Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

by Pedro Franca
 
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Your Customer is the Hero. Your Brand is the Guide.

Most Marketing is a Money Rabbit Hole

Let’s begin by discussing what’s wrong with most marketing efforts that don’t cut through the noise of all the other messages customers are being bombarded with daily. Quite frankly, they’re a waste of money.

Often, the problem is not with the product or service offered, but rather with how it is communicated. 

When you confuse, you lose! 

Today, most websites are designed to look good. Content is usually an afterthought. They’re bad at communicating a clear, compelling message that makes customers listen. 

The fact is, pretty websites don’t sell things. Words do.

There are three critical mistakes most businesses make when talking about their brands:

  1. Fail to focus on aspects of their offer that help people survive and thrive.
  2. Make customers tax their brains too hard trying to understand their offers.
  3. They focus on their products and not their customers.

Clarifying your message should be your #1 mission. Quality products and services on their own are not enough. Have you ever wondered why McDonald’s has the most sold burgers in the world? Why Coca-Cola sold more beverages than anyone else? It is not about the product. It is about the story brands tell. As entrepreneurs, we’re not just in a race to get our products to market; we’re in a race to sell outcomes, not products.  

Here’s the deal, what separates the winners from losers is the clarity of our offer.

The reason most marketing doesn’t work is that it’s too complicated.

In today’s age of immediacy, our message fights against cute puppies on social media. To cut through the noise, we need communication that requires no extra calories to be understood. Our brains are not trained to quickly process complex information. The more predictable and straightforward your communication is, the easier it is to digest. 

Storytelling is so effective as a communication framework because it is a sense-making mechanism. It transforms noise into music. Have you ever wondered how Breaking Bad held your attention for 62 hours (yeah, that’s the entire show runtime), while you struggle to keep your customer’s attention for over 3 seconds on Facebook?

The secret is storytelling. And luckily, it is a predictable pattern.

Have you noticed that all stories follow the same flow? That we’ve been hearing the same pattern over and over again since we were born? Storytelling organizes everything in a way our brains don’t have to work to understand what’s going on. 

Ready to learn the Brand Storytelling Framework?

The Brand Storytelling Framework

This framework was first introduced by Donald Miller, author of the “Build a StoryBrand.” He does a great job describing the flow of nearly every story:

A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives gives them a PLAN and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in SUCCESS.

Donald Miller Building a Story Brand

Nearly every fiction book you read, and every movie you watched, follow this script. 

Steering away from this flow complicates our communication. Imagine if every car you drive was completely different? One accelerates with your hands, the other by voice, and one with your eyes. You would need to re-learn how to drive every single time.

Although this sounds stupid, it is precisely what most brands do. They try to reinvent the wheel on every aspect of their businesses. And this is why they fail.

No one wants to drive a different car every day.

There are three questions your audience have when interacting with your marketing:

  1. What do you offer?
  2. How will it make my life better (WIIFM = What’s In It For Me)?
  3. What do I need to do to buy it?

Clean up the clutter, answer these questions using a flow they understand. Your feedback will go from “that’s cool” to “I need this.”

Remember: “If you confuse, you lose.”

Donald Miller

So let’s start diving into the framework by the most important piece — the character.

THE CHARACTER: Your customer is the Hero, not your Brand.

First, scratch everything you know about audiences. Audiences are broad, and in communication, you need to be specific.

If you try to communicate with everyone, you communicate with no one.

Start communicating with personas! 

We’ve designed a fill-in customer personas worksheet that can help you quickly understand who you are talking to. Once you find your persona, you must define what they want and guide them to it.

Remember, customers don’t buy a drill; they buy a clean hole in the wall.

In storytelling, identifying something your audience wants is referred to as a “story gap.” The idea is to illustrate a gap between your customers and what they want. This gap will hold your customers’ attention because they wonder if and how the gap will close. Curiosity is what drives much of human behavior. 

A successful story gap is backed by ambition. You must define and clearly communicate “WHY” your customers want what they want — why the gap exists. Find the primary need your customers have that your product solves. Focus on the need, not the product.

Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who became widely famous for designing the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Use this to find what’s the primary need you solve.

Here is a list of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid from top to bottom.

Self-Actualization: Mastery, Morality, Creativity, Problem Solving

Self-Esteem: Confidence, Achievement, Respect, Status, Uniqueness, Competence

Belongingness: Love, Friendship, Intimacy, Relationships, Recognition, Attention

Safety: Financial, Environment, Health, Property, Shelter, Freedom

Physiological: Air, Food, Water, Sex, Sleep, Clothing

Choose the primary need for your product to help your Hero to fulfill. The space between your customer and the need he or she desires is created by a problem.

THE PROBLEM: Stop selling solutions to external problems; customers buy solutions to internal problems.

Imagine you are looking to get fit like a Hollywood star. The Guide you are looking for is a personal trainer or a nutritionist. You don’t expect your trainer to lift for you, neither your nutritionist eats for you. If you are selling modular dumbbells, don’t say that your product makes people fit. Instead, focus on the ways your product helps them get fit. 

If this doesn’t make sense, don’t worry, we will talk more about this in the next section.

As a guide, you want to be a trusted and beloved character that offers the tools, encouragement, and wisdom to help your Hero to overcome villains and fulfill their needs.

As the Guide, you must have the empathy and humility to see the story is not about you, but the Hero. This is important. Your message should evoke your customer’s success, not yours. You can only win when your customers do.

The way you achieve that is by providing them a plan with empathy and authority.

THE GUIDE: Customers aren’t looking for a hero; they’re looking for a guide.

Imagine you are looking to get fit like a Hollywood star. The Guide you are looking for is a personal trainer or a nutritionist. You don’t expect your trainer to lift for you, neither your nutritionist eats for you. If you are selling modular dumbbells, don’t say that your product makes people fit. Instead, focus on the ways your product helps them get fit. 

If this doesn’t make sense, don’t worry, we will talk more about this in the next section.

As a guide, you want to be a trusted and beloved character that offers the tools, encouragement, and wisdom to help your Hero to overcome villains and fulfill their needs.

As the Guide, you must have the empathy and humility to see the story is not about you, but the Hero. This is important. Your message should evoke your customer’s success, not yours. You can only win when your customers do.

The way you achieve that is by providing them a plan with empathy and authority.

THE PLAN: Customers trust a guide who has a plan.

This is common when it comes to execution, but unusual in sales. You, as the product inventor, are used to your product and know how it works. Your customers don’t. Assume that you are selling supplements and give them clear, concise instructions on how to use it.

Who would trust a general that doesn’t have a plan? So why your customers should trust you if you can’t clearly explain yours?

Even though this is common sense, this is widely overlooked in branding.

** AVENGERS ENDGAME SPOILER ALERT **
(if you haven’t watched, go do it now)

In this framework, your plan is the bridge that will cross the story gap between the Hero to the goal. Think of Ant-Man coming back from the quantum realm to guide Iron Man to the machine that connects them to other realities where the infinity stones still exist. Ant-Man gave the Avengers hope and wisdom needed to achieve their ultimate path.

You have the plan to unlock your heroes’ full potential. Communicate it with empathy and authority, and they will trust you. If you fail to do so, they will be confused and will move to the next funny meme – don’t BS me… you know this is true, you do that too.

you-boring-ads-memes-meme

Understand this, your plan may be obvious, but you still need to lay it out to your personas. It gives them the confidence to move forward and become customers.

THE CALL TO ACTION: Challenge your Hero to take action.

This is the most crucial part of the story. If Ant-Man didn’t remind Tony Stark of Peter Parker, he would never build the machine necessary to fix what Thanos did. When the time to take action comes, you must clearly and boldly ask them to take action.

If you (the Guide) honestly believe your product (the plan) will help your customer (the Hero) achieve their full potential to achieve success or avoid failure, do whatever is in your control to make them purchase your product.

There are a million reasons why customers would object to your offer. Sometimes they just need encouragement to take the leap. If your product can truly help them, challenge them to take action.

There are two types of calls to action you may use to convert them into heroes:

  1. Direct  — such as “place an order now”
  2. Transitional  —  a small step towards an eventual purchase

Both calls to actions should be used on different stages of the customer journey. Let’s take a relationship, for example. When you just met someone, you should ask the person’s phone number (transitional) instead of asking them to lay in bed with you (direct). 

Don’t get me wrong! Direct calls to action may work depending on how drunk you are, but it is unlikely if there is no intimacy. The same goes for your Brand. 

If your customer never heard of you, don’t ask them for a big commitment.

While direct calls to action are obvious, transitional calls to action can be shaped in several ways, such as lead magnets, testimonials, samples, trials, etc…

AVOID FAILURE: No one wants a tragic ending for themselves.

As humans, we would rather avoid pain than seek pleasure. Here is a story for you:

Imagine you were sleeping in the comfort of your own bed, soft sheets, and pillow, in a dark room with fresh air. Until your phone starts to ring like the end of a UFC fight. You wake up with your heart rate at 180 bpm, answer the phone, and it is your neighbor: “Hey, I just got home from work, and it seems like three guys are stealing your tires on the driveway right now!”.

In this case, you would say thank you, call the police and turn on the garage door light to scare them off.

Now, imagine if the same situation happens, but instead, your neighbor says: “Hey, I just got home from work, and the tire shop is giving a set of tires to whoever goes downtown to get it tonight!”. In that case, you probably wouldn’t be as happy. Even though this is a set of brand new tires, while yours are used.

It is in our nature to avoid pain (or failure) before seeking pleasure (or success)

Your story should remind the Hero that your plan helps them avoid chaos. Make sure to repeatedly mention them throughout the story. These reminders laying out the negative stakes of “failing to act” provide the urgency typically needed to propel them forward.

AND HELPS THEM WIN: Never assume people understand how your Brand can change their lives. Tell them!

After painting a picture of what would happen if they don’t act, illustrate what will happen if they do! When doing so, it is crucial to demonstrate a compelling image of an achievable future. 

Be clear and specific so your Hero can see themselves in that future. 

There are three effective ways to bring your story to a happy ending. Good stories enable heroes to achieve at least one of the following psychological desires:

  1. Win a sort of power or position/status.
  2. Be unified with somebody or something that makes them whole.
  3. Experience some self-realization or transcendence that makes them whole.

When you help your customers achieve one of these, they will refer friends and come back for more. Help them see the future of this brand/customer relationship and create win-win situations.

Implementing Brand Storytelling Framework

Now that you understand the Brand Storytelling Framework, it is time to take action!

Start by designing your personas, then writing the most common stories about them. Make sure to write it in a narrative format so you can show your team. Keep editing it until it is engaging and cover all areas of your customer, Brand, and product. 

This will help you fully understand the story behind your customers. 

Don’t waste time, use this story framework to craft a highly engaging and customer-centered value statement, tagline, and marketing materials.

At Harpia, we specialized in scripting compelling storytelling that makes your customer the hero of your brand story. Then, we help spread the story through digital marketing strategies to increase eCommerce sales.

Would You Like Our Help Implementing Your Brand Storytelling Framework?

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Pedro Franca

Pedro is the founder of Harpia.co, an eCommerce digital marketing agency focused on scaling inspiring brands. He helped over a dozen of brands sell over $3 million dollars online with strategic digital marketing, including email marketing and Facebook ads.

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