When I attended Content Marketing World in Cleveland in 2014, I’m proud to admit that I got Drewed!

Alright, that probably warrants an explanation.

To kick off the event, Andrew Davis, author of the book Brandscaping, gave a revved-up sprint of a talk. His peppy, Robin Williams-esque delivery fit perfectly with the title of his presentation: “How Brilliant Storytellers Create a Sudden Urge to Act.”  I wanted to share the main points from his memorable performance here on this blog.

Davis opened with a quick jab at the classic marketing funnel. After a hilarious spoof on the way most of us search for information on the Web (pinging from site to site and getting distracted at every turn), he paused and then joked: “try funneling that.”  It’s worth noting that the search journey he acted out on stage rings as true for B2B buyers as it does for consumers.

Throughout his talk he referred back to the idea that, instead of a linear progression, most of us (whether we’re wearing our business or consumer hat at the time) navigate the buying process in a less predictable, less rational way than marketers often like to think.  Although buyers may bring more reason to the process, the closer they get to parting with their money, the journey typically starts off in a much different place.

Davis explained that the customer journey begins with a moment of inspiration (MOI, for short). He urged marketers to get away from pitching products and even talking more broadly about solutions early on in the shopping process. Instead, he encouraged marketers to take ownership for creating and nurturing those initial moments of inspiration.

He went on to offer insightful tips on improving storytelling to make the most of these moments.  The biggest lesson: move away from overly tactical campaigns that barely conceal the sales pitch and embrace the art of connecting with the audience first—on their terms and in a voice they understand. To engage with prospects during those early phases of the relationship, marketers should focus first on a bedrock principle of good storytelling: building suspense. Just as readers need a reason to keep turning the page, buyers need a reason to stay engaged with your brand, well before they even know what solutions or services you provide.

Four Storytelling Tips for Creating Moments of Inspiration (MOI):

David shared four main tips for crafting stories that trigger moments of inspiration and motivate buyers to act:

  1. Create suspense – The linchpin of any good story is creative tension, which creates a desire to know what happens next. Marketers should draw on this principle to infuse brand stories with an element of suspense that pulls the audience closer and keeps them tuned in for the next chapter.
  2. Promote aspiration – Compelling stories connect with the audience’s deepest challenges and goals. Think beyond the next campaign. Aim instead to craft stories that speak to the lifestyle or movement to which your audience aspires to belong.
  3. Use empathy – Because they tap into powerful forces like memories and aspirations, stories are effective vehicles for conveying empathy with your audience’s situation. Lowering the barriers to getting to know your brand is the bhest way to create a long-term relationship with buyers.
  4. Harness emotion – Davis explained that while reason leads to conclusions, emotion leads to action. To even stand a chance of getting buyers to include their solution in their initial consideration set, marketers need to lead with an emotional appeal.

Davis ended his talk by asserting that people do not buy what your company does, at least not at first; instead, they buy into your company’s identity. They buy who you are. As marketers, we can and should craft stories that connect our buyers’ aspirations to the core values and ideas embodied in the brands we represent.

Want more storytelling tips? Download our solution brief, Tell Me a Story: Unforgettable Content Marketing, to find out how to create the kind of content that captures attention, builds trust, and leaves a lasting impression.