Catersource is part of the Informa Connect Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vertical Storytelling: Where to Start and What Mediums to Focus On

With the impact COVID-19 has had on the special events industry, we’ve experienced a noticeable downturn in new business from referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. For many event professionals, the current landscape has pushed us to reconsider our marketing approaches. We have been getting knee-deep in landing pages, lead magnets, and sales letters to boost conversions and find clients in an increasingly virtual marketplace.  But are these efforts as effective as they could be?

It’s vital to consider the “why” behind your marketing messages. Otherwise, you risk blending into the fold and becoming commoditized by the clients you want to work with most. The pandemic is forcing people to stay home and connect with the outside world virtually, which means they are dealing with a barrage of digital messages flooding their brains daily. Every brand has shifted to online marketing, so what can you do to stand out from the crowd? You need to tell your “why” to convey the unique story of you and your brand, instill authenticity in your marketing approach, and effectively set yourself apart from competitors. 

Traditional marketing involves a linear process while vertical storytelling infuses every step of your funnel with relatable context to draw in leads at each stage. Instead of using a breadcrumb approach to marketing, it engages prospective clients through imagery and messaging that relates directly to your solution to their problems, encouraging them to deepen the relationship and move closer to a sale.

Here are three strategies that will help you use vertical storytelling to supercharge your marketing approach and stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

Reveal Some Secrets

Anyone can show up on social media and create a perfectly curated feed of picture-perfect photos. However, authenticity requires courage and bravery. While it can feel scary, it shows your prospects that you are genuine and open. Continue sharing those beautiful event photos but include some of the backstory to the caption to make it real and relatable. Share the journey you and your clients took towards success, including obstacles faced and the solutions provided. Your followers will start to see themselves in these stories, which will build the Know, Like, Trust factor, even at the top of your marketing funnel.

Create a Memorable Brand Experience

The big-picture goal of marketing is simple: To remain top-of-mind when a person is making a buying decision. If your brand is memorable, it will influence people when they’re browsing options in the market. Take a step back to your school years and think about what helped you to remember important facts. Perhaps it was “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” while studying order of operations in math class, or maybe it was “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” when learning about the planets in the solar system. 

These mnemonic devices teach us a valuable marketing lesson: associating words can connect previously unrelated things. Those phrases don’t mean anything until you attach a meaning to the words. In marketing, it doesn’t have to be limited to words. You can use visuals to draw significant meaning in your content. For example, if you’re targeting the sustainable event market, you could include a small watermark or even a physical trinket of the recycling symbol or a leaf to signify eco-consciousness. Over time, followers will associate that symbol with your brand and will remember your brand when thinking about planning their next ‘green’ event.

Provide Educational Context

Many clients have preconceived notions of what traditions to include in their wedding or event, but do they really understand the meaning behind them? Invite them to explore the context of well-known traditions and tasks, so they can make an educated decision about how they want their big day to look. For example, a couple may not know that veils were worn to keep the bride’s face hidden from her soon-to-be husband until they were finished with their vows. It might influence their decision or it might not—the point is that they can now make their choice with context and will see you as a trusted expert on all things related to events.

The traditional marketing funnel is about drawing in leads with increasingly aggressive tactics. The idea of vertical storytelling turns this concept on its head by giving your brand narrative texture and depth from a prospect’s very first touchpoint—whether that’s finding your social media profile or landing on your website. It makes use of the entire marketing process to build trust with leads and bind your brand to their purchasing decisions so you’ll be top-of-mind when they’re ready to seal the deal. 


Aleya Harris

Owner, Flourish Marketing

Aleya Harris, an award-winning marketer and former chef and catering company owner, is the Owner of Flourish Marketing, an agency that provides marketing education, strategy, and tools to help wedding, catering, and event professionals get and keep a consistent stream of clients.   Aleya is a StoryBrand Certified Guide and she uses that narrative-based framework to develop clear, engaging, and highly converting marketing assets, like websites and social media solutions, for her clients.  Aleya is the current Marketing Committee Chair for NACE and a top speaker at conferences...