What is the business of a storyteller? Is it storytelling or something more precise or more broad? We shall answer this after considering what happened to some industrial sectors in Nigeria in the past two decades. We ended the discourse last time by considering the plight of the music recording industry which did not properly define its business. And in Part 3 of these series, we shall attempt to know if storytellers have properly defined their business so as not to be myopic and suffer the fate of other industries we are examining in these series.

The music recording companies did not dialogue with music lovers to monitor changing market demands. They carried on their business as though they were in the “music recording business” (product orientation) instead of being in the “entertainment business” (consumer orientation). Their product orientation made them not to know that consumers wanted entertainment in changing product offerings made possible by new technology that guaranteed continuous satisfaction.

Within ten years, the market dynamics changed so fast. By late 70s, consumer demand changed from waxed records to cassette tapes. Today, what is in vogue? CDs, DVDs, Internet music, home videos and stand up comedy. These are all entertainment products of various brands. Cassettes have even disappeared from the marketplace as entertainment technology made a quantum leap from analogue to digital technology leaving recording companies gasping for breath.

Where are the music recording companies of yesteryears? Gone with the (change) wind. Today, many musicians are either setting up their own record labels with digital studios or turning into home video artistes, or combining both. If music recording companies were consumer oriented and had concentrated on “what should be sold,” they would be doing roaring business today. They would have remained in the forefront of today’s entertainment industry in Nigeria.

Another example of marketing myopia is the textile industry. For years, the business of local textile makers boomed. They neglected the consumer who increasingly found favour with imported second hand fabrics, “okrika.” Besides, textile companies saw themselves as being in the fabrics business instead of being in the fashion and body care business. Today, the Nigerian textile industry is moribund, on its knees begging for government support.

What about NITEL in the telecom business. For many years, NITEL enjoyed monopoly of the Nigerian telecom market. Their product orientation made them complacent. Demand for telephone lines far outstripped what the government establishment could supply. Business was good. So they thought. Marketing myopia set in. NITEL managers did not reckon with continental mobile telecom operators such as MTN, GLO and CELTEL coming on board to compete in the Nigerian market. Where is NITEL today? It has crashed and sold to a private sector operator via the privatization exercise. For years, NITEL nibbled at the domestic telecom market thinking it was doing big business. How mistaken NITEL managers were.

That is the limitation of being concerned with “what we can sell.” MTN came in from South Africa just six years ago and is making billions of naira in annual profit in Nigeria. Business is so good for MTN and other GSM operators that MTN has overtaken its rival Vodacom in South Africa as the biggest mobile telecom company in Africa. Years ago, Nigerians were queuing up in NITEL offices begging for phone lines. Today, no consumer wants to touch NITEL phone line with a 10-foot pole. You can see how marketing myopia can destroy a company.

Even in banks, the story is the same. The big three: First Bank, Union Bank, and UBA dominated the Nigerian market for many years with archaic and product-oriented banking practices. Then new generation banks such as Zenith, GTB, Oceanic and others took the market by storm with innovative marketing strategies. Their marketing aggression made it easy for them to sail through the consolidation exercise of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Many others could not make it as the number of banks shrunk from 89 to 25. What about the Big Three? They are no longer market leaders but merely playing catch up. They survived the consolidation but the new generation banks have overtaken them in consumer satisfaction and market penetration.

The Big Three survived the consolidation because of their large deposit bases, largely made up of government funds (which they did not work to pool) and large branch network. UBA for instance survived because it merged with Standard Trust Bank (STB). Contrary to what many Nigerians think, it was STB that acquired UBA and not the other way round. They retained the UBA name simply because it commands bigger brand equity in the marketplace.

I have discussed these examples to buttress my submission that marketing managers should be consumer oriented, that is adopt the strategy of, “what should be sold,” rather than , “what we can sell.”  Same way, storytellers should be audience oriented and adopt the strategy of “what stories should be told,” and not “what stories we can tell.” Remember, storytelling is a key plank of marketing communications. It is featuring prominently in communications for consumer and industrial products.

The message is clear. If you want to make maximum impact with your storytelling, tell the audience what they should hear and not simply what you want them to hear.

Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com

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