The human brain is hard-wired to remember stories. Experts such as Bobby Lehew and Ron Ploof have worked for years to help marketers understand the power of story to drive action. MarketingProfs even offers a virtual training course on the subject. But many companies still aren't applying storytelling techniques to their marketing.
A podcaster and comic improviser, Kathy has written several books on humor, content, and storytelling. I invited Kathy to Marketing Smarts to discuss her latest book, Stop Boring Me! How to Create Kick-A** Marketing Content, Products and Ideas Through the Power of Improv.
Here are just a few highlights from my conversation with Kathy:
To convince your company to experiment with bold, funny content, run small pilot projects and get your best customers on board (05:07): "You try small things, small little trials and small experiments that don't have to be super-risky. And you just put it out there and you see what works. The proof is always in the numbers and seeing what people are consuming and what the analytics are.... If you go out there and test it...what you'll find is that customers are going to gravitate towards the things that completely blow through their expectations. When something is unexpected from you or your company, it's going to delight.
"And what I found to be true was, if my boss and the powers that be (when I was working in high-tech marketing) wouldn't listen to me; they usually...would listen to their best customers. So if you can get your best customers to weigh in and go, 'You know, that's interesting,' [then] if for no other reason than self-interest they'll listen to your best customers.... Think about getting internal champions, but also external champions [like] your best customers."
You have to take risks with your marketing (08:23): "Risk-free is completely boring, because if you don't want to take the risk of making some customers go 'What?' well then you're not going to say anything interesting. You're going to be bland, boring, and vanilla, and you're not trying to push the creative envelope. You won't offend anybody, but let's be clear—nobody's going to be reading your stuff. Safe is risky. To me, safe is risky."
Remember the human being at the center of every business story (12:17): "One of the biggest things that improv really solidified for me was the power of just being really human and open and remembering that, just like great marketing, great improv is storytelling. But people want to see the human relationships. They want to see completely human characters. It's no different when we're telling stories and doing content on a business stage. It's no different. We want to human characters. We want to know why they're compelled to chase what they want.
"People aren't chasing products. Nobody cares. What they're chasing is the fulfillment of a human need. If we can remember as marketers that when somebody buys your stuff, it's not about [the product.] They're buying credibility or visibility in their organization. And they're buying a chance to look good to their boss and have their work be seen as meaningful and that it matters. That's a big powerful lesson: Always remember the human being at the center of the narrative."
Kathy and I talked about 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.
Marketing expert and improvisational comic Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder of Keeping It Human and author of the book Stop Boring Me! How to Create Kick-A** Marketing Content, Products and Ideas Through the Power of Improv. Follow Kathy on Twitter at @kathyklotzguest.