Some people are calling storytelling the latest thing in marketing, but it's actually been around for centuries. From the Grimm brothers' fairy tales to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, we've all been transported by the power of an irresistible story.

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The best marketing sparks some emotion in the target audience: By infusing your marketing content with compelling narratives, you can make your brand story a tale of triumph that your audience wants to be part of.

Enter Ron Ploof. Ron spent three years heading up social media storytelling at Epson before going out on his own to help brands to create more effective marketing through storytelling. He's the creator of the "StoryHow PitchDeck"—a "story coach in your pocket"—and conducts storytelling workshops for brands. Ron's also the host of "Griddlecakes Radio," an indie storytelling podcast.

I invited Ron to Marketing Smarts to discuss how brands can turn dry, lifeless marketing copy into compelling stories that help them to forge a connection with their audiences. Ron explains why empathy is the key to all effective communication, and offers a framework for creating better marketing content through story.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Stories make your marketing messages memorable (05:44): "The role of a marketer is to deliver messages that earn attention, are memorable, and they persuade. And that's what story structure does.... I help people apply story to make their messages do that.... A story results when people pursue what they want. 

To make storytelling work for your business, master these three elements—roles, events, and influences (06:24): "The StoryHow Method [covers] three elements of a story: roles (the people), events (the things that happen to those people), and what they want (the influences on their decisions).... If you take those elements and apply it to your business, there's what your customers want, there's what you want, and if you actually start to ask those questions—who are the roles, what are the events that happen, what are the influences on people and the decisions that we make and they make—you start to have a fundamental structure of a story."

B2B marketers, close the deal by creating stories based on the needs of your multiple audiences within the client company (14:44): "Within B2B, if you have a very large product or service with many features and benefits and things like that, it can be very confusing. However, if you've done your homework and your understanding from your customers' perspective what they're looking for, you can eliminate most of the things that you think you have to tell in the story.

"It comes down to an editing process based on what I know about the customer.... Say, if you have a large Cloud-based service that you're trying to sell to somebody, but they want to make sure that it works with their existing software.... Well, then you just have a conversation, or you're trying to communicate the message, that 'this is what we've done in the past in terms of integrating a large service.' It's not about the features and benefits.

"Or you may find that the end users have some specific use that the IT department has one 'want' and the end users have another 'want.' If you start breaking down your big, hairy, ugly process that you're trying to sell to somebody, but you break it down into the needs of the individual audiences, you may not have to tell the whole story at once. Maybe it's going to come out like a serial, and it's going to come out a step at a time, but you're going to be telling a story that appeals to a specific person or a specific role within the customer [organization]."

To learn more, visit and be sure to follow Ron on Twitter @RonPloof.

Ron and I talked about so much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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