5 Storytelling Tips for Connecting with Your Customer


This post was written by Kathleen Ohlson, freelance content writer for Brafton and editor at Craft  WW. Follow her, @kaohlson

Telling a story is one of the most powerful ways to communicate. Describing an event with details, imagery, mood, strong characters and an active tone helps people make a connection. A good story draws you in and makes you feel like you’re part of the brand narrative.

These elements are vital in content marketing. Whether it’s videos, e-books, or blog posts, stories bridge the gap between the features and benefits behind your company’s products and the reasons why people buy them. Content builds an emotional connection between your company and your current and future customers, encouraging them to come back again.

The power of good storytelling helps your audience relate to what you do and how you can help them. Here are five storytelling tips to help connect customers with your content.

Be real

Trust and honesty are the most valuable qualities your brand possesses. So use facts and sources, feature real people and speak about real situations. Consumers get you’re trying to sell to them, but if your company uses any dishonesty in your marketing, you’ll lose that loyalty. People respond better to personalized content because it helps them get to know and trust you. Don’t be afraid of talking about issues. As Ann Handley discusses in Everybody Writes, “People want to do business with people, not a corporation.”

Straight talk

My grade school English teacher gave this advice: Write the way you speak. When you use common language, you sound like a real person, giving your story stronger appeal. Tell a story that’s true to your brand and your audience.

Stay away from corporate lingo and buzzwords. Your audience knows when they’re reading or listening to memorized or stilted, formal language. So write the way that’s natural for both you and your audience.

Once more with feeling

Use empathy to create a connection to your audience; it demonstrates your feelings toward them. Put your audience into the story. Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” campaign is based on photos gathered from their customers worldwide. The company’s ongoing series of TV spots, videos and billboards only features shots with the tagline, "Shot on iPhone."

When you add a human element into your content marketing, your audience will feel like they know the characters. They might be going through the same problems and looking for solutions. Emotion enables you to create content that motivates your audience. You want people to feel something, so they’ll take action as soon as they read a blog post, watch a video or listen to a podcast. By creating an emotional connection, you can build a loyal audience.

The Good Stuff

A good story can capture your audience’s attention and draw them in. Part of a good story is strong characters and action—the connection between your audience and you. The more your audience identifies with the character, the more they see themselves in that person’s shoes. Your audience becomes invested in the action. Focusing on the stakes of your characters, you make them real and involve your audience emotionally. It can also help develop and promote your brand, emphasizing the problems your customers have and how you came up with a solution for them. 

Imagery paints a picture in your audience’s mind and makes a story come alive. These specific details make a story real and believable. The more realistic a story is, the more invested your audience becomes, creating that emotional connection. If your audience remembers the stories you tell, they’ll remember you, too, and keep you top of mind when they need your help. Details and imagery also show the benefits you offer, specifically the emotional reasons why your customers buy from you. 

Shake it up

Having a beginning, middle and end to your story is important, but don’t be afraid to mix up the structure when you can. Maybe start in the middle of the story, or, at the beginning, use a hook like a pivotal moment or an unusual situation to draw your audience in. Or leave your story on a cliffhanger.

Ending your story with a hook works when you’re creating a series of videos or stories that can be connected together. For example, “Puppyhood,” a YouTube series created by Purina and BuzzFeed, shows a single man adopting a puppy and explores the complete story as they get to know each other. The series, which has over 10 million views, deals with setting ground rules and finding a babysitter, guiding consumers through every step of dog ownership.

If you want to cut through the noise, come up with a new angle for your stories. Add the element of surprise, such as an unexpected plot twist or premise, to hold your audience’s attention. 

A good story doesn’t just tell you what’s happening but makes you feel like you’re there. Storytelling is a powerful content marketing tool that can help you hold your audience’s attention and build a community.