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Marketers must ask themselves, “What’s your story?”

If I asked you what’s the most important part of your marketing, what would you answer? Would you choose search? Social? Email? Remarketing? Display? What if I told you the answer is none of the above? Search, social, email and the rest are excellent marketing tools. They help you keep in touch with your customer and help your customer remember you when they’re ready to buy. But, they’re nothing more than tools. So what’s the “must have” in marketing?

What you really need to focus on first in your marketing is your story. And everything that follows–search, social, and so on–needs to revolve around either a.) telling that story, or b.) making it easy for your customers to tell it for you.

Crafting a story isn’t easy. But it’s critical to the success of your marketing and e-commerce efforts. A big part of the story is your unique value proposition (also often called a unique selling proposition). In either case, it’s what makes you different/better than everyone else out there.

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The world’s greatest brands understand this. Look at Nike. What’s their story? Performance in sports. Period. Look at Apple. Their story? “We make insanely great products.” Google? “Organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Even Walmart has a story: “Everyday low prices on the things you need.”

And this isn’t just for large, multi-national brands. Great local brands and startups get it, too. McSorley’s Old Ale House in New York City has been around since before you were born. And that’s their story: a traditional New York pub that remembers the way New York used to be. Trunk Club, which targets fashion-conscious men without the time or desire to shop, tells a great story: we take all the effort out of buying new clothes. Portland’s Powell’s Books, a succesful independent bookstore, wins in an era when Border’s failed because of its focus on its story: We’re not just booksellers, we’re book lovers.

So, what does any of this have to do with online marketing?

Everything.

Ask any search marketer and they’ll tell you: brand terms convert best. But why? Because the customer has figured out that the brand satisfies their desires. Email marketers will tell you how effective email is at bringing in business. Of course, only people who care about that brand–or, more accurately, its value proposition–subscribe to their emails. E-commerce experts will tell you again and again, customers usually don’t need a reason to buy; they need a reason to buy from you.

Customers want to understand your story, what makes you different, why they should care about your offer. Otherwise, you’re just another small voice trying to be heard among the roar of modern marketing.

Of course, don’t just make up any old story you feel like telling. Customers can spot authenticity–or the lack of it–miles away. Instead, focus on what got you into business. Why do you do what you do? You’re clearly trying to fill a need or solve a problem for your customers. Think about why that matters to you and to your customer. Build on that.

Then when you go to build a great social profile for your business or start a new search campaign or send another email, you’re not just adding to the noise. You’re reinforcing your story and providing clarity for your customers about why you matter.

And, ultimately, getting your customers to understand why you matter to them is the most important part of marketing, isn’t it?

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Tim Peter


Tim Peter built his first website in 1995 and loves that he still gets to do that every day. Tim has spent almost two decades figuring out where customers are, how they interact with brands online, and delivering those customers to his clients’ front door. These efforts have generated billions of dollars in revenue and reduced costs.

Tim works with client organizations to build effective teams focused on converting browsers to buyers and building their brand and business. He helps those companies discover how marketing, technology, and analytics tie together to drive business results. He doesn't get excited because of the toys or tech. He gets excited because of what it all means for the bottom line.

An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. He is a member of the Search Engine Marketers Professional Organization (SEMPO), HSMAI, and the Digital Analytics Association.

Tim currently serves as Senior Advisor at SoloSegment, a marketing technology company that uses machine learning and natural language processing to improve engagement and conversion for large enterprise, B2B companies.

Tim Peter’s recent client work covers a wide range of digital marketing activities including developing digital and mobile marketing strategies, creating digital product roadmaps, assessing organizational capabilities, and conducting vendor evaluations for diverse clients including major hospitality companies, real estate brands, SaaS providers, and marketing agencies.

Prior to launching Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor, the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm, and a major financial services firm, developing various award-winning products and services for his customers. Tim can be reached at tim@timpeter.com or by phone at 201-305-0055.

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