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Facts Tell, But Stories Sell

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“You have to teach your customers what you want them to say about you to others.”

You’re not just selling the product, you’re selling the story that goes with it, says George Gonzo, director of marketing for the Bison Producers Association of Alberta (BPA).

Gonzo, who ranches west of Cochrane, recently spoke at a number of BPA meetings across the province. He says word of mouth is the cheapest and most effective form of marketing.

“Basically you have to teach your customers what you want them to say about you to others,” he says. The average person in the modern world is bombarded by about 3,500 messages a day. However, most people’s brains generally filter out most of these messages, Gonzo says.

The way to get people to pay attention is to surprise them. You can tell that people are interested when they begin to ask questions, Gonzo says. “In most situations you run into, you’ve got to have a story. You don’t want to just give the facts,” he said. “There’s an old saying in marketing: ‘facts tell but stories sell.’”

He encourages producers to think of the stories they are telling each time they interact with someone. Gonzo said it is not about selling any more, it is about finding out why people buy, and creating experiences that make people want to buy from you personally. Asking smart questions from your customers can also help you find answers and ways to market your products more effectively, he said.

Gonzo says people can market their products by following the SEED formula: Simple, Emotional, Engaging and Different. Stories transmitted to customers must include these messages.


He also believes in creating what he refers to as “customer WOWs,” which help establish lifelong loyalty. “Having satisfied customers doesn’t cut it any more. If all they are is satisfied, someone else can come along and take them away from you, for whatever reason,” he said. “Loyalty comes when you exceed expectations.”

Creating WOW factors can also reduce marketing costs. “For most people, 80 per cent of what people spend on marketing is going into a black sinkhole,” he said. “That’s because you can’t measure your results.” He said people spend a lot of money chasing new customers, which is unnecessary, since effective word of mouth will help people gain new clientele. He encourages producers to look at their current, highly active customers, who likely know others just like themselves who may also support the business.

One of the good strategies is to turn best buyers into the best salespeople by making them tell the story and engage future customers, said Gonzo. His marketing method may be more time-consuming, may require resources and may require attention to detail, but it is ultimately more cost-effective and will help businesses grow, he said.

Gonzo asks producers to consider what they do that makes customers talk. “If you don’t know – that’s okay. It starts with a story of what makes you unique and different.”

About the author


Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."



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