You caught me. Jumping right on the Hamilton bandwagon.
But, with good intention of improving how companies position themselves with their prospects and customers.
I hear frequently from clients that we need to do a better job of telling our story. I used to think that this was a foundational part of any marketing plan.
It is true that companies need to know and be able to consistently tell their story. Not the founding story located on your about us page. Not the product story of how you have advanced technologically or with new features. Not the team story of the experienced team you have built.
You need to be able to tell your purpose story. The story of your why.
But telling this story is not enough.
You must create a narrative that your customers can see themselves being part of.
Where your why and their why align around need, purpose and outcome.
The storyteller or the narrator
The best marketing creates a narrative that your customers can see themselves being part of.
When my kids were younger, they would make up elaborate puppet shows with their cousins. Typically, they would create a character - a teacher, an astronaut, a soccer playing ninja-doctor-ice cream truck driver. The story would be unified - sitting on the bus on the way to school, Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house, judges on the Voice. Occasionally, an astronaut may stray off to patch a hole in the moon, but it was part of the shared story. We often create stories that put our products and services at the center and tell those stories over and over hoping someone will hear them. Instead, think about the powerful impact you would have if you create a story where your prospects and customers were at the center. Where there was shared ownership to solve problems, make a difference and move the story forward.
Think about the powerful impact you would have if you create a story where your prospects and customers were at the center.
When my kids couldn’t do this there was a fight that usually ended with yelling, tears and the puppet show’s abrupt end. When they were able to work cohesively, they created something meaningful for all of them. Sometimes they would be learning fractions in Mrs. Achmudi’s class and other times they would be saving the world.
Creating an inclusive narrative
Recognizing that even our happiest customers are not as inclined as my children to be part of the show, creating an inclusive narrative requires:
Creating opportunity – the puppet show
Model participation – you pick your character
Celebrate and amplify the voice – create a story, gather an audience and allow them to solve a problem or tell their story.
Whether we like it or not, our customers and prospects are already telling our story. They talk to their peers. They vent when they are frustrated. They demonstrate how they use our tools and services to accomplish their goals. We try to turn these into testimonials, case studies and references about our product and company. While these are critically important to our marketing, they force our customers into our narrative instead of letting them build it alongside us.
Instead, what if we turn them into the experts and influencers that are leading innovation and solving problems in our industries? What if we made them the main characters and we become the supporting cast?
Marketing to an audience of for a purpose
Every industry has a running joke about how no one was fired for buying from or partnering with certain organizations. It is not always because they are better.
It is because these organizations’ stories have grown bigger than themselves.
The Hamilton inspired question, “Who’ll tell your story?” is not just important in terms of the legacy left behind, but in terms of how important it is that our story includes more than just us.
Companies that are only concerned with controlling their narrative will be the only one’s telling their story. This is a recipe that will be quickly forgotten.