When it comes to marketing your business, it pays to have a good story. Storytelling has been around since the dawn of time, and a compelling story has the power to inspire readers, make them think, and motivate them to take action.
Creating a core story—one that speaks to the heart of what you do, who you are here to serve, and why—can guide all of your marketing messaging and empower you to connect with people all throughout the customer journey.
So how do you develop a powerful core story and message? Follow these steps.
Develop Client Personas
While your first impulse might be that your core story should be about you, that’s actually not the case. Instead, your client should be the hero of the story. By placing them at the center of your core story, you’re guaranteed to establish a message that resonates with them.
So writing a great core story starts with building your ideal client. To build your ideal client, you take a look at data you have on your existing clients (things like how much revenue they generate for your business, and whether or not they regularly refer you to others). From there, you will begin to see patterns emerge. Most of your best clients will have certain attributes, behaviors, and beliefs in common.
Once you’ve gleaned all you can from looking through the facts and figures internally, reach out to those clients who have emerged as your top sources of business. Conduct interviews, asking them about the things that matter most to them. Why do they love your business? What led them to pick you over the competition? What keeps them up at night? And how do you offer the perfect solution to those problems?
Armed with data and information straight from the source, you can now create your ideal client persona, or as we might call them for the sake of storytelling metaphors, your hero.
Define the Antagonist
Every great fairytale has a hero. But the story would go nowhere without a villain to challenge our beloved protagonist. Now that you understand who your ideal client, or hero, really is, it’s time to get specific about defining their problem.
Oftentimes, your hero isn’t entirely aware of the problem they have. They may be unaware of what the real problem is, or they might have difficulty identifying what it is that truly ails them. For example, let’s say you run a remodeling business. Your client might say that their problem is that they have an old, ugly, outdated kitchen. But in reality, their problem is that they don’t have a functional family gathering space.
They’re defining their problem in purely practical terms, but it’s really bigger than that. What you bring to the table with your remodeling services is the opportunity for a better life, by creating a kitchen where a family can relax, spend time together, and create memories.
When thinking about the antagonist in your story, it’s important to look beyond that surface-level pain point. Very frequently, what really plagues your hero at their core is something emotional, not practical.
Understand Your Role
When you’re thinking about how to market your business, it’s natural that your first impulse is to place yourself at the center of the story. But by now you know, your ideal client is the protagonist. So who are you?
You’re the wise mentor, helping your hero solve their problems and paving the way for them to succeed. We see this trope in literature and movies all the time—think: Atticus Finch, Gandalf, or Mr. Miyagi.
When you go to define your own role in your core story, it helps to think about what you bring to the table. How do you serve that role of guide or mentor in a way that’s different from everyone else, and why should your audience care?
Write the Core Story
Now that you have assembled all of the elements of a great fairytale—hero, villain, and wise mentor—it’s time to write your story. Start by establishing your hero at the center of your tale. Make it very clear who your ideal customer is and what they look like, so other similar prospects can recognize themselves in that hero right away.
Then introduce the villain. Make sure that they have a definite picture of what it is that really ails them, even if it’s something different from what they might initially assume is the crux of their issue.
From there, establish yourself as the guide who has the know-how and tools to take your hero where they want to go. And wrap it up by showing what their life looks like once you solve their problem. Take them from the dark days of a problem-filled life to a sunny future where you’ve guided them out of the darkness and into the light.
The final step is to provide them with a call to action (or, as you might say in fairytale parlance, a challenge to succeed). Essentially, you must say, “You’ve seen the struggles you face and the opportunity that we present to help you get to a better place; are you ready to take this journey with us?”
Use the Core Story to Guide Your Messaging
Now that you’ve crafted your story from these key elements, this core story needs to guide all of your messaging going forth. The story can’t just exist in a vacuum, it must be deployed at each stage of the customer journey, to guide your hero forward to the solution that you offer.
Think about how your story has the power to influence your hero along their journey.
- Know and Like: Think of this as the first few chapters in a book. You’re giving your audience the chance to meet all of the key players in the story. They get to identify themselves as the hero, see the villain that they’re up against, and first meet the mentor who might be able to help them make it through.
- Trust and Try: Now that your hero knows what their problem is, you have the opportunity to serve up your solution. This is where you make the case for your expertise, proving you’re well-positioned to guide them through the clashes with their villainous problem.
- Buy: Here, you provide them with step-by-step guidance to understanding the solution you offer. By providing a great onboarding process, how-to and tutorial materials, and customer support, you essentially become that mentor, sticking by their side as they face the trials and tribulations of their journey.
- Repeat and Refer: By now, you’ve helped them through to the end of their individual journey, and if you’ve told your story well and delivered on your promises, they’ll feel comfortable returning to you again and bringing some friends with them.
Share That Message Everywhere
The final step in the development of your core story and message is to make sure that, once you know what it is, you share it far and wide. This starts on your website. Your homepage should clearly outline your core story, front and center. This should be a short, sweet, high-level view of the story. Think of it as the blurb on the back of a book—something that intrigues your viewers and encourages them to open up the cover and read more!
From there, you can create other content that’s grounded in your story and shared across other digital marketing channels. From social media to email marketing to video to podcasts, there’s always a way to incorporate your core story in all that you do.
When it comes to deciding where to tell your story, it makes sense to go back to your hero. Target the channels where you’re most likely to encounter that ideal client.
Creating a brand story is one of the most effective ways to connect on an emotional level with clients and prospects. When you center your story around their needs, problems, and wants, you cast yourself as the wise, sympathetic mentor who can help them move past the hurdles in their life and achieve great things.