Creating Sticky Content: Storytelling for Business Growth

The word storytelling has taken on near-mythical status in the world of marketing. It’s hard to explain, easy to recognize, and impossible to forget once encountered.

Let’s give you a peek into its power. 

Imagine feeding your toddler some bland mashed potatoes (an uphill task to say the least). This activity is most likely doomed to fail unless you add a dash of storytelling hot sauce. Turn that plate into a spaceship, the spoon into a plane, add a few whizz, pop, and bangs, and suddenly the food starts landing where it’s meant to.

That, in a nutshell, is the magic of storytelling — making the ordinary, interesting and desirable.

So, why are marketers going gaga about storytelling and what does it have to do with business growth?

Let’s start with some numbers.

According to marketing experts, an average person sees anywhere between 4,000 and 10,000 ads in a single day. Think for a minute and try to recall how many ads you remember encountering today. If you really put your mind to it, you might recollect 10 or 15.

What makes these few advertisements stick and the other 9,990 non-existent? And, more importantly, for marketers, how can you make sure that your message has that stickiness?

What is sticky content?

‘Sticky’ content, in its essence, is any content the audience remembers after interacting with it. It could be a graphic, a catchy jingle, or even well-written marketing copy. The format, scale, and size of the content don’t matter as long as your audience remembers it and comes back for more.

Despite its very broad definition, stickiness is not an accident. If you dissect some famous bits of sticky content, chances are it would have a good story at the heart of it.

Stories have held sway over mankind’s imagination since we learned to walk on two legs. In today’s cutthroat marketing world, a sure way to make your message stick is to weave it into a story. 

However, not all storytelling attempts are successful. You have to add more than a glug of plot glue to make your content memorable. You need all the elements of S.U.C.C.E.S.

Elements of sticky content

The acronym SUCCES (yes, there is only one S at the end) was coined by two marketing legends, Dan and Chip Heath. They uncovered a formula for sticky content marketing in their classic marketing book Made to Stick. Let’s find out what SUCCES stands for and how it relates to storytelling and business growth:

  1. S is for Simple
  2. U is for Unexpected
  3. C is for Concrete
  4. C is for Credible
  5. E is for Emotional
  6. S is for Stories 

1. Keep it simple

You know your business offerings, but your audience doesn’t. Before you start writing anything at all, spend some time clarifying your core business message to yourself. Once you have stripped it down to the main value proposition, spend time polishing and simplifying it to ensure you can express it to reach your target group.

A simple rule of thumb is to build a one-liner that expresses how your business offering provides value to your desired customer base. DO NOT have more than one central message.

2. Grab attention with unexpected content

With attention spans dipping below that of a goldfish it is critical to grab attention from the get-go. Don’t assume your audience will stick around till the end of your ad or blog. Go off-beat and leverage all that your message format can offer (audio, video, animation, or images) to hook right from the start.

As a rule of thumb, surprise your readers with unexpected twists, fascinating facts, or bizarre anecdotes that make their eyebrows reach for the sky. Defy expectations and DO NOT recycle ideas from your competitors. 

3. Eschew abstract concepts; make it concrete

Excitement will get your foot in the door, but to convert potential target groups into paying customers you need to also show how your business offers value to their lives.

Generally speaking, adding visualizations of use cases of the product, expert opinions, or realistic benefits work best to ensure that viewers know what they can expect from your brand.

4. Add credibility; showcase your authenticity

It’s the age of authenticity! Not only do 86% of consumers consider authenticity a key factor when evaluating brands, but almost 46% say that they would pay more to purchase from brands they can trust!

However, the average consumer is very good at spotting holes in even the most confidently crafted stories. Make your content believable, offer proof, and stay away from tall claims. If you build trust with the truth now, your customers will follow you to the ends of the earth.

Provide testimonials, numbers and statistics, and expert opinions to support your claims. DO NOT give in to the temptation to one-up your rivals by adding details that push the envelope of believability. 

5. Aim to touch your audience’s emotions

Once the heart is involved, the head will follow, and the hand will reach for the wallet. Make your marketing messages resonate on an emotional level to bring stickiness to your advertising.

Inspire and move your customers with emotional stories, appeal to their better selves, show how your product will solve their problems, align with their aspirations, or nudge their self-interest to get a deeper reaction.

6. Thread it all together with a story 

Humans connect better with plots and themes so work on stories that captivate your audience and invite them to become part of the plot.

Keep your stories relatable and follow the simple formula of providing a challenge that your customers can associate with and a resolution that decimates the problem.

Why is storytelling important for content marketing and business growth?

Many marketers have considered this question and taken a shortcut to create content. That content often lands in the pile of 9,990 forgettable messages we encounter daily. Storytelling has been the vehicle of ideas since the beginning of human interactions and with good reason; here we reiterate some of them.

Stories create, engage, and impact emotions

We want fun, laughter, pleasure, and, yes, even sadness and anger. We want to feel! Of course, facts, numbers, and logic inform buying decisions. But when these are wrapped in a blanket of emotions they have double the power to sway and sell.

Stories are memorable

Attention is at a premium! There is so little of it (a marketer has just 8 seconds to attract an internet-savvy human; a whole second less than a bored goldfish). And so many are vying for that tiny slice of time that your content needs to stand out fiercely to even be remembered.

Storytelling, when done right, is one simple and sure-shot way to book a permanent place in a viewer’s consciousness.

Stories set your brand apart

If your business ecosystem has similar players (and let’s be honest, most of us are playing in a crowded field) then a compelling brand story can shine a spotlight on you.

Apart from working as a differentiator, storytelling can also help keep your brand consistent. We know consistency is key to getting a good ROI from branding. In a report by a US-based branding firm, more than two-thirds of businesses have attributed 10%+ revenue growth to brand consistency. Adding storytelling elements can keep the same brand message looking fresh and appealing.

Stories help you build trust

Stories can lead to building an emotional connection between the company and its current and potential customers. Humanizing your brand and showing shared values with your target audience creates trust that will resonate way beyond the shelf life of an advertisement. Use your story to generate long-term customer loyalty and sticky customers.

Stories drive action

Stories can present CTAs more palatably and persuasively to your prospects. A plot-driven nudge towards a certain action is far more likely to succeed than bare facts.

5 steps to grow your business with sticky content & storytelling

Creating sticky content and storytelling doesn’t have to be daunting. You don’t have to rush out to blow wads of cash on creative agencies. Instead, start with these 5 steps to build your sticky content marketing plan, and bring in professionals when needed.

Step 1: Identify your target audience and their interests

The very first step to creating sticky content is to study your target audience and their interests. Obsess over your customers, build detailed customer personas, and make that the bible of all your marketing efforts.

Once you know WHO you are targeting, WHAT their motivations are, and HOW your product/service can improve their lives, you can use that information as a foundation to build your story.

Understanding your audience will increase customer retention and help you improve your customer relationships too.

Step 2: Come up with ideas that will stick

Basics in place, it’s time to move the mind muscles. Get your team in the room and brainstorm together to find storylines that could resonate with your customer personas. If you are stuck for ideas, then a good way to warm up your creativity is to ask yourselves some questions:

  • Who are you? What is the core of your business, values, and vision? If you were to describe your company to a friend, how would you do it?
  • What do you do? Ditch the sales jargon and old PPTs and pen down a simple list of your product/company’s attributes.
  • How do you help your customers? Lean into your customer personas once again to describe how your product makes a difference. What is the pain point you solve and how?
  • Why do you do it? According to the Havas Group, brands that are meaningful and viewed as making the world a better place outperform the stock market by 134%. Align yourself with values and issues that matter to your target audience with authenticity.

Step 3: Polish your ideas into a winning piece of content

Take your shortlisted ideas and develop them into a narrative with a riveting intro, an informative and action-oriented middle, and a satisfying end. Add characters that drive your message and create a personal touch.

While you are fleshing out your idea it is also important to think in terms of the format of your message. Consider how your message and story can be best served to your intended audience. Does a long-form blog support the narrative? Or would an animated video be a better vehicle to reach and attract potential consumers?

The time, effort, and cost of making the content piece will also play a role in making this decision. Keep in mind that complicated is not always the best approach, sometimes all you need is a simple graphic to convey your message. You don’t have to do everything in-house. Consider outsourcing to an experienced content marketing agency like ours if you need help bringing your ideas to life.

Step 4: Create a plan

Once the campaign is ready and you’ve it tested on a small group of relevant consumers, you need to turn your thoughts toward disseminating it effectively. You can use your story in many ways to maximize returns, expand your reach, and generate leads.

Make sure you optimize your story and related content for various mediums. This may include social media, PPC campaigns, blog articles, videos, and more depending on your marketing objectives.  

Find more details on how to build an optimized ROI-driven content marketing strategy here.  

Step 5: Post content consistently

Persuasive storytelling that prompts your listeners to support your business is not built on the back of one piece of sticky content, you need to keep bombarding your current and future audiences with a consistent brand message as long as you are in business!

While you create that sticky content, also build a plan to follow it up regularly with more memorable campaigns.

Leverage professional content marketing to keep your brand top-of-mind!  

Content marketing is a competitive and crowded field (remember the 10,000 messages we told you about earlier).  If you are wondering whether coming late to the party will gain you any business growth, then the answer is a big fat YES! Despite the crowds, content marketing generates 3X as many leads as traditional outbound marketing AND costs 62% less!  

Chew on that! And book a free consultation once you are done. We’ll be waiting to help you get more leads and grow your revenue!