Show Don't Tell

“Show don’t tell” isn’t just a principle for writers. It’s for marketers, too.

In creative writing, “show don’t tell” challenges you to make readers experience what characters think and feel, instead of saying it. In marketing (especially content marketing), “show don’t tell” means helping your audience see the value of what you do and the benefits of your product or service through your marketing, rather than simply making a hard sell.

There are many types of content that help your audience visualize why what you do matters, and you can use the “show don’t tell” principle to create powerful messaging.

Here are five ways show-don’t-tell works in marketing.

1. Testimonials

When you let your audience see and hear what past customers have experienced, proves that the claims you make about your products and services are true. When you make it easy for people to see what others have had to say after trying your product or service, you help them imagine what their own experience might be like.

For this reason, it’s valuable to have testimonials and reviews from a range of demographics that represent your target audience. You want people to see someone else whose experience they can relate to, so it’s easier to put themselves in that person’s shoes.

Instead of saying “customers love us because . . .” show people what your real customers are actually saying.

2. Webinars

Webinars provide a unique format for interacting with your audience. In the event itself, people often have the opportunity to ask questions in real-time and see how your experts respond. And the recording of the event continues to serve as a valuable display of your expertise.

Whether your webinars dig into the common problems your product solves or explore the goals you help people reach, they help your audience see the connection between what you do and what they’re trying to do.

3. Infographics

Infographics help to visually explain a concept or tell a story using statistics, facts, or other insights. The best ones make complex processes seem simple or use interesting information to paint a picture.

Maybe you want your audience to see how serious a problem is, or what it takes to achieve a goal. Infographics can show off your unique data, compile someone else’s data in a new way, or simply provide a visual representation of something you want to communicate.

However you use them, infographics position your brand as a helpful expert on a topic, and they show your audience things they should understand.

4. Case studies

Case studies are similar to testimonials, but they back up any claims with evidence, and they show real results, not just customer satisfaction. Ideally, you want these to provide detailed accounts of a client or customer’s experience with you, showing your audience where a customer started, where they wound up, and how you helped them get there.

Be sure to prove the impact of your product or service, not merely the results. Many case studies share statistics that “prove” results, but they aren’t very compelling. And statistics doesn’t show potential customers what you actually do. Stories backed up by statistics are far more effective in winning people over.

5. Demos

Product demonstrations are one of the best ways for people to see your product in action. Your audience can get a guided tour of your software or watch someone try your product in a real-world application. If you’re selling something like software, customers can play around with the features that are most important to them and see if the product is really capable of what they need it to do.

What makes demos so valuable is that when you make claims about what your product is capable of, your audience doesn’t just have to take your word for it — they can see and experience it for themselves.

Even if your product isn’t software, you can still use demonstrations to show your audience specific aspects of your product. Maybe you want to prove durability or power, or highlight quality. Demos help you to do just that.

Posting live videos on social media can be a great way to demonstrate your physical products in action, because they feel more authentic. They offer people an opportunity to tell you what they want to see, so you can modify your demonstration to fit your audience’s needs.

Are You Showing or Telling?

People always say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” So how are you helping your audience see your expertise? How are you showing them the value of what you do? Are you demonstrating the benefits of your product or service? Because if people don’t believe your claims, they’re not going to buy what you’re selling.