7 simple steps to craft your story
If you’re a company it’s reasonable to assume you are seeking the attention of your customers. BUT as a company, you’re never the only one, which means there’s so.much.noise. Lots of it. That probably leaves you wondering How the heck can I get my audience’s attention?
Excuse me while I get philosophical for a second…
The story is an important literary device that has been proven to 1) catch people’s interest, 2) get them wrapped up in it, and 3) keep their attention until the character’s dilemma comes to a resolution. A story fights noise. It can be summed up as a specific thing happening to a specific person with a specific resolution. So specific. The specifics aren’t for nothing though. They create clear understanding—putting everything in order helping to make sense of a bunch of facts.
You might be saying, “How does a story come into play with getting my customers’ attention?” Here’s how it works. If people can understand your solution, even if it’s not the best solution out there, you are more likely to get a sale out of them than a better product whose language is unclear and confusing. People don’t have the time and the patience to figure stuff out. It is a fact that if people can understand you that you WILL sell more.
Now that we see how important a story is as a tool, the question is, “How do I do it? How do I craft a story about my service or product? I’m not even a writer”, you’re thinking. Enter StoryBrand. And thank goodness for that. StoryBrand created a framework in the past few years to make it easier to create a story so you could in turn sell your company. Not actually sell your company, but convince people they need what you have to offer. The StoryBrand framework is broken down into 7 easy parts: the character, the problem, the guide, the plan, a call to action, a failure avoided, and a success achieved. Simple, right?
Here’s how the StoryBrand framework helps you dig into each of the 7 elements.
1) The character
The main character—your customer—is the hero of the story. The character is your user, the person or company buying your product, your customer. It’s important to really question yourself on this because it can be ambiguous at times (ex. the person buying is not the person using). They are reluctant and ill-equipped.
2) The problem
Your character—your users—have a problem. What is it? By correctly identifying and connecting with your character’s problem, their interest deepens and you can draw them in to later present a solution to their problem. There are 3 types of problems, though. The first being an external problem. This is their end need. A physical manifestation of an internal problem that they have. Internal? External? What??? Don’t worry I’ll get to some examples to get this sorted out. People normally buy a solution to an external problem but there’s a deeper problem that’s driving them—an internal problem. What does thriving look like for them? Who do they aspire to be? A psychologist from the 1950s, Abraham Maslow, said that ultimately people want to reach their potential and find fulfillment. No one is satisfied with the way they are currently. Everyone is seeking transformation by being better or becoming something else. Know what your customers want deep down to connect with that problem. Lastly is a philosophical problem—something “shouldn’t” be this way.
So an example of the 3-tiered problem approach is a dirty home :
External problem = the home is unsightly ( the solution would be to hire a home cleaning service)
Internal problem = home owner is embarrassed
Philosophical problem = no one’s home should be this dirty
3) The guide
Once the story has established who the main character is and the problem they need a solution to, a guide steps in to HELP the character, your customer. This is YOU. But remember, you are just a guide. Resist the urge to become their hero. Tell yourself I am not the hero, I am not the hero, I am not the hero over and over again if it comes hard. The character needs to be the hero of their story. You job is just to help them get to the resolution.
A character looks for a guide who has been there, done that, and makes them competent to face their challenges. A character looks for a guide who can make them a better version of themselves. The guide should obsess over the character’s transformation. Always keep the character at the center of the story.
Different traits a character looks for in their guide are empathy and experience, which establishes trust. As a company, you need to show you care and understand your customer’s internal problems and want to help resolve them. Once you show that your heart is there, sharing testimonials, statistics, awards, or logos can help build the trust.
4) The plan
As the guide, you get to give the hero of the story a plan to help them overcome their core problem. Because they are likely feeling a little overwhelmed due to the fact that they have never faced this problem before, much less solved it on their own, providing them with stepping stones to help them easily get to the other side of the chasm makes the process much easier and it won’t seem nearly as daunting. Simplicity and clarity are essential. A complex plan just leaves the hero with a furrowed eyebrow, ruffled feathers, and very little trust in their guide. Maybe it’s just time to ditch the guide? If they don’t have a clear idea of where they are going how can they get me there? It’s obviously most ideal to have a good plan in place. A bad plan isn’t ideal, but it is better than having no plan which is a surefire way of confusing customers.
5) Calls them to action
When the hero is truly following the guide, they must be thought of as children. They need to be spoon fed. We must get rid of all assumptions we have on what they should be able to figure out and truly instigate it. They need to know what to do next and at that they need to be challenged to take the next step. People rarely make big life decisions on their own accord—it is because they have been challenged.
There are two types of calls to action (CTAs) and homepages should always have both. Without both you have no idea how many lost opportunities you have for cultivating relationships that could turn into customers in the future. There are 1) direct calls to action and 2) transitional calls to action. A direct CTA is very obvious and is taking a big step. It is something like “sign up” or “create your account.” Sometimes people aren’t quite ready for that much of a commitment, but they would be willing to take action on a lesser command. A transitional CTA is like dipping your feet in the water where there’s much less risk and you don’t have to be ready to swim. Transitional CTAs call the hero to download a pdf full of information that is valuable, or sign up for a webinar, request free samples, or sign up for a free trial. Generally the hero is requested to provide their email address in exchange for one of these items. Your generosity in providing something of value shows how much you truly think of them and that you will do anything for them until they are willing to commit to you and follow you. Woo them with your transactional CTA.
6) Help them to avoid failure
With your plan that addresses their problem, you are doing two things. One is help them avoid failure. No one wants to face failure or even talk about the possibility. But if there’s nothing at stake, then there’s no story. Did you know that loss aversion is actually a greater buying motive than potential gains? (Just think about why insurance exists) Because of this, you need to remind your customer that they are vulnerable to a threat and taking action will reduce the vulnerability. To avoid this threat, challenge them to take a recommended action.
7) Help them achieve success
People want to be taken somewhere. Where is it that you are taking them? Is it achievable and clear? Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. You must TELL THEM. How you show what success looks like might be a before and after image. Think about all the websites you’ve seen where there is an image of happy people, or machinery that works well. Those companies are showing what success looks like in pictures and giving a final result to be desired.
Using this framework to tell the story of how your company fits into the life of your customer means that you have a great starting point for crafting your web copy and you won’t have to worry about your words being in vain. You won’t have to worry about wasted time, effort, and energy. And you won’t have to worry about not making it. If you tell the right story all your efforts will be worth it.
I believe that anyone who wants to put the time into it will be able to successfully use this framework. If, however, it’s not your cup of tea, I can follow this framework for you to create an engaging website for your company that converts.