Favorite video: Malcolm Gladwell at TED

Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point, Blink), Chris Anderson (The Long Tail), and Stephen D Levitt (Freakonomics) really engage me because they take familiar concepts and explore them in new ways. That’s very powerful.

In this TED Talk, Malcolm Gladwell talks about a consultant in the food industry who made a series of interesting findings. Sounds boring, but when Gladwell’s talking, nothing is boring!

Jeffrey Gitomer is right: Stories sell

In the most recent issue of Jeffrey Gitomer’s Sales Caffeine newsletter, Gitomer talked about the use of stories in selling and how they are at the core of many aspects of the sale, from building rapport to overcoming objections and justifying your price. He’s right: Stories sell.

Here’s why I think stories are effective sales tools
Stories humanize the sales process, which can feel cold and inexorable. They make you as a salesperson easier to relate to. They put a distant concept into a believable, conceivable, “ownable”, real-life setting. They even compel people to buy from a sense of keeping up with the Joneses.

What should you do?
Add a story to your content and watch as your audience becomes more engaged. Start your articles with a story to draw people in. Embed testimonials into your sales letters. Write a personal story for one of your blogs. Add stories to your ebooks (not as padding but as a key contribution to the content). Drop the heavy-handed marketing in favor of a couple of compelling stories. Observe how good commercials — the ones you remember — tell a story in 30 seconds and can be related easily to others around the watercooler. Collect stories about your products and about the ideas and benefits that your products offer.

Check out some of the other story-in-marketing blogs I’ve written:

The challenge of planning viral campaigns

An electron micrograph of a rotavirus particle...
Image via Wikipedia

A viral marketing campaign seems like the ideal form of marketing: Lots of ROI for your marketing dollar.

The theory is sound: You create something that gets passed virally around to other people, thereby creating a word-of-mouth buzz that results in more traffic for your business at no cost. Unfortunately, businesses waste millions of dollars every month on content that they hope will go viral.

A viral video doesn’t  get viewed by millions just because you created a video and posted it on YouTube. A viral article doesn’t get read by millions just because you posted it in an article distribution site.

Viral content becomes viral because people are motivated to pass it on. Viral content is…

  • Surprising
  • Provocative
  • Humorous
  • Engaging
  • Controversial
  • Quick to digest
  • Easy to pass on

Unfortunately, most businesses lack the guts to put these elements into their content. All too often I see good potential viral content edited out by round after round of stakeholders who want viral but are afraid “we’ll exclude too many people by saying this” or “we don’t give a clear “buy now” call to action at the end” or “we’ll lose control of this message if we don’t also add another 2000 words of detail about our company’s history and background”.

Soon, what was once supposed to be engaging and viral content ends up as bland baby formula content: Soft and mushy without any substance. It appeals to key stakeholders… but not to anyone else.

If you want to have a viral marketing campaign, step one is “Get a backbone”.