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Stories can transport us to another world or unleash our imaginations. Everyone loves them. And they’re also one of the most powerful ways to market your brand. Especially if you’re a small e-commerce operation with tons of great tales to tell, like Seattle-based RAD AND HUNGRY, a purveyor of small-batch travel and office supplies.
It doesn’t stop there, either. Hen’s travel anecdotes not only show up on her blog and social media channels, they also drive the concepts for her product (namely her popular STMT subscription kits), informing everything from product descriptions to graphic designs to newsletter copy. Each country she visits has its own curated collection along with its own compelling feature, and her customers—she calls them “RAHstrs”—can’t get enough.
Admittedly, Hen’s brand is pretty niche, so storytelling serves as a way to keep her customers engaged. “Our stories help grow our business, because every story we share goes hand in hand with what we do and the products we sell,” she explains. “RAHstrs love our stories because they’re connecting with us—they want to know why we do, how we do, and who are are.”
For Hen, whose business is entirely online, it’s a way to have one-on-one conversations with her customers. “I may not be able to chat them up in person or slap high fives,” she says, “but I still want to deliver warm fuzzies and smiles. I do this through my stories.”
Hen’s been perfecting her RAH storytelling since the brand launched in 2010, so she’s learned quite a few things along the way. Here are a few of her tips to make the most of what you have to say.
“Brand voice is huge in our storytelling,” Hen says. Her brand’s distinct voice and personality are a key part of what makes RAD AND HUNGRY memorable, so she makes sure that everything she shares is written with a consistent voice and brand image. “RAH is a loud, shit-talking, sweats- and stilettos-wearing type of gal with done-up nails and lips. Something is always a little off, but you love her. Our voice is about being real. It’s the casualness of best friends catching up, or the excitement heard when sharing a new experience.”
Hen told me her stories are almost always born from a sentence that usually pops into her head when she’s doing something totally mindless. She calls it her “mascara spark moment”—an idea that comes when you’re doing mundane, everyday activities like a morning shower, jamming to your favorite song, or putting on makeup. “You have to write down everything as soon as it sparks,” she advises. “The rush of feelings you want to share will be more real, less forced. Just write down all the random thoughts and clean it up later!”
“I’m not entirely sure why, but when we launched, I was very much not about sharing anything personal,” Hen recalls. “But after a year or so, I started sharing a few stories from my childhood and how those experiences shaped my love of office supplies. The feedback from RAHstrs was instant—they loved the stories and asked for more.” After that, Hen started opening up more, and it changed the way she traveled. She spent more time hanging with locals, asked more questions, started taking more photos of people.
Once she started sharing more of herself, Hen found that she had much richer content, and that she was able to connect with her customers on a deeper emotional level. “Once, I wrote in a newsletter that I would be taking time off due to a death in my family. I was overwhelmed by all the sweet emails and cards from RAHstrs. They really had my back, and they thanked me for reminding them to spend time with their families.”
For Hen, connecting with customers all over the world is the most fulfilling part of running a business. She still gets excited every time a customer reaches out to her, and she makes sure their outreach doesn’t go unnoticed.
“They’re reaching out because they’re invested, they care,” she says. “If someone likes all your tweets, tweet back and send a virtual high five. If someone is always Instagramming their love of your goods, surprise them with something in their next order. If they email about a concern, don’t cut and paste a reply.”