Why You Need to Use Storytelling to Win Your Clients Attention

By Jason Swenk on September 11, 2022

What story are you telling prospective clients about your agency? With audiences getting savvier about skipping over or blocking traditional marketing, it’s important to tell a story that engages your audience. Today’s guest specializes in creating such narratives for his clients and offers some tips for agency owners who want to leverage this strategy.

Zachary Slingsby is the founder of Human Factor Media, an award-winning branded content team that makes short films for brands. Their creations drive higher brand recall, awareness, and affinity than any other form of modern marketing. In this interview, Zachary explains how his love for stories led to a career creating content that resonates and why your agency’s branding should not be an afterthought.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How to be better at storytelling.
  • Change the narrative and stand out.
  • Why your branding should not be an afterthought.

Sponsors and Resources

Verblio: Today’s episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Verblio. Check out Verblio.com/smartagency and get 50% off your first month of content creation. Our team loves using Verblio because of the ease in their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.


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Agencies Must Be Intentional About Marketing Their Brands

Zack’s love for stories began with his love of film and literature. However, for him the traditional artistic path was filled with a number of frustrations so he decided to change course. Marketing provided the perfect niche to use this skill set in a time when brands are now acting as stages for their audiences. Engaging and entertaining storytelling is now a must for modern companies and a major focus for anyone developing their brand.

It’s common for agency owners to forget to market their own agency. Many expect to have time to develop their branding later but find that is not really the case. Many agency owners work around the clock and don’t have the systems in place to create the freedom or lifestyle they’ve wanted since the beginning. You’ll find that, unless you’re very intentional about treating your agency like a client, it won’t happen. Most never put the effort they should into their own marketing.

Why Storytelling is an Important Marketing Tool

Storytelling may be a bit of an overused term by now, but to Zack, it’s the best invitation to let your audience know “this is who I am”. Good storytelling is an effective and, in some ways, very simple way to get people to join your culture. In essence, commerce is all about lowering the uncertainty about one another so that we can exchange value. This is where true narrative value becomes an asset.

It’s a superpower that small companies can really tap into. A commerce giant like Amazon can never hope to feel like a local presence in the user’s life. By contrast, agency owners can use storytelling to create fans that later become clients. Let your audience know who you are outside of work so they can feel they know the real you. Instead of looking to compete with big brands or big-name agencies, offer something they can’t.

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Why You Must Create a Narrative That Wins Your Audience’s Attention

Every brand and agency has similar marketing options thrown at them. Because of this, their value propositions look strikingly similar, especially if it’s a niche with a lot of competition. Those companies will often end up competing in the same space, using the same marketing, and the same messages.

So, why not try to use narrative value to distinguish yourself? With so much competition, the way you speak to people becomes the only value you have. The way brands like Lexus, Patagonia, and Northface are committing to storytelling tells us they’ve identified something about where the market is. Users want brands to get past the age of commercials. We expect brands to compete for our attention in the same way that our favorite media company does.

Jason likes to use the example of Apple — they don’t sell products in their ads. They create a vision and tell a story. The launch of the iPod wasn’t just another MP3 player, it was “1,000 songs you can store in your pocket.”

You Don’t Have to be Big on Every Platform

So how can you use narrative to your advantage? You know that including a healthy dose of video in your marketing will make a great difference, but it doesn’t mean you know how to use it. There are incredible success stories like Gary Vaynerchuk, who built his agency empire on video content. Everything changed once someone on his team started following him around to film his day and make daily vlogs.

Of course, this won’t necessarily work for everyone; we don’t all have adventure-filled days. You can also find successful examples of agencies that have created a presence on YouTube by making their team and office part of their content.

In any case, Zack’s advice is to choose one platform and focus on growing your audience there. It doesn’t have to be all of them. This way, you can commit your resources to a particular endeavor. If you manage to grow one channel to thousands of subscribers, you’re ahead of the competition. But it’s not all about vanity metrics, so don’t get too caught up in the numbers.

Just remember that it can’t be an afterthought, there has to be a process and a well-conceived plan as well as someone dedicated to making and posting this content. Spend some time thinking about what bringing your values into a story looks like. If you don’t think you’ll have a lot of time to create content, Zack has clients who just film for one week a year and create enough content to post twice a month.

Finally, keep in mind this is a long-term strategy. Consistency really is the ultimate virtue. You just need enough success to keep them coming back.

Your Agency’s Branding Should Not be an Afterthought

It’s easy to think creativity is separate from your business goals. You may even delay some of the most experimental projects for your agency. You think you’ll get to it once you have more time, more budget, more freedom. However, working on your branding should not be dismissed as an afterthought.

With the emergence of so many new voices and people spending money to skip ads, the creative factor can be the key element you need to get their attention. Stop thinking of it as the luxury of a few big players and start seeing it as what it is, an indispensable part of your agency’s strategy.

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