Your Core Story Ingredients
In my previous article, we identified rule number one in our storytelling: We’re not building a story to sell. We’re building a story that sells.
To do that, we need clarity on your core storytelling ingredients.
Let’s dig in:
If you're like many consulting firms I know, you have a value problem.
You offer too much of it.
Clients enjoy a range of benefits when working with you, and as it's not immediately obvious which of these benefits they value most, you list them all (in depth) in your marketing materials.
And, if you work with several customer profiles, you list all of those too.
It's a rational approach.
Rather than filtering them out, you're allowing the prospect to identify the benefits most valuable to them.
And yet, from a messaging standpoint, it doesn't work.
Tesla had 'Revolutionise the way people use and store energy.'
Dollar Shave Club had 'Shave time, Shave money.'
Apple had ‘1000 songs in your pocket.'
Every persuasive story has one central idea at its core, and if your story is going to fly, it requires simplicity.
Your audience isn't sitting in the theatre, popcorn in hand, waiting to be entertained for 2hr30.
They're browsing your website, skimming your deck, and swiping your carousel. Readers stick around when you're easy to follow.
This big idea is also the point of contrast that differentiates you from other options.
The Tesla Powerwall would reliably store significantly more energy than other batteries.
Dollar Shave Club would provide cheaper blades than mass-market brands like Gillette, and they'd be delivered straight to your door.
The iPod would carry significantly more songs than other MP3s.
For a consulting firm, that idea could focus on something like:
- A contrarian approach
- A unique guarantee
- An unusual delivery
For example, the big idea for my offer focuses on the delivery: Position yourself visually in the buyer's mind.
Whilst there are other positioning and storytelling experts working with consulting firms, none (as far as I'm aware) approach visual communication as a fundamental partner to written (and not just a supporting act).
The examples above from people like Apple are helpful, but we need to remember this big difference between our business and theirs - they sell products to everyone. We don't.
Our very own Frodo Baggins
The hero is the ‘who’ in your story.
For example, you’re selling UX design to consumer brands moving into Blockchain. Your ‘who’ is the person in those companies overseeing their Web3 launch. Let’s assume it’s the Head of Brand. That’s our hero.
Pin that on the wall because everything centres on this person. And, as we build out our story, our goal is that they will see their own fears and dreams reflected back at them.
On the subject of dreams…
You deliver a transformation your client is looking for. And as with the big idea, we’re pinning this story on that one transformation for the sake of simplicity (rather than a multitude of benefits).
What keeps your customer awake at night and overlaps with your offer?
This is entirely dependent on your circumstances, but it could look something like:
- They want the next round of investment
- They want to achieve 10% growth this year
- They want to sell their business
Last but not least, we have the final ingredients of your story structure:
The Event and the Monster
It’s when Mufasa is killed (the event) by Scar (the monster).
It’s when Katniss volunteers as tribute (the event) to enter the Hunger Games (the monster).
It’s when Neo discovers that the world he knows is a simulated reality (the event) during his interrogation by Agent Smith (the monster).
Every story has an unexpected event that sets off a sequence in motion. Without it, there is no story.
And, for our structure, that event is accompanied by an inanimate Monster threatening to block our hero’s dream outcome.
Your situation could look something like this:
- They received the last round of investment (the event), and now they need to overcome the monster (insufficient user growth)
- They launched in a new market (the event), and now they must overcome the monster (nobody in the new market knows who they are)
- They turned 60 (the event), and now they want to overcome the monster (they don’t know how to sell their business)
Every high-ticket consulting firm deals with monsters and events. Without them, it’s simply a problem or a goal that prospects will figure out in-house (or through a cheap contractor).
These story ingredients then feed neatly into a story statement that looks like this:
I want to share how [hero] can [achieve desirable outcome] through [big idea].
More on that in a later article.
Those are our core story ingredients. In theory, it makes sense. But how do you find those ingredients in your own story?
I cover that in the next article - Finding your Story.