Facts Tell but Stories Sell!!–Tell Me A Story

Our culture loves a good story.  Stories are how information, principles, traditions, historical events have been passed down for generations.  Oprah has built a billion dollar mega corporation simply by telling ‘stories’ of the human kind.  Ronald Reagan, considered by many to be one of the greatest politicians was a master story teller.  The unconscious mind seems to work more with patterns that details, so stories and metaphors can be very useful to communicate ideas to the unconscious mind.  When it comes to selling or print material the same holds true.

Whether you are creating a short ‘pitch presentation’ or creating a sales letter-story telling is a must.  When using stories or metaphors to illustrate points it by-passes the mind’s linear thinking or critical factor and gets the mind to focus like a laser on the idea.  People automatically put themselves in a story, that is why we laugh, and cry when watching a really good movie.

If you are trying to sell a prospective client or create some marketing collateral be sure to include stories and metaphors.

For example, an advertising account executive used a story to win his client’s cooperation before landing a big account. He told about wanting a tree house more than anything else for his 10th birthday. His father was less than convinced that a tree house was a good idea. Consequently, he asked his son a half-dozen times if he was sure he wanted a tree house. Each time the boy would more confidently reply, “I’m sure.” Then on his birthday he asked, “Daddy, where’s my tree house?” His father took him into the back yard where the boy expected to see a gigantic tree house. But all he saw was a pile of wood, some nails and a hammer. His father then pointed to all those things and said, “Son, if you really want a tree house then let’s build one together.”  The prospect got it…if we want to build something great then each of us is going to have to do their part.

Use ‘Testimonial Stories’

Testimonials are stories- the success stories of your clients.  They cut through all the marketing clutter like no other!!  Testimonial stories elicit emotion and identification from your potential prospects.  The think ‘hey if it works for him/her,  it will work for me too (because I am just like them).And when you tell a story on your website, in an article, or even in an ad, you are letting people know that, “this product, service, or business opportunity worked for other real live people, so it could work for you, too!”

Ronald Tobias, in his popular and practical book, 20 Master Plots, and how to build them, describes 20 common story plots and gives lots of detail on how to construct complete stories around them.

Twist these plots in your headlines, ad copy, sales letter or websites.

The 20 Plots
1. Quest

The hero searches for something, someone, or somewhere.

2. Adventure
The main character or protagonist goes on an adventure, much like a quest, but with less of a focus on the end goal or the personal development.

3. Pursuit

The main focus is on chase, with one person chasing another.  The person being pursued may be backed into a corner and somehow escapes, so that the pursuit can continue. Depending on the story, the pursued person may be caught or may escape.

4. Rescue

In the rescue, somebody is captured, who must be released by the hero or heroic party. A triangle may form between the protagonist, the antagonist and the victim. There may be a grand duel between the protagonist and antagonist, after which the victim is freed.

5. Escape

In a kind of reversal of the rescue, a person must escape, perhaps with little help from others. In this, there may well be elements of capture and unjust imprisonment. There may also be a pursuit after the escape.

6. Revenge

In the revenge plot, a wronged person seeks retribution against the person or organization which has betrayed or otherwise harmed them or loved ones, physically or emotionally. This plot depends on moral outrage for gaining sympathy from the audience.

7. The Riddle

The riddle plot entertains the audience and challenges them to find the solution before the hero, who steadily and carefully uncovers clues and hence the final solution. The story may also be spiced up with terrible consequences if the riddle is not solved in time.

8. Rivalry

In rivalry, two people or groups are set as competitors that may be good hearted or as bitter enemies. Rivals often face a zero-sum game, in which there can only be one winner, for example where they compete for a scarce resource or the heart of a single other person.

9. Underdog

The underdog plot is similar to rivalry, but where one person (usually the hero) has less advantage and might normally be expected to lose. The underdog usually wins through greater tenacity and determination (and perhaps with the help of friendly others).

10. Temptation

In the temptation plot, a person is tempted by something that, if taken, would somehow diminish them, often morally. Their battle is thus internal, fighting against their inner voices which tell them to succumb.

11. Metamorphosis

The protagonist is physically transformed, perhaps into beast or perhaps into some spiritual or alien form. The story may then continue with the changed person struggling to be released or to use their new form for some particular purpose. Eventually, the hero is released, perhaps through some great act of love.

12. Transformation

The transformation plot leads to change of a person in some way, often driven by unexpected circumstance or event. After setbacks, the person learns and usually becomes something better.

13. Maturation

The maturation plot is a special form of transformation, in which a person grows up. The veils of younger times are lost as they learn and grow. Thus the rudderless youth finds meaning or perhaps an older person re-finds their purpose.

14. Love

The love story is a perennial tale of lovers finding one another, perhaps through a background of danger and woe. Along the way, they become separated in some way, but eventually come together in a final joyous reunion.

15. Forbidden Love

The story of forbidden love happens when lovers are breaking some social rules, such as in an adulterous relationship or worse. The story may thus turn around their inner conflicts and the effects of others discovering their tryst.

16. Sacrifice

In sacrifice, the nobler elements of the human sprit are extolled as someone gives much more than most people would give. The person may not start with the intent of personal sacrifice and may thus be an unintentional hero, thus emphasizing the heroic nature of the choice and act.

17. Discovery

The discovery plot is strongly focused on the character of the hero who discovers something great or terrible and hence must make a difficult choice. The importance of the discovery might not be known at first and the process of revelation be important to the story.

18. Wretched Excess

In stories of wretched excess, the protagonist goes beyond normally accepted behavior as the world looks on, horrified, perhaps in realization that ‘there before the grace of God go I’ and that the veneer of civilization is indeed thin.

19. Ascension

In the ascension plot, the protagonist starts in the virtual gutter, as a sinner of some kind. The plot then shows their ascension to becoming a better person, often in response to stress that would defeat a normal person. Thus they achieve deserved heroic status.

20. Descension

In the opposite to ascension, a person of initially high standing descends to the gutter and moral turpitude, perhaps sympathetically as they are unable to handle stress and perhaps just giving in to baser vices.

People don’t remember statistics, but they have a special storage compartment in their brains for stories. Stories are an innate part of human beings. As long as there are people, there will be stories.

Is There a Hierarchy in Social Media?

One question I have postulating for some time has just resurfaced by prominent blogger John Jantsch over at ducttapemarketing.com.  He says there is.  And I agree.  The basic theory is similar to Maslow’s theory that self-actualization cannot be achieved until the most basic human psychological needs such as breathing, eating, and sleeping are first met.

The same holds true in the small business realm. The ultimate potential of your marketing cannot be actualized until the basic or preliminary marketing requirements are filled.

For example, as I have mentioned man times before, the number one mistake I see business owners make is they implement tactics before strategy.  They will go out and buy radio advertising before they have thoroughly researched their target market, determined their competitive advantage or their marketing message.

In regards to social marketing there is a logical progression that should be followed.  You should learn to walk before you run.  John has listed a really hierarchy for this progression.

Social MediaHe recommends small business owners look at the following progression or hierarchy as they move deeper into social marketing tactics. So, jump in, but do it in this order and don’t move on until you have the basics of each stage down and working for you.

1)  Blogging – the foundation of the pyramid – read blogs, comment on blogs, and then
blog. This is the doorway to all other social marketing.

2)  RSS – Aggregate and filter content around subjects, and use RSS technology as a tool to help you repurpose, republish, and create content.

3)  Social Search – Often ignored in this discussion but I think it’s become very important for small business owners. By participating, you can stimulate and manage your reputation here.

4)  Social Bookmarking – Tagging content and participating in social bookmarking
communities can be a great way to open up more channels to your business. It can also
generate extra search traffic, but it takes work.

5)  Social Networks – Branching out to take advantage of the potential prospects you
might find on sites like Facebook or MySpace will frustrate—at least as a business tool—
if you don’t have many of the above needs met. These networks take time to understand
and thrive on ideas and content. You’ve got to have much to share if you wish to build
a business case.

6) Micro – He lumped some of the more experimental social tools into the edgy trend of
micro: social, real-time communication that will likely only confuse most small business
owners. The confusion is not because they can’t figure out how to make them work, it’s just not obvious why they should spend the time. John believes Maslow suggested that self- actualization is a place most might never reach. In social marketing terms, Twitter,
Plurk, and FriendFeed might be some sort of sick transcendence.

The Talking Logo- What You Really Do for a Living

The Talking LogoTell me if this sounds familiar. You’re at a networking event and someone inevitably asks you….”What do you do for a living?” What do you say?

If you’re like most people you have the generic answer, “I’m in the mortgage business” or “I’m an account executive” or ” I own a small business” and you hand them a business card and then you’re either off to the next person or you’re stuck in a conversation with someone that you have no idea if they have a potential want or need for you and your services.

We have been programmed to answer with either our title or our industry. These types of answers offer little or no marketing value. I don’t think that most people comprehend that these moments are actually the first part of the ‘marketing’ process. Let’s flash back to our definition of marketing- “Getting someone with a need to know like and trust us”. By simply answering with a title or industry we’ve missed a very valuable opportunity to actually qualify them to see if they may have a need.

So what is the solution?

We at Sticky Marketing Systems call it the “Talking Logo”. A talking logo is a carefully crafted reply to the question, “what do you do for a living?”. Your Talking Logo is created in two distinct parts. Part 1 addresses your target market, and Part 2 zeros in on a problem, frustration, or want that market has.

You’ll know you have an effective Talking Logo when you tell someone what you do and they respond “Really, how do you do that?”

For example if someone was to ask me what I do for a living, I could respond ” I teach small business owners and service professionals how to get all the clients they want.”

8 out of 10 times someone will ask, “How do you do that?

I answer them, “I use a simple 7 step process that is endorsed by Harvard Business school and Forbes Business Review, to create and install a marketing system .”

A Talking Logo is a short statement (or question) that quickly communicates your firm’s position and forces the listener to want to know more.

The Formula

Here’s the formula to create your own: action verb (I teach, I show, I help), target market (business owners, plumbers, teachers, home owners), how to xxxx (solve a problem or meet a need).

Once you get clarity and comfortable saying your Talking Logo you can even take it on step further by actually getting the suspect to acknowledge the pain point (hot button) during the conversation.

For example some times I will answer their question of “what do you do for living”, with a question, like this: “You know how some small business owners struggle to get all the clients they want?” [wait for them to acknowledge “yes”] “Well I teach them a system to get all the clients they want”.

You will be amazed at how many people say things like “you know my sister is like that….” or “that sounds like my accountant…”

The formula would be: “You know how some Target Market (business owners, plumbers, teachers, home owners) struggle to xxxx(problem or need), I action verb (show, teach, help) to (solve that problem or meet need).

So go ahead and create your Talking Logo today!!

Twitter D and Twitter Dumb!

Twitter?

I have a group of friends that are NOT technologically savvy. They don’t know a hard drive from a long drive. They do know sales and how to run a business, so how and why would they want to take the time to learn about social networking and Twitter specifically?

Well let’s first take a look at what is Twitter? Twitter is a micro blogging platform designed to let users answer the question: “What are you doing right now?” It allows friends (followers) to hear and answer that question in real time via SMS, IM and webpages.

Purpose

How you use Twitter really depends on your purpose. Is it for personal use or for business or both? Depending on how you answer that question will define your parameters of: what you tweet about, how often you tweet, the language you use and the people that follow.

Since you are a reader of this blog I’m going to assume that you are using Twitter for mostly business use.

Here are some different ways to use Twitter:

Opinions-You can share your opinion on a certain subject, current event.

Research-Asking your followers their opinion on a product idea, what they like/dislike, what they are currently using?

Live news/Updates-With Twitter you can hear/tell about industry news while it happens. If you are at a conference and Bill gates announces that he is going to give all his money to me. You can let me know. (that would be very appreciated)

Sharing/Broadcasting- If you find an interesting article or blog post that is relevant to your followers, you can share it with a link (twitter automatically inserts it using tinyurl.com). If the articles are of interest this will build followers that are interested in the same type of information as you. I use a twitterfeed.com to broadcast any new blog post to my twitter followers automatically.

Branding/Microblogging-When the above strategies are used correctly one of the benefits is branding. You will become a credible resource a trusted resource. We teach the definition of marketing as getting someone with a need to know, like and trust you. Twittering is perfect to help enforce all of those criteria.

Answer Questions-If you see a tweet asking for advice or guidance on your topic, you can answer it. This will do two things. It will further establish you as an industry expert and if your answer is compelling others will begin to follow you.

Tips for effective Twittering

When Twitter remember every tweet counts!! You are either moving your brand and reputation forward or backward that is why is very important that you really consider what is the purpose of your Tweet and ask yourself if your followers really care?

Followers are no good to you and your circle of influence if they don’t care. So take caution and only Tweet on subjects that your ideal client would be interested in. It does no good to have 10,000 followers if they are following you because you did a massive ‘followers’ campaign-if they aren’t in your target audience. Getting followers for a followers sake just isn’t valuable.

Monitor your Tweets vs. reply. If you Tweet too often you may start to dilute your effectiveness. It is the law of scarcity. In addition, if you have too many reply’s and no tweets you may confuse your follower (remember they only see half the conversation). I usually answer a question publically three times and then take it to a direct response.

Use technology to help you. I use twitter feed, friend feed and a facebook application. The possibilities are endless. I’ll write on this in an upcoming blog.

Remember that Twitter is a conversation tool. Pretend that your are in front of a room full of your potential prospects what kinds of Tweets “conversations” would you like to have with them?

Differentiate or Die: Standing Out In A Crowd

How important a core difference is essential to marketing success.

Marketing behaviorQuite often a small business owner will ask me to reveal the most powerful marketing strategy I have seen. The answer may surprise you.

The most powerful marketing strategy I know has little to do with direct mail, adverting, special promotions, websites or referrals. No, before any of those ‘tactics’ will have any major impact on your business you must first find, commit and communicate a compelling difference between you and everyone else that says they do the same thing as you.

Let’s do a quick mental exercise.

Pretend that you are in a room full of your competitors and I asked this question. “If you think you offer a fair price, please raise your hands”. “Now, lower your hands if you don’t offer great customer service.” “Lower your hands if you don’t feel you are an expert and can deliver valuable advice” How many hands do you think would be up? Almost all right? So, if you don’t do an effective job at “educating” you customers on how specifically you are different, guess what the deciding factor is? PRICE!!!! Who wants to compete on price?

Look, we all know that every business is special and unique in its own way. But the bigger question is does your potential clients know? You have to answer the following question “why should I choose you?” from the customer perspective. There are several ways you can establish a unique selling proposition. Here are a few:

  • Unique service
  • Market niche
  • Special offer
  • Solve a specific problem
  • Message of value
  • Unique habit
  • Unique product
  • Unique packaging
  • Outrageous guarantee
  • Customer service
  • Against the competition
  • A way of doing business

Once you have spent some time and discovered your uniqueness, you must commit to it. These core differences will become the foundation for all of your marketing material and advertising messages. You will use these unique differences to create your marketing materials that educate.

Dig deep into this exercise, it will serve you well. This is another prime example of why it is so important to spend time on Strategy before jumping into Tactics.

Why You Should UP Marketing In A DOWN Market

Markets

There is no arguing that we are facing a down turn in our economy, I’m not ready to call it a recession yet, but we are definitely feeling the pinch. That is the nature of business-it goes in cycles of ups and downs.

When the market slows and sales start to drop, owners’ first instinct is to cut their costs. One of the first to be slashed is the marketing/advertising budget. Ad budgets are often at the top of a cost-conscious small business owner’s hit list because it’s an easy decision to make and it has an immediate impact to the bottom line.

This is a grave mistake. Smart business owners know this is the time to spend more!

Let me explain. When the economy shrinks it tends to shrink as a whole, meaning that people are still buying there are just less of them; the pie has shrunk. If you currently own say, 3% of your market and if the total market is $300m then your sales are $9m.

During a slow down let’s say that the market potential has shrunk by 50% to $150M, assuming you are continuing to do the same income producing activities (marketing, sales, promotions ect) your sales should be $4.5M. I know, as an owner that is scary because your sales on that marketing budget has gone way down and your instinct is to cut budgets, sit back and “wait for it to turn”.

What you do at times like this really depends on how you view marketing. Is your marketing viewed as an expense- something you just have to do? Or do you view it as an investment?

Smart marketers know that while all the competition is standing on the sidelines, if they have the audacity to actually spend more (invest), they will capture more of the market share(because competition is waiting) and when the markets turns around they will reap the huge benefits because they have a greater market share and the pie is now bigger.

So in our above example if you were to get just 2% more market share, which would be 5%. When the economy recovers and the market value goes from $150MM to $300MM your sales would grow and now be $15M.

When is the best time to buy in real estate? When the market is down. When is the best time buy stocks? When the market is down. The same principle holds true for small business marketing.

Have courage and think strategically. Up your marketing spend in this down market. Invest in the longer term growth of your company.

Pay Per Click (PPC)-Why You Should Care?

If you aren’t actively marketing for local search prospects, you are missing out big time.

With close to 300 million searches per day, there is no denying that people use search engines. But do they use them when looking for local products and services?

There is an abundance of public data suggesting that as high as 80% of potential prospects turn to the internet first when looking for a local product or service.

The yellow pages are a thing of the past. The new yellow pages are local internet directories and a new medium called Pay Per Click advertising. If you don’t believe me ask yourself when was the last time you picked up your local yellow pages to find a vendor or to do research.

I know it, Google knows it (the majority of their stock price is a reflection of their anticipated growth from advertising) and if you resist it, there is a good chance your business may a thing of the past too. Microsoft knows it too, for this very reason; Microsoft is attempting to purchase Yahoo.

WHY USE PAY PER CLICK (PPC)

There are many reasons why, as a small business owner, you should consider allocating part of your marketing budget to local search marketing strategies, here are just a few:

  1. Highly Targeted-Unlike direct marketing and other forms of advertising your ad will only be served (appear) when a prospect is actively searching for your type of business (typed into your pre-selected “keywords”)
  2. Tracking-there is an old marketing adage that says “I know I am wasting 50% of my marketing budget, but I don’t know which half”. You can’t improve what you can’t measure and Pay Per Click advertising is very easy to measure. With search engine marketing (SEM), you are able to track every aspect of your campaign-keywords, Ad groups, Ads ect. All four major search engines, Google, Yahoo, MSN, ASK provide a piece of script that you can put on your websites that give you very important visitor information (that will be covered in an upcoming article), all available in report form.
  3. Testing-You can quickly and easily run A/B testing for both Ads (to drive leads) and different landing pages (to convert prospects).
  4. Performance based-It is the only advertising available that you only get charged if a prospect actually takes action (clicks on your ad). This actually is a second form of qualifying. The prospect not only is actively searching for your type of business, but actually liked your ad enough to click on it.

HOW IT WORKS

  1. Choose your search engine to advertise on. Google, Yahoo, MSN and ASK.com account for 90% of all searches. Each search engine has different demographics for their typical users, so do some research.
  2. Choose your keywords and key search phrases. In other words, when do you want your ad to appear? For example: if you were to look for an accountant in your area, what would be your search phrase? “Las Vegas accountant”, “cpa in las vegas”, “irs audit cpa las vegas”.
  3. Choose a monthly Pay Per Click (PPC) budget. Many of the pay per click search engines allow you to manage budgets based on a set dollar amount or by daily or monthly limitations. Choose the PPC budget management tool which best suits your needs.

A word of caution before you run off and start pouring money into your PPC campaigns. Though, there is no denying that, when executed correctly, PPC can be a leading sales driver and profit builder, it can also drain your marketing budget if you aren’t careful.

Read and study as much as you can about Pay Per click and how it works. I would also recommend you start out small and learn what works and what doesn’t and then scale up your budget when you begin to get the hang of it. Be prepared though, Yahoo! anticipates the average advertiser spends nearly 17 hours per month managing their accounts. And that’s just Yahoo!. Add to that Google, MSN and Ask.com and it can quickly become a full time job.

If you believe that Pay Per Click can benefit your company but you don’t have the time, energy or desire to tackle this project on your own, there are many companies that will manage your search campaigns for you- my company being one of them. For more information on how to attract more clients using Pay Per Click (PPC) go to www.stickymarketingsystems.com

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