The power of a good story

Jul 01, 2008

If you don’t have a compelling story, one that explicitly sets out everything you do and how and why you do it – and very few businesses do – there’s a very good chance that everyone in your business will have a different response to a simple question like “why should I buy from you?”

That’s because everyone probably sees and buys into your product, service or expertise in different ways.

If no two people inside the business can describe what you do in the same way, or if they can’t answer a question that everyone is likely to ask in the same way, or they don’t all see what you do in the same way, they’re singing from different song sheets… and you have a problem.

It is even worse when your clients or potential clients hear different stories from different people they speak to. This sends out an inconsistent message and when clients or prospects are confused by the message, they go elsewhere.

Putting together the right “behind-the-scenes” story will allow everyone in your team to understand and communicate what you do from the same perspective.

It will allow everyone to buy into your values and deliver according to those values. It will often promote passion for what you do and it should form the basis for virtually every marketing message you’ll ever need to communicate.

It may only be ink on paper, but your story, properly constructed, has the power to transform people’s perception of your business.

A good “behind-the-scenes” story should be addressed specifically to your prime target audience – and no one else – and must be compelling, interesting and engaging to them specifically.

Its primary aim is to give your prime target audience the clarity, understanding and motivation they need to desire, embrace, buy into and actively seek out your product, service or expertise, act on it and keep coming back to you again and again.

This can be achieved by educating your readers about the benefits or outcomes of your product or service and anticipating and overcoming any concerns they might have about you or your industry.

It is crucial to provide proof in support of your claims to give your audience peace of mind and eliminate any doubts they may have about your product or service.

Before you write your story, you must be very clear as to who and where your prime target audience is. There is no point in aiming at people on the fringe who may someday perhaps possibly be interested in your product, service or expertise. That will dissipate your energies to little or no effect.

Your story should focus solely on satisfying the wants, needs and desires of your prime target audience. As such, it must connect immediately, clearly, powerfully and directly to that audience, and to no one else.

Those people should immediately identify that they’ve found an important answer or outcome they’re seeking, backed up with as many tangible, compelling and meaningful reasons as possible as to why they’ll benefit if they move forward and do business with you.

Your story’s first job is to grab the reader’s attention. The headline and opening copy should contain a specific benefit, promise or outcome that the reader greatly desires so that they have a compelling reason for reading on.

You therefore need to demonstrate awareness of your audience’s problems, needs or concerns and the outcomes they’re seeking.

Believe it or not, hardly anyone wants to buy your product or service, whereas large numbers could be interested in achieving the outcomes provided by your product, service or expertise.

The desired outcomes will vary enormously from one product or service to another but could include some of the following: Results; solutions; benefits; answers; enhancements; improvements; reliability; time-saving; convenience; avoidance of pain; elimination of worry or fear; freedom; protection; safety; economy; pleasure; enjoyment; happiness; prestige; health; popularity; better appearance; more self-confidence; risk reduction; comfort; pride of ownership… or indeed many others.

Once you’ve got your readers’ attention, your next task is to deepen their interest by packing your story with a continuous barrage of features, advantages and benefits. In doing so, you should never talk about the features of your product or service without mentioning the advantages and benefits as well.

Your story needs to increase their desire. You do this by educating them about what you do on a far higher and deeper level than your competitors do. This requires you to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and anticipate and answer every possible objection to your product, service or industry. You need to overcome their concerns and show them how they can achieve the outcomes they seek.

You must lead your reader through all the arguments for and against what you do and set out in explicit and compelling detail what you do, how you do it and why you do it at every point along the way to overcome each of their concerns. As your target audience read your story, they should be able to clearly visualise every step in the process until they can see themselves achieving their desired outcomes.

You need to explain what you do and how you do it: How you select your team members; how you and your team are trained or gained your experience; how your products or services are created; how you choose your suppliers or the components of your product or service; how your product or service performs more advantageously, beneficially or tangibly for your clients than the alternatives; how you share, appreciate and embrace your client’s vision; how you’re still there for your them after the transaction has been completed.

It’s just as important to explain why you do things in certain ways; why what you do is in your clients’ best interests; why your product or service performs better for the client; why your product or service is more appropriate, superior or desirable for your client that someone else’s; why your product or service is priced the way it is; why it will help the reader in their life or their business; why they should buy from or do business with you; why they should put their faith in your product, service or company; why they should act today.

The entire thrust of your story should be focused on your prospect’s interests. It should advise and guide them and provide meaningful recommendations, suggestions, counsel, direction and advice on everything they need to achieve the outcomes they seek.

Finally, your story should give the reader complete peace of mind. Every claim should be quantified and backed with proof, endorsements and testimonials. People are wary these days, and with good reason. Claims alone are not enough. They must be backed by solid proof. So you must provide it.

Create a story that does all of these things and use parts of it in every marketing activity you engage in and you’ll never be short of business as long as people are seeking the outcomes you can deliver.

If you want to know more or want someone to create such a story for you, contact us for an exploratory meeting with no obligation either way.

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