Great Ideas Start with a Spark

What’s the Story? The Answer Matters for Your Company’s Success

How a hero’s (or heroine’s!) quest can help you define your company’s offers and the sales and marketing strategies you need to spark growth.

“The most powerful person in the world is the story teller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” – Steve Jobs

What do you do on a Friday night after a long, frustrating week? Especially right now, the answer may be to plop down for a serious Netflix bender. There’s just something about losing yourself in a story.

That’s because humans are hardwired for narrative. We enjoy riding the highs and lows of the Game of Thrones or reading about Jack Reacher’s latest escapades. Stories pull us in and what we learn sticks with us in a way that statistics just don’t.

What many business owners and executives don’t realize is that they can harness the power of great storytelling to make connections with customers—and there’s no need to be the next Nora Roberts or John Grisham to do it. In fact, we at Spark Growth Strategies have a proven framework and process to help business owners uncover the stories their company should be telling and identify the audiences who need to hear them.

Settle in and we’ll tell you a tale about how it works.

The Elements of a Good Story

The best stories are original in their telling and their plot twists, but they still have common elements. Nearly every story goes something like this:

  • It all starts with a heroine or hero, someone to root for.

  • A problem sets that person on a quest, whether for love, a national football championship, or the chance to destroy a magic ring by dropping it into the fires of Mount Doom.

  • They find a guide to help show them the way forward.

  • And of course, the stakes are high and the potential rewards great, but only available if the hero takes definitive, courageous, action.

The thing is, we’re all the heroes of our own stories. Every prospective customer has a problem they’re on a mission to solve, even if their quest takes place on Google Search. They have skin in the game and they want a reliable guide to help them take the actions they must so they can enjoy “happily ever after” they’re imagining.

The key for a business is to tap directly into these self-told tales. But the question you’re probably asking is how.

It’s Not About Founders or Features

In my experience working with dozens upon dozens of clients, I find that most business leaders don’t know what stories they can and should be telling.

In some cases, the entire company feeds off the founder’s tale, regaling people about the gaps that the original company partners saw in the market and the ambitious steps they took to fill them. The problem is that the founding story, as important as it may be to internal stakeholders, isn’t usually one that resonates best with prospective customers. Remember, in their minds, you’re not the hero—they are.

In other companies, a laser focus on features crowds out anything resembling story. The thought process tends to be that if the company offers a product or service with more capabilities or better performance than the competitor’s, they’ll win. Yeah, tell that to Betamax.

The reality is that features-based messaging rarely exerts the pull companies expect. Features comparisons can be critical at the decision stage, just before a deal is sealed, but these particulars aren’t terribly effective in drawing consumers or business customers into the sales funnel in the first place. For that, you need a story.

Learning to Tell a Business Story

This is where the StoryMap Framework comes in. It’s an expert-guided process that translates your customers’ mission—their search for a solution to a current problem—into a hero’s quest. In working on a StoryMap with one of our Growth Coaches, company leaders explore topic like:
  • What buyer personas are you targeting?

  • What quest is each of these people is on?

  • How do you enter their lives as the hero’s guide who has a plan?

  • Which action do they need to take—and what is the “happily ever after” you’ll deliver if they do?

From the StoryMap process emerges a detailed, living document. You define offers, sales points, calls to action, and more. Importantly, each element is then encapsulated in basic marketing copy by a professional writer, to provide the creativity and polish that helps make a story shine.

That way, with your finished StoryMap, you have the pieces you need to develop engaging content and effective collateral, from the company website and social media presence to the sales team’s elevator speech. Or you can turn execution over to a marketing partner with crystal clear instructions to help you get the results you expect.

Get Your Gandalf

I’ve found that the StoryMap process has an uncanny diagnostic capability. Over and over again, the companies that struggle most in defining their StoryMap are the same ones struggling to gain traction in the market. This makes the one-on-one interactions with a growth coach, on which the StoryMap process is built, absolutely vital. The epiphanies that come from the intensive collaboration simply can’t be gained through a book or a video series.

For companies that are doing pretty well, StoryMap serves as a tune-up. A few quick sessions are often enough to formalize the story foundations the company has already been using, maybe without realizing it. The added clarity then smooths the path to accelerated growth.

A company that’s not currently meeting targets or has reached a critical turning point, however, may need to spend more time creating a StoryMap, but it’s worth it. The process promotes big picture thinking, so you’re not stuck debating particular marketing campaigns or web page content without the context to make effective decisions. But at the same time, you’re not wandering in the wilderness of mission statement generalities, which don’t directly impact sales or revenues.

In my experience, most business executives, myself included, really want our own Gandalf for some wise counsel at key junctures. Fortunately, guiding companies to stronger, faster growth is our specialty at Spark Growth Strategies and it’s easy to get started on the path. Simply schedule a complimentary consultation right here.

And unlike with a hero’s quest, there’s nothing at risk in spending a half hour with a Growth Coach at no cost to you. But you just might find yourself a little closer to happily ever after if you do.

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