Behind the Scenes: Show, Don't Tell

This article was originally posted via Inc. 

 

"Show, don't tell." It's one of the tenets of good writing -- avoid "I" statements; encourage the reader to draw inferences; tell a story. "Show, don't tell" is a popular refrain among our writing coaches at the educational company I co-founded. It's also an important piece of my business philosophy - and one that transcends high school English class. After all, branding, like writing, is an art. It therefore requires the same level of creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and trust in the audience as any other artistic venture.

Here's how to show, rather than tell when branding your business:

 

Paint a picture of the road ahead.

On paper, there's nothing that makes me doubt the author more than a bold "I" statement or a boastful claim. In the educational space, many companies lead with their students' "average score improvements" - though we all know that numbers, especially without proper context, offer a limited lens and can easily be manipulated.

Maybe it's just me, but in writing, examples are far more convincing than proclamations or numbers. In an initial consult, offer case studies, or better yet, present multiple anecdotes of past successes to enliven your presentation. Rather than spewing off facts and figures, paint a dynamic picture of the path ahead so that clients can envision themselves taking that next step.

 

Allow your references to illustrate for you.

It's one thing to tell a prospective client how awesome your business is, and another to show it. So, how do you make that happen? Enlist your current clients to do it for you.

Share references during initial meetings: they'll paint a picture of the services you offer, provide the examples, and offer the extra flourish that will make your brand come alive. Their candidness and ability to capture success through their own experiences (they're the embodiment of your brand, after all) will show future clients the way.

 

Don't underestimate the power of a face.

Recently, our marketing team emailed a video to our current and prospective clients highlighting a new offering. We A/B tested two different stills for the video image: one, a photograph of our office, and another, a candid of an instructor eating a birthday cupcake.

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After 24 hours, almost double the number of subscribers had clicked on the cupcake picture. The human touch -- projected perfectly through that image -- is a hallmark of our brand and one that evidently inspired viewers to learn more. So, when marketing, opt for images that illustrate your brand and tell its story. The viewer will infer the rest.

When you're trying to capture your audience's attention, it can be hard to resist the temptation to shout your message from the rooftops. Showing requires you to trust your audience and remember that they're savvy enough to understand subtlety and read between the lines.

When it comes to results, the difference will definitely show.

 

-Lindsay, Co-Founder & COO