one-big-thing

One Big Thing

By | lead generation, leads online, Marketing, Story, Uncategorized | No Comments

Clarity is essential to telling your story and making your brand easy to buy. Chances are pretty good you have more than one product or service to offer, so how can you distill what you do down to one simple idea? Let’s look at an organization that does this exceedingly well.

Just One Thing

charity:water uses effective messaging that spells out quickly and clearly what they do. It’s easy to understand why it’s important and how to get involved.

Take a look at charity:water’s about page. The first thing you see is their mission statement. It’s blunt, bold and concise—less than 20 words and you know exactly what charity:water does. Looking at this page, you can instantly understand why they exist, what they do, who they serve and why it’s important. Scroll down and you find paths to follow further into the details.

Many nonprofits and businesses are in the trenches doing the work. They know all the details of what they do, so when the time comes to focus on marketing they have way too much information to share with their donors or customers. To anybody just learning about your organization, too much detail is confusing. Successful marketing is crystal clear and focuses on one thing.

Among the many causes, projects, services or products your organization offers, which one do you choose? The clearest one. What one thing is easy for people to get involved with? What one thing is easy to grasp as extremely important? You probably have more than one big thing and it’s hard to narrow it down because you know how important all of them are, but keep in mind that more than one will confuse your audience. One thing is easy to support. One thing is easy to get involved in. One thing is easy to understand. And one thing is just the beginning. It’s the gateway through which people enter into your organization. Over time your supporters and customers will discover you do more awesome things. “I see you bought gardening gloves,” you can eventually tell a customer. “Did you know we sell seeds, too?” Think of it as spoon feeding instead of opening up the firehose.

Once somebody is highly engaged with your organization, involved in multiple causes or buying a variety of products and services, your one big thing will make them a more effective evangelist because they can tell their friends, concisely and simply, what you do, why it’s important and how to get involved.

The Big Guys

If you look at huge companies like General Electric or Coca-Cola, you know they do a thousand things. If you’re running a $100 billion company, you’re probably not reading this blog. Once you’re that big, you handle marketing differently. Ask the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company anything about marketing. They’ll likely tell you about the consulting firm they keep on a million-dollar retainer to handle it.
But even though you know Coke sells chips and water and a huge variety of products, the one big thing rule still applies. Each department might have its one thing. Each major division has its singular focus. No matter the size of the company, the principal is the same: focus on one thing.
Ironically, the bigger a company the more likely they’ve figured out how to focus on one thing. This is because growing that large in the first place requires this kind of clarity. Walmart sells a million things from thousands of warehouses and it still managed to narrow down what it does to a two-word slogan: better living. Compassion International operates worldwide with enormous impact but boils everything down to one thing: sponsor a child for $38 a month.

Find Your One Thing

You can do a lot of things, you just can’t lead with them all publicly. You can start the process of figuring out what to lead with by making a list of everything you do. Work on narrowing it down to your one thing by asking what will your leads online find easy to understand and easy to engage with. This is an ongoing process requiring a lot of thought and it will take time. Be patient.

Once you have your message distilled to your one big thing, test out your messaging publicly, measure the results and try again. You will probably be honing this message for some time before you land on what really grabs people.

342h

The Elements of Story

By | Story, Uncategorized | No Comments

Last week we talked about how stories can be an effective marketing tool to communicate who you are, what you do and why your target market should care. How to tell your story can be confusing, so let’s take a closer look at what a story is and why it moves people to action.

Once Upon a Time

A story has a series of events, but that’s not what a story is. This is an important differentiation because distilling everything down to a chronology takes the wind out of the sails of your story. This is why we read the book in English class instead of running through the CliffsNotes. Imagine if I told you the story of Hamlet like this.

  1. Hamlet sees the ghost of his dead father.
  2. He watches a play
  3. Acts like a crazy person
  4. Yells at his mother
  5. Kills his girlfriend’s father
  6. Goes to England.
  7. His girlfriend kills herself.
  8. Hamlet comes back and fences with his girlfriend’s brother.
  9. Everybody dies.

The end.

Technically this is what happens in Hamlet, but this isn’t the story. Had Shakespeare simply cataloged the events, we wouldn’t be producing  the play 500 years later. So what story are you telling in your marketing?

Imagine if my marketing went like this:

  1. I moved to Seattle.
  2. I started a business.
  3. I sold printers.

The end.

You’ll notice everybody lives in my chronology, but that’s not enough to make up for what it lacks. Hamlet and other enduring stories, like them or not, endure because of their elements, the stuff beyond their events. These elements range from language to historical relevance to characterization, but one of the central elements which takes a chronology and turns it into a story is change.

The Power of Change

This one thing will alter how you tell your story because people want to hear about the day everything changed and the character who changed in turn. Brian McDonald has taught storytellers at Pixar, Disney Feature Animation and Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic how to tell a story. According to him, great stories follow a simple but specific structure and that structure always involves change.

Think about what you’re selling, and the change you want to illustrate should be clear. What were things like before a client came to you and how did your product or service change that? Telling the stories of your clients is incredibly effective. You can focus on the amazing work your client does and highlight your expertise without being salesy. Upon hearing the story of your client’s transformation your audience will see how effective you are at what you do. In a world where pushy advertising repels leads, storytelling offers a strong and attractive method for marketers.

Most companies sell facts and features. Great companies sell stories. No matter what changes affect an industry, technology, economy, business model, whatever—stories will always be the heart of effective marketing.

stocksnap_yy0cctbu9w

Tell a (True) Story

By | boost sales, communication, content marketing, inbound marketing, leads online, Marketing, Story | No Comments

Marketing gets a bad rap for a number of reasons. First, there’s the consumer side. How many of us have bought into great marketing only to be disappointed by a lousy product? Then there’s the business side. Many business owners have horror stories about how they spent thousands on a marketing firm that didn’t deliver.

There are reasons enough to be suspicious of anybody marketing a product.

The root cause of bad marketing is the failure to deliver on a promise. In the first instance discussed above, the consumer was promised a great product. In the second, a business owner was promised growth. Bad marketing promises things its product can’t actually deliver. Now you could argue good marketing is anything that convinces people to buy, but the purchase is only one tiny piece of a much larger picture. Truly good marketing not only attracts the right audience, it converts them into delighted, repeat customers. Neither our consumer nor our business owner are delighted and neither will be buying again from the same companies, no matter the marketing message.

Good marketing tells the truth. This is both freeing and terrifying. If your products aren’t that good, you can’t tell the truth and gain customers. You either have to convince people your business can offer something it can’t or you have to use incentives that will convince people to put up with a subpar product. There is a place for the latter—a huge market of people who will put up with bad quality, bad service, lots of bad things, if they get something on the cheap. But if you want to sell quality, you have to be quality.

Let’s say you know you’re quality. In fact, you’re better than your competitors by a long shot and you can prove it. How do you tell the truth in a compelling way? Call it cliché, but the answer is to tell a story.

What Storytelling Is and Isn’t

Think about the pitches you’ve heard over the years. Which ones do you remember? Why? There are lots of well-meaning people armed with PowerPoints, charts, graphs and other compelling evidence. There’s a place for these things (after all, what is marketing without metrics?), but when it comes to clearly telling your target market what you do in attractive and compelling terms, go beyond the charts and graphs and tell the story.

We’re moved when people tell us their story. When you consider how the masses spend money, there’s usually a story behind it. Films, plays and music pull in billions every year worldwide. Each piece tells a story and people will pay to watch or hear it unfold. These stories intertwine with personal stories all over the globe—just look at the role music played in Cuba or behind the iron curtain. People act in response to a story.

Consider sports. Last week an estimated 40 million people tuned in to see Game Seven of the World Series between the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs, teams from cities with a combined population of less than 3 million. Why? Because even people with only a casual interest in baseball know the saga of the Cubs and their 108-year losing streak. Every rivalry is a story. Every sport has a story. Every season tells a story. And people will pay top dollar to watch.

Now imagine you see a film trailer and the story grabs you. You buy a ticket, the lights go down and a movie bearing no resemblance to the previews plays. Are you disappointed? Of course! This isn’t what you signed up for. The same is true for your marketing. Tell the truth. Sure, you can attract more people from more demographics if you don’t tell the truth, but how many of them are going to be interested in your product? None, if you had to make things up to reach them. People outside of your target market are not going to buy from you, so there’s no point in trying to pull them in.

Your business has a story. Your products have a story. Tell the story.