Over the years, I’ve gone from dreading coming up with marketing materials to market my software to really enjoying it.
I think part of the reason for this is that I enjoy learning. My son-in-law says that when he learns something new, he gets a new wrinkle in his brain. He also says a lot of other funny stuff, but I think he’s right. I love the transformation of thinking that takes place when you learn something new.
One of the things that I’ve learned over the last few years is the power of story.
John Eldredge, in his book Epic: The Story God is Telling says:
Life, you’ll notice, is a story.
Life doesn’t come to us like a math problem. It comes to us like a story does, scene by scene. A year goes by like a chapter from a novel. Sometimes it seems like a tragedy, sometimes like a comedy. Most of it feels like a soap opera. Either way, it’s a story through and through. “All of life is a story,” as Madeline L’Engle reminds us. Love affairs, lay-offs, the collapse of empires, your child’s day at school—none of it makes sense without a story.
Have you noticed how much people like stories? Stories bring clarity to the world we’re living in.
Your Marketing Needs Clarity
That’s probably a big “duh!” We know that our marketing needs clarity, right? If so, why aren’t we providing it?
If you’re a software company owner you’re probably a geek. We tend to think logically, in facts and details. We like stories but we don’t think in stories when it comes to our software products.
The problem is our prospects aren’t always other geeks. They don’t think like we do so we need to adjust our marketing to make more sense to them. You are not your customer. That’s a hard one to swallow or wrap your head around.
How do you make your marketing more appealing to your prospects?
Before you can change your marketing, you need to know who you are marketing to. Who is your ideal customer? What problems do they face every day? What fears do they have? What solutions are they seeking?
The name for this ideal customer is a Buyer Persona. Adele Revella, in her book Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer’s Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business says:
Built from interviews with real buyers, a buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options. The buyers’ words reveal the attitudes, concerns and decision criteria you need to address to win their business.
Once you have a picture or definition of your ideal customer, it’s much easier to craft your marketing to reach that person.
What changes can you make to your marketing with this information? You can tailor your website, emails and other marketing materials to guide this person and help them make a decision.
Following the rules
If you think about music, what makes it different from the sounds of traffic, or say the sounds of everyone talking before the symphony starts? The difference between noise and music is that music follows a set of rules. When those rules are followed, music results. It brings clarity to the sounds.
Stories follow rules just like music follows rules. That’s what makes a story so compelling. It brings clarity to a group of words.
Unfortunately, that’s what most of our marketing is. It’s just a bunch of words strung together touting the features and benefits of our software. What if we could bring some clarity to our message? What type of impact would that make?
Your customer as the hero
If you look at the typical marketing piece, who is the hero? The company offering the product.
To transform your marketing, you need to make the customer the hero of the story.
Joseph Campbell wrote a book in 1947 entitled “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” In the book, he researches all of mythology and found that all the stories basically follow the same set of rules.
- You have a character who wants something.
- The character then has a problem.
- Then they meet a guide.
- The guide gives them a plan.
- The plan calls them to action.
- This either results in success or failure.
This plays out in most stories and movies.
Think about Star Wars for a second.
- You have a character, Luke Skywalker, who wants to be a Jedi.
- He has a problem:
- External problem: He lives with his aunt and uncle in the middle of nowhere.
- Internal problem: Does he have what it takes to be a Jedi?
- He then meets a guide, Obie Wan Kenobi
- Who give him a plan. “Use the force Luke”
- This either will result in success: defeating the death star or failure: he’ll turn to the dark side.
The Hunger Games
In The Hunger Games:
- You have a character, Katniss, who wants to live peacefully in District 12.
- She has a problem:
- External problem: Her sister gets chosen for the hunger games and she volunteers to take her place.
- Internal problem: Can she do this? Can she win the hunger games?
- She then meets a guide, Haymitch, who has won the hunger games.
- He gives her a plan to win.
- This either results in success: She wins the games and survives or failure: She dies in the games and president Snow wins.
To transform your marketing you need to make your buyer persona, or customer, the hero. You have to move your company or software product from being the hero to being the guide.
People aren’t interested in you or your product being the hero. This is their story and they are the hero. They’re looking for a guide to help them in their story.
You make the customer the hero by making the marketing piece or website about them. What problems are they facing? Empathize with them. Then tell them they have it what it takes. They can overcome the problem. You are the guide that is there to help them on their journey.
Then you give them a plan of action. Contrary to popular thought, people like being told what to do. They don’t like to think when they’re searching for solutions. That’s why you need to have a strong call to action to help them make a decision.
A tale of two ad campaigns
Do you remember, or have you heard, that back when Steve Jobs and Apple released the Lisa computer they took out a nine page ad in the Wall Street Journal touting all the specs and features of the Lisa? How did that turn out? Are we all using Lisa-Book Pros?
Compare that to how Steve Jobs and Apple released the iPad back in 2010. Here’s the ad.
Notice who the hero in the ad is? Yes! You the customer.
If you did any flying back in the early 2000’s and picked up an airline magazine, you would have seen several full page ads featuring the Bose Quiet Comfort headphones. The ad touted all the features and specs of the headphones. Mainly only serious audiophiles and frequent travelers purchased them.
In 2008 there was a new kid on the noise-cancellation headphone block, Beats by dre’. They didn’t try to make the headphone be the hero of their ads. Take a look.
Who is the hero?
Now look at how Bose has changed their ads.
The ad is no longer about the headphone. It’s about who you can be with the product.
A paradigm shift
I realize this may be a paradigm shift from your default instincts of touting your software’s features and benefits, but trust me, it works. We’ve seen a large increase in leads and software demos since we’ve made the shift.
If you want to learn more about changing your marketing to tell stories, check out StoryBrand. They put on a conference and have online training available.
Good stuff, Phil!!
That’s pretty…clear (couldn’t come up with a word that wasn’t a pun).
I’m off to StoryBrand to learn more. Have you read any of his (Donald Miller, Storybrand guy) books? Recommend any?
I’ve read all his books and am a big fan. Was really glad when he started doing StoryBrand.
If you haven’t read his books, you need to start with Blue Like Jazz. My next favorite is Scary Close.
Let me know what you think.