Updated Feb 2010: You have a story to tell in your business. And you need to tell it! If you really want people to buy into your product, service or expertise, it is incredibly important to fully and deeply educate your prospects and clients about what you do, writes Robert Clay of Marketing Wizdom.
I frequently come across people in business who claim very high success rates once they can get their prospects to meet them face to face; or visit them in their premises; or see how they operate; or to see their processes in action. Each of these situations represents a valuable education opportunity. When you educate your prospects and clients properly, it brings out the uniqueness of your business, sets you apart from all of your competitors and dramatically increases the chances that you’ll end up doing business together.
Unfortunately, each of these interactions can also consume massive amounts of time and resources. That means you’re limited by the number of prospects or clients you can handle. But that limitation no longer has to exist if you develop a compelling “behind the scenes” story for your business.
To illustrate the power of education that this represents, let’s say you read a compellingly written article in a magazine or newspaper like the Sunday Times. When you first spot the headline, you probably have no more than momentary or passing interest in the piece.
But let’s say the headline grabs your attention and, as you start reading, you learn about a fabulous travel destination. You may not even have been aware that the place existed and you’ve certainly never considered going there before. Prior to this article, you may have known little or nothing about the place, its people, culture, scenery, climate or magnificent buildings.
Yet, as you read the article, you’re more and more drawn to what you’re discovering. By the time you’ve read the article you want to visit the place. You may even be ready to book a trip right away.
The point is, do you believe it’s possible in a single reading of a well-written article to go from passing interest at most, to actually wanting to experience what the article describes?
I’ve asked that question hundreds of times, and ninety-nine percent of people tell me that a well-written article has that power. A single reading of a well written “behind-the-scenes” story like this can take people several rungs up the buying ladder in a single step, dramatically speeding up their decision-making process. And if it’s possible for mere ink on paper to have such a powerful effect, then why aren’t we all using that power every day in everything we do?
That’s why a behind-the-scenes story can play such a critical part in your marketing success. In my experience every business has a story to tell. Yet less than one business in a thousand has ever developed such a story. But those that do are often catapulted from obscurity to market leadership in their field. For example:
One client, a 23-year-old entrepreneur operating a business from his spare bedroom, went to No.1 in Europe in his field within four years of developing his story.
After six years he won the national Ernst and Young Young Entrepreneur of the Year award (the previous winner was Stelios from easyJet). A year later he was mentioned in the Sunday Times Rich list for the first time. A year after that he sold a stake in his business to a private equity company, and pocketed £ millions. Three years later, in December 2007, his business was sold to another private equity company for £75 million. Today it is a well-known and highly respected brandname. But this would never have happened if we hadn’t helped him to put his “behind-the-scenes” together.
As a result of their story, another new client immediately won two contracts worth some £2.5 million in extra profits. In another example, the right story helped a new start-up business to achieve it’s first year’s objective in its first month of trading. In the next 8 years they went on to build a group with annual revenues of over £100M.
These stories should tell you that creating your “behind-the-scenes” story is critical to your marketing success. In fact it is so important that we always make this the very first task we undertake whenever we work with a new client.
Creating your story
We no longer offer one-to-one consulting, but when we did, we evolved an in-depth process for developing a world-class “behind-the-scenes” story.
The process would have started by getting the all of the key leaders in your business to respond to a long list of questions that provided an array of deep insights into your business; how your clients view it; who you compete with; what sets you apart from your competitors; who your ideal clients are; what concerns or issues the story need to address; where your biggest opportunities lay … and a variety of other factors.
The responses were then analysed and deconstructed virtually to a molecular level. An outline of the compelling story that needed to be told was then built up over a number of days. Along the way we would spot gaps in the story, or need further information so that we could elaborate on certain points. This would result in another long list of questions.
A comprehensive customer survey (and I mean really comprehensive) was then carried out to build a profile of your ideal clients; to understand their attitudes and perceptions of your products and services and your industry; to discover where you can (or do) add the most value; to measure how well you perform in many different areas; to establish how you can serve your clients better .. and a whole lot more. This exercise alone often produces hundreds or even thousands of pages of incredibly valuable data.
At the same time we would analyse your competitors using a combination of desk-based research, telephone calls and face-to-face visits. Many facets of your competitors’ businesses would be analysed including their product or service offering; their marketing messages; how they handle enquiries; their competence; their effectiveness; their strengths and weaknesses; and what, if anything, sets them apart.
The information assembled from these exercises was then used to create a 30-50-page brief for a professional copywriter who would have the task of creating an incredibly powerful “behind-the-scenes” story for your business. These stories would run anywhere from 20-70 pages, depending on the business. The finished stories were used as internal working documents, “master” stories, if you will, from which all subsequent marketing messages for that business were extracted and developed.
On the subject of copywriters, we found that most of them are not that good, and some are truly useless. But we would occasionally find ones who were really excellent, who would get the job done right first time, every time. Copywriters like that are rare. And worth their weight in gold. We used to keep copywriters like that very busy.
It normally takes many drafts to get the story right (fewer if you have a really good copywriter), and many more questions would undoubtedly arise as we picked up on points we particularly wanted to develop or emphasise. Once the job had been done to everyone’s satisfaction, it was tested in the marketplace. Feedback from those tests was then incorporated into the final draft.
What your story will do for you
Your story, once completed, will do nothing less than revolutionise the way that you, your team, and your prospective clients will perceive and understand your business. It will dramatically speed up your prospects’ decision making processes; your existing clients will do a lot more business with you … and it will give you a sound basis for dominating your marketplace.
Best of all, you can put your story to work in front of tens, hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of people simultaneously. Without spending a lot of money. And the right story will produce far better results for you than you could ever achieve using any other method.
Creating a world-class story that produces results of this magnitude is no trivial task. It took years to develop the robust procedures we used to do this and it was quite normal to invest around 750 hours of our time whenever we did this for a client.
We now teach this process to the aspiring market leaders who participate in our invitation-only Eureka program. We also recommend selected third parties who can provide one-to-one help with this process, as appropriate.
If this seems like a lot of work, it is. If you’re bothered by that, you should know that it’s quite possible to craft a decent story with a fraction of this effort. But the result is unlikely to be anything like the 20-70 page world-class story that emerges from this process, and which has been the catalyst for many businesses to emerge as market leaders in their niche.
So do you tell your story? What do you say? Have you articulated it in writing? Where and how do you use it? What’s your experience when you do? We’d be very interested in your thoughts, feedback and experiences.
Please share your thoughts and add your questions to the comments below. I’ll try to provide as many answers as possible in my future online videos, seminars, workshops, masterclasses and blog posts.
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