Storytelling and Inbound Marketing Walk Into a Bar

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2014-09-09 Sofia_My fav place for a beer_Kanaal

Storytelling and inbound marketing walk into a bar…

And Storytelling starts telling a story about his uncle who likes this craft beer from an obscure Belgian abbey, while Inbound has already prepared an email with the best craft beer places in town and has offered to meet there next week.

Oops, that’s not it. Let’s start this story again.

Storytelling and inbound marketing are actually family, really close family. They’ve grown up together, roaming the marketing fields and exploring ways to make brands function better. Yes, they’re different, but still share many common traits. You know, they actually complement each other to perfection.

Truth be told, nobody can do good inbound without consistent and engaging storytelling. And no storytelling effort is complete without a solid foundation of inbound. What I’m getting at here is that you don’t need to choose one over the other because your brand needs both, in the right proportion, to get out there and make people fall in love with it.

Let’s hit the bar

Brian Halligan Discussing Hubspot3 Love

Inbound marketing is about creating marketing that people love

If we were to continue the bar story, but applied to our two heroes here, inbound marketing would be the bar owner. The one who takes care of the place, who offers great service, awesome drinks and a place to go wild. The one who makes sure you’ll keep coming back to the bar.

Of course, when you are a regular, you will get the occasional promotional leaflet in your mailbox, but it will be perfectly tailored to your tastes (beer and whiskey, no gin-talk) and interests (it’s all about darts, you don’t care for foosball).

So Inbound is the one responsible for the the infrastructure, the framework, the basis of it all. As the great guys at Hubspot say, “Since 2006 inbound marketing has been the most effective marketing method for doing business online.” And we totally agree.

Inbound is a proper methodology in itself. It’s based on a heartwarming idea: the more you give, the more you get. The more you benefit your customers, the more they’ll like you and promote you. It also embraces a philosophy that is absolutely inherent in storytelling: you don’t have to disrupt people to tell them about yourself. You have to entice them to come to you with an offer they can’t refuse: quality content.

Following Hubspot’s paradigm of inbound, it consists of four notable stages. The first stage uses active blogging, SEO and page optimization and social media outreach to bring people to your brand’s channels. Then you move on to forms, call to action and landing pages to further engage the people who are already listening to you. Afterwards, you use email and lead nurturing to transform leads into customers. Finally, with surveys, smart content and social listening, you delight them, so they keep coming back.

As you can tell from this short 101 description, inbound gives a stable methodology, from beginning to ending of the customer journey, to give people what they want from you – and more. The necessary tools are also out there, readily available.

But it’s not enough just to follow a set of steps that a bunch of smart people have devised. You need to complete them with passion and personal touch, with your particular customers in mind. And here enters storytelling.

Pour the drinks!


People don’t have 30 seconds to be interrupted – but they have 30 minutes to hear a good story.

If we are to use the same bar analogy, Storytelling is the really good bartender who pours your aged whiskey that you can taste from afar while the bottle is still closed. Then the first sip comes only to outsmart the bravest guesses of your imagination. He is the bartender that knows your favorite brand and that you want two ice cubes. The one who tells you stories that have a moral but don’t sound patronizing.

In fact, you realize the bartender is the reason why you keep coming back to this bar. You can find that whiskey in other places, but they won’t have that unique flair that makes drinking a memorable experience.

In fact, a good brand story gives you the fabric that connects all the useful methods and tools of inbound in a coherent, connected and meaningful narrative. Let’s see how – step by step.

Say, you’re just starting with online marketing and you’re on the stage of attracting customers. You run a blog, have a SEO optimized website and you’re active on social media. But for any of these to have a real impact on your target audience, you need to be saying something smart and of interest to your customers, all in an engaging way. Namely, you require a good brand story whose essential elements will run through all your blog articles, web copy and social media updates.

Every word and image that comes out of your brand’s channels should be aligned to this core brand story. Because it contains your brand’s mission, values, vision, but also the development and evolution of your brand that comes with every lesson learned from a new customer and her experience with you. Like your brand itself, the story never stops changing in order to match the interests and personal trajectories of your customers.

This also means that the brand story belongs in the next stages of the inbound customer journey. So its elements – visual or verbal – will appear in your online forms, calls to action and landing pages, bringing people to the next steps in their adventure with your brand.

The same will hold true for your emails to customers, whether in the form of newsletters or personalized offers. And finally, when you want to delight people once you’ve won them over as customers, you’ll give them more of that brand story in the form of surveys and bonus content. All wrapped nicely in your narrative’s style and tone, for which they keep coming back for more. Like in their favorite bar.

Drunk wife makes a happy house*

I don’t see a more proper ending to Storytelling and Inbound’s story than them two getting drunk and real friendly. Do you?

So, friends, what’s your experience with inbound marketing meeting a good brand story? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

*An ancient Bulgarian saying about the power of alcohol to bring people together and make happy families. Ahem.

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