Our brains are wired to think in stories.
Good grief, not another piece about blogs. If blogs are such great marketing tools, why aren’t bloggers driving around in Lamborghinis and drinking Dom Perignon like it was water?
Good question, and one that deserves a thorough answer.
Blogs are quite possibly the most ineffective marketing tool there is to grow your business online. Hear us out. We’ve got something to clarify so please read on. You can decide later about contacting the appropriate authorities to have us burnt at the stake for blogging blasphemy.
What’s in a name?
Blog. A truncation of the word “weblog.” Take a look at how many blog posts have been written so far today. Most of that staggering number will never be read. Trees falling in the forest, and all that.
The reasons they will languish in obscurity is because most have a common theme. They’re a collection of personal musings. They’re incapable of growing anything, let alone a business.
Anybody can start a personal blog. Google and the rest of the search engines are aware of this. It’s why the majority of personal blogs seldom show up in search results.
Blogging for business? Now, that’s a different subject – exponentially different. A well-executed business blog is a sophisticated customer acquisition tool that marries the art of storytelling with the science of marketing. Such an undertaking requires strategy.
A part of the content marketing pie
Your business blog is not the whole of content marketing. It is an element of content marketing, albeit an important one. The format of these posts has undergone a transformation. They’re no longer short infobytes. In fact, it might not even be fair to call them “blog posts” anymore.
They’ve become articles, with all of the eloquence and intelligence you’ll find in top journalistic publications.
The pendulum has swung. Crafting 300-word posts that will supposedly appeal to time-starved consumers has given way to producing well-written, in-depth articles that span anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 words in length. It’s not difficult to understand why.
Regardless of the rise of online video, people love to read long-form business blog posts. Even the catch isn’t a surprise. These articles must be interesting and relevant. They must be good examples of storytelling.
Storytelling: the foundation
Heads up: we’re about to delve into the subjects of science and psychology. There are some important science-backed reasons why storytelling should be the foundation of your growth strategy. But don’t worry about being bored with dry facts and figures. We’re going to use storytelling to make it nice and juicy.
It’s 1748. John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, has a problem.
Besides being an aristocrat and British politician, he was an avid card player and gambler. He also enjoyed eating. Alas, eating and card playing were two activities that didn’t go well together.
While he should have been listening to his constituents, he instead set about to find a solution that would allow him to simultaneously accomplish the two things he loved the most. Simple ideas often work best, which is why pieces of beef between two slices of toasted bread turned out to be the earl’s answer. He could hold it in one hand and his cards in the other.
Do you think you’ll ever forget (if you didn’t already know) who’s responsible for the invention of the sandwich? Do you think it was important to know why he found it necessary to invent the sandwich? Now, let’s delve into the science of why you’ll retain this information.
- When all your brain gets is facts or figures, say, when you’re forced to sit through a tedious Powerpoint presentation, only two areas of your brain are activated. They’re known as the Broca’s area and Wernicke’s areas. They deal with language processing. No other part of our brain is engaged.
- When we read or are told a story, many other sections of the brain light up – including our sensory cortex. A story puts our whole brain to work. Basically, our brain processes a story as if we actually experienced what we read or are told.
- This happens because our brains evolved using narrative thinking. Our brains process nearly everything in the form of a story. The premise of every story is “cause and effect.” We retain and accept what we read or are told when our brain finds and links it to a cause and effect relationship of something we have already experienced.
When you take these three elements and insert them as the objectives for the content you create for people, you help them place your value proposition into their worldview.
Storytelling is a science as much as it is an art
You might be telling yourself at this point, “Wonderful. The most powerful tool I have to grow my business is something I’m awful at doing. I’m no good at storytelling.” Actually, you are very good at it. We all are. You likely just get discouraged because you get caught up in the technical aspects of grammar and sentence structure.
So, forget about that stuff.
Some of history’s greatest storytellers didn’t give a hoot about dangling participles or incorrect prepositional phrases. Ernest Hemingway, for example, used short sentences devoid of adjectives and adverbs. Why? He instinctively knew the second point of the science behind storytelling. His readers were going process what he was writing as if they were experiencing it themselves. They’d insert the adjectives and adverbs of their choice to fit it into their worldview. His would just get in the way.
Let’s keep with Hemingway for a while longer. Those short sentences produce clarity. It also makes for fast reading. You can zoom through his novels and short stories. Hemingway would have been an awesome blogger.
Another master storywriter has the same advice on storytelling. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. once wrote, “As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare. The longest word is three letters long.”
What do Hemingway, Vonnegut, Shakespeare, and Joyce have to do with your future business blog posts? These successful storytellers are proof that simple stories with simple writing work best. They work best because they stick in our brains. Your subject might be complex. But, when you use simple language to break down the complexity, you help readers activate the areas of their brain where they can relate to you.
There’s another benefit to storytelling using this approach. Those simple unadorned sentences portray you as sincere. And that’s important. You’re trying to create a relationship here. Care less about entertaining people with your story, and more about providing them with valuable information. Your story isn’t what your brand is or does. It’s about why it exists.
We’ve succeeded with our blasphemy if you end up looking at the importance of your website’s blog in a different light now. Your blog is a powerful business-building tool that connects you with people at all levels of the customer spectrum. Prospects are curious to know more about you. Customers want reasons to justify their relationship with you. Storytelling does this.
Storytelling is hard work. Don’t let anybody try to convince you otherwise. Those short, gorgeous sentences didn’t just roll off the top of Hemingway’s head. He often told people he worked like hell to clear the excess away. He had a particular distaste for commas.
Here’s the thing about storytelling: Don’t try to do it yourself if you’re unwilling to merge the science and psychology of storytelling into your business blog posts. What you write will fall soundless like those trees nobody hears. Find a professional storyteller to do it for you. We have a recommendation.