Storytelling. How to tell your great tourism business story.
Welcome to Tourism Upgrade the podcast unpacking marketing trends from travel, tourism and marketing leaders. I’m your host Holly G and today we welcome author and presenter Andrew Griffiths and we will be chatting about storytelling.
Welcome to Tourism Upgrade the Podcast Andrew.
HollyG: Although you are an author and a presenter, you are at your core a business marketing guy. You wrote 101 Ways to Market Your Business and The Big Book of Small Business amongst many others. I guess I’d love to start by asking – what are some of the common marketing challenges that you are seeing with small business at the moment?
Andrew: It’s a great question and it’s one that I get a lot, it’s the one that I talk about a lot at conferences and things like that. I think there are chronic challenges particular in a small business space. I think probably one of the biggest ones is a little bit of, in some respects, overwhelm where a lot of small business owners are really struggling with are. 15 years ago, and I don’t want to do that when I was a boy thing, but it was like your marketing was you put that out in the paper, you put something on the radio, you do a billboard, and you do a letter box, really maybe 10 options. Nowadays, of course, we have many more options, we have many more channels, many more platforms, many more of everything. A lot of the business owners are really in the overwhelm stage of how to market, confused, I know I got to do digital, I know I got to do social, but what about old school and it’s like too much to manage.
I’ve just done a series of workshops called old school marketing, 101 old school marketing tips where we spoke about letter box drops, and we spoke about handwriting notes and the audience are going oh my God this is such a relief talking about this, all small business owners of course, and they’re all going it’s such a relief, we’ve forgotten all about these stuff. And it used to work and we just ran out of time because of everything else we’re doing. That is a common challenge, and another part of that, a really big challenge which is really in topic of what we’re going to talk about is that businesses are not very good at differentiating themselves and I think that’s been a problem forever. But it’s more important now when we’re really good in business and telling everyone how we’re exactly the same as our competitors, not how we’re different. And that’s a marketing 101 fundamental right, as marketers I’m going to tell you all the time – hey you got to differentiate, but a lot of businesses don’t really do that. I did a project recently, I’ve been checking out 50 financial planners’ websites and they all basically started off by saying we’re different but the rest of the site is filled with the same as everyone else. It’s the same 7 or 8 words at every site, the same golden handshake, the same golden couple walking down the beach satisfied with retirement and im just going Oh my goodness me. And then I check out 58 canning websites and 50 oil website, they’re all the same. Everyone uses the same corny stock images and they all say we’re different and then they go and they’re exactly the same. So I see that as exactly the second biggest problems, they’re not really good at exactly how they are different.
Holly G: And I think that that would totally be the same with tourism as well because I used to go to a lot of trade shows and events like that in the tourism industry and they say if you show me a lot of photo of a girl in a massage table with hot rocks on her back, I’ll kill you because everybody’s showing that kind of thing. If you show me a white sandy beach, there’s so many of them, I want to hear a little but more.
Andrew: Exactly, and that is the thing again, I live in Cairns, Queensland and it’s one of the tourism capitals of the world in reality and I look at that and I’ve been waxing on for ages, we are not the only part of the world with some reef and rainforest. There are beautiful places that are cheaper, closer, for all the international market, in Cairns we’ve got to tell a better story.
HollyG: That’s it, we’re here to talk about story telling. That’s really what im hoping to pick your brain about today. So, is story telling just another buzz word?
Andrew: It’s an interesting thing isn’t it Holly? It’s a bit like mindfulness, every time you turn around now there’s a book about mindfulness – there’s mindfulness for dogs, mindfulness for lawyers, mindfulness for everyone. Story telling has reason for the forefront again, but I think the difference between storytelling, and the fact that it’s not just the buzzword is that we’re actually rediscovering storytelling. It’s obviously something that’s been going around 50,00 years, it’s in peoples first out around the cave with a fire and decide what are we going to do now that we’ve got this extra time over night. And stories we’re told and we are physically programmed to be responsive to stories, it’s just that somewhere along the line, we got more caught in talking about the products, more caught up in describing what something is rather than perhaps telling stories of about telling stories about our business. I personally don’t think that it’s just a buzzword, I think it’s the new reinvention of the old way of communicating, but I think it resonates so much with us because we’re so overwhelmed, we are so bombarded with information, we are so struggling in many ways to try and cope with the amount of data we have coming our way. Storytelling is a relief and it’s easy for us to learn and I see that as a presenter. The minute I say to an audience – I want to tell you a story, the entire room relaxes, everyone just puts down their phone and listens. If I meet someone who I did a presentation to 20 years ago, they’ve got no idea what we talked about but they remember the stories I told.
Holly G: It actually gave me goosebumps when you just said that, ‘I want to tell you a story’, because your defenses just dropped, don’t they?
Andrew: Our brain just goes – ohh. And that’s why from a marketing point of view, it’s not just a nicety that we start telling stories, it’s an essential that we start telling stories because I can assume, is that the people buying our stuff are overwhelmed as we all our from a communication point of view!
HollyG: I hear a lot of people telling me that storytelling is important and that it is key to marketing, that’s what we’re talking about. I’m not really clear on how im supposed to do this. Can you talk us through some of the core elements of, I guess, how we tell a story as a business?
Andrew: It’s a great point and a great question, I teach people storytelling. And it’s funny, I’ve done workshops to groups of CEOs and organizations and I mentioned the CEO of Dominoes Pizza’s coming to a workshop to talk about storytelling, or a mining company, why are you here? We’ve got to learn to sell our organizations, we got to tell the story of our business. Of our company, of what we do. So for me the concept of how we tell stories, probably needs to go back a step, what are the stories that we need to tell. And for me I think if we put a bit of a tourism kind of bent on it, I think we need to tell stories about our destinations. I’ll use Cairns as an example, people get there’s a Great Barrier Reef, but there’s such a bigger story beneath that. There’s such a bigger history, there’s a bigger lifestyle, there’s so many bigger elements over it, the real stories, that’s where the whole destination thing comes out. We got to tell stories about our business, like why did it form, what are the reason behind it, and what does it stand for, what is the reason for this business? What are your beliefs? What are your values? People want to understand that side of this just like we’re all fascinated.
With Steve Jobs on apple, that same fascination with Steve Jobs applies to me running a 4-wheel drive safari to the rainforest, they want to know the person behind it. We consumers want to know that, and its part of this global change in consciousness, change in communication. Remember, 10-15 years ago you would go into a restaurant and buy maybe a T-bone steak and vegetables. Now the T-bone steak is done on a Wagyu Cow called George who had a beautiful life in the beautiful land of hinterlands. He was gently euthanized by bill who was caring butcher for 47 years. And the carrots have got names and about how they were hand tilled. We have a story about a piece of steak and vegetables. The principle applies that people want to know that kind of stuff. So we’re going to tell stories about our destinations, we’re going to tell stories about our business, we’re going to tell stories about our people, then that’s the people that work in our businesses. Who are they?
Im working with a company in Melbourne at the moment and we’re literally telling the story of every one of the thirty people that work in the business. What is it about them? Why are they there? What is it about them that makes them different? What gets them out of bed in the morning? We tell stories about our customers.
Tourism is a great opportunity to tell a story.
Your’e talking to Antonio who spent 20 years saving to come to the great barrier reef for example. What does he do in Italy? What’s the thing that he wants? What’s his passion back at home? Even local identities were at it.
You’ve got to say that first and foremost we need to know the stories that we want to cover.
Then where do we want to cover them? In our promotion material, on our website, on our social media, everywhere. A little bit like Humans of New York, if anyone hasn’t checked that go to Facebook, you have to be living under a rock if you haven’t come across Humans of New York. But what are they looking for is actually not in Ernest Hemmingway style writing, we want real. We want kind of short and sharp, we want personal stories, we want connection, and we want immersion not just observation. To kind of approach all of that crystal Clearwater, is filled with fish, tropical sandy case, we’ve already tuned out after crystal clear water. Everywhere in the world has crystal clear water. Everywhere in the world has tropical rainforest if youre in that equatorial kind of belt. That’s nice, but what’s more? So it’s interesting that the story is changing you look at something like the Maldives. And the moment the Maldives is positioning itself as a honeymoon destination. So the stories that they’re telling you, all that couples, that they’re going around the world for the Maldives for the holidays, everything is about the romance. Everything is about how it’s a beautiful setting that creates the perfect romantic situation. They understand that the story is one of romance, you come to the most romantic place in the world which is the Maldives. And on top of that, the story that they tell which is a bit of a negative story though is one talking a bit about see it was still here with the changing sea levels, and climate change. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that but it’s still part of the story, it’s a whole lot of conversation Holly G, but we’ll move on from that.
Andrew: So we want to know who we tell our stories about, what are the elements, we want to be real, personal, we want connection etc. and they need to be written in a simple kind of style or a video in a really simple kind of style. We got to incorporate real people in it. I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest Qantas in flight safety video, it is really very clever, and it’s about people, it’s all about place.
Holly G: Yes I have seen that.
Andrew: The big tacky, with the big grin and a tooth missing, and his belly hanging out of his shorts. And the old people by the pool and bodice kind of like cling lifejackets out of their — (12:46). It’s just real people doing real stuff.
HollyG: And the interesting thing actually about that particular video was then a lot of the talk around that video delve deeper into those people. So they told multiple stories about the people that are actually featured in that video.
Andrew: That’s exactly the point, because we’ve created emotional connection. Who’s this trucky, I want to know more about him, and he’s in this giant semi-trailer in the middle of nowhere, who is he? What is he? This is the point of storytelling. I’ll use another example, I was working with an organic dairy farm that has the tourism café element attached to it. And the most extraordinary business run by the most extraordinary people but I don’t initially met them and I was doing their marketing for them. I met the owner and o say to them – now tell me what you do and they say we make milk. And that was the conversation, I went really, I think we need a better story than that. And of course, he is a farmer, he is a civil kind of a guys and he goes well we do all these kind of stuff and he started to tell me the stories about what he did. They’ve invented a cow vacuum cleaner. So you can put chemicals on cows to get flies off, so they made this shed as the vacuum cleaner, you walk the cow in, they close the doors and it sucks all the flies off the cow. And then they collect the flies, kills them with carbon dioxide and use the dead flies as fertilizer. And he’s got about a hundred of these stories of things that he’s invented and he’s so passionate about organic and biodynamic, we started to tell those stories. And everything changed, from government funding, to tourism numbers, his product is always sold out wherever it’s for sale and the business is growing, what’s changed? He has a fantastic product, no doubt, but what’s changed is we told better stories.
HollyG: And it’s almost like as a business owner, what may be same-same to you is actually really interesting story to someone else.
Andrew: And that is a really awesome point as well, is we take stuff for granted. And in the tourism side of things that’s a really interesting point, because for a lot of people that night in a hotel is an extraordinary thing for them. That trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, for example, could be a result of 60 years of working. We underestimate what something means to someone but we underestimate our day to day stuff. Like what you say there I do this every day, no one’s interested in a life of a 4-wheel driver running at a cockle-doo. He gets up at 4am and then checks the tires and kisses the wife goodbye and whatever it might be. That’s actually the story we want to hear, I want to get on the 4-wheel drive knowing Bill before I get on it. I want to know that he’s married, they got 3 kids and a dog called Rover and he does this because he gets a buzz every morning he doesn’t know what he’s going to see when he goes over that hill. And we’re seeing story telling coming to every corporations doing it, they’re doing it badly, generally but they’re getting at doing it because you got to be authentic when you tell stories. You can’t make it too salesy, you can’t make it too commercial because our BS detectors are really tuned in that kind of stuff. The Qantas flight one is a really good example about how they’ve done something really clever, they promoted destinations, they promoted people, and that’s made them look good. I mean the sales element side of it, the fact that they use real people, is very important. If it was just all models, we’d all kind of yawn, yeah whatever.
HollyG: What if people are a little bit scared to put their personality or their personal side or themselves out there?
Andrew: Unfortunately they have to, I do think that is a part of it that’s what we want to see. But I think we also have to do that at a level that suits us, a level that’s convenient. I saw a café in the sunshine coast Hinterland 18 months ago. And again, this café is in the touristy part of town and all the staff had t-shirts that are customized for them. And at the back of the t-shirt are what their names were, where they were from, their biggest fear, the one food that they don’t eat, name of their first pet, and the worst job they ever had. And it was actually very cool because that is the story of them. And it was interesting because everyone was stopping wanting to read all the staff t-shirts and it created this wonderful sense of engagement straight away. That you’ve kind of got an insight into these people. And I think we’re also living in a world now, I think we got a better grasp about professionalism versus having fun. I think there was a time that we have to be prim and proper and it has to be all very formal in doing business, I think that time is gone, I think the time now is we want to have a bit of fun when we do business. We to be entertained, we want to be engaged, we want better experiences, and that means kind of the right personality shining through. I don’t want to get on a flight somewhere and have the pilot come down and have a beer with me, but I do like it when the staff have a bit of fun and we’re seeing that kind of floating into more and more business environment and I think we’re craving that so much to be honest.
HollyG: I think we like people to show some of their personality because it sort of humanizes someone as well and it makes it a lot more relatable and just that sort of level of openness their showing us seems to allow us to connect a little bit more.
Andrew: It does, and it’s all about connection then and we want engagements, not interactions. And remembering too from a marketing perspective, as we all know now, I am not saying that your listeners don’t already know but the sales starts a long time the money has changed and money changes hands. If im going to America and im researching stuff online in the agency of google, that’s where all the stuff starts. We’re really forming some of our big purchasing positions long before we get a credit card out, and if we’re not engaging correctly in that early stage when we’re telling a story, we’re not being personal, we’re not letting people in to see. We’re not having fun, I think people won’t go elsewhere, they’ll keep looking until they’ll find that particular site that does engage with them, or that social media platform that for whatever reason that organization engages. In Australia, in Mofo, the wine club with generation Y is it but never sell wine, they’ll never buy wine on subscription, there’s 300,000 members or something ridiculous. Vino Mofo isn’t it? They just tell a great story.
HollyG: Absolutely. And what is interesting about them and other things is when you look at different platforms, say their website or their social media, although the story might be slightly different there’s just those commonalities between all of them. So you feel like it is true because there’s a connection between all those sorts of activities that they are doing, or reinforcing their story I guess.
Andrew: And there’s the consistency and I think just generally there’s this cheekiness that’s coming out of their marketing which we’re resonating with and the messaging side of things, and we kind of like to read about people doing cool stuff. I read this morning, I spent a lot of time researching, I read and watched about something about a pizzeria in America where all the staff are deaf and they all communicate through sign language and it’s liberating. That’s their market and of course, who goes in there to buy pizzas, everyone goes in there but it’s just a very cool kind of place. And I read about a gym in London now which is actually bus and it’s fitted with spin bikes, so when you commute to work you do a spin class on the bus. These are things that we’re talking about on the other side of the country that when you look at how extraordinary what people are doing and what we’re talking about and it comes back to these unusual ideas, interesting stories. The guys in the pizzeria, everyone is deaf, they don’t think there’s any extraordinary in what they’re doing, there just doing what they’re doing all the time because when you look at this how amazing is this business. That’s another key message that I want to give everyone here, is to really look outside of your own industry. I do a lot of work in the cross industry innovation space which is really just a big term for the don’t look for the best marketing ideas amongst your own kind of peers or your own industry, look outside of your own industry and that’s where you’ll find the greatest of ideas then look at ow you can adopt them back into your own business, adapt them and adopt them. And there’s so many examples of seeing that around the world these days and asking kind of bigger questions which is again another topic in another conversation holly G but I do look at it like and go – wow it’s fascinating, it’s like if you have a waiting room for people before they go on your boat or something like that and it’s pretty sterile and bland, ask yourself – how would Disney make my writing room interesting? And I think that’s the kind of stuff that we want to be hearing. There the kind of discussions that we want to be having. A really exciting example of this, I think it’s in London, where a particular event are having a really major issue of people turning up on workshops and things like that. So they kind of thought where places where lots of people kind of make schedules are and they went throughout the rail system and they said – well the train don’t leave t like 8-11:00, they leave at 9:03 and leave that station at 10:47. So they start to make the start time for their workshops like 10:03 and lunch is at 11:49 and drafted all these weird times but you know what, the punctuality rate increased by 75% simply by changing those numbers to meet these kind of terms. How cool is that? How wild is that? Something as simple as that can happen.
HollyG: I love the idea of looking outside your industry, identifying what the issue is that youre having and looking outside of your own industry and then sort of adapting that and bringing that back.
Andrew: Absolutely, and we do get blinkers on and we kind of look at our own stuff or if I’m a boat operator I look at other boat operators as well. If I’m a coach operator I look at other coach operators and I think we need to definitely broaden our horizons and expend where we’re getting our best ideas from and it’s probably not from within your own industry. That’s the reality of it. I am not saying there’s anything wrong with that, I just think that again that’s typical and we all end up doing it the same as everyone else. So accountants just get their marketing from other accountants, surely we’re going to look the same and that exactly what happens.
HollyG: It’s fantastic to talk to you Andrew, can we just recap on those key story telling points and if you’ve got any final tips or comments.
- Key point there is you got to believe in the power of storytelling. If you don’t believe in the power of storytelling and just how important it is, then you won’t do it.
- Next thing is we’re going to be looking for ways to say how we’re different and to show people how we’re different and not how we’re the same. With the stories we’re going to tell around our destinations, our business, our people, our customers, identities, like all that kind of stuff.
- The next one is you got to be real, it’s got to be personal stories, we want connection, and we want some immersion, we don’t want observation, we want to have engagement not transactions. As you’re telling the stories, just start simple, just start on a blog, write the story of your business first and foremost if you own the business, from your perspective. Why did you start this business? Go online and check out Jack Daniele’s stories, no this is not sponsored by Jack Daniele’s, this is just me saying the liquor industry they have the best stories, they have videos about Jack Daniele’s. You’d want to buy because of the history of it, I don’t drink Jack Daniele’s but I feel I’m drinking Jack Daniele’s because the story is so good.
- Do a bit of research about how other people are telling stories, how can I apply that into my business.
- And really just tell them, be brave enough to tell those stories and you will start to see people resonating. Maybe you interview a few people every day coming off your boat, coming off your plane, coming off your coach using your business. Just start to ask better questions and then of course that leads to the cross industry innovation, look outside of your industry for some of the coolest ideas.
- Go to some of the organization industries that are really great at telling their stories and then go how can we apply this into how we’re doing now in our business.
HollyG: You’ve just given me a good idea actually, thanks. Now before we go into his bonus question, of which I hope you’ll participate in, where can people find out a little bit more about you or connect with you?
Andrew: Sure, www.andrewgriffith.com.au is the easiest, all parts lead to that.
HollyG: And look I’ve seen Andrew present at conferences and its really impressive, an amazing presenter.
If you only have $1,000 marketing budget, what would you spend it on?
I would get a blog and I would start blogging. Without a doubt that’s what I would do, I would start writing stories on my blog.
Now what if you only have $100?
It would be a cheaper blog. Lower my expectations, I would still do the same thing.
I was going to say build it yourself as opposed to getting someone.
It would not go anywhere near as attractive.
Thank you so much for your time, it’s been great to chat with you.
Thank you as well Holly G.