Is Storytelling Still Relevant?

Tips for Telling Your Story in Fresh Ways

It’s funny how industry buzzwords come and go. Do a quick internet search and you’ll find “Marketing Buzzwords for 2018” and even “Buzzwords to Stop Using.” 

STORYTELLING. You may be tempted to say, “Been there. Done that.” If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know the importance of crafting a story that captures your mission and helps customers connect emotionally with your brand.

But storytelling isn’t a one-time thing. Just like kids often want to hear stories again and again, we need to find engaging, fresh ways to tell our story.

At a recent AMA event, Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s CMO Bill Potts told the tale of how the rescue of a young dolphin (“Winter”) saved them from financial ruin. In truth, though, it is consistent, intentional storytelling that has made Clearwater Marine Aquarium one of the area’s most popular attractions (and revenue sources) for tourists and locals alike. (BTW, it’s right down the street from me, so let me know when you’re visiting!)

As captivating as Winter’s story is, the aquarium’s success isn’t from telling the same old story ad infinitum. Even the initial rescue was told in the media as multiple stories, all supporting the organization’s mission, Rescue. Rehab. Release:

  • Story 1: Dolphin is rescued and named Winter
  • Story 2: Winter survives, but loses tail
  • Story 3: Winter learns to swim without tail
  • Story 4: Winter gets prosthetic tail
  • Story 5: Real life sequel when second young dolphin is rescued

And those are just the stories from the first year!  Since then, the Aquarium has turned storytelling to an art form – one that generates incredible revenue for their non-profit organization and other area businesses in the tourism and hospitality. Every day, they tell the stories of rescued animals and of the lives they impact when visitors connect with animals that have physical or emotional challenges like theirs.

Sounds easy, right?

You may say, “Easy for them, stories come to their doorstep! How can my business create engaging stories when we don’t have ‘Abe the Baby Otter’ to post on our webcam?”

True. Some businesses have a product or service that’s made for storytelling. But that doesn’t get us off the proverbial hook. Here are some tips for telling your story in fresh ways:

  • Be Intentional: Don’t use “I just sell Widgets” as an excuse to give up on storytelling. Dig deep. Look for stories, and provide ways for employees and customers to share them with you. Do you personally follow up with customers to hear their story? Do your employees know how to look for, solicit and share customer stories with management? Are there milestones or events you can leverage for storytelling?
    • The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has an “Inspire Team” tasked with spotting stories as they happen each day as visitors interact with the rescued animals. Likewise, they create special events that generate their own media buzz. While they once returned rehabilitated animals to the wild without fanfare, they’ve learned that a “Welcome Home” release party is another story.
  •  Be Bold: You and I live and work in an ever-changing world. Keeping our story relevant is not for the faint of heart. We have to be willing to ask the tough questions, and be vulnerable, even if it means doing market research about our perceived product failures, or asking focus groups “what don’t you like about doing business with our company?” The information we learn will help us craft a better story, one that resonates as TRUE with your customers.
    • In “Six Tips for Telling a Better Business Story,” Forbes shares “Our best ideas are often accompanied by the disclaimer, ‘this may be a bad idea, but…’ There are definitely bad ideas, but they are often a starting point to great ideas.” Invite them from your team, explore them and find the balance between what’s too far in a bad way and what’s bold in good way.
  • Be Prepared. In a world fearful of “bad press” and fastidious protection of company image, I was surprised to learn that the Aquarium trains dozens of its front line employees how to interact with the media. Consider how much harder it would be to tell their story if all inquiries had to be directed to “the PR department.” Think, too, about the authenticity of their message when it comes from a wetsuit-clad medical assistant rather than some tie-wearing spokesperson. Good stories come from real people (like in a skillfully-moderated focus group!)
    • I don’t know how the Aquarium media-trains its staff, but I bet it includes some variation of the 5 C’s described by com author Margot de Cunha: Circumstance, Curiosity, Characters, Conversations and Conflict.
      • Set the scene and provide context for your reader.
      • Use curiosity to leave the reader wanting more.
      • Characters and conversation go hand-in-hand. Use dialogue; create characters.
      • Last but not least, conflict. If there isn’t any conflict, then there’s not much of a story.

Ready to go? I’m newly inspired to tell Insights360’s market research stories in fresh ways, and I hope you do the same! After all, as a Moderator, I’m a Story Collector. Let me know if I can help you uncover your customers’ stories – so they can become your stories too!






Taking Strategic Risks

Happy New Year, colleagues!

A new year is synonymous with the word POSSIBILITIES for me.

This can be exciting, a little overwhelming, but also feel a bit risky. Personally, I’m a “calculated risk taker” – and I’ve always gained from each risk I’ve taken, even if the end result was not the total success I was striving for.

With inspiration of a new year before us, I challenge you to take some small “risks” in one or more areas of your business. Let’s start with marketing and consumer research.

Is 2018 the year to consider a fresh perspective on your marketing?

It’s proven that the resources of time, energy and dollars invested in marketing are critical to a business’s success. What’s the obstacle for you?

  • Do the perceived risks and investment outweigh the benefits you hope for?
  • Does your lack of know-how (as in, “I don’t even know where to start!”) hold you back?

Read on, we can help.

#1   Customer and Product Research

Every company THINKS they know their customers and what they want. Savvy companies are willing to risk their preconceived notions in order to learn what their customers really think, how they perceive their organization and what they really want in a product or service. Strategically planned and moderated focus groups can be a great tool to tap into consumer mindset if you are…

  • Considering entering a market that is new to you
  • In the development phase of a new product or service
  • Want to find out about the motivation behind a specific action or inaction

#2    Promotion

Are you considering a new marketing message or promotional vehicle? Even talented marketers can develop messages that don’t motivate the desired response or can even offend their target market or the general public. They may also err by selecting the wrong media.

Control your risk by testing your marketing and concept ideas on REAL Consumers. Focus groups are a great way to test various marketing approaches and get feedback directly from your target market.

We DO research. We can help you do yours.

Just like you know your business, we know ours. Insights360 moderates focus groups and other forms of qualitative methods (dyads, one-on-ones, web discussions, web usability testing, phone interviews, ethnographies, etc.). This is our expertise.

We can help you answer these key questions that will minimize the risk in your research investment:

  • Which methodology can make participants more willing to share what they REALLY think?
  • Do you know which non-verbals to look for and what they mean? Does boredom mean the same as disinterest in your messaging or product?
  • Do you know how best to present stimuli to avoid order bias and group think?

Conducting a successful focus group isn’t easy. These tips provide a glimpse of some of the things that should be considered:   But don’t let the complexity scare you away! If you’d like a partner to help you plan your research, my team and I are here to help. Just reach out and let’s have a conversation.

Let’s take 2018 by the horns and make some strategic investments and calculated risks, starting with our marketing and consumer research.

The team at Insights360 is here to help you take small risks that reap big rewards!