Telling a Good Story

by Rebekah Rhys

Once upon a time, there was an inventive, creative, and fun couple named Terry and Susan. They had a really great idea for a product, so they decided to start a company. It was a fledgeling startup, but Terry and Susan were excited to bring something fun and innovative to the marketplace. Enamoured by their newly discovered “entrepreneur gene,” they set to work in their house crafting business plans, outlining wondrous ideas of fantastical products, and having a grand time. The world was truly their oyster, as they brainstormed and dreamed their way to where their company, inevitably, would take over the world.

However, as they began telling their relatives and friends about their newfound business and products, they found themselves struggling to relay the genius of their ideas. They found, with enough explaining, that folks eventually came to understand what they were trying to do, but this often took tedious amounts of time, with face-to-face contact, to achieve.

One day, opportunity came knocking, and Terry and Susan had chance to pitch their favorite product to a national store chain. Terry and Susan rounded up a top-notch team to help them with this task, because this was gonna be huge! However, as the team assembled, a problem began to emerge and became glaringly clear: What, exactly, were they selling? And what’s more, how could they talk about it in a crowded marketplace? They knew their product, but what made it different, or better than anyone else’s? Who was their target market? What story were they telling?

It turned out they each had several narratives running through their heads about who they were, what they wanted the business to be, and how they wanted to position their products against their competitors. And neither Terry’s nor Susan’s ideas were the same. Terry wanted to be sure to honor his late father through his company. Susan decided their success would be greater if they targeted men and women, from babies to Baby Boomers, making sure to include hipsters, rockers, and and average folks, from all socio-economic backgrounds, while maintaining a fun, vibrant atmosphere, while at the same time introducing several different types of products that were completely unrelated into the marketplace at the same time.

It soon became clear to Terry and Susan that this marketing strategy was not going to be successful.

Why, you say?

Because doing all the things and appeasing all of the people at the same time leaves out the most important thread in any marketing strategy: a cohesive story.

While Terry and Susan had all sorts of great ideas and ambitions, they didn’t realize the importance and power of a good story. A good story is what sells a product or a brand. Here are some helpful things to remember:

1. Know your market. Your market is not made up of your friends, your family, or your neighborhood. As much as you want to ask them for their opinion, it might not help you reach your actual market. Your market is made up of the people who will get excited about your brand and product because their lifestyle fits your brand narrative. These are the people who will actually spend money to buy what you’re selling. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your product appeals to “everybody.” Though that may be true, you have to target a more specific group to be able to tell a good story. And those who purchase your product should feel like they’re a part of your story. Your market might start small; if your market is ten people today, talk to those ten people and keep them wildly excited about your product. Once you know how to engage your market, that’s when you can grow.

2. Find your story within your market. Who you feel like you are and how your market perceives you are sometimes vastly different things. At the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is your market’s. Start by really listening to your customers and find out what drives them to your product, and then build your customers into the narrative of your story. What makes your customers feel like they can conquer the world? Solve annoying problems? Be a hero for a day? Drill in there and craft your brand story accordingly.

3. Talk to people where they are. It’s never a good strategy to blanket all of the available marketing channels. Where does your customer live? Where does the market live? Is it a magazine, a podcast, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest? No one solution will be the best avenue for telling your story. What avenues can you maintain effectively and communicate with your audience? There’s a reason film only lives on a screen and theatre only lives in-person: They are specific messages for a specific audience in a specific place and time. Learn where your customers hang out and hang out with them. The more your customers feel like they have a relationship with you, the more they will be involved in your brand and become lifelong customers.

What’s the moral of this story?

“Tis better to be a master storyteller of one tale, than a rambling fool.”

In other words, learn your story, and tell it well. Be yourself, speak to a specific market, and keep it simple at first. If you can do these things well, the right people will want to be a part of your story. It will take some time, but it will be worth it to have a great story to tell, along with a great product to sell.