Brand Storytelling Requires Knowing Your Customer

The following blog post was written by Jeff Haws, Content Marketing Manager at MessageGears. 

You don’t have to look for long to find marketing experts extolling the virtues of storytelling in selling your brand. And, far from an exception, email marketing is one of the most fertile grounds for establishing the narrative of your brand, drawing readers in and getting them to associate you with a compelling story that helps them connect with you on a deeper level than merely buying your products.

If you can be more relatable to the consumers you’re seeking, and allow them to see your brand as embodying something bigger than a way to sell products, you can — given enough time, consistency, and persistence — build tribes of fiercely loyal brand advocates. The companies that have reached the peak of that brand storytelling mountain — Apple, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola come to mind — are few and far between, but that doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to it and follow their lead. It also doesn’t mean that every micro step in that direction isn’t a valuable one, even if the pinnacle may seem out of reach.

But, before you can take those first steps, one key asset too many marketing teams overlook is the overall health of their customer data. Beginning any narrative-building journey without complete access and understanding of your data is like walking into a cave without a flashlight. Silos need to come down. Departments need to talk to one another. Data that’s out of reach needs to come in-house. That data needs to be at your fingertips. It’s your guide and your North Star throughout this process. Here are the three biggest reasons it’s so important.

Know your customer

This is first and foremost: If you don’t know who you’re writing for and their interests/motivations, you simply don’t have the tools to build a relevant brand narrative. And that knowledge comes from your data. What are your target markets? What sorts of content would bring the emotional reaction they want? What sorts of stories would turn them off? Knowing this is essential for even starting the process of building this narrative. Guesswork simply won’t do. This is a complex process that ends with a far more engaged and loyal base of customers, and it absolutely starts with quality, reliable, fully accessible data that points you in the right direction.

Different parts of your business may need to tell different stories

Especially if you have a large B2C business with multiple verticals, you may serve an array of different customers that won’t respond to the same narrative across the board. This is where departments need to get together and share data with the marketing team. If a sporting goods retailer, for instance, knows you frequently buy golf equipment but tries to connect with you via a storytelling campaign built around how baseball equipment has changed throughout history, they may quickly lose your interest. The marketing team either didn’t have full data access or wasn’t using it effectively. As a customer, you feel like they don’t understand you, and it’s an opportunity lost.

Personalization always matters

Even within campaigns where you’re confident you’ve targeted and segmented correctly, getting personalization right is still paramount. And, of course, that goes beyond just addressing your customers by first name, which is essentially a given at this point. You may be telling each customer within a segment the same — or a very similar — story, but that doesn’t mean they should all get the same email. Enhance the personalization by including their up-to-the-second loyalty-point balance, or a reminder that a payment on their credit card is due next week (only if they haven’t paid it, of course). Maybe you know they’re on a trip they booked through your site, and you can include suggestions for activities, or you just know of some cool stuff in their hometown. You could even alter the narrative itself, to take advantage of information like location or recently purchased products, to help make it feel like it’s speaking to them.

None of this is possible without full, live access to your customer data, before and during the process of building out your email campaign. And that requires using the right technology for building and sending emails. The bigger your database, the more important it is that you use technology that enables you to build your emails behind your firewall, right alongside your data, instead of shipping that data back and forth to the cloud, triggering lag that will make the information you’re using not as up to date or accurate as you need it to be.

Connecting with subscribers through a compelling, personalized narrative is never an easy task, and doing it effectively is going to require you to get your arms around what may be a massive database across multiple departments, and using the right technology. But the payoff to executing this plan well can be significant. And you’ll never get it done if you don’t start today.