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  November 21, 2014
The Merits of Storytelling...



The world is shaped by two things... the stories that are told and the memories that they leave behind...
                                ~ Vera Nazarian
                               Dreams of the Compass Rose

This past weekend I found myself at the grocery store. 

As I was going into the store, a young man dressed in his Boy Scout uniform approached me and asked me if I wanted to buy some popcorn for only $5.  

While I hesitated for a moment, there was a another man walking into the store just behind me and the boy shouted out, "Hey mister, do you want to buy some popcorn?" 

The man pretended not to notice and kept going so the boy’s attention returned to me.

Wanting to help, but also knowing that I didn’t want to lug the canister of popcorn around with me as I shopped, I told the scout that I had some shopping to do, but that I’d buy some on my way out.

After my shopping excursion, I exited the store and looked around for the scout, but he was nowhere to be found, so I went home.

It wasn’t but a few hours later when my doorbell rang and there on my porch was yet another scout in uniform selling popcorn.

This time, instead of straight out asking me if I wanted to buy some popcorn for $5, he started by introducing himself. 

"Hi, my name is Evan Richey and I am a Boy Scout in troop 388", he said in a loud and clear voice.

He then went on to explain, in great detail, as to why he was selling this popcorn (to help raise money for his troop so he and the other boys could go on a leadership training camp this next summer). 

After his explanation about his reason for selling, he then took pride in describing the different types and quality of popcorn he had for sale. 

The boy then conveyed to me how Thanksgiving and Christmas were just around the corner and that even if I didn’t eat popcorn myself, the decorative canisters made a great hostess gift when visiting friends or relatives, going on to say that it was better than bringing another bottle of wine or worse, a fruitcake.

I ended up purchasing 10 canisters of popcorn from the young man that afternoon. 

As I put the tubs away, I had two simultaneous thoughts about the transaction that had just transpired.

My first thought was, of course... that I wanted to get this kid’s contact information so I can hire him as a sales person in 10 years.  He either had great innate sales talents, and/or he was well-coached by his troop leaders, teachers, or parents in the art of selling.

My second thought was a bit less apparent.  The boy used three different and separate opportunities to help paint a visual picture in my head.

First he told me his purpose for being on my doorstep.  He was helping to raise money to go to a leadership camp.  He described where the camp was... what they did... and what he was hoping to learn from the experience. 

His story helped me to think of my own experiences while away at camp many summers ago.  It helped me to picture my own kids and their scouting experiences, and helped me to think of what our future leaders might look like... like this kid standing on my porch.

Secondly, he talked about his product with great enthusiasm.  He explained that the popcorn was organically grown and that the flavorings were all natural.  This appeal made me believe that flavored popcorn was actually a good choice when considering snacking... (even if it really isn’t).

Third and most important, he explained that even if I don’t want the product for myself, that someone else might appreciate the gift.  Instead of spending my valuable time looking for something to bring with me when invited to people’s homes for the holidays, I had the answer standing right there on my porch.  It was right in front of me and all I had to decide was how many did I think that I would need.

Any other Boy Scout standing in my doorway that afternoon would have tried to sell me a product that I really didn’t want... but was willing to buy... only because I wanted to support scouting.   Purchasing a single item would have been simply fulfilling an obligation to the community in which I live.

This particular Scout, however, wasn’t content in going through the motions.  He knew that if he could help to paint a visual picture in my head, I would become emotionally attached to his offer.

He wasn’t really giving me a sales pitch... he was telling me a story.

Great brands are built, not necessarily on the merits of a product or service; they are built on the stories that are told and propagated about the brand.

For years, marketers believed that the best way to get noticed was to repetitively interrupt our lives with their advertising... shouting to us why their brand is better, faster, or cheaper. 

Here are the features... here are the benefits... it’s new... it’s improved... just try it and you’ll love it... limited time only...

They believe that the only way for it to sink in is to repeat the same message over and over again until we buy...

Today that approach simply doesn’t work anymore.

People don’t want to be sold... they want to be told a story... they want to visualize what it would be like to use the product or service... they want to feel good about the message... they want to include themselves in the story.

The great brands of today all have a story that they tell... be it Apple, Whole Foods, Google, Starbucks, Zappos, Amazon, Nordstrom, TED Talks...

We don’t buy from these companies because they have a unique product or service or the lowest price... we buy from them because they’ve figured out how to treat us differently... so we become loyal customers and we tell all of our friends to try it. 

We trust those brands to make promises and then hold them to keep their promises.

These company don’t have the need to shout and interrupt us... their brand speaks for itself (In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a print, radio, or TV ad for Google, Whole Foods, Zappos, Starbucks, TED Talks, or Amazon... EVER).  

They understand that they are not successful because they have better advertising... they are better because they provide something remarkable while telling a story that we can understand and relate to...

So the questions I’ll pose to you today...

What is it that makes you, your products, your service remarkable?

What are the passionate stories you tell... how will other people remember the stories that you tell them?

What do you want others to be saying about you?... your product?... your service?... your company?

How do you make a difference... not to everyone... but to someone who matters...

Will others love what you do so much that they’ll feel compelled to tell other people how great you are?

If not... why not?

Everyone has a great story to tell... what will yours be?

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we hope to one day hear your story.

Jim Kalb

Email -  jimk@optifuse.com
Website - www.optifuse.com
Blog - www.optifuse.blogspot.com 

Twitter - @OptiFuse

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