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Often pushed aside as a buzzword or a little-understood marketing technique(opens in a new tab), storytelling is an integral part of any marketing campaign. Not only does it help with building a brand, fostering trust, and increasing conversion rates, storytelling is the means through which businesses connect with their customers. Stories have been around for as long as humans have; they weave the very fabric of our existence. Every one of us, whether we realise it or not, lives through the prism of storytelling(opens in a new tab) — and that has never been truer of the tourism industry.

Marketing Evolution

With the evolution of the prosumer(opens in a new tab) (a media consumer and producer), it is increasingly difficult for companies to make a splash. No longer driven by loud calls to action and brazen marketing tricks, overexposure has meant we are hardened to the failsafe techniques of the past. It is estimated that there are 600 million devices running ad block software(opens in a new tab) — and the message customers are sending is clear. Businesses need to do more than solve a problem with their product: consumers are calling out for something deeper.

This is where storytelling comes into the picture. An authentic narrative fosters an emotional response, builds customer loyalty, and creates the idea of a travel ‘experience’. Going hand in hand with destination marketing, enriching your website through narratives and stories is the simplest way to forge a connection with your customers, bringing your destination/product to life.

The Evidence

The Super Bowl is often considered the crowning glory of storytelling marketing, and Budweiser’s 60 second ‘Puppy Love(opens in a new tab)’ commercial of 2014 is the jewel in the crown. Following the unlikely friendship between a puppy and a horse, this emotionally triggering commercial worked wonders for Budweiser, although it had little to do with beer. The story, surprisingly, utilises the same techniques which can be seen in any of Shakespeare’s work — five acts which include an exposition (the developing friendship between puppy and horse), rising action (puppy sent away for adoption), climax (horse stops the adoption with the help of his herd), falling action (puppy and horse happily trot home together), and final outcome (they remain together).

According to Harrison Monarth in the Harvard Business Review(opens in a new tab), despite competing against David Beckham in his underwear, the Budweiser ad scored top honors in USA Today’s Ad Meter(opens in a new tab) and Hulu’s Ad Zone(opens in a new tab) for being the most popular among viewers. The fact is, simple storytelling sells. While the world of advertising remains committed to scantily clad models and gimmicks, what really catches consumers’ attention is the story.

What You Can Do

Storytelling is a technique which your business should employ from the moment of its inception(opens in a new tab). From the get-go, create a relatable narrative around the experiences you offer, and position your product in a context. Customers respond to relatable, humanistic content rather than loud marketing campaigns. The following techniques are integral to giving your business a face and a personality to which your customers can relate:

  • Images: Pictures are visual prompts(opens in a new tab) that help potential customers envision exactly what they are signing up for. Images should be used to season your site, giving flavour and soul to your tours. In addition to action shots, include headshots of your staff to ease anxieties and build trust.
  • Videos: The latest benchmark data from the 2018 Video in Business Benchmark Report(opens in a new tab) claimed that ‘from creative video marketing campaigns to explainers, video ads, webinars, video blogs, customer stories and more, video is now a critical asset within the modern marketing toolkit’. 90% of customers(opens in a new tab) claim that video is useful in making a buying decision, and 64% of customers(opens in a new tab) admit that video influences their decision to buy. Videos in the tourism world are invaluable for showcasing your tours, destination, and expert guides. Capture the experience, and share it with your audience.
  • Customer testimonials: A recent survey by eMarketer found that 57% of consumers discover new products through their friends, family, and colleagues. Customers trust other customers, and using authentic testimonials and reviews on your site is not only a fantastic way to build trust but also of to share firsthand accounts of the experiences you offer.
  • Personal anecdotes: Where possible, put a face and personality to your brand/experience. If you have a good story to tell — whether it’s your struggle for success, your passion for your trade, your incredible staff, the history of the region you operate in, or the cultural importance of tourism in your region — don’t hesitate to share it with your audience. The majority of website users read alone, so appeal to the individual, and craft a story for them to fall in love with. Don’t just tell them why they should take your tour: show them. Storytelling should follow your customer throughout their journey — from browsing your site, to taking the tour, to leaving a review. Give them a good enough story that they give you one back in the form of written testimonials, recommendations to friends, and social media mentions.

The Bottom Line

Gone are the days of the ‘hard sell’. As companies like Budweiser have demonstrated, stories sell. But it goes beyond marketing and conversion rates — stories help forge a relationship with your customers. Discard any marketing noise, cut straight to the core of your business, and share your passion. Stories carry us on journeys — an authentic narrative has the power to convey the beating heart or your business and position your brand. Authenticity is the new self-promotion. The fewer gimmicks and tricks you use — and the more humanistic your approach — the likelier you are to succeed in this saturated market.

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