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The ability of empathic storytelling: How you can make your buyer the hero of your story

16, 2021

15+ min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

Imagine living in the 19th century. Along with (or perhaps because of) the apparent lack of modern technology and drugs, the average life expectancy was only 40 years. I would most likely be dust in the wind.

Despite the global increase in life expectancy over the past two centuries, we as the world's population are more overweight, obese and more likely to suffer from chronic diseases than ever before in history. For some, Covid-19 created a lightning rod for change. In particular, it has systematically changed healthcare, changing everything from professional care to self-care. Record investments in health and wellness, especially in digital health, underscore the importance and support of this transformation.

My belief is that diet, fitness, and prevention are trifecta for maintaining health and wellbeing. One approach to creating awareness of all three is to tell stories, not teach (which doesn't work). People open their minds and hear stories with their hearts to create a personal connection with the message. I know I have.

A few years ago when I went on a platform and looked at the £ 585. I loaded a barbell on the floor in front of me and played a highlight role in the 13 years of grueling workouts it took me to get there. I didn't see the crowd in the stands or the judges around me. I only saw the barbell. With more weight than ever before. I needed this lift to beat my opponent and break the California state record for my weight class. I took a deep breath, went to the bar, and pulled on everything I had. The bar slowed as it passed my knees but then shot up to achieve a full lockout. A good elevator. I have won. I earned the record. And it all ended in 15 seconds.

I'm not an Olympic champion or a professional athlete, but because of all of this, training, nutrition and fitness are a way of life for me. They come naturally like breathing. And it all started with the story of a child who was classified as "hoarse" in school, the old euphemism of being overweight. I was the kid, but the story could be about a million others. I keep wondering how I can inspire others to find their own story of triumph. After many phone interviews with senior executives at health and wellness brands, I found some surprising answers.

A recipe for storytelling

When I thought about storytelling, I thought of Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks, and other nursery rhymes Mom read to me before bed. But storytelling is more than fairy tales and bedtime stories. It is the oldest form of human communication that dates back to sitting by the fire at night and painting on cave walls. There is a story behind every painting or symbol. Storytelling connects with people on a deeper, more inspiring level. It can exceed the product. It can be the foundation for building a brand.

Ruslan Tovbulatov, former Chief Marketing Officer at Thrive Global, has a strong perspective. "How do we get people to adopt mindfulness or take a few more steps each day? The way we actually move around and change their habits is through stories." Tovbulatov tells us that storytelling moves people to action, which is why it is at the heart of what he does at Thrive Global.

The story is a powerful motivator because it connects us with our memories, evokes emotions, and even stimulates physiological changes.

Peter McGraw, author of Shtick to Business, says, "Memory is built on association. Whether you exercise daily or smoke two packs a day, the unconscious has learned associations that have become automatic. To build a habit, you create in Essentially a new set of associations – weave your own mental web. "Using storytelling as a means of creating new memories and associations helps people develop new habits, such as taking a few more steps each day. Ultimately, these habits become routine, and over time, they can become rituals.

Anne-Laure Le Cunff, founder of Ness Labs and prolific writer on mindful productivity, defines the difference between habits and routines. "Habits happen with little or no conscious thinking; routines require a higher level of intention and effort. The difference between a routine and a ritual is the attitude behind the action. While routines can be actions that just need to be performed – such as doing something. B. Taking your bed or taking a shower – rituals are seen as more meaningful practices that have real meaning. "Everyone has their own habits, routines, and rituals. Like making bed, making coffee, worshiping weekly, exercising, the list goes on.

Surprisingly, research has shown that almost half of all behaviors are habitual. In an experiment summarized in The Choice Factory, it was reported that "two psychologists, Jeffrey Quinn and Wendy Wood of Duke University, gave 279 student watches programmed to hum at set times. Whenever the alarm went off , the students recorded: in detail, their actions at that moment What they found was that in a number of areas, from exercise to travel, from eating to socializing, a full 45% of behaviors were habit – making the same choices at the same time and in the same place without met fully conscious thought. "How can brands and marketing build on this trend?

Steve Schwartz, CEO of The Art of Tea, says rituals are a huge part of the experience of his customers. During my interview with Schwartz, he asked me how I make tea. I was a little embarrassed because I know that making tea is an art. A methodological process that is exactly the opposite of my approach. Still, I explained what I was doing. On Sundays, I first boil 64 ounces of water. As soon as it starts to boil, I pour something into a ceramic teapot with loose herbal tea. I use Alexa and set the timer for three minutes. Then I pour the soaked tea into a 64-ounce growler. I let the growler cool on the counter for a few hours before putting it in the fridge. (As an aside: if there is anyone else who has tea from a growler, please let us connect.) He's helped me see that this is indeed a routine. Maybe on the verge of becoming a ritual.

If you think about how customers use your product or service and how it fits into their lives, you can define a ritualization process. The key to this process lies with your current customers. Start an interview program to collect personal stories that will help you deeply understand and empathize with your customers. Then, build on their experiences and share stories about how your product or service is changing people's lives for the better.

Simply put, storytelling is about delivering a message to your audience – whether written, spoken, video, or audio. Knowing how to shape your story can help drive your brand awareness, higher sales, and better results for you and your customers. Storytelling takes what people already know and gets them to engage with them and evoke memories and emotions. It helps people understand events, actions, and aspirations while interpreting your reality and creating context for their own experiences with your brand.

Make your customer the hero of your story

Many brands position themselves as heroes in history. But they are not the heroes, but their customers. Customers won't care how great your product or service is until they know how it is helping them. "To build a relationship with your customers, you need to make your customers the heroes of your story," said Lori Raygoza, vice president, e-commerce, Performance Health. Raygoza recommended that a brand's marketing message should be clear and address the customer's needs directly.

Zoe Wilson, Digital Marketing Manager at Betr Health, is primarily dedicated to creating compelling content. She works directly with clients to collect case studies, stories, and anecdotes to pay tribute to her accomplishments and inspire other members. One such story was about a client who retired and was diagnosed with cancer. The medicine she took made her gain weight, which eventually led to high blood pressure and cholesterol. From there she fell into depression. After starting her individual Betr Health program, she lost 35 pounds, restored her confidence, got much more energetic and got back on her bike. She eventually stopped taking drugs for depression. This is the kind of story that any company can be proud of and any patient can relate to.

Because users' experiences with a company will affect whether they will return others to you or refer them to you, your company is already invested directly in those experiences. Ruslan Tovbulatov, former Chief Marketing Officer at Thrive Global, says, “It's not a productivity or efficiency game. It's about the changes we make in individual lives. "He cites an example: a series of 7- and 21-day Thrive wellness experiences they hosted for Walmart employees. Walmart learned that 97% of attendees now spend more time. Over 230,000 inspirational success stories came from Walmart employees all over the world. That's a lot of positive habit building – and it has generated a tremendous amount of firsthand customers. centric marketing material.

GE Healthcare Digital has the same two-way performance strategy. Lynn Eversgerd, director of marketing at Global Partners Consulting & Command Centers, told us that she and her team paved the way for GE Healthcare customers to tell their own stories. “We are fortunate to have won the trust of our customers as a partner. When our technologies and solutions help our customers achieve a result, we celebrate their result, ”she says. Eversgerd and her team develop stories about their customers' experiences with GE medical technology, in which they position their customers as heroes. In return, she remarks: "Ultimately, our customers tell us the brand story."

For these leaders and their brands, the personal relationship between the company and its customers goes beyond the profit motive. Instead of focusing on profits, their companies focus on helping customers make positive changes in their lives. Eversgerd concluded by saying, "If you don't work with clients to share the story of how you can make a bigger impact together, you are missing out on an opportunity for both parties."

Make the customer the hero of all your content

Many brands struggle to make the leap from profit to success. One requirement that goes beyond mindset and willingness is to build trust with customers. Brands that want to educate, empower and empower their customers offer more than just products and services: They also offer know-how through resources that educate and inspire. Ron Ribitzky, Founder and CEO of R&D Ribitzky and Co-Founder of Alliance Tech, explains that establishing yourself as a credible source is important, or as he says, “How do we find out who is a qualified player and who is Make noise? "

To find out what types of resources are most valuable to his customers, GE's Lynn Eversgerd says, "When I think of the audience I want to involve directly, my goal is to provide them with not only relevant and meaningful content, but also unique To provide content with a perspective that is different from any other sound on the market. To achieve this, one needs to be passionate about learning everything about our individual customers and their organizations so that we can speak directly to their vulnerabilities to have frequent real conversations, Understand their own target audience (doctors, boards, donors, communities and patients), follow daily news about their individual organizations. This goes back to the whole idea of ​​being completely customer-centric and customer-centric. "

Make the customer the hero of your communication programs

Working through stories also results in healthtech brands being completely customer or patient centric. Here we go into more detail about content and how it is made available.

Content and stories must be short. "My job is to entertain the audience," says Rob Wilson, GameTime's sales and marketing manager. “A lot of content is far too long. It should really get to the point. "The content should also include details about the process and guide your audience through the necessary steps to the result:" Without the process, you cannot achieve the goal. "In terms of technology, he believes there are better ways to create value than long-form media: Use social media marketing to deliver short content posts that deliver immense value to the reader on LinkedIn and Facebook in minutes. Finally, he underlined how much work these campaigns cost.

Ribitzky has some advice on how to improve digital communication and work more effectively in the virtual world. He says, "Think about relevance and ask yourself if we don't need to change the way we use technology to deliver information." He goes on to say that the likelihood of a brand's audience reading 100 pages of everything he writes is virtually zero. This content must be written in a way that is relevant to them and respects their time. He says, "It's about knowing the audience and packaging content as a tool so that they can consume it very quickly." He continued, "Gone are the days when a five- or eight-page white paper was published and linked in PDF format." While professional people still read white papers, books, and reports, your customers don't. But in any medium, the content still has to be compelling.

Simone Grapini-Goodman, MBA and Chief Marketing Officer at DiRx Health, uses a variety of ethnographic and quantitative research techniques to understand audiences. "Using design thinking principles and people, we have divided our customer cohorts into three main categories and outlined their hierarchies of needs." She says it was challenging to present a single online experience that was closely tied to all three audiences. "Every audience has a slightly different lens, so we strive to create a smooth experience based on what people want, what technology can deliver, and what is financially feasible."

Former director of data at Curology, Anna E. Shen, has another solution to the problem of creating customized experiences for different audiences. "We target a wide range of audiences through our marketing channels and have dozen of unique landing pages for each one so we can maximize our SEO and ad relevance / quality rating." She tells us they'll start with quantitative research – clustering and "typing" customer relationship management (CRM) – to first identify the people they're studying. After that, Shen and her team conduct rigorous research, including focus groups and interviews, to examine each person so they can thoroughly understand their customers.

With the development of new health technologies that many companies are currently running, it is important to step back from the technology and look at the experience from the patient's perspective: to become completely customer-centric.

Dr. John Reeves, MD, is the CEO of talkHEALTH, which is changing the way pharmaceutical companies communicate with patients and healthcare professionals. 25 years of experience as a family doctor help him to create a perfect product market for his pharmaceutical customers. One thing he learned as a doctor is that patients don't know how to be great patients. The stress in the doctor's office and the possibility of a negative prognosis make it difficult for them to gather important information about their condition and treatment. This realization inspired him to start a company that teaches patients outside of the office visit. By sending messages through text, websites, voice devices and other channels, patients can learn more in what is hopefully the more relaxed atmosphere at home. The technology works with the doctor to inform and educate the patient at their own speed and in their preferred channel. This is a meeting with patients wherever they are.

Meeting people where they are is exactly what Sandra Sellani, vice president of marketing at Discovery Behavioral Health, does when she uses empathy to deeply understand the needs of her patients. "We start by talking to the people who refer patients to us – their therapists. We ask them about the patient's needs and develop a personalized treatment plan for each patient when they are admitted to the program." She told us that she also listens to the people in her call center to get a good feel for the needs of the callers. They talk to program managers and facility staff and gather the most meaningful feedback from patients about their experiences during treatment – what did they like? What could be improved? They even stay in contact with their alumni via a customized app to keep the dialogue open and to collect even more feedback. The app is also a virtual community where people can share their stories and encourage one another an opportunity to aid their recovery through content, communication and connection.

Donna Cusano, former director of marketing and communications at WellCare Collaborative Health Systems and now director of Allegro Marketing & Communications, agrees that healthcare could make better use of media and technology. "Many medical practices are facing the major challenge of implementing population health management technologies and using telemedicine and remote patient monitoring to stay in touch with their patients." She told me that older patients may be afraid of going to the office in person now, but they also struggle with the use of technology and the right connectivity to reach their doctors on a virtual visit. “Communication channels need to meet patients where they are, at a level where they feel comfortable, and at convenient times. It's not always on social media or on a smartphone. "

Deven Nongbri, vice president of marketing at HCA Healthcare, acknowledged the challenges of content marketing, the technology available, and the need to be on multiple platforms in order to engage with an audience. "Social media listening is becoming a challenge as you have to keep track of who starts what conversations and what they are saying," he says. He added that there is no simple answer or single platform that solves all of these problems.

In the digital health space, creating a voice for the user is especially important, says Carlo Rich, digital health management consultant at Baylor Scott & White Health's digital health office. He said, "You need to make sure everyone is on the same trip, that the patient is represented and has a voice." He said, "When you live and breathe your technology every day, it is sometimes not easy for others to understand what you are saying about it." This is the dreaded curse of knowledge.

Perhaps that is why the stories and product offerings you develop through empathetic research are so powerful. They offer vivid images and relevant solutions instead of complicated jargon and feature-rich technologies with relevant light.

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