The hero’s journey continues

December 9, 2020

If you’ve been following along, we are halfway through the stages of the hero’s journey, the construct we can use to think about weaving elements of storytelling into our marketing. I left off at the stage where the hero (our prospect) meets the sage sidekick (our product, service, or brand).

In my example, our hero is a 55-year-old woman who is dealing with her aging father. She suspects her dad is showing signs of early dementia, but it may also just be forgetfulness. She had just met the sage sidekick through the nursing home’s website. It was not created to sell but to help.

It included tips for keeping a loved one at home, assessing whether or not staying in the home was a safe solution, and asking questions to evaluate nursing homes. This facility also offered caregiver support groups, regardless of whether their loved one was still at home or even at a different facility.

The site was created to genuinely help our hero make the right decision, which is why she ultimately kept going back as she weighed her options. It became a reliable and trusted resource. It is worth noting that the nursing home whose website our hero keeps visiting has no idea she is out there or who she is. But they’ve already begun a relationship with her.

The next stage is crossing into the unfamiliar: Our hero has decided to explore her options, searching for the right choice for her dad. This stage is where the hero braces to face and fight the unknown. They’re anxious at this point because they know they’re going to encounter resistance, opposition, and doubts. In our example, our hero is worried about what her siblings will think and wonders if they can even afford a nursing home or in-home help.

When she gets stuck or afraid, she turns to the sidekick for guidance and reassurance. The confidence she gains allows her to step deeper into the unknown, ready to face whatever lies ahead.

The battle: This is rarely a physical battle in our marketing world. But it might be a battle of options. Or opposition. Or the desire to go back to the status quo because it would be easier, even if our hero knows it’s not the right decision. This is the moment when the decision is made.

In our example, our hero must now choose the right nursing home because dad needs more care than she can provide. (In this stage of the journey, she will meet the actual brand and staff from the website she’s relied on, so the hero becomes even more real.) She might have to fight her siblings to make this decision. Or she may be plagued with guilt because of the conversation she had with her mom about caring for dad. But ultimately, she might do what she knows is right, even if it’s incredibly difficult.

The reward: This is the stage where the hero celebrates that they fought whatever was in between them and the right decision; they battled it out and won. Now they’ve solved the original challenge, and because of the journey, they are wiser and hopefully more content.

To wrap up our example, our hero’s dad is thriving in his new home, and he is healthier because he’s getting specialized attention from the nursing staff and eating better. The daughter can stop spending all of her time being his caregiver, and instead, just enjoy her time with him as his daughter.

I’ve simplified the steps down to what I believe are essential from a marketing perspective. But hopefully, this gives you an idea of how you could map out the core story and then build marketing messages from that story.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Walking out the journey with your client

December 2, 2020

We’ve been exploring what it means when someone tells us that we should be using storytelling in our marketing efforts. Today, I want to delve into the idea of the hero’s journey. For most people, the concept that our customer needs to be the hero of the story and that the brand can be a useful sidekick makes sense. But the idea of being able to bend your marketing messages into a tale of a journey feels a little less tangible.

Don’t start out worrying about the marketing message. Just think about your prospect and how you want them to move from where they are right now (before they buy from you) to the story’s happy ending, where because they found your product or service, they’re in a much better place.

There are stages within the story/journey. Let’s look at those stages and how a hypothetical business might build out the story.

The first stage is the status quo: In my example, the hero of my story (my prospect) is a 55-year-old woman who is dealing with her aging father. She suspects her dad is showing signs of early dementia, but it may also just be forgetfulness.

The next stage is the challenge: The daughter is spending more time caring for her dad but wants dad to be able to stay in his own home because she promised her mom she’d watch over her dad, and moving him into a nursing home feels like she isn’t doing that. But it’s getting tougher to keep him home every day.

Next comes the refusal of the challenge: This is where our hero feels stuck. She wants her dad to be healthy and not need her to make this decision. What if she makes the wrong decision and doesn’t keep her promise to her mom? What if she leaves him at home and he falls when she’s not there? Or what if she chooses the wrong nursing home and he gets inadequate care?

This next stage is critical. It’s where our hero meets the wise sidekick: The daughter spends more time on the internet, looking for ideas and guidance for caring for her father. She finds a local nursing home’s website that is organized in a way that she can understand. It offers tips and resources for keeping a loved one at home. It has assessments so someone could gauge whether or not staying in the home was a safe and practical solution. It has a list of questions to ask every nursing home to assess each facility and find the perfect fit for your loved one.

This site also had testimonials from real people (with their names included) talking about the care their loved one received at this particular facility. It offered caregiver support groups for anyone in the community, regardless of whether their loved one was still at home or even at another facility.

None of this felt like a sales pitch because it was built to help site visitors genuinely make the right decision for their family. The sage sidekick demonstrated over and over again both their expertise/knowledge and their compassion with empathy for the family member dealing with this situation.

This is the pivotal moment in the story. Will the hero trust the sage sidekick enough to engage them? Will they decide they must continue the journey but invite the sidekick to join them?

And like any good story, we’ll stop here at this cliffhanging moment. I’ll wrap up the deep dive into the journey part of storytelling by finishing this example next time.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Your brand is the sidekick to your customer

November 25, 2020

As we continue to explore the concept of storytelling within marketing, we’re going to turn our attention to you today. Previously, we discovered that you/your brand is not the hero of the story. This is something many brands get wrong. You have to make your customer the hero of the story. They need to see themselves in the current reality, fighting whatever the adversary may be. But a critical part of any story is who goes on the journey with the hero.

In Harry Potter, that would have been Hermione; in Star Wars, it was Yoda and Obi-Wan. In your story – it’s you.

If we were truly constructing a story, we’d begin to define and describe the sidekick so we could portray them authentically within the story. If you google sidekick archetypes, you’ll see models that offer up seven to 11 or so distinct types of sidekicks.

Let’s take a look at some of the most useful archetypes.

The innocent: They’re trusting, optimistic, and wholesome. This character reminds us to slow down and enjoy the journey. A great example would be Coke or Dove.

The hero: This brand saves the day. They’re fearless and fight alongside the story’s hero to beat the foe. FedEx’s old brand – when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight was a smart hero brand.

The everyman: This sidekick is comfortable because they’re approachable and don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re fair and have high values and integrity. Budweiser and Levis are good examples of this archetype.

The lover: This archetype is all about the relationship so loyalty, connection, and commitment are crucial. They have an enthusiastic appetite for life. Brands that are indulgences like Godiva or are all about expressing emotions like Hallmark are lover archetypes.

The caregiver: The name says it all. This archetype is all about giving care with incredible compassion, generosity, and with fierce protectiveness. Good examples include Johnson & Johnson and Volvo.

The rebel: Rebels are unconventional, outrageous and a little radical. They fight the establishment and often march to the beat of their own drum. But they are forgiven for this brash behavior because they are unfailingly honest and courageous. Harley Davidson and Des Moines based Raygun are excellent examples.

The magician: Magicians are the dreamers who inspire transformation and a sense of wonder. They have incredible charisma and curiosity and can help others see the dream. As you might imagine, Disney is an ideal example.

The sage: They are the source of wisdom, direction, and answers. They seek truth and knowledge but balance that left side of their brain with a deep understanding of how humans function and change. Mayo Clinic and PBS are sage archetypes.

The explorer: These characters are all about adventures, being independent and self-sufficient, and will satisfy their curiosity through new experiences and perspectives. Jeep is the ultimate explorer archetype.

Just like people are not a single personality trait, your brand won’t be either. But you will have a dominant type and a couple of supporting archetypes. Think of your dominant archetype as the headline and central point of any communications piece. The supporting types can show up in the body copy as proof points.

What makes this so compelling is the emotional connection that you can create between these archetypes and your audience. We know all buying is emotionally based so that connection, or lack thereof, will move the prospect closer to actually buying or show them that you’re not a good fit, and they’ll move on faster. Either outcome is good for you.

Next time we’ll delve into the journey that the hero (your customer) and the sidekick (you) go on together.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Who is the real hero?

November 18, 2020

We started the storytelling 2.0 conversation in a previous post by identifying that marketers have always been storytellers. But we’ve let ourselves slip away from that grand tradition. And given the consumers we deal with today, it’s actually more relevant and useful than ever before.

Today, let’s turn our attention to a critical element in every story – the hero. In most marketing today, whether you are storytelling or not, the company or its product or service is positioned as the hero. There’s a lot of “we” and “I” in the communications instead of putting the spotlight on the buyer.

Let’s talk about what makes a hero. We see this pattern in almost every book and movie we consume because audiences can connect and relate to this arch, which is why it can be a robust framework for us to use in marketing. It capitalizes on human psychology and how we all share a similar makeup.

See if you recognize this formula:

Every hero goes on a journey. The hero always has a problem and needs some assistance from someone beyond himself. Someone wise who has answers that the hero needs. (Think Yoda.) Together they must fight the enemy, and as they battle together, they learn to trust each other and a bond forms between them. As they vanquish the enemy, the hero is changed somehow and is better/wiser.

I am greatly simplifying Joseph Campbell’s (the creator of the Hero’s Journey) work, but you get the idea.

When you look at the hero framework, it’s easy to see where your company’s product or service fits. We are the Yoda of the story. We are the mentor or guide. But in most marketing materials, the brand is incorrectly positioned as the hero. We mistakenly step into the spotlight that is meant for our customers. We want them to recognize themselves in the story as the hero that we can come alongside and help.

Once we understand who the true hero of our marketing is, we can get to know them better, so we can connect at a different level. I have no doubt you can describe your prospects and clients using demographics. But every 54-year-old business owner who lives in a suburb surrounding a city of 400,000 or more people is not the same person.

We don’t need to know their stats; we need to know their mindset. A person’s mindset is made up of their past experiences, their perceptions and perspective, their motivations, struggles, how they define value, and their current struggle.

When you’ve identified those elements, making them the hero of your story gets much easier.

Here’s how you might knit that together to give you a simple sentence defining your core audience/the hero of your story.

We’re the right fit for <demographic description> who want <fill in the blank>, appreciate and value <fill in the blank> and struggle with <fill in the blank>.

Let me give you an example:

We’re the right fit for adults in their 50s and 60s who have a parent who can no longer live on their own and want to feel confident that they’re providing for their parents’ needs. They appreciate and value family, safety for their parents, transparency, and connection with caregivers as well as the freedom to be with their parent as much or as little as they prefer. But they struggle with knowing how to assess their options and the guilt of not either helping their parent stay home or bringing them into their own home.

It’s easy to see how and where your hero is going to struggle and how and where you can be that sage sidekick who helps them on their quest.

Next time we’ll explore what kind of a sidekick you can be to your story’s hero.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Storytelling 2.0

November 11, 2020

As marketers, we are continually being told that we should tell stories. But what exactly does that mean?

It’s recommended that we use one of the 14 character archetypes (the rebel, the outsider, the warrior, etc.) so the audience can relate to us. Then, we should make the customer the hero. And of course, we should follow one of the seven story frameworks (the quest, the rebirth, etc.) to build our stories, so they feel like a book or movie.

But even if we do all of that, is the audience going to care about a story featuring our product or service? If that were the case, wouldn’t most TV shows be about diapers or SUVs?

Let’s go back to our advertising roots and look at how storytelling and marketing first got blended together. Benton & Bowles was an agency based in New York that was launched in 1929 by William Benton and Chester Bowles. One of their largest clients at the time was Procter and Gamble. In a world we would struggle to understand, their challenge was that they didn’t have a channel that would allow them to reach enough of their target audience – homemakers.

Their solution was brilliant. There was no channel that attracted their core audience, so they created one.

They invented the radio soap opera so they could create sponsorships and ad placements for P&G and their other clients who wanted to target homemakers with their message. By 1936, they were responsible for three of the four most popular radio shows on the air, including “As the World Turns.”

When television arrived, Benton & Bowles replicated their radio success and launched a TV version of their most popular show, “As the World Turns,” in 1956 specifically for their client Procter & Gamble.

P&G sponsored or advertised on that show until it was canceled in 2010. Somewhere along the way, the network bought the show from Benton & Bowles, but they negotiated P&G’s exclusivity as part of the deal.

Red Bull is a modern version of the Benton & Bowles philosophy of creating media channels and telling stories that their audience wants to hear.

They didn’t buy ads or tell stories about their energy drink. They dug in deep and tried to learn all they could about their target audience, 18- to 35-year-old males. They started just hanging around them at college parties, coffee shops, libraries, and bars, paying attention to the conversations, passions, and worries of their audience. They handed out samples and listened.

From there, they started sponsoring events that appealed to that same audience. Concerts and extreme sporting events were high on their list, but even that wasn’t enough. They decided they wanted to own the channel to elevate their ability to tell stories. They created their own magazine, the Red Bulletin, in 2005.

They cover sports, culture, music, nightlife, entrepreneurship, and lifestyle stories. The focus is on people 18-35 who accomplish extraordinary achievements, move beyond the norm, test their limits, and passionately seek adventures while breaking new ground.

If you ever flip through their magazine, you’ll notice there is minimal mention of the product. Their Instagram account has over 13 million followers, and every photo is an extreme sports moment (with a lot of athletes wearing Red Bull logo apparel!).

In your head, I suspect you’re saying, “Yeah, but they’re Red Bull. That wouldn’t work for us because we sell X.” Think this strategy won’t work for B2B? Next time, I’ll show you a remarkable example of just how well it is working.

From there, we’re going to talk about how you can begin to tell your story in a way that attracts your ideal audience, holds their attention, and creates customer loyalty.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Channels to consider for 2019- Video

August 15, 2018

videoWe’ve been talking about some of the channels  – email, reviews, video, etc. – that I think every organization needs to consider as they build out their 2019 marketing plan based on data that suggests they’re too big to ignore.

Back when I started my marketing career 30+ years ago, video was a very different beast than it is today. Back then, when we produced a video for a client, it was an incredibly expensive endeavor and took weeks, if not months, to plan, execute and complete. A $50,000 video shoot was considered low end so unless the client was huge, it was a once every few years sort of luxury.

The other big difference with video back then was distribution. There was no YouTube or Internet to use as a way of getting your video in front of your audience. You had to assemble them at a meeting, trade show or some other event and actually run the video while they were in the room. To even type those words sounds so absurd today.

In contrast, this year the average US adult will spend over 100 minutes a day watching digital video (eMarketer). Video has gone from a “few can afford it” marketing tool to one of the most common and one of the most effective.

Brands are producing videos on the fly and publishing them within an hour (if not faster) of being shot. Tools like Facebook Live are bringing us the ability to publish on the fly, and the biggest shift of all – our consumers’ perceptions of these raw, less produced videos has completely changed. Consumers appreciate the authenticity and real-time aspect of the shoot and show style we’re seeing more of today. They aren’t judging the value of the content based on the production value.

Don’t get me wrong; there is still a place and a need for a well shot and artfully edited/produced video. Everything shouldn’t be a run and gun effort. But there’s plenty of room for both.

Interestingly, even though the production requirements for a successful video have changed dramatically, the best ways to use video are still pretty much the same.

Tell a story: Everyone talks about the importance of being able to tell a story in your marketing. That point of view is nothing new, but it’s as relevant today as it was 50 years ago when Leo Burnett introduced us to the lonely Maytag repairman.

Demonstrate something: There’s no better way to teach than to let the audience see if for themselves. Demo videos make the unbelievable very real and the hard to understand, very tangible.

Testimonial: This can be a blend of telling a story, touching an emotion and even demonstrating something. We all know the power of hearing an endorsement from an actual customer. It’s why ratings and reviews are so coveted today. But actually seeing the person as they tell their story of your brand and how it helped them is so much more compelling than just the written word alone.

Teach: This is an aspect of video that has exploded thanks to YouTube. If you want to know how to do something today – from swapping out a toilet to repairing your car’s engine, odds are you head to YouTube to watch a video or two before you touch a tool.

Touch an emotion: This is a tricky one. It can be the most powerful use of video, but if it feels manipulative or staged, you can lose a lot of credibility. But when done well, whether you make us laugh or make us cry – this is marketing gold.

This is probably a channel you can’t ignore. Don’t let your pre-conceived ideas about budget or timeline get in your way of leveraging this very powerful medium.



Virtual Reality – see the 360° opportunities

February 28, 2018

virtual realityHow many of you or your kids have received a virtual reality headset lately as a gift? I’m here to tell you that virtual reality headsets are THE thing lately. If you’re not familiar with how they work, virtual reality (VR) is an immersive experience where your head movements are tracked in a three-dimensional world, creating visual experiences that are so real, your mind and body react as though it’s actually happening.

This concept was first introduced in the 90s but the technology was just too new and expensive to take off. Not the case anymore. For those of you in the 45+ age category, this is today’s version of when Pong hit the market. Next thing we knew, gaming systems were everywhere and marketers were scrambling to jump on board.

History is about to repeat itself. One of the things you should be thinking about as you tweak your 2018 marketing plan is how might I weave virtual reality into how we tell our story.

VR can be used to accomplish many marketing goals like:

  • Demonstrating your products features, functionality and usage
  • Sharing your brand’s bigger picture/mission through storytelling
  • Creating a branded entertainment experience
  • Drawing people to a trade booth with an interactive experience
  • Helping people “see” themselves using your product or service

The beautiful thing about VR is that, as a medium, it checks a lot of boxes that we want to have our campaigns achieve.

Novelty: This isn’t something everyone is doing. If you jump on soon, you’ll be one of the first. You can benefit from a lot of extra buzz and media exposure that will come from being out in front of the crowd.

Memorable: The human brain is wired to remember experiences that connect emotionally. We also remember the things we talk about. VR is the ideal way to deliver on that marketing goal.

Distraction free: Because the technology is so immersive, the viewer is completely engaged in the content and more focused on the messaging and story. You can talk to them without worrying about multi-tasking or fighting for their attention.

As you think about a virtual reality project, there are definitely some things you need to consider. If you’re going to take advantage of the virtual reality phenomenon that means you need to recognize that this is a very different medium. You can’t take a 2-D video or experience and hope to convert it into a 360° experience. You will have the ability to take someone into a completely new environment and you need to think of it as interactive theatre, not a theatre show they sit and watch from a distance.

For the next couple years, you’ll need to take into account that this may be their first VR experience. This is a unique opportunity to wow them and really embed your brand into their psyche. But don’t wait. This isn’t a trend of the future – it’s here and it’s not going anywhere.

Your audience can buy VR viewers like Google Cardboard for less than $25. They’re going to be hungry for brands to serve up opportunities for them experiment with the new technology. Because viewers like Google Cardboard interact with cell phones, it’s easy to get the content to them.

This probably isn’t something you have to do in 2018. But the companies that do will take a very comfortable leap ahead of their competitors. It’s rare in today’s marketing world to have the opportunity to truly do something that will put you in a different league. It’s up to you if you’re willing to take the risk to get there.



Your visuals need your attention!

March 8, 2017


No matter what kind of marketing we’re producing, it seems like we give most of our time and attention to the words. We agonize over the messaging and each and every syllable. And rightly so – they’re all very important. But for some reason, we don’t give our visuals anywhere near as much attention. That’s a huge mistake and it’s keeping your marketing from being as effective as possible.

Remember, we are visual creatures. Sixty-five percent of human beings are visual learners and even if we’re not wired that way, all of us process images 60,000 times faster than we can process auditory or written messages.

Ninety percent of what is communicated to our brain is visual. And much of the information is visually communicated in ways we aren’t even aware of at the time. We take in so much more than we realize and much of it is emotionally based. We react both intellectually and emotionally to everything we see.

Why does all of this matter? Emotions are at the core of every buying decision and long before the cash register rings – emotions allow us to form the know • like • trust chain that leads to that first purchase.

When we talk about marketing visuals, the possibilities are vast. I want you to think about everything from:

The simple aspects of your visuals like the size and shape of your marketing materials: Think about how much more we notice a square brochure versus the traditional tri-fold that fits into a #10 envelope. We’re drawn to die cuts, round business cards and websites that leverage shapes to get our attention.

Color selection: Too many companies disrespect their own color palette because someone in the marketing department is bored. Beyond protecting your brand visually by not messing with your corporate colors, remember that color is a great way to show emphasis, guide someone through a marketing piece or create eye rests on digital pieces.

Illustration versus photographs: Is what you’re trying to communicate a concrete thing or is it conceptual? What kind of a mood are you creating? Which option would be more surprising and arresting? A visual isn’t just a placeholder. It needs to add to the understanding of your message or it’s a waste of space. If you feel like your visual is trite – it is.

Stock photography versus shooting your own: This is a tough one for people because of the perceived cost variance. But don’t dismiss shooting original photography. The ability to control the mood, feature real locations, people and situations and the authenticity can be worth the expense. One budget helping option is to shoot your most vital visuals and augment them with well-chosen stock.

What kind of chart/graph would best communicate your information: When you are trying to communicate a complicated concept, charts and graphs can often be helpful. Sadly, most people cram so much into each visual that they render them useless. With charts and graphs, remember that less is more. Be mindful of the relationship between each fact you’re including. That should suggest the type of chart or graph that would best illustrate the connection.

If you’re creating an infographic, what is the storyline? Infographics are the hot “new” visual tool but most companies miss the mark. An infographic should do more than spew out stats or data. The real power of an infographic is that it can actually tell a story. Identify the arc of your story and let the visuals and facts move the viewer through the arc.

Your visuals should not be an afterthought. In fact, they often communicate on more levels than the words you so carefully craft. Give your visuals the time and respect they deserve and your marketing will be the better for it.


Context is King

December 28, 2016

ContextContext is king.  When you think about companies who take risks and are edgy when it comes to their marketing – the insurance industry would hardly be the first to pop into your mind. But that’s what happened during the 2015 Superbowl TV spotathon.

Nationwide unveiled a TV spot during the Superbowl where a small boy was talking about all the things in life that he had missed. All because he died in a preventable accident.

The spot urged viewers to visit, a site that Nationwide was sponsoring to increase awareness about preventing the kinds of accidents that hurt or kill children each year.

The spot was well done and the message was clear and well intentioned. But the outrage and disapproval were over the top. The tweets, Facebook posts on the Nationwide page and general commentary were swift and disapproving.

What went wrong? We can all agree that trying to prevent accidents that kill children is a noble effort. Nationwide wasn’t really trying to tie any product to their message so it wasn’t overly commercial or self-serving.

The problem was that Nationwide and their agency totally disregarded context.

People are at a Superbowl PARTY. The day is practically considered a national holiday. It’s loud and celebratory and everyone is having a good time.

Which means they don’t want to think about dead children.

The audience could not and would not hear the Nationwide message at their Superbowl party.

Superbowl ads typically fall into two categories. They’re either funny or sentimental. But they are not sad. They are not heavy or laden with information. Just like the snacks at a typical Superbowl party – they’re puffy little hors d’oeuvres, meant to tantalize, not satisfy a deep hunger.

Nationwide released a statement the day after the Superbowl because of the uproar. They said that they accomplished their goal, which was to get people talking and cited the number of hits on the website after the spot aired.

Sorry Nationwide, but I have to call BS on that. Yes, people were talking, but they weren’t talking about preventable accidents, they were talking about how much they hated the spot. And they weren’t visiting the website to learn how to protect their children, they were visiting the website to see what in the world you were trying to communicate.

As you might imagine, there are lessons for all of us in the Nationwide Superbowl mistake in terms of context.

Get into their heads and hearts: You need to really understand how and when your messages are going to be in front of your audience and what they are thinking and feeling in that moment. Every word you use or visual you include is filtered through their state of mind at that moment. As Nationwide learned, even the most sincere message can fall flat if the mood doesn’t match.

Assess their ability to take action: Be mindful of how and where your audience is going to see your communication. Putting a phone number on a billboard, when people are whizzing by at 70 MPH is probably a waste of space unless the number is so easy to remember (800-CLOGGED) that the few seconds they have to see it will be enough.

Consider their setting/who they’re with: One of the reasons the Nationwide spot got so widely criticized is that Superbowl viewing is an all ages activity. Many people felt it was inappropriate to run the spot when so many children were in the viewing audience.

Even if there weren’t children around, everyone was hanging out with their friends. They love the Superbowl spots that made them all laugh together and enhanced the party feel. A spot about a dead boy hardly has that effect.

Don’t ever ignore the context of how, where and when your communication will fall into the audience’s day. Those filters may enhance their reaction or, as it did for Nationwide, might completely destroy your effort.


Storytelling, storytelling, and more storytelling

October 24, 2014

storytellingSeems like every marketing book, blog and study is talking about how we should be using storytelling as a marketing technique. I couldn’t agree more.  Unfortunately, I think most attempts fall short.

Marketers clearly believe that storytelling is a critical component of their marketing efforts.  It’s one of the most talked about topics in marketing circles today.

So — no argument that marketing’s version of storytelling is critical to a business’ communications success. The question is — why are so many companies doing it badly and not experiencing the results they want?

The stories don’t evoke an emotion: There’s not a memorable story around that isn’t seeded in emotions.  For some businesses, especially those in the B2B sector, it’s hard to imagine what emotions their products or services might trigger.  That’s because the marketers are staying at the features level of sales, not delving into the benefits that lie beneath.

It might be as simple as your prospect is afraid if they make a bad decision, it will cost them their job.  Or it could be that what you sell is helping your clients fulfill their reason for existing — which to them is very emotionally motivated.  If you dig deep enough, you’ll find the emotions behind your stories.  Be sure you expose those in your storytelling so that your audience can relate to and empathize with the people in the tale.

The stories don’t use data to lend credibility: What makes true stories so dramatic and grabbing are the facts that are dotted throughout the telling.

Data can be used in a variety of ways to tell your story.  Think visual data like an infographic or let the data suggest a new angle or insight for both you and your audience.

The story doesn’t take us on a journey: In marketing’s version of storytelling, we often take shortcuts to get to the big reveal.  But in taking the shortcut, we rob the audience of story’s arc. Every story is, in essence, a journey that chronicles the problem, the fight to solve the problem and how things are better once the challenge is resolved.

But a great story lets the journey also help the audience see the motivations, frustrations and worries of the characters while they try to face the problem. The outcomes are also wrapped in more than just the tangible results.  When the story is rich with details – we also learn more about the intangible results and ultimate value of delivering the right solution.

The story doesn’t include a next step/call to action: Here’s where most marketers really miss the boat.  A well-crafted story draws the audience in, helps them connect with the main character and feel their common pain.  As the story evolves, the prospect is pulling for the character — because in reality, the character bears a striking resemblance to them.  They experience the ups and downs within the story and as the story delivers the happy ending — the prospective customer is thinking and feeling relief and a desire to share in that sort of outcome.

So marketing’s version of storytelling is all too often, a big tease.  You led them right to the edge — get them hungry for what you’re selling but don’t give them a clear and defined next step.  Ask yourself — what do I want them to do next and be sure you make it easy and quick to take that next action.

What do you think? Can you tweak the way you’re telling your company’s story so that it actually drives leads and generates sales?