Propel Your Marketing With Narrative

by | Content Writing and Copywriting

There’s a reason fairy tales and ghost stories resonate with us, even as adults: Human beings are wired to love stories. Storytelling is how we explain the unexplainable — and narrative is how we communicate our experiences. Story is a fundamental element of human connection.

You can harness your audience’s fascination with stories to give them more meaningful experiences with your brand, engage them throughout their journey to becoming loyal customers, and turn that captivation into better results for your enterprise technology content marketing.

The key to unlocking the power of story is mapping out a seamless, effective narrative journey.

When you take your customer on a narrative journey, your goal is to get the reader from where they currently are to where they need to be. During the journey, your narrative keeps your customer emotionally connected to your brand, while the stories you tell in that journey drive action.

Read on to find out the difference between narrative and storytelling, what questions can shape the narrative journey, and how to make your narrative as effective as possible.

The Difference Between Storytelling and Narrative

A story is all the events that happened in the tale you’re telling. A story has a beginning, middle and end — or more accurately, a beginning, stops along the way, and an endpoint.

Narrative, on the other hand, is how and why the story is told. To create your narrative, you make choices about what story elements to include and which ones to leave out. You figure out how to connect the elements, how you’re going to lead your audience through to the end of the story, and what you need the reader to believe along the way.

Getting Into Your Customers’ Heads

Before you start writing, make sure you’ve done in-depth customer research so you understand what your prospects are struggling with and what language they use to describe those problems.

Conduct interviews and run surveys so you can capture the exact words they use to describe their problems and what exactly they need from your solution. Speaking the same language as your customers helps you connect during the narrative journey because your reader will feel seen, heard and understood.

Use your research to guide you as you think about writing to the customer, rather than at them. It’s not a lecture — it’s a conversation.

How to Shape the Narrative Journey

There is a lot to be said about narrative and storytelling — but these are some of the most fundamental things I think about when I’m helping clients with this.

Figure out your arc

What’s the beginning of the narrative journey, and the first step in the story your content is telling? Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Where is this reader coming in? What are they doing as they enter this content?
  • What triggers this email message or this piece of content for this reader? Did they just fill out a form to download a lead magnet? Did they connect with you on social media and make a request? Or did they take a different action?
  • What is the reader’s state of mind at this point? What are they trying to achieve and why?

The answers to these questions help you nail down the starting point for the narrative journey, and can help you understand your prospects’ mental and emotional state as they begin to read a piece of content — no matter if that content is an email, a blog post, or a long-form white paper or e-book.

Next, ask yourself where the customer needs to be at the end of the journey.

  • What goal is the customer trying to achieve right now? What problem have they come into your world to solve?
  • What action or next step do they need to take to start seeing you as someone who can help them?
  • What do they need to think, feel and believe, in order to take that next step?

This will help you zero in on what stops you need to craft along the way in the overall journey, what smaller stories you might need to tell to connect with the audience, and where the journey should end to leave them satisfied and motivated.

Once you have your starting and end points, you can shape your narrative to help people move from point A to point B. The journey might be long or short, just like your content might be long-form or short-form, but the process is still the same no matter what you’re writing.

For example, if you’re writing an email sequence, you’ll have a narrative that runs through the whole sequence, a bigger story that stretches over the sequence, and then mini stories with a beginning, middle, and end within each individual email.

In a long-form piece of content like an e-book or white paper, your story is longer, with multiple stops along the way. Your job with your narrative is to guide the reader through the story, to get them where they need to go.

Always be thinking, “Where are they now? Where do they need to be? How do I get them there?”

Throughout the narrative journey, we keep the reader engaged, answer questions and solve problems with story.

Put your customer center stage

Make the customer the hero of the story. You’re creating content to serve them — to pull them into your world because your solution can solve their problem. Make it about them. 

This can be tricky for tech companies that want to focus on how awesome their products are. Yes, at strategic points, especially at the bottom of the funnel, you need to talk up the benefits of your solution — but you’ll lose your audience if your narrative is focused on you, not them.

If you have trouble making your customer the hero of the story, working with an outside company (like Horizon Peak Consulting) can help! It’s common for internal marketing teams to get overly focused on their own company and the solution they’re trying to market. An outside consultant can help your team break out of that rut and take a more client-centric approach.

Let it flow

Each part of your narrative needs to connect in a natural flow. Each part (section, element, CTA, etc.) should flow organically into the next.

Narrative gives you a throughline to connect everything — use that to remove friction or breakpoints that jar your reader out of the story. Creating a smooth flow keeps them engaged every step of the way.

Eliminating friction can be as simple as reading your content aloud. This helps you get a feel for the flow, and make sure things read seamlessly and logically.

Most importantly, your call to action (CTA) — what you’re asking the audience to do — should feel like the most natural next step in the journey. Don’t be tempted to make too big of a leap and ask too much before the reader is ready.

Enterprise tech marketing teams often want the CTA to be something sales-oriented, like scheduling a demo or talking to a sales rep. We coach them to think about if the customer is really ready to take that step in this piece of content. Have they done the work in the content that came before to get the customer to that point in the journey? Guiding the customer into the frame of mind to be ready to talk to a sales rep is a big job, so we manage this part of the narrative carefully.

Getting Your Customer From Here to There

Using a narrative journey and storytelling can help your enterprise customers go from where they are to where they need to be to solve their problem. It creates a better experience for the reader, and connects with them more personally and emotionally. When you take this customer-centric approach, every piece of content becomes more powerful and effective.

Connect with Jessica Mehring on LinkedIn to get more information on how Horizon Peak Consulting can help you create a winning content marketing strategy with high-quality conversion content.