Build Your Fan Base Through Brand Storytelling

 

In this article you’ll learn:

  • Why Brand Storytelling & Relevant Social Sharing Is Crucial Right Now
  • What Is Brand Storytelling?
  • How to Determine What Story Your Brand Should Tell
  • How to focus on What Makes You Different
  • 4 Key Tips to Best Tell Your Brand Story

Grab your phone and open up Instagram, Facebook or TikTok. Look through the last few things you and some of your closest friends posted. 

If your social media feeds looks anything like mine right now, you’re probably seeing snow covered everythings, shots of the latest at-home recipe trend (baked feta and tomato pasta anyone?) or other well-established quarantine hobbies, and perhaps a shared post about something you or a friend found funny, inspiring, or just worth sharing. 

Each of these posts tell a story—your story. This is why we open Facebook and Instagram, to share our stories, and learn from and be entertained by the stories of others. 

Now take a quick look through the 5 most recent posts from your tour company’s Facebook or Instagram. If you’re like many (most!) of the operators I’ve seen, you probably fall into one of three camps:

  1. The Needy Camp: Companies that only post on Facebook when they need something—you’re hiring guides, you have an upcoming sale and want to drive purchases, you have extra spots on the 5 pm tour, etc. 
  2. The Announcement Camp: Companies that treat social media like their website’s announcement banner—we’re closed this Sunday, here are some updates to our COVID policies, the season ends next Saturday, etc. 
  3. The “I don’t know what to post” Camp: Then, there’s the company that will share anything and everything—we spotted a deer on our property!, here’s a funny cat meme, we’re so excited that Hamilton is now streaming on Disney Plus! etc. And sometimes, this company will go months without sharing anything at all. 

There’s good and bad in each of these camps. But the core issue is the same for each: they’re not telling a consistent and engaging brand story. Just like you wouldn’t only try to sell something, make life announcements, and share random disconnected things on your personal social media, you shouldn’t do this for your company either. 

I want to show you how to tell your brand’s story in a way that’s engaging and aligned with the reasons you exist in the first place. But first, let’s look at a few reasons why brand storytelling needs to be a core part of your digital marketing strategy. 

Why Brand Storytelling & Relevant Social Sharing Is Crucial Right Now. 

There’s a massive opportunity to reach people (for free or low cost) with relevant, compelling content. Americans spend more time on the internet than ever before. On average, we spend 2+ hours a day on social media alone. If you printed out what the typical American thumbs through on social media in a given day it would cover nearly three football fields. And if that’s not enough, the average American office worker receives over 100 emails per day.

So, for better or worse, your audience is spending a lot of time on social media. With that comes a lot of competition.

  • The average open rate for emails from “travel and hospitality” brands is right around 16%.
  • The average click rate for opened emails from “travel and hospitality” brands is under 2%. 
  • When you post something on Facebook, you’re lucky if 5% of the people who see the post engage with it in some way. Average engagement rates are under 1%.

The reality is, everytime you post something to social media or send out your monthly email newsletter, you’re just a spec in the inbox or newsfeed. And to make your investment on these digital channels worth it, you need your spec to stand out in the crowd. The best way I’ve found to do this is through brand storytelling. 

What Is Brand Storytelling?

Matt Kemple, Creative Director at Blend, sums it up like this:

“Brand storytelling is your company’s honest narrative that builds connections with your audience around shared interests and experiences.”  

Your brand story is your unique way to create affinity, trust, and long-term relationships with your fans. One of the hardest parts about being in the adventure tour business is that for a lot of people, your tour can be thought of as a “once in a lifetime” experience. Communicating an effective brand story will keep that customer talking before and long after her “once in a lifetime” experience, and may even have her coming back year after year. 

How to Determine What Story Your Brand Should Tell

Social media posts, email newsletters, and websites that stand out in the crowd and resonate most with your fans (and potential fans) focus on sharing content that lives at the intersection of three things:

  1. Who you are as a company (your mission, vision, and values)
  2. The identity of your audience, including their (current) needs and wants
  3. What you can offer your audience to meet those needs and wants

These three things are each key elements of how you position your brand in the market. Any misalignment or imbalance here can quickly cause your story to fall flat, and even damage your brand. 

This is a quick aside, but I can’t continue without mentioning it: brand positioning is fundamental to any adventure business. How you position yourself in the market can have a massive impact on the return on your investment in social media, advertising, your website and more. 

If there’s any ambiguity in the mind of you or your team about your mission, your audience, and what you can offer your audience, you should pause and work through your brand positioning. With some research, it’s possible to go through a brand positioning process in-house, but it’s usually worth involving a branding expert. Here are three books I highly recommend that will start you down the right path:

  1. Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind
  2. Get to Aha! Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition
  3. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message so Customers Will Listen

Continuing Grandma’s Legacy

To illustrate the importance of full company alignment on your mission, your audience, and your offer, let’s look at Kerfoot Canopy Tour—a well-loved zipline tour and adventure park just outside of the Twin Cities. 

Kerfoot Canopy Tour is owned by Lee Kerfoot, whose grandmother was a legendary Minnesota Northwoods pioneer. Their stated company goal is “to continue Grandma’s legacy of connecting others to nature through outdoor adventure.” 

They operate a zipline tour, high ropes challenge course, and a 400-foot “ball run”—a wooden track that winds through the forest and carries each participant’s wooden ball through an epic series of obstacles. 

How should a company like Kerfoot Canopy Tour build their fan base as they head into their shoulder season in the middle of a pandemic? You have to start by answering our three questions:

  1. Who are they and why do they exist?
    They’re about connecting people to nature through outdoor adventure. More importantly, they are not primarily about ziplining, thrill-seeking, or pushing your limits. 
  2. The identity of the audience, including their current needs and desires:
    Their audience is people who enjoy being outdoors in Minnesota, and/or who want to get themselves or their kids away from couches and screens, at least for a time. In the wake of COVID-19, those needs are only heightened as people look to escape from their lockdown, but now they’re also looking for ways to enjoy the outdoors in household units (smaller groups) and without crowds. 
  3. What they offer to meet the audience’s needs and desires:
    Their three activities are about having fun in and near the woods, specifically in Minnesota, near the Twin Cities. They’ve done a good job of positioning their experiences as unforgettable experiences that enable you to “escape outside”—which is well aligned with their mission.

Focus on What Makes You Different

With the answers to our three questions in mind, Kerfoot can confidently share their brand story in a way that uniquely builds connections and meets the needs of their audience through offers and products that further their brand’s mission. 

For example, Kerfoot might:

  • Solicit ideas from their fan base about how to enjoy the MN outdoors (other than just going ziplining), and then share those ideas in a monthly newsletter.
  • Share a short video about how to build your own backyard adventure as a way to connect with the outdoors in a new way.
  • Talk about their experiences on their website as the “cure” for indoor boredom or as a way to escape to the outdoors, rather than talking about how fast, high, and long their ziplines are. 
  • Promote other activities during the winter when there’s less demand for ziplining.

Another example of a company who has a good understanding of their mission and audience is Highlands Aerial Park (HAP) in Highlands, NC.  HAP’s primary mission is to help their guests create multi-generational experiences and memories. 

With their mission and audience in mind, HAP might:

  • Share photos and stories from grandparents and parents connecting with their kids and grandkids in new ways at HAP.
  • Position their activities as something that people of all ages can enjoy. 
  • Share a simple message or video on why they feel creating multi-generational experiences and memories are so important. 
  • Give discounts for large family reunion events that bring multiple generations of the family together. 

Regardless of the kind of adventure company you are, you can tell a powerful brand story if you know who you are, know the needs of your audience, and have a product or offer that can meet your audience’s needs in a unique way. 

4 Key Tips to Best Tell Your Brand Story

Stories are powerful. They give employees and stakeholders something to rally around. They give customers something to share and talk about long after they participate in your adventure. And they give potential customers something to dream about.

So, build your fan base for the long-term, and start telling your brand’s unique story. 

1. Be honest in your storytelling. Misleading your fan base can lead to unhappy customers. If your adventure is intense and challenging, it should look intense and challenging. If it’s great for families, you should share videos and images of families. 

2. Be timely with your storytelling. If it’s February, and you’re located in New England, don’t post a photo of someone in shorts and a t-shirt ziplining. If there’s rain in forecast for the next 7 days, post a cool shot of someone ziplining through the rainy mist and talk about how your tour sizes are typically smaller when it rains (if they actually are). 

3. Show your guests enjoying the experience in your storytelling. Give recent, relevant examples of what your experience could look like and show how much fun people are having while doing it!

4. Stay consistent across all channels in your storytelling. This empowers a cohesive narrative and helps evoke the energy and emotion of your brand. Your story should align whether someone visits your website, Facebook, or Instagram.

Ultimately, it takes time, testing, and expertise to perfect your brand story. The friendly team at Blend would love to help you develop a brand story that truly resonates. Connect with us through chat, email or a quick call!

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About The Author

Nathan Andrew

Nate is passionate about helping companies reach their goals through integrated digital marketing campaigns and local SEO. He loves helping tour and activity company leaders stay focused on the numbers that matter, and fostering sustainable long term growth and profitability.