Going from ‘bla’ to ‘riveting’ - Using storytelling to connect with your target audience

Storytelling - it’s become a real buzzword. Everyone and their colleagues are talking about it and tout it as an important marketing technique.

But is that all there’s to it?

In their recent masterclass, Paula Carreirão and Juliana Hahn dug deeper and looked at storytelling from a different perspective.

The following post summarises what they shared.


The foundation

What is storytelling?

Storytelling is using a story or narrative to create a connection between your customers and your brand.

The best story is about the point where your company’s reason for being intersects with your clients’ values.

For example: your resort’s main goal is to provide families with fun, memorable experiences in a beautiful location, i.e. family enjoyment. One of your potential guest’s values is spending quality time with her loved ones.

Since “family enjoyment” is where your offering and her values intersect, this should take centre stage in your story.

Storytelling basics

When you’re crafting your story, keep the following points in mind:

  1. The customer is always the story’s “hero”. You’re telling the story, but it’s not about you.

  2. Your brand or company offers the setting

  • A hotel is the physical setting since the story happens at your property

  • A hotel tech provider guides the story because the customer has an experience with your product


The 5 Key elements of an unforgettable story

1. A catchy introduction

How can you make your story stand out in the crowded online space?


First, grab your reader’s attention and don’t let go. You have 8 seconds to do this. Why? Because that’s the average time it takes people to decide if your content is interesting for them or not.


The only way to succeed in this “mission impossible” is to have a catchy introduction.


Here are two examples:

  • Making a confession: “Let me be honest with you: I never thought I would be working alongside a robot in a hotel.”

  • Stirring people’s imagination: “Picture yourself staying at your dream hotel.”


Choose the tactic that best fits your brand, your audience and your content to attract and keep online readers on your page for more than 8 seconds!


2. Your main character


Every good story has a memorable hero or villain. Your story must have a character your target audience can relate to, connect with and cheer for. The story develops from this character’s perspective.


If you’re a hotelier, your guest will be the “hero.” Build a story around them, showing what they would experience while staying with you.


If you’re a hotel tech provider, the hotelier will be your hero. Make your plot about how they can overcome challenges with the help of your tool or service.


But remember: storytelling is about more than just telling a story. You have to connect with your target audience. To accomplish that, you need to know your audience well, so you can build a memorable main character.


3. The plot

Your story must make sense and be easy to follow. This might sound obvious, but too often people mess up these basics.


Short attention spans mean it’s so easy to lose readers along the way if the plot is too difficult. In other words, keep things short and sweet. Simple can mean powerful. Once again, the key is connection. Remember that you’re writing for them, not yourself.


Reviews and social media comments can help you develop plot ideas. Put them together in a way that creates a clear path for readers, making their experience with your content easy, but remarkable.


4. The conflict/challenge


Every good story has a twist, a challenge, something that surprises us and makes us engage with the plot. No matter whether your clients are hoteliers, tech providers or travellers, each group faces their own challenges.


It’s your job to give a fair picture of the problem and provide your target audience with an honest solution. Since there are so many challenges now, you have your work cut out for you.


The solution can be some days off to relax, a peaceful place to work, a tool that helps hoteliers manage their property with few resources or allows them to increase revenue. Just keep two things in mind when selecting the conflict or challenge for your plot:

1) It must be a real challenge. To identify this, you must know your audience, their pain or struggles.


2) Don’t exaggerate the dimension of the challenge just to be more exciting. Be genuine. People will remember what they read/saw and they might feel frustrated or even misled if you don’t deliver the great solution you promised.


5. Resolution - Message

Even though it happens at the end of your story, it should be considered at the beginning. You must know your goal before you begin.


Ask yourself:

  • Why am I telling this story?

  • What do I want to accomplish?

  • Which message do I want to send to the world?

These are crucial questions you must ask yourself when you start creating content. Without a goal, your story won’t make an impact.


Like everything you do, your storytelling should have a purpose. Posting just for the sake of posting isn’t effective. Value quality over quantity, always. And we can only create quality if we put effort and meaning in something, right?


Why is storytelling important for your business?


Science proves that people remember stories 22 times more than facts and figures alone.

Why is that?

  • Stories engage several senses and stimulate more parts of our brain than facts

  • When your story highlights your audience’s pain points or desires, you build trust, a connection and help them identify with you

  • Narratives evoke emotions such as excitement for a fun trip or relief at the idea of finally solving a long-standing problem

That helps your story stick in people’s memory and keeps your brand at the front of your audience’s mind. When they’re ready to buy what you offer, they’ll think of you first.



Addressing the right target - Know who you’re talking to


Maybe you already have a clear idea of who your guests are, where they’re from, what they do during their stay and why they book with you and not your competitors.


But that was before Covid...


The pandemic has changed people’s behaviour and businesses need to adapt, even if only temporarily, to survive.


Evaluate if your target audience is still the same. If it has changed, change your marketing strategy as well. That includes your storytelling.


Why is that important? Because you can’t connect if you don't know your audience. No connection means no engagement, no bookings, no sales.


Let’s look at a practical example:


  1. If you’re a hotelier:

Who are your guests now? Are you getting booking requests from the same people/areas as before the pandemic? How are they different? Analyse your data and check with other local businesses how they’re doing.

Many reports indicate that target markets have shifted, and you might have a more local audience now. Statisticians are estimating declines of up to 80% in the international tourism economy for 2020. This means domestic tourists can be key.

If 70% of your guests are usually international, shift your direction quickly. Attract people who are on road trips, offer daycations, staycations or even turn some of your rooms into quiet places to work.

  1. If you’re a hotel tech company:

You likely still have the same target audience (hotels, resorts), but their challenges have shifted.

Ask your sales team or customer support what they’re hearing from hoteliers. Use this information to create meaningful stories that address what matters now.

For instance, it might not make sense to create content about overbooking these days. Instead, write about how to best distribute rooms on different channels to increase your chances of getting new bookings.

But it’s also possible that your company decides to target a different audience now. In this case, research these new potential clients. Even if they’re all hoteliers, working in different countries or types of properties makes a big difference.

Don’t underestimate the cultural factor when using storytelling. The same story might be a hit in one country and backfire in the other.

Finally, remember that storytelling is dynamic, and goals have changed.



A new approach to storytelling

Most people think of storytelling as rattling off their company’s history or listing their product’s features and special offers.


This information has its place. However, when most businesses share it, they break the first rule of storytelling - making your customer the hero - and talk mostly about themselves.


Instead, tell the story of the experience guests and clients can have with you from their perspective. Highlight which problems you solved, and which needs you fulfilled.

That way your story includes your audience from the beginning and feels more approachable and engaging to them.

Common formats for this include blog and LinkedIn posts, Instagram stories, videos and general website content.

Storytelling for hotels

Stories are often about solving a problem or overcoming a challenge. But if you think about it, hotels usually don’t solve a problem but fulfil a desire or need.

Here are two examples:

  1. Sandra is planning to go on a family trip and wants to have unforgettable experiences with her loved ones (desire)

Resulting need:

  • A hotel in a destination which allows Sandra’s family to have fun adventures and enjoy their time together

  • Age-appropriate activities and facilities

→ Use storytelling to

  • Highlight possible experiences at your hotel or in the neighbourhood

  • Stimulate your audience’s imagination

  • Build desire for a stay at your property


2. Amy is a consultant who needs to travel for work and stay in a hotel (need)

Resulting need:

  • A hotel close to Amy’s temporary workplace,

  • Good facilities for remote working

  • Business traveller-friendly services

→ Use storytelling to

  • Highlight how your services make every business trip a success

  • Show that you’ll make it as relaxing and comfortable as possible

Storytelling for hotel tech companies

Hotel technology is there to solve problems, make life easier for hoteliers and help them provide great service. That should make it easy for you to create a well-rounded story your potential clients can identify themselves with.

Here are two examples of how you can do this:

  1. The Riverside Hotel gets few direct bookings because its existing booking engine is too complicated to use for site visitors.

Resulting need:

  • An easy-to-use booking engine

  • Quick set-up time

→ Use storytelling to

  • Highlight how your booking engine is intuitive and easy to use for guests

  • Show how existing clients have used your booking engine to increase direct bookings with minimal effort


  1. The Beachside Hotel often outprices itself in the market. As a result, they lose business to the competition.

Resulting need:

  • A business intelligence (BI) tool that helps the team keep an eye on going market rates without having to manually shop rates

→ Use storytelling to

  • Highlight how your BI tool saves your client time and energy by providing accurate data at the click of a button

  • Demonstrate how having access to this data can help the Beachside Hotel adjust its prices to be better positioned among the competition and attract more bookings

Let’s get to work: Implementation ideas

Now that we’ve looked at the basics of storytelling and how to address your target market, it’s time to get to work.

Read on for some impulses for various parts of your online and media presence.

Your website

  • Present information in a way that shows how you address your audience’s needs and desires instead of just listing facts about your offers and features

  • Make your site easy to navigate and ensure vital information is easy to be found

  • For hotels: Especially when people haven't been able to travel, build extra excitement for a hotel stay with you by making your texts and visuals work together. Always check: are your images telling your story? Enhance the effect by adding a short brand video or a 360-degree virtual tour

  • For hotel tech companies: Use gifs or a short demo video to explain your product’s basics and motivate people to get in touch and book a trial or a sales call

Here’s a fantastic example of how to use storytelling to connect with your audience and promote your product.



Don’t be discouraged by the high production value! Even a simpler approach will do, as long as you communicate effectively.

Social media

  • Leverage social media to offer a daily dose of storytelling and stay in touch with your audience

  • Creatively share your story and let your audience peek behind the scenes of daily operations

  • For hotels:

  • Try Instagram Stories or Reels because they require less financial input than a feature video but can be equally powerful

  • Create short, fun videos about how you make a stay amazing or implement hygiene measures

  • For hotel tech companies:

  • Introduce your team and highlight how they help clients on a daily basis

  • Showcase existing clients and their success to inspire others to give your product a try

Traditional media coverage

Partner with highly targeted media, industry publications and/or brand ambassadors that go well with your narrative to reach your target market.

For hotels, the focus can be on local media and influencers since international travel is so limited. This makes your reach more targeted and can be more cost-effective than working with large international names.

One last note: you must be able to deliver what your story promises.

Overpromising and underdelivering will only result in disappointed customers, bad reviews and a damaged reputation.

Instead, use your story to set and manage expectations and your clients will be delighted from the moment they find out about you.


Now that you have a solid understanding of storytelling and already got some ideas on how to implement it for your business, it’s time to get to work.

Brainstorm how to refine, improve or revamp your story and put it to the test. We challenge you to try a new approach now and get the word out about your amazing offering!


Additional resources to make your storytelling amazing

Articles:

Video trainings:

Tools:

Canva.com (free graphic design tool)