Leveraging the Power of Narrative to Win Clients

Have you ever turned on the television “for just a few minutes,” stumbled upon a show already in progress, and been so riveted that you had to watch it to the end? Or have you ever picked up a book as bedtime reading and found it so interesting that you completely lost track of time until a few hours later? That’s the power of a narrative.

Narratives draw us in. They engage us. They grab our attention and encourage us to reflect on where we are—and where we might go.

Businesses have long used the power of narratives in their outreach campaigns. The famous 1979 Coca-Cola television commercial with “Mean” Joe Greene told a complete story that resonated with viewers (and had countless people wishing they were at the receiving end of the “Hey, kid—catch!” line). More recently, an IKEA ad for a lamp not only told a story, but poked some fun at the fact that the public actually expects to find narratives in advertisements.

You don’t have to hire a film crew to tell a good story, though. More and more companies are using print magazines as outreach and marketing vehicles—and enjoying tremendous success with these efforts.

Last week, for example, I caught up with one Mamu Media client who’s using our branded magazines to open new doors. We’ve been working with this client to create semi-custom magazines, a type of publication that includes some original content by the client or by other relevant organizations.

Mamu Media develops a strategy tailored for each client’s specific needs, and in every issue this particular client (a staffing agency) runs a custom article about one of its own customers. These “company profiles” each tell a story about an organization—what it does, how our client is connected to it, what people are involved with it, how it has succeeded in its market, etc.

One recent issue featured a cover story about “Company X,” a business that saw its longstanding problems with staffing turnover disappear after developing a relationship with my client. While reading that article about “Company X,” the HR director of a different organization found that she was able to relate to the stories in that article. Her company has similar staffing concerns, so she reached out to my client to see if he could help stabilize her organization’s workforce as well.

Not only is he hearing directly from other company representatives who’ve read the stories in his magazine, but my client reported to me that numerous prospective customers have also been reaching out to “Company X” to ask about him. Happily, “Company X” is thrilled with my client’s work and is happy to serve as a positive reference and send more organizations his way!

At Mamu Media, our top priority is to help our clients succeed in their fields. We thrive on figuring out and implementing ways to improve our clients’ outreach to and connection with their customers and with prospective clients. Knowing that our client is doing well is all the thanks we need. But when a client goes out of his or her way to tell me, “Thanks Mike. This is the best content we have seen in the industry,” I have to admit being a bit thrilled about that, too!

If You Want to Be Innovative, You Need to Walk the Walk

I’ve written before about how important it is for anyone who wants to succeed in business to keep learning. Regardless of what field you’re in, if you want to stay at the front of the pack you need to keep expanding your knowledge base so you’re ready for whatever comes your way.

I take this advice to heart myself and stay abreast of new developments not only in publishing and marketing but also in the areas of interest to Mamu Media’s clients (such as staffing, sales, and HR). By paying attention to trends and news in my clients’ business areas, I’m better positioned to offer them excellent service.

Earlier this month, for example, I attended a staffing conference in San Diego. (I will be the first to admit that although I was there primarily to learn from and network with people in that field, I didn’t mind too terribly that attending this gathering required me to trade Pennsylvania winter for California sun for a few days!) The presentations, panels, booths, and conversations there all reinforced my belief in one of the hard truths of this industry: all staffing companies want to be different, but most of them are all pretty much the same.

“Unique” and “innovative” are hot buzzwords today, but most companies fail to live up to that self-description. Every firm wants to claim to be distinct from all the others, but the reality is that most staffing companies are saying the same things to the same companies and recruiting from the same candidate pool as everyone else.

Standing out from the crowd involves more than just saying, “We stand out from the crowd.” Companies who want to be genuinely different need to know what’s going in their industry—and then say and do something new.

Mamu Media’s publications offer one powerful (and affordable) way for firms to be unique. I’ve often discussed the effectiveness of our magazines vis-a-vis other marketing and outreach media, and although print is a remarkably successful communication tool, it’s still a fairly new and innovative tool in the marketing tool kit. Companies that recognize its value and have become our clients are getting a leg up on their competitors.

At the San Diego conference, for example, one of our clients gave a presentation on what works (and what doesn’t work) in marketing her staffing services. She explained the value of leveraging a branded HR magazine in her marketing efforts: “The HR and Labor Insights publications allow us to have new conversations that are relevant to the challenges the person we’re calling is facing. And these challenges often have nothing to do with staffing. We finally have some new and relevant material to discuss on a call.”

Not only do branded publications help your clients stay up to date with the important information in their fields, but it provides them with a great option for connecting with their clients by giving them a great reason to "drop in" every other month to hand-deliver the latest issue.

In 2015 the staffing industry grew 2.6% over the previous year. It’s been growing steadily for quite a while now and shows no signs of slowing, which means that more and more new firms are entering the market. Companies that are able to find true innovation—by leveraging their knowledge of cutting-edge research and practices, by finding ways to have new business-relevant conversations with the same old prospects, and by using methods to engage their audiences—will have an edge over their rivals in this highly competitive field.

Don’t Scare People Away!

On the last evening of this month, lots of people will ring your doorbell and each time you answer it you’ll be greeted by ghosts, witches, pirates, fairies, superheroes, and pretty much any other character you can imagine. On Halloween it’s fun to try to figure out which neighborhood kid is behind each mask, and the kids find it especially hilarious when the adults’ guesses are way off target. After all, the whole point of wearing a costume on Halloween is to present to the world an image that hides who you really are, right?

Businesses, on the other hand, must present their truest faces to the world at all times. What your customers see on the surface is what they expect to find deeper down. That’s why good brand management and marketing are critical to the success of any company. You need to show clients who you are, and what you show them had better meet up with their expectations. If they don’t, those clients will walk away—and straight into the arms of your competitors.

For businesses, presenting an image is a lot more difficult than putting on a wig, face paint, and a costume. It’s critical that companies not disguise what they are and what they do; rather, they need to highlight their genuine identities to prospective clients, investors, and employees. Honesty is a perfectly reasonable expectation on their part. Why shouldn’t it be? After all, no doubt you expect everyone else to be honest with your organization in your business dealings, right?

Businesses have many options for communicating their identities and messages to the rest of the world. Print marketing, for example, has been around for a while in such forms as postcards, magazine advertisements, posters, and books, to name just a few. In recent years it’s been joined by digital marketing, and now you’d be hard-pressed to find a company that doesn’t use a website, Internet ads, e-mail, or social media for its outreach. Each format has its pros and cons, of course (and we at Mamu Media happen to think that branded publishing is a particularly effective marketing and communication medium).

Whatever method you choose to employ, though, it won’t be effective if it conveys a false representation. Trust is a key component of all positive relationships. That goes for those that involve companies, too. If you try to deceive your employees, clients, and investors, they will find out eventually. You’ll surely drive them away and damage your professional reputation—perhaps even to the point that no one new comes knocking at your door.

So approach them with the same integrity that you want to see in them. If you avoid playing tricks, you may end up with a very nice treat: a long-term, mutually beneficial business relationship.




Print is Back, Baby!

The numbers are in and the main media outlets agree with us: print is back, baby!

Even as e-readers surged in popularity over the past decade, they never dominated the media market and in fact e-book sales have actually fallen lately. A recent New York Times article, “The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far from Dead,” points out that “while analysts once predicted that e-books would overtake print by 2015, digital sales have instead slowed sharply.”

In short, even as pundits were busily crowing about the demise of print media, it has remained very much alive and kicking.

The rise in pricing for some e-books accounts for some, but not all, of the downward trend in e-books. Another noteworthy factor—and one that applies to digital media across the board, not just to e-books—is that many people just like paper better. In fact, research indicates that at least one demographic group that might be expected to skew toward digital media, “young readers who are digital natives,” actually “still prefer reading on paper.


I’ve covered this territory here before, explaining how print communications are more memorable than digital ones, not least because of the ability of words on paper to connect with and engage readers more than blips on a screen.

But don’t just take my word for it (or put all of your faith in what scholars have said on the subject). Think about your own relationship with print. Even if you are a diehard e-book reader, I bet you still have some paper media around that means something to you.

Your marriage certificate, a birthday card your kid made for you, the handwritten notes your dad packed in your school lunches during your childhood, ticket stubs from a concert by your favorite band, newspaper clippings about when your team won the championship game—those are the kinds of things you keep and treasure. But how often do you dig through your e-mail to find the link to the online e-card someone sent you a couple of years ago? When is the last time you found a digital communication to be deeply meaningful to you?

Think of a particular medium as a vessel for a message. It’s the container that communicates something from the author to the reader. And as Craig Mod points out:

Containers matter. They shape stories and the experience of stories. Choose the right binding, cloth, trim size, texture of paper, margins, and ink, and you will strengthen the bond between reader and text. Choose badly and the object becomes a wedge between reader and text.

Digital media has been amazingly effective at reaching large numbers of people quickly, easily, and inexpensively. But what good is that reach if it has no lasting effect and endures only briefly? Or if it never meets its target at all but rather gets drowned out in an electronic cacophony of countless other messages competing for attention?

If you’re taking the time to craft a message, then make the effort to communicate it effectively. Before you send your words out into the world, be sure to choose the best container for them.

Haptics and Your Marketing Plan

A few weeks ago I ditched my iPhone for a Galaxy S5. My reason for changing had nothing to do with any preferences about operating systems. (I have no interest in taking sides in the great iOS versus Android war.) Rather, I made the switch for financially pragmatic reasons: my four-year-old iPhone 4 no longer held a charge for more than a few hours and needed to be replaced, and my service provider gave me the Galaxy S5 for “free.”

I approached my new phone thinking it wouldn’t be tremendously different from my old one. And in most ways it’s not. But I quickly realized that the Galaxy S5 has one feature that makes it really stand out in the crowded field of mobile devices: haptic feedback. Instead of a beep or tone to let the user know that an input has been successfully received, the Galaxy S5 vibrates.

As a longtime Blackberry user, I missed its “clicky” keys when I moved to the iPhone several years ago. Although I quickly got used to the iPhone’s beeps, just a short time with the Galaxy S5 was enough to remind me how much I had missed getting touch-based feedback from my phone. Haptic feedback made me feel much more connected to my keyboard—and therefore more connected to the communication and interactions it facilitated.

The haptics of digital devices (e.g., phones that vibrate, game controllers that “resist” being pushed in certain directions) are grabbing lots of headlines today. These days there’s big interest in incorporating haptics into many products—and communication media as well.

Print is one area that’s ripe for haptics, and I’ve written before about how marketers are increasingly seeing the value of adding it to their toolkit. Haptics makes print particularly effective at standing out from its digital competitors.

Here’s one example from my own life that I’m sure many people can relate to. Not long after Newsweek resumed its print format, I paid for a subscription. It’s now one of the many sources I turn to for news—and it’s actually become the most memorable news source to me.

When I want to tell someone about something I read online, I typically start the conversation with “I heard about this story online somewhere.” Once in a while I might remember the specific website, but most of the time I speak in generalities because I honestly can’t recall exactly where I saw something. Because there are so many digital information sources in my life—and because I don’t interact haptically with them—they don’t always make distinct impressions on me.

But when I’m telling someone about something I read in Newsweek, I say, “I read this in Newsweek the other day.” Every single time. As the lone print source in my regular information feed, that magazine definitely stands out from websites, Twitter streams, and blog posts. And as a haptics-filled information source, it makes a strong impression on me. I remember how the magazine feels when I page through it, how it makes me feel when I read it, and the messages it conveys.

If you look around, I’m sure you’ll see plenty of print haptics in your life. E-books have their fans, but there’s a reason that brick-and-mortar bookstores are still around (and thriving, even!). And even though vCards make it easy to add someone’s contact info to an electronic address book, business cards are still alive and well. Think about the past few meetings and conferences you attended. Odds are you received (and handed out) a fair number of business cards at them!

If your organization isn’t thinking about how to employ haptics in its marketing efforts, you may be missing out on opportunities to reach out to you audience. Let’s talk about how haptics-rich print materials can help your message resonate with your targets. Drop me a line—I look forward to getting some haptic feedback from my Galaxy S5 when your message hits my inbox!