December 3, 2015
A few weeks back I wrote about the consultative approach and how it can be used to manage PPC accounts more strategically. Our key stakeholders expect us to be a strategic business partner who proactively pushes their business forward through the use of paid search. What they don’t want is a reactive partner who’s just ‘awaiting orders’ before proceeding ahead with tasks and projects.
A powerful tactic that can be used to implement the consultative approach is called ‘business storytelling’. Today we’re going to discuss what business storytelling is, how to communicate a compelling, action driven business story to your clients, and tools that can be used to successfully deliver that story.
What Is Business Storytelling?
What’s a more compelling story to tell our clients and stakeholders?
“Last month your account had 1000 clicks and 10 conversions”
“Last month we learned that only 30% of conversions came from desktop and 70% came through mobile. This conversion split signals a distinct market shift towards mobile and we’ll need to adjust our strategy accordingly to capitalize on this changing dynamic”.
Storytelling is powerful because people relate to them emotionally. I constantly use stories to highlight examples or to drive home key points. When I tell a story, I can tell through body language or voice inflection if I’m on the phone that people are engaged in the conversation and connecting with the information being presented to them.
Storytelling also allows us to take a dry topic like paid search and bring it to life. No one wants to sit in meetings or business reviews where all you or your client does is listen to someone drone on about performance metrics without any context as to what those metrics mean and how they relate to the big picture. Paid search can be a very dry topic at times because it’s so analytical, therefore wrapping our work within the context of a bigger business story will help get and keep our clients engaged.
Our key stakeholders are always striving to understand the underlying drivers behind their paid search performance and the only way to do that is to provide context. Telling the underlying story is a tool in our arsenal we can use to assist clients with making big strategic decisions and furthers our standing as trusted strategic advisors.
Building A Compelling Business Story
How do we build compelling business stories that keep our clients and stakeholders engaged while at the same time providing actionable information? We can do this by:
- Making sure you have a thorough understanding of your audience. For instance, having a meeting with C-Level executives about paid search is going to be a vastly different conversation than meeting with a marketing coordinator. Having a deep understanding of your audience will determine the kind of information to present and how it’s going to be presented.
- Provide the information that matters most. For example, C-level executives will want high-level insights that inform overall business strategy vs. the marketing coordinator who will want more tactical level insights. Build your story accordingly.
- Frame stories so they connect with your clients emotionally. Understanding your clients business, and their pain points, and how paid search can be used to solve those problems will get clients invested in you more thoroughly.
- Get to the most important point in your story first. Keep in mind that attention spans are short and too much ‘fluff’ will tune out the client before you get to the ‘A-Ha’ moment.
Communicating Your Business Story
Now that we’ve built our story, we need to communicate it. Some tips for effectively delivering your story are listed below.
- Begin your story with the biggest, most important take away first. Getting your client’s attention right off the bat will get them involved in the conversation and make them an active participant instead of a passive listener. The active participant is more likely to buy into your plan vs. the passive listener who’s minimally invested in your success.
- Explain how and why the key takeaway occurred. Having command of what the key takeaways are sets up the next phase of the conversation, which are important learning’s and the actionable next steps.
- Identifying important learning’s in relation to key takeaways proves you’ve learned something important about the account and your not ‘going through the motions’. For instance, competitive analysis can prove a key takeaway such as an impression share drop was the result of stiffer competition. This information sets up the next phase of your story, which are next steps.
- Finally, a business story is useless without follow-up action. Business is all about moving forward. Telling the story is only half the battle. Business stories are really just a set up for what you want to do next. Have solid action items ready to discuss.
Tools For Creating A Compelling Business Story
Now that we know what a business story is and how to create and communicate it in a compelling way, we need some tools to help deliver our story. Fortunately, these tools are the same ones you use almost every day in both your account and client work.
The first tool to have in place is a strategy template. Templates can be built in PowerPoint, a Google Doc slide deck, or any other platform where you can clearly present information. Regardless of the platform, the key thing is that the template forces you to think through the overall business situation, what PPC strategies and tactics are in play, whether or not those strategies and tactics are working, and what’s on deck next to improve performance.
Another tool to make use of is having frequent business download meetings. The purpose of these meetings is to have an up to date understanding of the current business situation and what the priorities are. Business strategies constantly evolve and past strategies may no longer be applicable. Getting a solid download on new products, services, or how the business is going to move forward is key to aligning your paid search program accordingly.
Competitor analysis is another effective tool. Whether it’s Google’s auction insights or a tool like Spy Fu or Keyword Spy, understanding what the competition is doing can help support your story and determine next steps. In many instances, the business story is a direct reflection of how clients (internal or external) view and react to their competition.
Business storytelling is a key component of the consultative approach. It allows you to demonstrate the overall understanding of your client’s business and provides an opportunity to convey that understanding in a compelling way that leads to further action.
Using the business storytelling approach also provides the benefit of forcing you to think more rigorously about your client’s PPC program and where it needs to be. Understanding your client’s overall situation will allow you the ability to create strategies that bring their PPC to a totally new level and is in alignment with their overall plans. Being in alignment increases the chances retaining clients for a very long time.