So What’s Your Story?

I’m a great believer in the power of stories.  If you look at all the recent stories of breakthrough products and services of the past five years, you will uncover a missing ingredient that is seldom talked about and almost never shared among marketers. When it’s shared in a public setting, it’s met with skepticism and disbelief. For engineers, its heresy of the worst kind. What is it?

It’s the power of story to help your customer understand the strength of your innovations to change the way the world operates.  It’s a rare individual who evangelizes their ideas in a way that fits into their customers’ world view. Steve Jobs was a master of the good story. When trying to understand success of Apple in the past five years, it’s easy to believe that their technology that made them a breakthrough business. My engineering friends tell me that is just not true. They have good technology, but they have great stories and innovative design.

So how do we create good stories? I’ll share what I’ve uncovered over the past 20 years on creating great stories.

The first rule of good story telling is that the story must allow the listener to see themselves in the story. It’s not enough to be interesting; it must allow us to enter the world of the storyteller. We must be willing to set aside our own beliefs long enough to become part of the story. We must be willing to invest ourselves in the story, no middle of the road here. I want you to be engaged in the story.

The second rule is the story must make me aware of a problem I have. I want to know that the story teller really gets me. Somehow, they have come into my world and uncovered what’s really bothering me, what’s keeping me up at night. They understand the pain and are able to connect with me on a gut level.  Good stories allow me to connect with a larger group who has similar problems. People want validation on what they are experiencing in real time, not yesterday, not in the future, but right now. We all secretly want to know we are not the only people who can’t use all the functions on our mobile phone or new digital camera.

The third rule is the story must have an incredible ending. The ending must not only provide a solution to my problems but must provide me with the intangibles I want. I want this problem solved and I want the solution to provide me an intangible that I might not even know exists or that I want. The solution provides me with membership into a community or idea that makes me feel good about my decision to solve my problem with your solution. What is interesting about this part of a good story is if you can provide me with a solution that can show both results and makes me cool you’re even more likely to create a raging fan in the process. There have been so many great products that have changed our lives that we didn’t see the need for them before we bought it.  Once we get the product or service we can’t imagine living without it. If you create a great story for your products and services you will be surprised how quickly your story becomes a legend. . . and after all, if you’re telling a story you want it to become a legend don’t you?

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