What to do when your story doesn’t fit the marketing mold
When I first wanted to transition from the world of academia and sales (both areas where I had been successful previously) to working online with other entrepreneurs, media-preneurs, coaches and authors, I was told by a coach that I had to have a story about how I had previously failed at speaking, and but have now discovered the formula for success – A hero’s journey story.
Many people that we hear of today in the online business world use some version of this story. I hear a lot of rags to riches or hero’s stories. And sometimes, it feels like those are the only options.
I didn’t have either. At least, not for public speaking. That’s just not how it is.
And maybe, you’re struggling with your story too.
I saw this post on Facebook a few days ago…
And it got me thinking…
Are people trying to be manipulative? Or do they just not know how to put together a marketing story? One that is both persuasive and true? Are they just feeling pressure from what they’re seeing and what they’re being told?
I tend to think most people try to do the right thing whenever they can. So, I landed on… they just don’ know any better.
If they’re like me when I first started exploring the online world, they probably are feeling pressure to make their story fit into one of these molds, even if it doesn’t feel right.
But there are other ways to tell a story! One that is persuasive and honest.
If you’re trying to create your marketing story, I’ve put together a few tips for you.
To get started – let’s start by looking at what a story actually is and why it’s so effective – this will help you identify areas of your business and life that can be storied.
First – a story is a dramatic event that focuses on one person or group – and it often ends with a lesson.
A story is so persuasive, and so effective in sales, because it focuses on “The One” – one person, one main character, one family…. one. It isn’t about numbers. It’s about emotion and conflict, struggle, happiness, joy and triumph.
Second – a story is effective because the person who’e hearing it can imagine themselves as a character within it.
Let’s go back to the rags to riches story. We see this story archetype a lot with online business coaches – why is it so effective? Because the coaches perfect client can identify. It’s very hopeful. The perfect client sees themselves as the “before” – and sees that they can have a happy ending.
It’s called “Identification.” It’s a method of persuasion that works because it builds trust. It makes the story teller appear to be JUST LIKE the audience – a part of the group. Not an outsider who’s preaching from a far. But just one of the girls who’s sharing what she knows. It adds a level of sincerity. Of care. It makes the audience feel like the story teller is sharing because she cares about this group so much – because she was once one of them. It breaks down the barrier between seller and customer.
But if we know why this story type works… maybe we can figure out how to create our own story that is just as persuasive – that works just as well.
To put together your own marketing story, here are the elements you need:
1. The story should be about one character and one central idea and be as descriptive and specific as possible.
In other words, we don’t want to tell a story about how 15% of working moms have found a way to add an additional source of income. We want to tell a story about Suzie, the busy working mom with 3 kids under 7 who discovered a way to add an additional source of income that led to her reducing her hours at work and getting back her “me” time (finally).
2. The story should feature a main character who is relatable – who the audience can identify with (just as they are).
If your audience isn’t Suzie… meaning, they’re not struggling to find their me time with a few young kids while they go to work everyday, they won’t care. Pick another aspect of Suzie’s life that might relate to the audience. Keep in mind, you can do this without feeling manipulative. No one has just one aspect of their life. Suzie might very well be a working mom with 3 children, but she also might be a loving wife, a daughter of elderly parents, a type-A perfectionist, a traveler, a yogi or a coffee junkie. Focus on the areas that your audience can identify with. People feel close to one another because of their similarities. Even when two people are seemingly worlds apart, they can often connect through basic human needs and desires. Find what can unite your audience and focus on that.
3. The story should end with a lesson, or what the character has learned during the course of the events.
Every good story has a moral, or lesson. If you’re using this story to sell something (or sell yourself), your lesson is likely going to revolve around your product or system. If your product or system isn’t the center of your story, it might still be a good story… but not a good marketing story.
4. The story should leave the audience feeling something (hope, anger, despair, joy, excitement) and that feeling should be targeted toward an object or event (example: I don’t just feel excited, I feel excited about becoming super fit and healthy).
Decisions are made emotionally. Even by those who claim they only use logic to make decisions. Nope. It’s hardwired within all of us. It isn’t a bad thing. Adding emotion into your story isn’t manipulating, unless you rely only on emotion and not on logic or credibility, or if you use incorrect or inaccurate facts to create the emotion.
If you’re feeling stuck on your brand story, or need to beef up your next video, podcast, keynote or blog post, use these techniques to tell a great (and honest), story.