time they need that information.When you enable that, you also add the ability to discover where prospects are in their buying process.
But here's the really cool thing. You've got openings to evolve your stories without interrupting the flow. When new things happen that affect your market, you can insert new content right into your story, honoring the theme, but updating the dialogue to stay relevant. Engagement levels will grow in response.You may need to tweak a bit of the surrounding content to accommodate the additional story elements, but, if your story line started out oriented to your prospect's perspective, that shouldn't be hard to do.
As marketers telling our company's story, we have to become adept at weaving together the influence of newly available information and perspectives regarding their needs and problems. The combination of blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, industry portals, analyst forecasts and reports, customer reviews, user groups and any number of other media sources are continuously updating the stories your prospects are telling themselves-and each other. If you're not keeping up, incorporating these changes of viewpoints into your stories, you're likely losing engagement to someone who is.
This doesn't mean you have to go nuts with every nuance you see under discussion. What it does mean is that you need to be out there listening. When you see something taking hold, consider whether it makes sense to incorporate that idea into your story line.Even better, listen for ideas you can claim first and expand them to address your audience in a compelling, thought-leading way. Become their anchor of preference that everyone else must surpass to regain their attention.
What are you doing to keep your marketing stories holistic?Hat tip to Kathy Hansen's blog post Are We Now in the New Storytelling Economy? for planting the seed for this post. It's a good one, go read it.
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