Marketing is not my expertise. Every day solicitors come knocking via my inbox with the marketing “offer you just can’t refuse.” While I don’t know much about their complex discipline, I do know our small organization does not have money to waste. I get heartburn when other leaders spend precious dollars on marketing efforts only to get little or no results. And when they do receive the final reports, they wonder what went wrong, or worse, whether their product is really any good at all.
But what if the problem isn’t the product? What if the problem is the way we talk about the product? Can we make marketing simpler?
Building a Story Brand
In Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller states that organizations typically cause their customers to burn too many calories in an effort to understand their product. When having to process too much information, people begin to ignore the source of that information in an effort to conserve energy.1 Communication specialists assert that we often perceive a confusing message as an irrelevant – or even untrue – message. There’s a survival mechanism within our brains that is designed to tune out messages that start to confuse us.
According to Miller,
the most powerful marketing tool we can use to organize information so people don’t have to burn too many calories is story.
A good story is a sense-making device. A good story answers questions that customers are asking. Our story must identify what the customers want, what problem we are helping them solve, and what life will look like after they engage with our products or services. If our story isn’t answering those questions, the customers will move on.
Developing Our Story
To simplify marketing, Miller advises us to develop our story based on seven categories. He wrote,
“Here is nearly every story you see or hear in a nutshell: a CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN and calls them to ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.”
That’s really it. We see some form of this structure in nearly every good story. In my next blog, I’ll post a story based on this structure we use to market our product. It’s too early to claim great success, but initial response has been promising. And it’s cost-effective, so I’m already a fan of this simple marketing approach.
1Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen, Harper Collins Leadership, 2017.