Think of a conversation where you’re the only one talking. You have great things to share and the other person might be interested … for a while.

We have one-sided conversations all the time in marketing. We tell our customers about our new equipment, expanded product lines, seasonal specials and more. How can we keep these conversations from fizzling out — and keep our customers from seeking someone more interesting at the dealership dinner party? Tell interesting, engaging stories — and use photos and videos.

Dan Danford"Ultimately, the story also has to have a tiny bit of drama. Talk about a very real problem and all of the challenges and the reader will be very interested in hearing about the solutions."

— Dan Danford

“It’s pure and simple. What’s more interesting to people in general — technical details and a sales pitch or a story? With a story, they get to see the equipment with own eyes. They can see how other people are using the product or service and imagine how it might fit in with their operation,” says Dan Danford, group account lead with AdFarm, a marketing, branding and digital agency with expertise in agriculture. “Profiles and real-life examples help them imagine how it might benefit them.”

Danford says storytelling used to be limited to the sales rep sharing success stories in the field or in the showroom. Now, social media’s influence means people are seeking out these same stories when they’re researching equipment — and your dealership — online. Here are some ideas for how to keep conversations going with your customers, and get them into your dealership.

What Makes a Story?

Danford says to borrow from the news media regarding the factors they consider when pursuing a story, including:

  • Human Interest

Human interest stories evoke some kind of emotion. For your customers, maybe it’s someone who overcame a challenge or maybe it’s how your dealership supported a customer in a time of need. It could be a customer who is using the equipment you sold them in an unusual way.

“Ultimately, the story also has to have a tiny bit of drama. Talk about a very real problem and all of the challenges and the reader will be very interested in hearing about the solutions.”

  • Timeliness

Think about seasonal topics and how that might influence equipment needs. Danford says to watch for ideas related to larger trends in agriculture and rural life that are happening locally.

  • Relevancy

Customers want to read about people they can relate to.

“If the story is about someone who’s just like me, I’ll be very interested.” says Danford.

How Can I Find My Customer Stories?

Danford says to turn to team members, such as your field representatives, for help in identifying potential stories to share.

“It all starts with putting accountability on your field reps. They have all witnessed success stories or interesting tidbits. Have them record those events,” Danford says.

However, Danford says don’t ask your busy field reps to take on another task without offering an incentive. Danford says some dealerships offer a cash reward or prizes for stories and ideas they bring back. He also says that this extra attention on a successful customer can help build the dealer-customer relationship.

“If they put in the extra effort, they may benefit from additional sales” he says.

Set standard to keep things fair. For example, every story needs to have a photo or a video to qualify for a certain level of incentive. And, make sure your field reps have the customer’s OK to share their name, details and image.

Adding photos, videos

Are photos or videos really necessary for your customer stories?

“Absolutely. They improve stories by 1,000%. If you give someone a very interesting story and all you have is text, that story is going to be half as compelling as one that is accompanied by visual,” says Danford. He also says your stories can be shorter — 150 words or so — if they have photos that can provide additional information.

And, don’t worry if you’re not a professional. Danford offers some simple tips to help your team shoot good photos when they’re out in the country:

  • Strong subject – Make sure your customer or the featured equipment is obvious and not overpowered with a cluttered background.
  • Try shooting in the early morning or right before sunset for the best light. If you shoot during the day, take your subject into the shade to avoid squinting eyes.
  • Take advantage of digital photography by shooting lots of images and take the time to view the images before you leave the area.
  • Don’t overly rely on software to fix or crop images. Try to get the best shots in the field.

Danford has another piece of advice unique to the rural lifestyle market — have the subject remove their cap or hat. Caps can lead to shadows across the subject’s face.

As with digital still cameras, today’s small digital video cameras can help your team capture great video to use on your web site, Facebook page or You Tube channel. Keep in mind the same shooting tips, plus be aware of the sounds you’re capturing. Danford advises adding an external microphone to the video camera to get the best sounds. If you can’t do that, make sure your subject is in a quite environment and stand close. Take a few minutes of test video to check the sound and look before you begin shooting.

“There’s nothing more disappointing to think that you have terrific video, only to find out you can’t hear the person,” Danford says.

Building trust

Interesting stories, compelling photos and videos, and real-person testimonials all have benefits beyond content for your web site or social media channels.

“You can build on the trust factor if you show photos and videos, rather than just list facts,” says Danford.

Need another reason to spice up your storytelling?

“Everyone is headed in this direction. You need to get up to speed with your competition” says Danford.

Want to get inspired? Check out National Geographic’s photo-of-the-day.