Unite Message with Emotion

Marketing success today means connecting with and engaging your customers. Most people don't engage with products or services intellectually. They need an emotional tie. One of the best ways to unite your message with emotion is through effective storytelling.

Jennifer Aaker, a Stanford University Graduate School of Business professor, and Andy Smith, a principal with Vonavona Ventures who offers startups with marketing advice, offer good counsel on storytelling in their book, "The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change."

"Show, don't tell, is the most fundamental maxim of storytelling," say Aaker and Smith in a recent blog post. "Your audience should see a picture, feel the conflict and become more involved with the story. They're not receptacles for a series of facts."

Storytelling, they explain, is a contact sport. They quote Mark Twain: "Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."

Look at your website and your marketing materials. Do you have a lot of lists of what you do? Or do you have a few stories that convey what you do?

"Use stories to illustrate who you are and what you do," encourage Aaker and Smith.

Don't forget, people connect with other people. "Make sure you focus on real-life characters in your story," advise Aaker and Smith. Make sure your story has a pulse.

One piece of excellent advice: create a story bank of illustrations that you can use on your website, in pitches or on social media. Storytellers can include your own employees, customers or admirers.

In addition to showing who you are, these collected stories also may serve to point at what you should become."Harness stories to crowdsource ideas," the authors suggest. "Find out what your customers are really passionate about."

These are not just feel-good marketing tips. Aaker and Smith cite Daniel Pink, author of "Drive," who says: "Right-brain dominance is the new source of competitive advantage."

Authentic engagement is the goal. Effective storytelling is the path.