Once the Wall Street Journal featured a story about corporate parking lots. It’s hard to imagine a duller subject.
But the writer opened with the story of Dave, who earned the right to park his midnight-blue Porsche 911 right next to the entrance. He is Number One in sales. Now we readers are making an emotional connection to Dave, even though we’ve never met him.
Why did we connect? Word pictures! Dave, Porsche, blue, sales. We even learn the model number of Dave’s Porsche.
But we’re also getting a sense of Dave’s backstory.
Readers of this feature will often be familiar with what it takes to get ahead in sales: long nights, difficult conversations, fickle clients and tons of rejections. They’ll understand (and maybe wince at) the games big companies play.
So just a few words will give them a sense of Dave’s back story.
Even the Porsche provides an important detail. People who own Porsches have a special relationship with their cars. A personal trainer at my gym owned a motorcycle and a lovingly restored Porsche. They were parts of his identity.
Many people begin creating content from 30,000 feet instead of getting into the trenches. They look at the parking lots instead of the blue Porsches and their drivers. As a result, they’re telling – not showing – and readers just don’t get involved.
Instead, think of creating “you are there” scenarios.
Here’s a marketing example — a composite from several places.
We’ll begin with the original blah message: “Our service develops strong leadership.”
Then we’ll look at the backstory of a client who might show up here:
“John wasn’t seen as a leader and he didn’t know why. People weren’t turning to him to ask for advice, let alone look up to him. John was getting extremely frustrated. He knew he had good ideas, but he wasn’t being heard. He wasn’t getting credit for his ideas. His performance review read, ‘John needs to be proactive in assuming a leadership role.”
You might incorporate John’s story into bullet points, such as, “How to be rewarded and recognized for your ideas (without coming across as pushy or demanding).” Or even, “With our five-step system, you’ll start getting recognized by your formerly distant colleagues — without waving a flag to draw attention to yourself.”
The key to creating strong marketing content is to ask, “What is the story behind this client’s arrival on my appointment calendar?” When you ask this question, you automatically focus on the symptom – not the problem. People get help for symptoms, not problems. “I can’t pay my bills” versus “I’ve got cash flow problems.” Or “My knee hurts when I run” versus, “I’ve got a health problem.”
Let’s say you’re a relationship coach who specializes in women who are recently divorced and feeling alone. You can summarize some client backstories into a single “pull question:”
“Are you turning down invitations to go out because you don’t want to be the only uncoupled person over 25?”
“Do your friends keep sending you potential mates with not-so-subtle hints (‘ok, he does have some baggage, but he’s very loyal…’)”
The easiest way to identify backstories is to notice what people say when they call you for a first appointment. I encourage my own clients to keep a file of these requests and turn to them when they get ready to develop their marketing campaigns. You can also notice questions that appear in forums and in the Q&A of other professionals who offer similar services.
Would you like me to help you develop a stronger message and engage more convincingly with your best clients? I’d love to work with you! Learn about my consultations (and check out the testimonials!)
And if you’d like to make stronger connections with clients on your About Page, check out this free training here.