Tag Archives: credibility

This Is How Powerful Signature Stories Attract More Business

book cover Creating Signature Stories, signature of Picasso, What's Your Story written in chalk

 

Powerful signature stories come from telling stories with a strategic message. They are powerful because they attract more business to you. This post features the book, Creating Signature Stories: Strategic Messaging That Persuades, Energizes, and Inspires by David Aaker.

Why Stories?

Stories are much easier to remember than facts. They also apply meaning to facts. They tell you why you should care about something. Stories make your messages come alive. Stories allow you to gain exposure, activate social media, and be remembered.

Communicating strategic messages can be difficult in this age of information overload. Stories provide interest, add authenticity, and raise credibility. The story’s heroes and plot become the focus. Stories provide a way to break through distractions and disinterest. Audiences take notice when stories are told.

Signature stories are an enduring asset continuing to provide direction. A strategic message to your audience. Stories are narratives that portray actual or fictitious events and experiences. Signature stories grab attention, support a strategic message that clarifies or enhances the brand vision, customer relationship, organizational values, and/or present and future business strategy.

Criteria of Stories

Stories stimulate work-of-mouth communication both personal and via social media. Signature stories must meet four criteria:

  • Be intriguing or fascinating: the story needs to grab attention
  • Be authentic: authenticity means the audience does not perceive the story to be phony, contrived, or as a transparent effort to sell
  • Are involving: means the audience is drawn into the story, empathizes with characters, the plot becomes important, and it encourages a cognitive, emotional and/or behavior response
  • Have a strategic message: connects the brand to the signature story

6 Ways Brands Can Connect Their Message to Stories

According to Mr. Aaker, there are several ways the brand can connect their message to the signature story. I list the book’s example along with a way for hospitality businesses to apply the same method.

  • Brand as hero: when you recall the story you recall the brand
    • Example: Blendtec company has popular “Will it blend?” videos with unusual items to put in a blender (one of the most popular was them blending an i-pod!)
    • B&B Application: have a photo contest on Facebook, encouraging followers to post pictures related to a theme (such as nature) and offer one free night’s stay for two at your inn (or some other meaningful reward) to the picture that best captures what you are looking for (be sure to specify the rules in advance and you may want to appoint outside judges to determine the winner)
  • Brand surrogate as hero: the hero can be something very close to the brand
    • Example: Budweiser Clydesdale stories (horses are an accepted symbol of the brand)
    • B&B Application: tie something related to your name into your advertising and/or logo (Rosemary House Bed and Breakfast in Pittsboro, North Carolina has an image of rosemary spice in their logo, the herb of friendship and remembrance)
  • Story reflects passion of customer base: a shared value
    • Example: the Molson brand demonstrated their passion for hockey by building an ice rink in the mountains
    • B&B Application: share pictures of projects (renovations, gardening, etc.) that you completed at your inn in social media (and mention how beneficial staying at your place is for people who also like to work hard)
  • Supporting programs that carry brand name: events that have special meaning
    • Example: Avon’s Walk to End Breast Cancer (featuring personal stories about the event)
    • B&B Application: become a sponsor of a local event so your name is listed in its promotion (it’s more meaningful if you have a personal connection to the event)
  • Prominent display of brand as a story sponsor: putting the brand name on the story
    • Example: the Always brand is prominent during their stories
    • B&B Application: become featured in a magazine and share stories of people in your local community who make a difference in the lives of others (and share how you came to know this person)
  • Adjacent communication: stories featured alongside the brand
    • Example: Charles Schwab commercials played alongside the “Person Who Changed My Life” stories
    • B&B Application: (with each guests’ permission) write a blog post featuring meaningful stories told to you by your guests (you do not have to share their last name) and connect it to your inn

Benefits of Telling Signature Stories

Powerful signature stories take stories to the next level. They are persuasive, inspiring, and they stimulate others to act. Signature stories elevate brands and they persuade without lecturing. Signature stories can help change the conversation when a brand is in a crisis. Signature stories are vehicles to promote the strategic message. Aaker states that an organization must be story friendly.

Do you use storytelling to promote your hospitality business? If so, please comment below.

 

NC Bed and Breakfast Inns

NC Bed and Breakfast Inns

NC Bed and Breakfast Inns Association started in 1985.  For over thirty years, they have been dedicated to serving those traveling to North Carolina.  This non-profit, statewide organization recognized the need for an association to ensure high standards in safety, housekeeping, food service, comfort, and hospitality for all member inns.  The traveling public can have confidence in their lodging.

NC Bed and Breakfast Inns is the first state association in the United States to require rigorous inspections as a condition of membership.  To maintain these standards, NCBBI re-inspects member inns every two years. 

 

The Many Benefits to B&B Membership in the NCBBI Association:

 

  • Networking, educational, and marketing opportunities
  • Remain knowledgeable and up-to-date about meeting the needs of travelers
  • Keep up with the latest requirements for state and local laws and standards
  • Show potential guests that they can expect a higher level of service
  • The prestige and credibility of passing their rigorous inspection
  • Regular blog and social media activity
  • Their printed travel planners found at welcome centers, tourism attractions, visitor bureaus & chambers of commerce throughout North Carolina
  • Quarterly newsletters and monthly emails with important industry-related news, alerts, opportunities, reminders, and updates

 

From East to West, North Carolina measures 580 miles. That is more than a day’s drive, so NCBBI encourages guests to stay in more than one region as they travel around our gorgeous state. Based on the topography of North Carolina, the association has assigned three different regions.

 

  • Coastal Region: to find the perfect B&B in the Coast, near the Atlantic Ocean, beautiful beaches, birding, water sports, boating and summer fun.
  • Piedmont Region: to find the perfect B&B in the middle Piedmont region, where you’ll find dynamic growing cities, wineries, universities, golf, lakes and rivers.
  • Mountain Region: to find the perfect B&B in the Western Mountains region, home to the beautiful Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge parkway, the Biltmore Estate, waterfalls, hiking and fall foliage.

 

The North Carolina Bed and Breakfast Inns Association features specials and packages from member inns on their website.  The specials include for military, veterans, and emergency workers (like police, fire and EMS) as well as last minute guestsInnkeepers also offer creative packages so guests can relax and enjoy their stay:

 

  • Anniversary or birthday
  • Girlfriends getaway
  • Local activities
  • Picnic lunch
  • Romance
  • Spa
  • Wedding
  • Wine and Dine

 

From their website, The North Carolina Bed and Breakfast Inns Association offer its online visitors an opportunity to purchase their NCBBI cookbook so they can sample the best of North Carolina cooking with their collection of bed and breakfast and inn recipes. In addition to the cookbook, give the gift of memories by purchasing lodging gift certificates (available in $50 increments) that may be used at any NCBBI member B&B. 

 

An NCBBI gift certificate is a thoughtful way to say “thank you” or to surprise someone special. They are also great gifts for special occasions like anniversaries, honeymoons, birthdays, and retirements.

 

The NC Bed and Breakfast Inns website lists North Carolina events (searching either by name, type of event, event date, or venue).   They also provide a way to search for local North Carolina attractions by its name, location and type of attraction, or by a specific local area (within a designated amount of miles).

 

Together you can promote all the wonderful things that your state has to offer its visitors.  You can educate potential guests about everything that comes included when they stay at a bed and breakfast.  You will also have a network of innkeepers with which to ask questions and refer each other business when your own inns are full.  Those are just some of the many reasons why it is important to belong to a bed and breakfast association.

Power of Visual Storytelling

power of visual storytelling

 

Another great book is The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand co-written by Ekaterina Walter (cofounder and chief marketing officer at Branderati)  and Jessica Gioglio (social media manager for Dunkin Donuts). The back of the book says, “Attention is the new commodity. Visual storytelling is the new currency.”

According to this book, “Visual content in real time can give people a different perspective instantly.”  The goal is to create visual, shareable content that conveys your brand’s central message. Visual storytelling has the potential to:

 

  • Enhance loyalty
  • Strengthen customer relationships
  • Increase awareness
  • And much more!

With 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions at the end of 2012, about 96% of the world population has a cell phone. With the on-the-go nature of people’s lives in this present age, sharing user-generated images and visuals is happening in real time.  According to the authors, visuals are processed by the human brain 60,000 times faster than text!

Creating the right image to convey your message means you must know who you are as a brand, what you stand for, and how this relates to the goals of your customers.  The book reveals some fascinating statistics about what website visitors think is important:

  • 46.1% of people say that a website’s design is the #1 criterion for discerning the credibility of the company (research from Billion Dollar Graphics)
  • 67% of consumers consider clear, detailed images to be very important, and carry even more weight that then product information, full description, and customer ratings (MDG Advertising Research)
  • 51% of Americans trust user-generated content over other information on a company website

The Power of Visual Storytelling details the vast variety of visual content that is available for companies to use:

  • Images
  • Photography
  • Graphs
  • Drawings
  • User-generated images
  • Collages
  • Images with text overlays (captions, quotes, stats)
  • Word photos
  • Memes (imitated things)
  • Postcards and e-cards
  • Cartoons
  • GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format)
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Presentations
  • Aggregators

Collaborative storytelling benefits both customers and companies.  Customers get to see their images liked by fans of the brand.  Companies get insight on what customer motivation. According to BuzzFeed, every minute online:

  • 208,300 photos are posted to Facebook
  • 27,800 photos are shared on Instagram
  • 510,000 photos are liked on Instagram
  • 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube

The authors caution readers that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to social media. Each network has its own character and audience.  Instead of being “broadcasted to” audiences want to feel “listened to” as we invite them to be part of the conversation.  The next series of posts will feature their tips for various social media networks, including:

Later we will highlight their tips to developing a visual story road map from strategy to implementation.  I highly recommend that businesses read The Power of Visual Storytelling!

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

The Art of Social Selling

the art of social selling

 

I highly recommend Shannon Belew’s book called The Art of Social Selling: Finding and Engaging Customers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Other Social Networks. Belew says the power has shifted from the brand to the consumer.  Marketing has become a two-way conversation with the customer. The art of social selling is based entirely on your ability to build relationships.

 

Did you know that over one BILLION people are active on social networks? Thus, it is extremely important that you know where your customers are hanging out.

Shannon Belew defines “social selling” as the identification, targeting, and reaching out to prospective and existing customers through social media channels and social communities in an effort to engage them in conversations that result in a potentially mutually beneficial relationship.  This means being more social (listening and conversing about the customer’s needs) and less traditional selling.  The heart of social selling is relationship building.

This book reveals Belew’s ten most important rules for online social interactions:

1) Be genuine: your social networking persona should be an extension of your real persona

2) Listen, listen, listen: to truly hear what the customer is saying so you can present a viable solution you must find and monitor conversations that relate to your prospective customer’s needs, concerns, and interests with the goal of remaining relevant to your customers

3) Be responsive: to customer-related complaints and concerns voiced across social media channels

4) Follow the leader: follow group guidelines, watch how members participate and interact with one another

5) Tailor the conversation: find common ground and share information relevant to your audience

6) Be helpful: offer educational opportunities, general support, and even inspiration

7) Identify the enter and exit signs: know if it is polite to enter the online interaction and make sure to exit gracefully

8) Maintain separation of professional and personal: make sure what you share is suitable for both audiences

9) Be consistent: give people a clear expectation of who you are and what your area of expertise is

10) Admit when you are wrong: be willing to apologize, it is a sign of strength and goodwill

Shannon Belew’s concept of “unselling:

  • Unselling is a process that occurs over time
  • Requires consistent interaction with your prospects via social media
  • This establishes your credibility as a good resource
  • Identify and interact with industry influencers
  • Be a thought leader to build social influence
  • Embrace consultative sales in which you are developing conversations that educate and assist the prospect through the buying process
  • This opens the door to an increased amount of sharing
  • This increases the comfort level of prospects as well as puts you in the role of expert

Belew talks about word of mouth marketing.  Social shoppers are not only influenced by their friends and family, but by perfect strangers, too.  Encourage your happy and satisfied customers to provide online testimonials.  Include your links on thank-you pages and emails. Respond to negative reviews quickly.  Thank customers publicly for their positive reviews.

In this book, Shannon Belew cites a Technorati Report that stated that blogs are the third-most influential digital or online resource and the fifth most trusted resource on the internet.  Blogs are great for sharing on social media.  Plus, points made in a blog post can be posted or tweeted on social media.  Later in the book, Belew gives specific tips about using each of the major social media channels.  This is an incredible resource for business owners.

 

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Bed and Breakfast Associations

There are many benefits to becoming members of bed and breakfast associations.  For one thing, it adds credibility to your establishment.  In order to be allowed to join the group, your bed and breakfast will be inspected by members of the association to confirm its high quality standards and hospitable service.

Select Registry inspects each of its nearly 400 member Inns and Bed & Breakfasts. Independent inspectors evaluate the accommodations to ensure your guests’ stay will be in a class all its own.

You have the support of a network of fellow Bed and Breakfast innkeepers.  This allows you:

  • get advice from one another
  • refer each other business
  • swap recipes and tips
  • share memorable stories
  • give and receive encouragement

Potential guests can find you in their membership directory (print and/or online). A listing of the links to bed and breakfast associations in your state, can be found here.