With their vivid imaginations and optimism, children offer transferable storytelling skills we can all use. Here’s four examples of adapting childlike behavior for better marketing and story creation.
.01 BE EMOTIONAL
Stories should be exciting and surprising. They should make us curious or angry, feel at ease or reassured. In sales 101, we learn that people buy for emotional reasons and then justify the purchase for logical ones.
People want to buy that new car because they desire to look sporty, sexy, or are frustrated with the vehicle they have. They take vacations to places that they’re excited about, or that have sentimental meaning to them, or to get away from all the crazy emotions at home and work.
Touching the human heart allows you to connect with people in a way that data and facts cannot. Add emotion to your stories, then include the stats alongside it if needed.
How can you execute this?
- If you’re a restaurant, perhaps framing your story to exude feelings of romance or fun works best for you.
- If you’re a funeral parlor, the way you make families feel at ease would make for a great story.
- Maybe you are your brand. Do you want people to feel happier, smarter, more confident after connecting with you?
Whatever the tone of your story, it needs to evoke emotion. You want your audience to see purpose and value in having you around so that people feel better with you than without.
At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.– Maya Angelou
.02 TELL IT LIKE IT IS
My nephew doesn’t use the words “lying” or “liar” in his vocabulary. Instead, he made up the word “storytricker” for a person who isn’t being honest with him.
When he grew a bit older, he asked if the tooth fairy was real, or if we were being storytrickers.
“Just tell me the truth. You guys said to always tell the truth,” he said repeatedly, anxious to know if what his older cousins had told him was right.
With so much information available today, and your audience having to be skeptical of what they read online, authenticity is refreshing. What better way to build your brand than adding honesty to its reputation?
Children are honest, sometimes too honest we may feel—but they’re excellent at telling it like it is. No gimmicks. No tricks. No fine print.
Tell the truth about your brand or company. Sooner rather than later, thanks to social media and Google, your audience will find out what’s true and what isn’t anyway. It’s best to start off the right way: by not being a “storytricker” whose message is questioned later.
This one is easy. The best way to tell an honest story is by well . . . being honest. Sometimes, it is that simple.
Children are often told, “Do I say, not as I do,” but that’s not the way they learn. From infancy and into their late childhood, they learn to mimic behaviors and form their own opinions based upon what they’ve observed.
It’s common for children to learn the behaviors of their caretakers. A son or daughter may watch their parents’ actions, speech, and patterns to understand, “I should ask grandma or grandpa for this . . .” or “If I ask this way, I might get what I want.” While they may not say these thoughts out loud, they have them and exercise them liberally. Here are three ways you can apply observation:
Understanding Your Audience
Just as children observe to find out what their teacher is like, what their parents approve of, or what will increase the probability of getting what they desire, so should you be observing your audience.
- What don’t they like?
- What marketing methods will bring you favorable results?
- What are their routines? When are they most likely to buy a product? Or need one?
Monitoring what your audience is chatting about and what their lives are like has never been easier. You can learn what they are saying, discover their interests, and hear the language they’re using. Listening in on your audience helps you determine what stories would interest them and what stories they are likely to share from your brand.
If you’re at a loss for content ideas and need inspiration, seek out your audience. Keep your eyes and ears open to their conversations. It’s hard to solve a problem you don’t know about, and you won’t know what they’re struggling with if you aren’t paying attention.
- What content is your audience sharing? Are there common themes in what they’re reading?
- What are their frustrations? What do they get excited about?
- Are there positive things they’re saying about you? Perhaps you can reach out to them for a success story.
We ask children for their thoughts more than we realize: What did you like about school today? What’s your favorite class? Why is that person your favorite teacher? Why is this your favorite toy? What did you learn from the book? Why don’t you want to try this food?
We are constantly inquiring what their interests are, but perhaps what’s most important is why they like or dislike something.
When I work with writers and brands, they’re often well-educated on surveying what isn’t working. “Our customers don’t like this product because . . .” they’ll tell me. Rarely are they as quick to acknowledge what their customers love about the product or service.
They aren’t sure what’s working.
Children are willing to tell us what they like: their favorite candy and what color ice pop like they like best. Adults are pretty good at this too. “My favorite martini is . . .” or “I really love vacationing here because . . .”
When you’re looking for the best way to position your stories, make sure you’ve looked at the feedback from your audience. Pay attention to what appeals to them. This decreases the risk of changing what they appreciate about your brand and helps strengthen your stories about what they love.
.04 SHOW OFF YOUR WORK AND USE CASE STUDIES
Children take joy in their work and sometimes, as adults, we forget to do the same. While I am all for others praising you—and hopefully they are—showing off your own work and getting it out there is important too.
Your personal story is the best tool you have. It’s what makes you relatable; it helps others remember you when they, or someone they know, have a similar experience.
Apple is great at storytelling, and it shows in their faithful customers. Their users love their products so much, they usually try convincing their Android-loving friends to buy them too. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to sell to a customer once and then have them sell my product to others.
- Have a new book out? Spread the word.
- Have a new product that’s going to be released soon? Tell your faithful customer base.
Share Your Story with Testimonials
When requesting a review from your audience, be sure to ask them, “How did you feel . . . ?” You want your success stories to evoke emotion and build trust. It helps to ask them to tell you how your product/service affected them too:
“After training with Joe, I felt more confident with my body and enjoyed taking photos with my family. It made me happy to save memories with them for the future.”
Or perhaps you’ve written a book:
“The novel taught me about life and how devasting problems can be resolved. I saw myself as the protagonist, and it reminded me of how I’ve overcome hard times and still can.”
Get Creative with Visuals
Children like songs and pictures, videos and words. Adults aren’t much different. Everyone in your audience doesn’t receive information the same way. The nonprofit charity: water does an excellent job of sharing their company’s mission. One short visit to their website and you will see videos, high-quality photographs and text that reinforce who they are, what they do, and how you can get involved.
When showing off your work, remember to be audience focused:
- What’s the purpose of sharing this announcement, testimonial, or product?
- What do you want the results to be?
- Will it inspire your customer to act?
Mixing up how you publish content allows you to speak to different members of your audience in ways that best suit them.
You know what the best way is to have your story heard? Sharing it. Evaluate stories you have told in the past, or ones that you can tell in the future, and keep this list as a reference. And remember to share this article with others—storytelling is for everyone.