How To Make A Hero: A 5 Step Guide To Tell Better Marketing Stories
Updated: Sep 4, 2020
Whether you’re a B2C or B2B company, storytelling is your number-one most important marketing tool. You need to keep this tool sharp.
Some people just flat out suck at telling stories. I used to suck at telling stories.
I distinctly remember sitting in the cafeteria at my highschool, telling a story to these two guys sitting across from me. When I finally finished, one guy said, “Great story, bro. Tell it again.”
If you grew up in the 90s, you’ll recognize this as a sarcastic way of saying “Your story sucked!”
From that day, I believed I was a terrible storyteller. And for at least ten years, I stopped telling stories.
I would actually tell people- I’m not good at telling stories, they never have a point, and I can’t keep people interested.
How sad is that?
But then- and this is completely true- I came across a pin on Pinterest. It said something like, “Learn How To Be A Great Storyteller.”
It’s amusing to me now how badly I wanted that. I think I still have the pin saved on one of my accounts.
I clicked on the link, and read the blog it was attached to, and I was blown away.
Immediately, I started writing stories. Not for anyone in particular. Just for myself. I kept a journal and wrote stories about any random thing I could think of.
I wrote stories about silly characters and I wrote horror stories (one that still haunts me, so let’s just move on...)
I took what I learned and wrote my own life story.
And I wrote a couple of children’s stories.
Suddenly, I realized I was actually a pretty good storyteller. I just needed a framework and some practice.
I believe that we’re all storytellers who just need a little bit of practice and the right framework.
Now, I’m a copywriter and I use storytelling all the time. Like, every day, I’m writing a story. In fact, what you just read was a story (did you notice?)
And I use stories in my copywriting because they’re so important for connecting with your audience.
If you can’t connect with your audience, they won’t turn into customers.
And if you don’t have any customers, you don’t have a business.
Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen, Instead, let’s talk about using stories in your marketing so you can grow your business.
Your marketing plan should revolve around stories. I’ve laid out five steps below to help you figure out your marketing story so you can connect with your audience emotionally and help them see why they need you and your business in their lives.
The 5 Steps You Need To Tell Better Marketing Stories
I’m all about simplifying things, so I’ve laid out the five steps you should take to help write your marketing story. Writing stories can be tedious when you haven’t practiced. But you know me- I’m here to make it easy on you!
Pro tip: Download and work through the Ideal Client Worksheet before you get started so you really understand your customer before you start writing their story.
Consider this your ultimate guide to telling great marketing stories your audience will remember long after you’re out of sight.
Step 1: Decide If Your Product or Service Requires a “Once Upon A Time” or a “Hero’s Journey” Story
If you’re not sure which one, I’ll give you a quick breakdown here because I’ve already written about it in another blog post.
There are two main story structures you can use in your marketing. Each of them allows you to invoke emotions and connect with your audience by telling a story from their point of view.
Once Upon A Time
If you are a brand selling products or services with a short lifecycle, you will use the “Once Upon a Time” story structure. The structure sounds like this:
Once Upon a Time
Because of That
Because of That
A helpful way to think about this story structure is to put your favorite kids movie into each part. Pixar is notorious for shaping their films like this, so you might have an easier time thinking about movies like The Incredibles or Finding Nemo.
Examples of businesses that could use the “Once Upon A Time” structure are an ecommerce beauty brand, a hair stylist, a dating app, or a specialty food brand.
These products and services have a short lifecycle, are consumable, are typically considered inexpensive, and have a high customer churn rate based on multitude factors such as cost, quality, and availability.
The Hero’s Journey
If your brand is selling products or services with a longer life cycle, you will use the “Hero’s Journey” story structure. The structure sounds like this:
In the Known world, the hero gets a call to adventure.
The hero receives supernatural aid.
The hero has to cross the threshold into the unknown world.
Then, the hero meets mentors and guides.
In the unknown world, the hero overcomes challenges.
The hero hits “rock bottom” which seems like failure.
But, the hero is transformed by the failure.
The hero completes the most difficult challenge.
Because the hero completed this, they are rewarded and can return home.
This story structure has been used for thousands of years. It shapes some of the epic poems you had to read in high school, and informs the structure for the Star Wars trilogy and the Harry Potter novels.
Examples of businesses that should use this story structure are services that help people or businesses transform, such as consulting services, health and wellness practitioners selling a protocol and online education institutions.
These services have a longer lifecycle and require commitment from the customer in the forms of time, money, and mental and emotional investment. These are typically more expensive services, and require a deeper emotional connection in order to sell.
A story structure makes it easy for you to plan the rest of your story. Think of it like an outline for a paper. But make it less boring.
Now that you know which story structure to use, it’s time to start writing your story with your customer in mind.
Step 2: Identify The End Of The Story- The Promised Land
You should always know what your customer’s Promised Land looks like. This isn’t just the results they expect to get from your product. This is their wildest dreams or deepest desires in gorgeous, vivid detail. This might look like:
For a toothpaste brand
Expected Results: clean, healthy teeth
Promised Land: a smile that makes Julia Roberts envious
For a fitness coach
Expected Results: lose some weight and feel better
Promised Land: see your six-pack for the first time ever
Understanding the Promised Land- what your audience wants most, will tell you how you’re going to end your marketing story.
Maybe you’re a coach that helps people find a new job after being laid off. You’re not going to just tell the story of what you offer- your main character enjoys the resume reviews and feels confident after body language adjustments. That’s not enough to pull them in.
You’re going to end the story with your main character’s deepest desire- to never have to worry about losing a job again, because you helped them find the perfect match. They’ve met a manager who calls to check in every Friday morning, thank your client for their hard work and give them the afternoon off.
That’s the Promised Land. The ultimate dream that would be incredibly painful for your audience to not achieve.
Step 3: Determine The Challenges Your Customer Will Face
I’m a big believer in honest marketing- showing what’s possible (the Promised Land) and also what’s real. It’s important to let your customers in on the difficulties they will face when using your product or service.
For one thing, it rules out the people who aren’t really serious about buying from you- who won’t put in the time or effort, especially for more complex uses.
People do not believe stories that are 100% positive.If there is no drama or no conflict, they won’t care, and they won’t even listen. And they won’t believe you if you tell them a story like this. No matter how great your product is.
But. This doesn’t mean you point out all of your company’s flaws and product problems. You’re not trying to scare them away. You just need to understand what challenges your audience will face before and after they buy from you.
Determining the challenges the customer will face on their “journey” has two benefits.
1. You understand exactly what their objections will be to your product or service. When you understand the challenges your audience faces in making a buying decision, you are getting into their heads and thinking like they do. This helps you tell your marketing story from their perspective, and helps you come up with creative solutions they can achieve themselves to overcome the challenge.
For example, if you sell a technology product, a challenge will be learning how to use it. Your marketing will tell the story of how you support them through those difficulties, how others have overcome them, and your strategy will specifically deliver helpful content to those customers when they hit certain points where you know they’ll have a hard time learning the technology.
2. You avoid the people who quit early and say your product doesn’t work. When you address the challenges they’ll face after purchasing head on, your customers start working with you with the understanding that it’s not going to be the easiest thing they’ve ever done. There will be some hard work that has to go into it.
This is important because online businesses cannot afford bad reviews anymore. With businesses competing aggressively for consumer attention online, you have to make sure you set expectations correctly, right away, to avoid issues in the future that can hurt your brand’s reputation.
Stories are magical. And the challenges are part of what make them exciting. Don’t leave out the challenges for fear of making your brand look bad. Keeping them out is worse.
Step 4: Figure Out Who Else Is Involved In Your Customer’s Story
No one walks alone.
And even if your audience is actually a person who enjoys being physically alone, they are never truly alone. They’ll be part of online communities, Facebook groups, professional groups, work teams, families. Maybe even fantasy football leagues.
Your audience is never the only character in the story. Your job is to figure out who else is part of their story.
Who else is going to influence the outcome- their ability to get to the Promised Land?
Ask yourself these questions:
Who are their sidekicks?
Who are the people they’re trying to impress?
Who are the people relying on them?
Who do they go to for information?
All of those people need to be part of your marketing story to make it truly feel like a story your customer can relate to.
Think of these additional characters in the story like Dory, in Finding Nemo. The story would have been way different if Dory wasn’t involved. It probably wouldn’t have been very good.
Write your marketing story with your ideal customer’s Dory helping them out along the way.
Step 5: Turn Your Customer Into The Hero Of The Story
By now you’ve noticed that the most important thing to do is to think from your customer’s perspective and to position them as the main character of your marketing story.
Writing marketing stories is (mostly) not about telling your own story or the story of your brand.
Your customer needs to identify with the hero of the story. Your customer wants to get to the Promised Land, and you need to help them understand that your product or service will help them get there through all of the challenges and obstacles along the way.
You know your customer’s deepest desires, who else is joining them on their journey, the challenges they’ll face, and the way you’re going to structure your marketing story.
Now you need to turn your customer into the hero of your story.
It’s time to think about all of the amazing qualities your customer has that make them a hero.
Over ten years ago, I worked at a high end sunglass store in the mall. It was the first retail job I had and the place I learned the most about sales.
My manager used to tell me to start every interaction with a compliment and a question. But not just any compliment, and definitely not “How are you today?” I was to compliment them genuinely, on something specific, and ask a specific follow up question to start a conversation.
So I would tell the ladies that came in how much I loved their classic Prada bag and ask them if they’d seen the new release for that year. I’d compliment the dads that came in the store on their well-behaved kids, and ask them if they had any family vacations planned for the summer.
At first I didn’t understand why I was told to do this. Then one day, I spoke to a woman who came in the store completely decked out in designer everything. She looked like she walked straight off the Dolce & Gabbana runway!
I told her I loved her pants and asked her if she’d seen this gorgeous pair of shoes at the department store next door that had just come in.
She had seen the shoes, and she was flattered. Like, was absolutely stunned that I even recognized the designer she was wearing and that I had the ability to pick up on her style so quickly.
She ended up buying 4 pairs of sunglasses from me that day, over $1,500 and the highest sale I’d ever had.
Does what I did seem obvious? If not, let me explain.
In the story I created for her, from the moment she walked in, I acknowledged she was the fabulous woman she wanted to be.
She became the hero in my story because it was all about her, her style, and her desires. I pointed out her incredible sense of style and made it known that was her superpower.
As I worked with her to find sunglasses, I made it all about her strengths. When she wasn’t sure about a pair we tried on, I reminded her that she could make anything work because she clearly knew how to put an outfit together.
Your marketing stories need to instill confidence in your customers.
You can turn your customers into the hero of your marketing story by reminding them of their strengths, their good qualities, and the things they already have inside them that will make overcoming the challenges and getting to the Promised Land not only possible, but way more likely, with your product or service at their aid.
The Best Marketers Tell The Best Stories
This is true time and time again. Think about your favorite brands. What do you love about them?
Is it that they just get you? That you feel like the most important character in the story they tell about their product?
That you feel powerful, able to accomplish anything when you hear from them?
When you create your own marketing stories using the five steps above, your customers will feel like that, too.
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