The internet is packed with blogs about the importance of storytelling. Every marketer and their dog is urging you to share your story, as a means of getting noticed by your target audience.
As a storyteller by profession, I’m interested in any bit of content that flies the flag of good old-fashioned stories. However; the problem for me occurs, when the advice becomes ambiguous and vague; and lacks any kind of logical reasoning.
Sure, stories are awesome. We’ve been telling them since the beginning of time. We already know by now that they create an emotional connect between two parties – but the real question is: How exactly does storytelling transpire in the business world?
More importantly, how does it convert into actual sales? And how will it help you generate more direct bookings?
This article, exclusive to The Book Direct Network, is an introduction to a fabulous series called “Epic Storytelling”. We’ll bypass the noise that often misleads people in this realm of marketing, and replace it with hard facts and proven strategies instead.
Say goodbye to regurgitated stories that sit gathering dust on the “About Page” of your website – and get ready to welcome intelligent storytelling, designed to fill your calendars and your pockets.
Before You Read On: Understand the Very Basics of Storytelling
In order for you to get the most out this Epic Storytelling series, it’s important that you understand the basics first.
Generally speaking, there are two types of storytelling in the business world. You might have come across different variations/ terminologies before – but the below summary is the easiest way of identifying a clear difference.
Personal Storytelling: This includes speeches, personal narratives, autobiographies, etc. Basically, where you share your own story.
Corporate Storytelling: This is where we look at things like brand stories, marketing campaigns, and so on.
Both of the above serve a specific purpose. But we’ll be focusing on corporate storytelling for the most part of this series. Remember, corporate storytelling is about brand consumers (with them as the heroes of our stories, not us). This is more effective in terms of sales, bookings, and marketing and brand awareness that actually converts into cash.
Guest Memory & the Science of Storytelling
Did you know, only a dozen people in the world have memorised the 20,000 digits of pi; but millions of people have played Shakespeare’s Hamlet and memorised all his lines – which contains nearly 50,000 letters?
The “Story Method” is one of the easiest mnemonic techniques available. In fact, memory experts from all over the world have relied on simple stories to help them link information together and retrieve details in a specific order.
That’s because a compelling story, however off-the-wall it may be, can help us remember facts that we’re trying to learn. Think back to the years of revising for your high school exams: How many times did you try to create a poem, a song, or a fable, to help your brain get round a complicated equation?
Science has already proved that when we hear facts, it activates the data processing centres in our brains; but when we hear stories, it activates the sensory centres in our brains.
In other words, when you enjoy a well-told story, your brain reacts as if you’re experiencing it yourself. It instinctively places you inside the story.
This simple logic can be applied to your guests and how you choose to communicate with them, as an accommodation provider:
Guests who remember your brand are more likely to book directly with you in the future; and we have already proved how storytelling aids memory in human beings. So, imagine that you’re sharing an ad on social media to promote one of your recently refurbished properties. Which of the two descriptions do you think your guests are more likely to remember?
1) Our widely-popular Beatrix Cottage has been refurbished to the most impeccable standard. We’ve fitted modern amenities into the kitchen, such as a coffee machine and time-saving dish washer, while still maintaining the quaint characteristics of the building. Both double bedrooms have been tastefully redesigned; with the master bedroom now hosting a freestanding bathtub as its centre piece.
2) It’s been another long week, hasn’t it? You’re tired of the everyday bustle of office life; and long to be woken-up by the sound of singing birds in the morning, rather than the vibrations of your 5am alarm. Imagine if you could pack it all in for just one weekend, and escape to a quaint cottage, nestled in the heart of the countryside.
You’ll still enjoy the modern amenities that you’re used to at Beatrix Cottage, such as a Nespresso coffee machine and TV with Netflix. But here, you’ll also indulge in scenic views, as well as a new freestanding bathtub in the Master Suite. Ahhh. Run some bubbles and soak those troubles away…
The above is a very basic example and shows just one way of using simple storytelling features in your marketing. Notice how the second description makes it easier for us to place the guest as the hero of the story, because of the format it’s been written in. You don’t need to be the next Oscar Wilde to achieve something like this; just focus on simple writing and what we refer to as “experiential copy” in the marketing world.
But, don’t worry, we’ll get into the nooks and crannies of this, in a later article.
Guests Book on Emotion and Justify with Logic
The greatest advantage you have over online travel agencies (OTAs), is control and the opportunity to market your properties and guest experience, in any way you choose.
While templated listings on numerous third-party platforms can serve a purpose; nothing compares to the brand engagement you’ll receive, when guests book their stay with you directly. This brand familiarity and “emotional connect” that every marketer speaks of, is what drives trust, peace of mind, repeat business, and positive reviews.
In fact, it was reported on Skift in 2019, that if consumers emotionally connect with a brand story, then 55% of them are more likely to buy from that brand, in the future.
Emotion plays a huge part in the decision-making process for a guest. When you’re trying to entice a guest with your new queen size beds, you wouldn’t just list the materials that the mattress is made from. Instead, you would describe the peaceful night’s sleep the guest would enjoy, and compare it to them sinking into a fluffy white cloud. We tap into people’s feelings in marketing; because people always remember how you make them feel.
Every time somebody labels corporate storytelling as “artsy fartsy”, I take great pride in reminding them of the above. It’s proved that stories trigger the release of oxytocin in human brains (more commonly known as the “love drug”). This is the same neurochemical mothers release when they’re holding their babies – and what it does, is remind us that we care.
There’s a reason why some of the biggest hospitality brands in the world like DoubleTree by Hilton implement storytelling in their content marketing strategies: because it works. These industry giants have realised that our brains are innately programmed for stories, not PDFs, white papers, and email “newsletters” (that we really ought to be calling something else, by the way). This doesn’t mean that we should dismiss things like data and statistics, because they’re vital – but the trick is to embed them into a narrative, that your target guests will relate to, and encourage them to trust you.
Direct Bookings Business? It’s Time to Put Epic Storytelling on the Agenda
It’s no secret that the travel landscape is changing. When global tourism returns, you’ll need to stand out from the crowd and continue building a future-proof business that isn’t solely reliant on OTAs.
Gone are the days of flashy photography beside monotonous property listings being “enough”. In order to build trust, and a longstanding relationship between yourself and your guests, storytelling has got to be a core part of your marketing strategy. We have already laid out the research, and proven findings – now it’s time to put some of this advice in action.
The second article of the Epic Storytelling Series will begin to explore the different ways in which you can implement storytelling in your content marketing. I will run-through simple methods and techniques, that you can easily implement (without a massive budget or Masters in English writing).
In the meantime, if you have any questions about storytelling or any other kind of content writing to help you achieve more direct bookings, you can reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Simply put “Epic Storyteller” in the subject line.
Keep writing & smiling,
Four years ago, Neely walked out of her full-time hospitality job, to pursue her dreams of writing for a living. She has since set-up her business, "Neely There" which combines a love for hospitality, tourism, and storytelling. Whilst Neely There's content creation services are diverse (from reports, white papers, publications, and creative branding), storytelling remains at the heart of everything. Neely truly believe there's nothing better than the art of storytelling, for an industry that is first and foremost, people focused. By working exclusively in the hospitality and tourism space, Neely has a thorough understanding of what her clients need; and more importantly, what will emotionally engage their target audience(s). She has recently worked with leading short-term rental businesses, helping them increase their brand awareness, conversion, and communicate their purpose and values, in captivating and creative ways. For Neely, her work is quite literally, the result of a childhood hobby. This deeply-rooted passion transpires into all her travel and hospitality projects, resulting in greater engagement and happy consumers, all-round!More about this business