It’s a bit of tough love we give our clients when they ask for it.

Rewind. When marketers began calling ourselves “storytellers,” we were just looking for something more romantic than “marketer.” Or worse, “videographer.” We had no idea the term would become the new [any song by Imagine Dragons]––massively overplayed and completely meaningless.

For years things were great. We threw the word “story” around as if it was coke in a nightclub in the 90s. Clients felt they were getting the upgraded model of marketing firm and, most importantly, we felt great about ourselves––which, let’s not forget, is what started this whole thing. We weren’t just lowly video guys anymore. We were… storytellers. It sounded sexy. It sounded expensive.

But, in our quest for elegance, we had dropped the ball. We told our clients they needed to “tell their story” but we left out that “your story” doesn’t actually mean “your story.” In truth, nobody cares about your story. At least not according to the data.

Storytelling, in its purest form, should be selfless. It should provide value to the other person. Instead, we tend to tell the story we want to tell rather than the story our customers want to hear. Think about how you felt the last time you answered your office phone and heard something like, “My name is Chelsea and I want to tell you about our SEO services.” Seriously. Chelsea got someone to answer the phone and she blew it by making it all about her.

Here’s a secret: your ‘about you’ page isn’t really supposed to be about you. While your diverse background and detailed eighty-year company timeline are interesting to you, they don’t help solve your customer’s problem today. And, unless you’re a trade company, having been around for eighty years doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at what you do. I’ve been singing for almost forty years and most would argue I should stop. Immediately.

Imagine you hired us to produce a company video. If we didn’t know better, we’d divide it into three parts: 1) company history, 2) your philosophies on customer relationships (and other fluffy stuff), and 3) a robust feature set of your product. Add some slow motion smiles and BAM––we have a status quo corporate video. First, we’re all proud of him but nobody wants to sit through your CEO’s recant of how his pops started the company and grew it to where it is now. Second, do your customers even want brand relationships (hint: if your industry is getting clobbered by Amazon, Uber-anything, or an app, they don’t)? Third, unless this is a specific product feature video, it’s the wrong time and place for a feature rundown.

The key to a great story is beginning with the right questions.

1. “How should it make you feel?” Studies show consumers quickly forget what you say but inherently recall how they felt when you said it. Giving a feeling of competence is more important than telling your customer you’re competent. Sample 1: Boone & Sons, “Home”

2. “What story do my customers want to hear?” It may not be the story you want to tell. Again, your customer likely doesn’t care that your pops started the company with a focus on customer service. The only question your customer has is, “Can you solve my problem?” If you’re not sure what the right story is, just ask your customers. We crafted the story in this Ameritel commercial based on market feedback. Sample 2: Ameritel, “Make Your Boss Happy”

3. “What is the ONE thing I want to say?” We test almost all of our commercials and see a direct correlation between the amount of information in the commercial and the amount a viewer recalls. When you say one thing, viewers tend to be able to recall that one thing. When you say three things, viewers generally remember no points. I was originally going to go into how the brain is a cognitive miser and rejects information in an effort to save calories but my proofreaders said it made this article too long. Bottom line, less is more and the magic number for a :30 commercial is one key message. Sample 3: MECU, “Value”

4. “What can you say without speaking?” Remember browsing online dating profiles? Everybody wrote, “I’m funny.” Nobody bothered to actually be funny. Want to be perceived as innovative? Then don’t plop your CEO down in front of a dull background to recite your company values. Sample 4: Ashcraft & Gerel, “Our Community”

A simple way to tell if your story is missing the mark is to check your engagement and video completion rates. Don’t use views to judge a video. You can buy views and views don’t tell if you’re connecting.

Need help figuring out what your story should be? Call us. I promise I won’t sing.