NOT Text-First Storytelling

Story Title: 
NOT Text-First Storytelling

Don’t rely on large, text-based collateral like whitepapers and lengthy slide decks to educate your sales force, partners and potential buyers on your offering in this new mobile world filled with busy professionals.

Episode 3: NOT Text-First Storytelling

In the previous episode, DON’T NOT DESIGN A STORY ARCHITECTURE FIRST, we discussed how important it is to first design a story architecture before implementing the story into different collateral types like video, slides and text.

This is because without a story architecture:

  • Marketing ends up with a hodgepodge of different collateral that doesn't tell a holistic, consistent and complete story.
  • It's difficult to break the entire story into smaller modules that are more easily consumed on mobile and updated as the story evolves.
  • Finally, the design of a story architecture includes a focus on answering the "Why" insight question; doing this is often missed, which leaves the sales team without succinct Why Insights to discuss with potential customers up front, ultimately running the risk of losing the buyers’ interest and potential business.

In this episode, we’ll dive deeper into how to improve status quo to better enable Step 2 in a typical sales motion: Educating the 5.4 people in the buying organization, which typically involves scheduling follow-up meetings and sending text-based collateral like PowerPoint decks, 2-pagers and whitepapers.

This episode argues that you should NOT rely on large, text-based collateral like whitepapers and large slide decks to educate your potential buyers, sales force and partners in this new mobile world filled with busy professionals.

One Microsoft study discovered that people’s average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds, which is troubling considering a goldfish can stay focused for a whopping nine seconds.

There is a general belief is that mobile technology has changed the way our brains consume information. We now access content on-demand, in short bursts. One result of this is a movement in the training industry to Microlearning or bite-sized learning, which is the practice of delivering training in smaller, more focused chunks that learners can more easily digest without committing large amounts of time to learn.

To be effective, this type of training needs to be short, clear and hyper-focused on a single topic. For instance, instead of delivering a single, 30-minute presentation that covers a topic in-depth, break it up into five or six modules that each focus on one aspect of the topic.

Yet, today, marketing’s status quo for educating an enterprise sales force, partners and customers is to create large, text-based collateral such as lengthy presentations and whitepapers. It’s not uncommon to see slide decks with 50 to 100 or more slides, or whitepapers longer than 10 pages.

This type of content strategy doesn’t fit well into the new mobile world, especially one where professionals have very full calendars and short attention spans. Text-based collateral is simply too hard to consume on mobile devices. Try reading the first chapter of your favorite novel on your smartphone. Then imagine how much nicer it would be to simply listen to that same chapter as an audio book.

Additionally, the people you need to reach in the buying organization are likely some of the busiest—frequently in transit, out of the office or in meetings. So, getting them to take the time to sit in front of their computers to read your large, text-based documents is very unlikely.

And even if they do, the approach of shoving a lot of different points into a few large text-based pieces of collateral can make it harder to uncover and remember all those great nuggets of information buried amongst all the text and graphics.

Another problem with large, text-based collateral is that it’s difficult and time consuming to write. This lack of agility means the collateral typically doesn’t get updated, and therefore, quickly becomes outdated. We can’t keep track of the number of sales reps who have said they stopped using the marketing-supplied whitepapers because they never knew which were current and which were out of date. This is especially problematic with long sales cycles.

So, if the majority of the content we consume today is via mobile, why are you still relying on hundreds of slides and thousands of words of text to create your enterprise story when you could also be using mobile-friendly audio/video instead?

Precision Storytelling’s answer is video-first storytelling: Telling your whole story broken down into short modules or episodes that can be told in less than 8-minute videos as the first implementation of a story architecture, before creating more traditional text-based content.

These less than 8-minute recordings are far easier for busy professionals to consume over mobile than large, text-based content. As episodes, the story can be told as a logical sequence of one episode leading into the next.

Furthermore, by organizing the overall story this way, you can assign the stars of your organization to be your star storytellers. For each module, assign the person whom sales would most like in their customer meeting discussing the story module’s points, and ask this person to record an answer in less than 8 minutes. In reality, each star has probably answered their assigned points a number of times already, making this an easy task.

The result would be a number of recorded modules or episodes that are more accurate and no doubt more credible than asking a third-party contractor to try to figure out the best way to tell the story.

This distributed approach to storytelling also makes it easier to create the entire story, as creating long, text-based documents is very time consuming. If you’ve ever tried to assemble a small team of people to write a 10+ page whitepaper, you know exactly what we mean by how difficult it is to get the piece completed.

Similarly, keeping a set of smaller recordings up to date is easier than trying to update a large, text document. If an assigned storyteller comes up with a better way to tell his or her part of the story, this person simply needs to re-record.

A video-first approach to storytelling doesn’t mean that we forget about text and slides. Once we have the transcripts for each recording, along with the messaging framework that falls out from designing a story architecture, marketing is well positioned to implement the overall story in a number of other types of collateral as well.

In summary, a video-first approach to enterprise storytelling directed by a story architecture helps improve the education of buyers and sellers, as they can view your entire story anytime in short videos or episodes that are easily consumed on mobile.

This approach should help shorten the sales cycle, because if buyers can more easily self-educate on your overall story, fewer meetings need to be scheduled.

In the next episode, NOT Anonymous 3rd Party Storytellers, we dive deeper into step 3 of a typical selling motion, assigning your best storytellers to be the stars of your episodes.

Vince Vasquez, CEO Precision Story
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