Telling Your Customer’s StoryWilliam Gadea 11.12.2012
Sometimes the best way to frame your selling proposition is to tell your story – but usually, that’s a mistake. That’s because while a few people might be persuaded to take an interest in you, everyone cares deeply about themselves. If you tell your customer’s story in a compelling way, you will get their attention.
What is a story? Often in the business world, the word is used somewhat promiscuously. Sometimes people say “story” and mean an argument, or a list of features or benefits. Sometimes they say “story” and they are really referring to a series of events. What, you say? Isn’t a story a series of events? Surely it is, but a series of events is not necessarily a story.
So what is it then? A story is about a character with a need. The character acts to address that need, and this action results in either failure or success. In it’s simplest form, that is all a story is. Take Hamlet: a Danish fellow needs to avenge his father’s death, he gathers his conviction to act, and he gains his revenge (in a rather messy way.) If you inspect any novel, movie, play, or TV show you have ever seen, you will recognize in it a character with a need, their actions to satiate that need, and the consequences of those actions.
And this is important because a story is an entertaining thing, and we want our marketing to be entertaining – right? Of course we do, but stories are about more than just entertainment. They are the way we understand our own lives, and how we assess the lives of others. They are the building blocks out of which we create our view of the world. Entertainment aside, this is the language that lands in your customers’ psyches.
What does your customer’s journey look like? Maybe something like this:
Act 1: Our hero has a glaring need. It’s either a problem that weighs on his life, or a benefit that can be grasped to assist him or those near him.
Act 2: Our hero discovers a product or service that can either relieve the problem, or bring a significant benefit. He discovers how easy/economical/pleasing the process of purchasing the product or engaging the service is.
Act 3: Our hero enjoys the fruits of his actions: the problem has been denuded, or the benefit has blossomed, thanks to our product or service.
Does this seem cliché? Haven’t you seen this before a million times? Of course you have. Cliché is the inevitable dreary flipside of the universal. Even Shakespeare wasn’t original – all but a couple of his stories are filched from other sources. Which is to say: execution counts! The story will seem cliché if you tell it in a pedestrian way, but if you speak with a fresh voice, if you’re specific in your details and you bring the texture of style, humor or pathos to your tale, it will not seem cliché at all.
By all means experiment! There are countless ways to tell your customer’s story.
- In this video for Sevanta, we told the founder’s story, but in a sneaky way, it was also a reflection of his typical customer’s experience.
- We told this story for Boounce in the second person, so the hero is actually the viewer – never seen in the video except for his cursor. There are two stories that are super-imposed here: finding Boounce, and getting a puppy. This brings a layer of emotional warmth to browser plug-in that warms up the product brand.
- Does your hero need to be a person? Not necessarily. In this video for GlobalEnglish, we personified corporations as buildings, and had one offer the other advice about a solution for his problem.
- In this video for LeadID, we placed our hero opposite a villain, who in the end got his just desserts.
Is story-telling just for videos or commercials? Emphatically, no. Every asset in your marketing mix can help tell your customer’s story.
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