Brand Storytelling is a great way of talking directly to your target audience in a way that is not overtly ‘salesy’ and some of the best brands in the world do this to great effect. But the same techniques can be used to plan and implement a great web design. Using this approach helps take your website users through a seamless journey, telling them a story along the way, and allowing them to end up at an intended conclusion that will help them connect with your organisation.
Who are your audience – get to know your personas
In brand storytelling you are broadcasting your narrative outwards to consumers. With a website users have decided to come to your webspace and this means that you need to be prepared for them.
When looking specifically at website planning, the art of creating personas is about identifying the different user groups that we expect to land on the site and then deciding what journey to send them on. For different personas this will be a different journey, with different messaging.
Take the example of a website that offers a variety of different services, each geared to a certain type of business. In this example, a well-planned website will have a homepage that speaks directly to each core consumer type (persona), welcoming them with a relevant message and giving them a quick way to drop into further content that is relevant to them. The underlying site structure will then allow them to take steppingstones through pages to deliver key content they are interested in, expose products and services relevant to them and ultimately get them swiftly to a useful call to action (whether that be purchase, convert or enquire).
Going through an exercise of identifying all of your key persona groups, their interests and the questions they are looking to get answered, and what their final action or conversion needs to be is the first step. Once you have identified all these you then need to decide which are the most important to you. Why? Because almost certainly you will have far too many to give them all equal treatment, so focusing on those that are most valuable to your business first gives you a logical approach to start constructing your site map and content.
What is the story for each persona?
So, you know exactly who is coming to your website, what they care about and how you want them to complete their journey, so what’s next? Then you need to decide what are the exact steps on their journey through your website – in essence, this is the point at which you start deciding the beginning, middle and end of the story they are going to experience whilst on your website.
Part of the exercise we’ve done when identifying the personas is to find out what questions they have that we can answer for them. These might be things like:
- Do they provide the services I’m looking for?
- Are they capable of delivering the quality I need?
- How do I know they are as good as they say they are?
Just to complicate things, each persona type will probably have a slightly different set of questions they want answered and a different end point that is suitable for them.
For example, the first persona type may be savvy in your business sector and so just want to get to your site, choose a service ‘off the shelf’ and then apply for it, whilst a second persona type may be new to the sector and therefore not quite sure what they need. These two personas need treating differently, with the first able to convert online in a quick journey whilst the second needs to be educated about the services and your company and then probably be able to request a consultancy before they buy into a particular service.
So this step of the planning process is to create your sitemap and to start planning the content items, cross-links and calls-to-action will appear on each page. The art here is to match each persona and the steps they need to take with the sitemap, to make sure they can move through the content they need and be presented, at the right time, with the opportunity to contact, purchase or apply.
Tell your story
The planning process you’ve just gone through will give you the structure you need to take your personas on their journey. So, then the focus is on telling your story. By this point you know what each page is going to be about, so the final phase is to take the content for those pages, the brand guidelines and the key messaging and to tell the story. At each step of the journey your persona should be answering their questions, whilst experiencing the story of your brand.
Consistency is important, not just across the website itself but anywhere someone might experience your brand. Your other marketing materials, social media messaging, appearances at events and your website are all part of your brand story so make sure they are telling the same story. The last thing you want is people getting a different brand experience each time they engage with you. Make sure the artwork, the colours, even the tone of voice is consistent and seamless no matter where and how a user comes into contact with your brand.
Allow them to engage
So what is the last step? Make sure you give all the ‘calls-to-action’ a user needs. The end of a story is the most important part of the journey because it will decide whether someone is satisfied. In the case of a website this will mean that they have answered their questions to the point where they want to engage with your services or products and then they are ready to actually do that.
This point is where your research into what your personas need to achieve is most important. If they want to purchase a product then give them an easy way to do that. If they need to make an enquiry similarly then give them a form, there and then. Try to avoid sending them on laborious extra steps to go to a generic form on a contact page – instead give them a form that is relevant to where they are in that moment. If they want to book an appointment or sign up to a course then allow them to do that online, rather than having to contact you to arrange it. Presenting challenges at the end of the journey is the fastest way to losing people and them leaving your story thinking the beginning and middle were good but the ending was disappointing.
And finally, make them feel loved by following up. You want them to not just enjoy your story but want to experience the sequel by coming back. If they’ve contacted you give them a thank you message and make sure your back-office team follow up in a timely manner. If they have purchased a product then have a well-crafted confirmation email triggered from the website to let them know you’ve received the order. Optimise the follow up process so they get further information at each point of the product shipping process. Allow them a chance to feedback and signup to further marketing and then actually send them useful content but don’t bombard them. Integrating your website to your CRM or mailing solution makes all this really easy and most important it puts the user in charge so they don’t feel you are taking advantage. And one quick tip – never automatically sign a user up on the assumption they’re happy for that to happen. They won’t be!
Live the story
Brand storytelling through your website is all about creating a great first impression, giving the users a great and seamless journey and then optimising the experience so they can continue the journey with you. And the key to this is good planning. It isn’t rocket science, it’s about living your brand story in everything you create.