Campfire Storyteller

Sometimes when I'm marketing, I imagine that I'm the guy in the middle telling the story. Except I'm not quite as creepy. Oh, and I have all of my teeth and don't drink moonshine.

The other day, my boss and I were musing about what we felt marketing was like … my response: campfire storytelling.

Of course, he challenged me to write a blog about it and said it would be “interesting” to hear more.

I’m not sure I agree, but I’ll give it a shot.

I’ve always thought most marketing and sales communication really should be thought of as campfire storytelling and have written, spoken and interacted with the audience in such a manner for my entire career as an online marketer and speaker.

Take a moment to think about some of the most favorite campfire stories you’ve ever heard. Oh, and if you’ve never heard a campfire story … (1) I feel sorry for you and (2) imagine a movie where you’ve seen a campfire story being told or something.

Well, wait a minute … You honestly are telling me that you’ve seriously never camped or roasted marshmallows? Slept in a tent? You’ve never chased a bear through the woods while he’s running away with your Pop-Tart container (Yes, this actually happened to me & my brother, somehow we thought that it would be a good idea to do this with nothing other than one flashlight between the two of us as our defense mechanism. Two geniuses, huh?)?

If not, you’ve seriously missed out on some good times. Anyway, I digress … and the blog must go on, so let’s get back to it.

Odds are there were a few things things that the really good storytellers had in common:

  1. They had a captive audience; you/your friends (or family members) were all actively engaged in the story
  2. They had your attention; you may have wondered early on where they were going with the story, but by the middle of it – you were pretty well bought in and wanted to hear the end of it
  3. They were engaging; otherwise, you’d be like your younger brother who was asleep in the tent sawing logs already
  4. They evoked an emotion; whether it was a ghost story (scary) or a story about themselves (potentially funny), then they kept you engaged with emotion
  5. They had a good pace; not too long (to put you to sleep), not too short (that left you wanting more)
  6. They delivered the goods; there was ideally a good ending that made you either really scared, or laugh manically. If they didn’t, why was it your most memorable campfire story (because it was just THAT bad? Well, then do the opposite of what the storyteller did … :))
  7. They tracked whether or not they were successful; they walked around and mingled with people after the story was over – “Did you like it? Did it scare you? Yeah it did!” — they gathered feedback from the audience afterward, collecting valuable information like what to stay away from next time and what to emphasize or embellish upon in future tellings of the same story

Isn’t it convenient that all of these items are equally important to marketers when developing out their marketing campaigns? Wow … now that’s what I call a blog post, eh?

Seriously, though, when building out a marketing plan you really should consider all of these elements:

  • Segment your lists, or find a captive audience
  • Use compelling messaging to immediately grab your audience, or grab their attention
  • Clearly communicate your value proposition(s), or engage your audience directly
  • Create a natural sense of urgency, or evoke emotion in your audience
  • Don’t blabber on too long, or know where you’re going & lead them at the right pace
  • Give them a strong and easy to execute call to action, or deliver the goods
  • TRACK EVERYTHING, or measure your success (or failure)

Remember my favorite saying: “If you can’t track it … you don’t do it.” (Patent pending. Except not really)

So, in summary, when you’re developing your next marketing campaign … imagine yourself as a campfire storyteller and you’ll be just fine.

— GC