We’re starting the final 3 steps of building a better brand. We know who we are. We’ve defined our purpose. We’ve zeroed in on our uniqueness, and that of the customer who we will serve. We’ve even built a visual system to help communicate all of these things to the marketplace. We have a great logo and mark. Now it’s time to start thinking about slogans, messaging and copy.

There is a popular genre of literature called the business fable. It leverages story to establish metaphors to teach business lessons and principles. Several of these books from Raving Fans to Outliers have had a profound impact on how I look at marketing and growing business. What authors from Ken Blanchard to Malcolm Gladwell realize is that business issues can feel complex and intimidating. However, if the author can tell a story, then extrapolate the application, the reader/listener will have a much better chance of learning the lesson. This isn’t a new idea.  It's why we tell our children about The Boy Who Cried Wolf or sing them the "Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed" nursery rhyme. It’s even why Jesus spoke in parables, the majority of which were actually about money! Just as you’ve probably learned some of your most important life and business lessons from stories, your brand needs to leverage story as a tool to better communicate with your customers.

You might be thinking to yourself that you are not a "creative." Your strength is data. You're the CFO. You're in the financial services. Your business is serious and has no story to tell. You're wrong. Your brand is telling a story whether you like it or not. It's just either a boring, self-absorbed autobiography or a compelling saga that captivates your audience. There are 2 basic steps to writing a better brand story.  First of all, understand the hero's journey. Second, realize that you're not the hero!

When you take a few moments to understand the hero's journey, you start realizing that a lot of stories in completely different genres are in fact really quite similar. In his introduction to his unique Storybrand conferencesDonald Miller makes the point that Tommy Boy and Star Wars are in fact the same movie! Let's focus on the first four steps of the hero's journey, but relate it to your customers.

  • Ordinary world = status quo. What you're trying to disrupt with your service or product. This is where the problem is introduced. Isn't the whole role of sales and marketing to encourage your prospects to make a "departure" from their current status quo?
  • Call to Adventure = Aspiration. What could the world be like without this problem?
  • Refusing of the call = The reasons the customer is afraid to buy. (price objections, etc.)
  • Meeting the mentor = How your company will help the customer solve his/her problem.

Think about how those late night tv commercials and infomercials actually guide you through that process in their messaging.

"Don't you hate it when ....... If only there was a way to fix that problem once and for all.  How much would it cost to fix the problem? $100? $200? $1000? Not anymore, introducing (the BRAND) for just 5 easy payments of $9.99. Meet Sally, .....(time for testimonials.)

Once you understand the fundamentals of story, it's time to make sure you apply a very simple litmus test to all of your brand messaging, advertisement, copy and website. Are you trying to make yourself the hero of the story? Or, are you presenting your brand as the mentor, the guide, the wise sage that can help guide your customer to success?  (Be Gandalf, not Frodo!) At the risk of being a little bit offensive, your potential customers don't care about you. They care about themselves. They want to know if doing business with you will make their lives better. They don't care if you've won a bunch of awards for technical expertise. Testimonials are powerful because they can relate to other customers who had the same challenge that they are facing more than they can relate to another company trying to sell them something. No one wants to be sold to. Customers want to be helped.

Geoffrey James describes it perfectly in an article for Inc. 

"In short, make your customers into the hero of YOUR story as well as their story.  When those two stories align, you'll make the sale."

When your brand stops playing the hero and starts playing the role of guide in your customer’s story, you’ll see dramatic results, and you just might find that you're a lot better storyteller than you thought you were along the way.