Build Stronger Connections with Compelling Stories
Tyler Williams: Good day. My name's Tyler Williams, and thank you again for joining us for this episode of Level Up the podcast for marketers by marketers created by Lev that distills best practices and strategies, helping marketers increase their customer experience, one up their strategy, and grow personally and professionally. We're your hosts, Tyler Williams.
Laura Madden: And I'm Laura Madden, the senior manager of marketing strategy and services here at Lev. And we're here to talk about storytelling today, so cuddle up, get your blanket, and we're going to tell some stories. I think we'll start out with maybe some of the stories that have really resonated with us, or storytelling that really has made an impact on us. And when I was thinking about this, I thought about some of the podcasts I listen to. Admittedly, I don't listen to as many anymore since I work from home, so I don't have a commute, so it's a finite list. But the ones I do listen to when friends ask me what are they about, why do you like them? I'm like, " I really can't articulate what they're about." Both of the ones I really like are just two women who are really good friends, they happen to be actresses, one of them, The Deep Dive, they're both moms, they're writers, and I realize they're just really good storytellers. I could listen to them say anything or talk to me about the most mundane thing that's been happening in their lives, and it's just riveting, so I think that and the fact that I want to tune in every dang week when they release a podcast, as I'm sure all of you do for the Level Up podcast, you're anxiously awaiting. I think that really speaks to the power of storytelling and just wanting to be a part of their lives and their stories, and feel like we're friends or my podcast friends, even though I've obviously never met any of them. Tyler, what's your story? I've been long anticipating what you're going to share with us.
Tyler Williams: So as an avid podcast listener and I guess podcaster now that we're co- hosts, I listened to many stories that resonate with me recently, but there's one that my grandpa told me, this has to have been now 20 to 25 years ago that somehow I can still almost recite verbatim, and it's very short with significant levels of finishing principles or, quote unquote, morals to the story, and it has a couple of memorable characters. So here it goes. One day a goose was flying south as it migrated for the winter, obviously those of you in the Midwest know that we have Canadian geese pass through our territory, and they're just such pleasant creatures. But anyway, this goose was flying south, but he left a little bit late, and as he was flying it got so cold that his wings froze and he fell out of the sky and crashed into a barnyard. The goose was very, very upset. He thought, for sure, this is where I die, my wings are frozen, I can't fly, this is the end for me. And along came a cow and took a massive crap on the goose. The goose, while very upset about having a dump taken on him, began to feel his wings thaw out because obviously this was a little bit warm, and the goose started to squawk and squawk with such excitement and joy that it attracted a nearby fox who came over, wiped the crap off the goose, and ate the goose. There are three morals to this story. Number one, not everyone who takes a crap on you is your enemy, number two, not everyone who wipes the crap off of you is your friend, and number three, when you're covered in crap, you should probably stay a little quiet. Obviously this left a significant impression on me. We might have to cut this out of the podcast, depending on my esteemed producer and co- hosts thoughts, but Laura, what do you think? Did that resonate with modern marketing strategy?
Laura Madden: Do we maybe get crapped on every once in a while? Is that what you're thinking?
Tyler Williams: Is good PR bad PR? Nobody knows.
Laura Madden: So many lessons. I think this is definitely staying in. This is iconic. I hope this is what they pull out of the preview with the text that shows, it's clickbait, for sure.
Tyler Williams: And the aggregators are going to... I'm certainly getting aggregated for this.
Laura Madden: 100%, AI's going to pick it up and make new podcasts just about that story edit inaudible
Tyler Williams: That's not good. This is where the AI turns bad, if the AI gets a hold of this story.
Laura Madden: I think so. I think that those lessons do make sense, obviously given its... What is it? The allegories? Or what are those of not everything is what it seems or Aesop's Fables. What are those? Are they allegories?
Tyler Williams: I think so. There's 15 literary terms that start with the letter A and that's definitely one of them. I'm just not sure it's the right one.
Laura Madden: That's probably it. We'll go with that.
Tyler Williams: Yeah, let's go with.
Laura Madden: I'm sure all of our listeners are screaming at the podcast right now like, " Laura, you're wrong." And you know what? Message us. I'd love to hear it if I'm wrong because I'm not going to Google it. But those lessons that you get, obviously I think that demonstrates it needs to be a memorable story. Would that story have stuck with you if there hadn't been crap involved? Maybe not.
Tyler Williams: No., because I was a six- year- old boy.
Laura Madden: Totally.
Tyler Williams: And now I'm just a six- year-old boy in a bigger body. It still has to do with crap. It's funny. It's entertaining.
Laura Madden: So that's why the storytelling is important. You said it was nice and short, which that helps, and it has characters that you can understand. So I don't know. I feel like maybe we can all learn from that. I'm sure we can. I'm just still processing honestly. I'm still in shock. Tyler had been talking to us about this story, I didn't know what it was going to be, and I think it surpassed expectations, frankly.
Tyler Williams: Well, most people have a low bar for me, so that's not saying much. But yes, this was the first time Laura had heard this.
Laura Madden: Oh, boy.
Tyler Williams: I literally used the phrase, " Take it for a spin," and it has spun.
Laura Madden: It done spun.
Tyler Williams: So moving right along, despite the deep connection you certainly have felt with Laura and I to start this podcast, we had this awesome idea last week, both of us had the privilege to be on onsite at Connections last week, had this super fun idea to say, " Coming to you live from Connections." And guess what? That just didn't happen. So we're now coming to you live from six days after Connections, which doesn't quite have the same ring to it, I must admit. But the really neat part of why we weren't able to come live from Connections is that we got to connect with so many of our amazing clients, so many of our awesome channel partners, obviously Salesforce being the key one there who just put on such an incredible event. Lev hosted a happy hour that we got to meet new friends and many old friends again, so just such a blessing to be in person. We are going to have some recap material on more of the technical side of what was rolled out at Connections. But Laura, before we jump further into storytelling and our failure to live podcast from Connections, anything you want to add on your Connections experience?
Laura Madden: Well, to Tyler's point, it was so great to connect, maybe that's why they call it that, with so many people. I also got to do a session with a Lev colleague around data cloud, that was really great. And then I had the opportunity to listen after the fact to Dan Levy's keynote. They put him at the end and timing didn't work out. It's fine. I'm not bitter. It's totally fine guys, don't even worry about me. But he talked about storytelling. And I'm not going to lie, when I saw he was there, I was like, " Cool. He's a name. Great job. What is he going to talk about and why is this going to be relatable? What's the point?" I stand corrected. It was a very great discussion, not just because he has an e- comm company selling glasses, which I didn't know about, and he loves email newsletters, which if you guys know me, I love email, so shout out Dan Levy, we are the same. But he really talked a lot about storytelling, because that's what he does as a writer, as an actor, and why it's important, and I think there are some actual through lines to marketing, to sales, and just storytelling in general. He talked about the idea that storytelling that's rooted in something human really forces people to make that connection, so bringing that humanity to things, which I think we'll talk about this a little later, but I think part of that is just remembering everyone is a human. Yes, we're all in business, yes, we're trying to do this, but at the end of the day we are talking human to human and that's how we relate. He also talked about transparency being so important both in storytelling, and he talked about even in his business, if he's having to raise his prices on his website, he wants to tell his customers, " Hey, it's because we're trying to grow. We are inflation, higher cost of materials," things like that. Because people have their hard- earned money, they go to the site, and they're like, " Hey, what the heck? Why is this more money?" Even just basic things like that, it seems scary to do, but people appreciate that. And you're also telling a story in that. You can, I don't want to say spin it, but even just talking about, " Hey guys, we're growing. This is exciting. This is the cost of growth," you can understand that, all those types of things. And then one thing that he said at the end that really resonated with me is he said, " Integrity is really hard to get back when you've lost it." And I think that really speaks to us as consultants and the integrity that we have with our clients as their partner, and we always want to come with them with that human side, with that transparency so that we come with integrity and we maintain that, because you know this just from your personal relationships, if you have a friend who's done you wrong, say, " I'm going to forgive you, but I'm not going to forget," that goes in business too. So I think there were definitely some key elements there that resonated, plus he's just, guess what, a great storyteller, so I loved listening to him. You can catch it on Salesforce + if you want to catch that. So that was my takeaway, and the fact that I still just love Dan Levy and probably will go binge all of Schitt's Creek again, because why not? It's great.
Tyler Williams: There's some joke about the story that I opened with and then title of that show you just mentioned, but less I digress.
Laura Madden: Oh, dear.
Tyler Williams: So Laura, you mentioned a couple of things. I think number one, the excitement and relatability of storytelling is just so important because you want to have that human connection. And we have the privilege and honor to work in a really fun... It's marketing at the end of the day. I was on a customer call a couple of weeks ago where I'm not sure if people weren't excited to be on the call, maybe they had other priorities, maybe everyone was just mad that day, but someone on the call said, " Hey guys, this is marketing, reminder. No one dies. This is super fun." And it helps set a new tone for the conversation. So I think we as marketers have to carry a charter of bringing that fun and bringing the storytelling aspect to a lot of things we do. And I think that applies both for my world as a sales leader, making sure that we're telling the right story to our customers on how to position something on what the benefits of a solution can be, and then Laura, for you, it's also about, hey, the end customer experience when they read this newsletter, when they click through this content, what story is the brand telling, how is that customer identifying with that brand? And another thing you mentioned about the integrity and how it's so hard to get that back is I always encourage my team and myself to say no. Make sure you bring a point of view. If you say yes to everything, you're either lying or you're wrong. So just making sure that you have that integrity as a consultant and as a storyteller to say, " Hey, this is what this means, and this is not what this means in certain circumstances." And I think to harken back that absolute Pulitzer Prize winning story that I told at the beginning, a major factor of stories are how do they affect us. And sometimes it's something I'm going to go do right after hearing this story, sometimes it's, oh, I remember that six months later and I have this slight principle that I'm now going to function with. But Laura, when you think about successful storytelling in marketing, how do we want those stories to affect our audience? What are some of the key things we think about there?
Laura Madden: So many things you touched on of thinking... We have two audiences there. So we have our client and we want them to feel comfortable with a solution, they've probably come to us, because they're not as well- versed, they're not really sure where to go next, so we need to make them feel comfortable and tell that story so that they can maybe go retell it and resell it to their C- suite, or to get additional buy- in or something like that, so that's an impact and that's a KPI that I tell my team to look for is what does that success look like, how can we make our client look good, and what is that story. And then the other is actually the end user, so looking at that full on customer experience and thinking about the cliche of right channel, right message, right time. Well, it's a cliche for a reason, and that's where are we telling the story, how are we telling the story, and the why behind it. And really trying to also from a strategic perspective focus in on those goals and keep yourself honest of, yeah, this could be a great story, but is it right for what we're trying to do, and is it going to accomplish our goals? So I think that that's a really important thing to not get too caught up in the storytelling of it all if it's not going to bring that impact and always keeping that there. When you said talking about saying no, it made me think about the yes and a lot, which I know is an improv thing and you use it in sales and consulting, I hadn't really thought about the idea of a no and. And it's not really a no but, but it's a no, but I don't know if we ever just say no, period. Maybe in our personal lives we can go all Brené Brown on it and say, " No is a complete sentence." Or maybe that was Oprah. I don't know. I'm just misquoting everyone.
Tyler Williams: I think that's Brené.
Laura Madden: Sure. But the idea of I'm telling you no, but I'm also coming with a reason, an alternate solution, and telling you a story really around the no and why. It's not just arbitrary I don't feel like doing it, that sort of thing, so I think there is a story to the no also, that can be really impactful.
Tyler Williams: And I'm curious, Laura, have you seen, it came out just a couple of weeks ago, but it's a movie, I almost called it a documentary because it feels like that in moments, but Air?
Laura Madden: No, it's on my list.
Tyler Williams: Okay. It should stay on your list and potentially be slightly up your list. It was...
Laura Madden: Oh, noted.
Tyler Williams: ...Super good. And what it actually is, it's not a story about Michael Jordan, it's a story about Nike. And granted, every marketing podcast are going to talk about Nike and Apple at some point, so forgive me for beating this drum yet again. But it was really neat because the history of Nike, and when they signed Jordan, they were the third or fourth basketball shoe, or basketball brand in general, and how it took a couple of marketing executives to say, " No, here's our player and here's how we're going to revolutionize how we talk about basketball players and how that will help us sell shoes." Because effectively the bottom line of that, and this gets directly to the storytelling we're talking about, the two leaders back in the day were Converse, Adidas, and Reebok. So Adidas is obviously still around, but Reebok and Converse have moved down the charts, if you will. And those brands effectively told the story of we're so good that these athletes come and wear the shoes that we already make. And all those brands had the big time athletes as part of their roster, if you will, and they were successful companies doing good work, et cetera. Nike essentially flipped that story around and said, " When an athlete comes to be a Nike athlete, we will design an entire shoe, an entire product line around that athlete, and that athlete actually becomes the brand. They just happen to be a Nike ambassador." So when I think about how can customers be the center of brands' stories, I think Nike identified that really early as a, hey, I'm not here to tell my brand story, I'm actually here to tell the users story. And really that was more through remoting Michael Jordan and customizing the entire line around him allowed Nike to connect with the college basketball players, the high school basketball players, et cetera, because putting all their weight behind a player like Jordan made them more approachable, and, oh, here we're this global conglomerate that people flock to. It's no we are this athlete and this athlete is us. It's a really interesting way of putting the customer or the athlete at the center of the story, not just the brand.
Laura Madden: Yeah, that's really interesting, and now it definitely will move up my list. Maybe that'll be a weekend watch. That made me think too, as you were talking about all of the shoe brands, they're doing the same thing, are selling shoes, we've got athletes, how do we differentiate ourselves? I think that applies to what we're doing also in the MarTech space. It's like there's a limited number of products and they all do the same thing. And whether it's us trying to pitch to a client this is why you should implement this piece of MarTech and this is why you should use us, or if it's a client trying to figure out which one should I go with, are these competing, are they complimenting each other, do I have too much, what's happening? I don't care what the tech stack is, let's just say what do we want that customer experience to be? We call it the art of the possible. We've all seen that of the nice flow of customer walks into a store and then they have this experience and they feel these things and then they have a bad experience, but this is how we make it better. If we think about what that end customer experience is and what that story we want to tell and what stories we want our customers to tell, then the technology and even frankly some of the marketing behind that will just fall into place, because it will all, again, be rooted in what is my end goal, what am I trying to do without getting all tangled up in all of the technology.
Tyler Williams: And I think too, to your point, there's plenty of technology, there's plenty of partners. At the end of the day, I think a lot of stories are based around history or family or close friends. Those are the stories we actually care about. There's certainly the Apple story or whatever else you want to talk about. And I think that speaks to a degree of how can you effectively tell stories, and that's by getting in very, very closely in our example, in business with our clients to a point where it feels like... I don't want to use the term family, but we always hear with our customers that we're an extension of their team. And when I think about oftentimes if we are in that position to be an extension of a team, we are helping that marketing VP, VMO, director, what have you, we're helping that person tell a story up their chain of command or laterally or cross their business to buy for more budget or a technical initiative or a strategic initiative to take hold. And that can only be accomplished when you're working so closely with that person that almost feels like friends or family, and that's when you get to the human element of storytelling, like, " Hey, once I know this person so well, how can we either go tell a story together or how can I tell a story to this person that really resonates or speaks to their emotions, what they care about, what they're trying to accomplish later in life, et cetera?" And that's what makes our job fun. That's some of that marketing stuff I was alluding to back in the day of, hey, when we get to know our audience really well, get to know our customer really well, you can really tell stories that you know will resonate. That makes it fun.
Laura Madden: Totally fun. And I think that some of that is the just consulting excellence of it all and knowing, oh, this is a numbers person, they are not going to care unless we come, or they come to their CEO and say, " We raised conversion rate by this percent." Other people want to know, oh, what happened on the backend and what is that story behind it. So there's different nuances of telling that story, to your point, based on who your internal customer and what they want to know, and then also what your customers care about. It could be something as simple as trying to figure out are they price driven, are they value driven? Now all the Gen Z'ers out there want to know that you are sustainable and green and inclusive and things like that. Other people care about it, I shouldn't put down the Gen Z'ers, I care about that too, but it's understanding what their driving force is and what story they want to hear, and then therefore what story you need to tell. And that's not saying you should be a poser and just say, " Oh, well, now this is my story." Air quotes. Which is your lie. Well, that's where you get back to that integrity and transparency, and you have to be able to back it up, but if you have a piece of that that you can share and that's going to resonate with your customers, then go for it. Thank you again for joining us for this episode of Level Up. Looking to continue to level up your knowledge on the latest news, technology, and marketing trends affecting marketers day- to- day, stay tuned for future episodes of Level Up with new episodes coming out every other Thursday on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Until next time, thank you for leveling up your marketing knowledge with us.
Unleash the Art of Storytelling: In this thought-provoking episode of the Level Up podcast, join Laura and Tyler to discover how to differentiate your brand in a sea of competition by crafting compelling narratives. We unravel the secrets behind successful storytelling and explore the power of crafting powerful customer experiences with dynamic stories that put your customers at the center of your brand.