Episode 195 | How to Craft a Great Story for Your Product or Service
- Getting Organized using Evernote by Andrew Connell
- How to Craft a Marketing Story that People Embrace and Share
- Storytelling for Fun and Profit
- To Tell a Tale, To Craft a Story
- The Hero’s Journey Outline
- The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains
- The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn
[00:00] Mike: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Rob and I are going to be talking about how to craft your story. This is Startups for the Rest of Us. Episode 195.
[00:13] Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products whether you built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike-
[00:21] Rob: -and I’m Rob.
[00:22] Mike: -and we’re here to share experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Rob?
[00:26] Rob: I want to say a congratulations to lifetime Academy member Adrian Rosebrock on his first four-figure launch. He emailed me, and I know he’s used a lot of tactics and techniques that we’ve outlined in the Academy. And he’s also, he moved over to Drip from MailChimp because it was getting too complex to try to manage in MailChimp with segments and groups. And so once we got the rules built, he moved over to Drip. And he said, “I just wanted to say that Drip has helped me hit my first four-figure launch, and I’ve only emailed about 130 people from my 800 person subscriber list. I’m looking forward to the rest of the launch this weekend.”
[00:57] You know, I actually I actually have read through his crash course. He has a 21-day crash course in computer vision and image search engines.
[01:06] Mike: Oh my God.
[01:07] Rob: Yeah.
[01:07] Mike: Twenty-one days?
[01:08] Rob: And it’s really good. Like I would check this out, even if you’re not interested in this, just to see how to write a really good crash course. The content is exceptional. And there’s a bunch of really good content on his site as well. He cranks out lot of content, and it’s high quality. He knows what he’s talking about. The URL is pyimagesearch.com. It’s PY (python) imagesearch.com. You can go sign up for the crash course. And he’s released a couple of e-books you can find certainly on the site if you’re interested in this stuff. So that’s what this is, right? It’s using pythons and libraries to identify faces in photos and identify checks and stuff. So it’s pretty cool stuff.
[01:45] Mike: Oh, that’s really cool. So you remember a couple weeks ago I said that I had a hard drive crash on my network-attached storage device?
[01:50] Rob: Yep.
[01:51] Mike: And so I bought those four new two-terrabyte drives, and two of them I’ve had to send back because they were bad drives.
[01:57] Rob: That’s terrible. And you were talking about how they were inexpensive, right? The storage was so cheap. Was it because the drives were cheap, do you think? Are they off-brands?
[02:06] Mike: No, they were Seagate drives, so they were decent quality. And plus they were the enterprise versions of them. They weren’t the lower end ones. The smart drive piece of it was failing, was giving me errors. And I tried it in a couple different ways. I used one of Seagate’s tools. They have their own utility to check the drive, and that was coming back and telling me everything was okay, but I’m just like, “Yeah, I just bought these, and I’ve got two other pieces of software that are telling me they’re bad, so I’m going to send them back just to be on the safe side.”
[02:32] Rob: That’s such a bummer. When that mean time between failures is two days, that’s [laughs] too short. Hey, so remember a couple episodes ago we talked about ABCDE, it’s a prioritization approach?
[02:43] Mike: Sure.
[02:44] Rob: We got some really good comments for that episode. It was episode 191, and I wanted to talk about a couple of them. One is from Martin Frank, and he said, “I’m a big procrastinator myself, and I was hooked on the ABCDE method you present. My question: how do you manage different tasks from different projects? Do you have multiple Trello boards or do you merge them all into one?”
[03:03] I responded to him, and I said I put everything into a single list because otherwise I get project hypnotized, and I won’t switch between them, but I only keep stuff that really needs to be worked on in that board. So future tasks, nice to haves, etc, they’re on a different board. Because I don’t think you can manage 50-100 items with any level of efficiency in Trello. I do think if you have a to do list and you literally have 100 or 200 items that need to be arranged, then I would probably not use Trello. I would probably use something more like FogBugz or a took like that where you priority, backlog, and filtering are kind of these multiple dimensions to it. And it’s just better for organizing more information because you have more things to pivot on.
[03:40] Mike: My thoughts are probably pretty similar. What I do on Trello is I have the things that are the most important to me. And there’s some things that I’ll take from FogBugz and put into my Trello board, but then there’s other things that I’ll take from my Trello board and then add them into FogBugz and I just kind of wipe the slate clean at that point. And so if I’m moving it from Trello to FogBugz, I delete it from Trello, so that it’s no longer there kind of on my top level list of things to do. For exactly the reason that you said. If there’s too many things on that list, they tend to get lost, and you don’t necessarily go through and reprioritize those Trello boards every single day. Those are the top level things that you should be working on, and I find with FogBugz a lot of the stuff that is in there is stuff that tends to get shifted into the B or C column, and sometimes it’s just stuff that you need to get rid of. I just started taking things and just throwing them away and saying, “Look, I’m just not going to do this. I’m not going to do that because they don’t matter any more because they’ve sat there long enough that they never became a priority, so what’s the point? Just get rid of them.”
[04:35] Rob: Exactly. I definitely go through and purge items when I figure out that they’re never going to make it to the top of the board.
[04:42] We got another comment too from Andrew Connell. He says, “Like you, I used Trello but I recently jumped into Evernote and the secret weapon process.” Now everything is in Evernote. Email integration is killer so my inbox stays uncluttered. He uses a one through five priority so it’s like ABCDE, but it’s just numbers. And he’s basically doubled down on putting everything into Evernote, and it’s working really, really well for him. He wrote up the full process on his blog, andrewconnell.com, and we will definitely link that up in the show notes.
[05:10] Mike: Yeah, I think I’d have a hard time using Evernote for that. I feel like I never actually go back and do anything with it.
[05:17] Rob: I’d be curious. You should read through his post because he goes through the exact detail of how he’s using it, and I wonder if that would sway you so you maybe you could take a look at it.
[05:25] Mike: Yeah, that’s a good idea. I’ll have to do that.
[05:27] Well, today we’re going to be talking a little bit about how to craft your story. Some of this is taken from literary sources. How to write a good novel or a good story that would be published. But some of it is directly applicable to how to talk about your company, how to talk about your product and how that product came to be, and use that as essentially a marketing story that you can then use in your marketing collateral when you’re talking to people, explain your product and the services that you offer in relation to that story. Because the fact of the matter is that stories really resonate with people. In fact, there’s an article in the Scientific American Mind by Jeremy Hsu where he essentially points out that personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations. People tend to remember stories, and if you relate your product in a story, it’s going to resonate better with them.
[06:16] Rob: This was the main premise of the book, “Made to Stick,” by Dan and Chip Heath. And I highly recommend listening to that book. It’s mostly about being able to talk about something in a way that gets people to remember it, and a really big part of that is telling stories. I have used the stuff I learned from “Made to Stick” in writing marketing copy, in writing blog posts, in crafting these podcasts, in organizing conference talk. I use it in everything I do. Anything public facing now, I think, “How can I integrate stories? How can I use stories?” And it was really heavily influenced by me reading that book.
[06:52] Mike: So before we get into this, why don’t we talk about some of the different companies that really do this well. Three that I thought of off the top of my head are 37 Signals, Apple, and Groove. And if you take a look at those three companies, if you take a look at Apple and what they do and how they position themselves and how they talk about stuff, every single one of their yearly demos at WWDC is them telling stories. Every single sales pitch for every product they’ve ever launched it’s all stories. It’s all about what sorts of problems they encountered, and they all follow a very, very similar formula.
[07:23] And then if you look at a company like 37 Signals, they came out with the rails platform, and if you take a look at how they’ve positioned themselves, they really say, “This is what we stand for. These are the types of things that are important to us.” And these are things that as a developer I should not have to worry about. We’re worried about design, and it should look good, and they take that to an extreme, and they definitely alienate some people. But in alienating some people they attract other people.
[07:49] And then Groove. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Groove. They have a help desk product that they’ve been pushing. They have a newsletter that they put out, and they really use that to push their story and talk about themselves, where they came from. And it does allude to the product a little bit, but it really does talk about the growth of their business. It really does come out and say, “Hey, this is who we are. This is what we do, and these are the trials and tribulations we’ve had to go through to get to where we are today.”
[08:12] Rob: Yeah, I’m familiar with Groove. He and I’ve emailed back a number of times actually going all the way back to 2011 it looks like. I was just searching through Gmail. He had asked for advice on a few things, and he’s doing a killer job at content marketing these days and getting people invested in his story as you said. I can think of a bunch of other examples off the top of my head. Think of Joel Spolsky when he was getting Fog Creek going. Him telling all the stories of hiring developers and his approach and everything. You buy into it, and you start getting invested in his success.
[08:39] Eric Sink did it with Source Gear. He doesn’t do it anymore, but he used to blog, and then he wrote the Business of Software book. I was so invested in that just hearing what’s it like to really be on the inside and then you start rooting for him.
[08:50] I think patio11 did this really well when he was blogging every week about bingo card creator, and that’s how he got known, right? He talked a lot about SEO and analytics and tactics, but it wasn’t just the tactics. It was that it was this once guy sharing the story of what he was doing.
[09:08] I found on my blog as I blogged about my journey through DotNetInvoice and then through HitTail telling those stories, the tactics are helpful, but that was when people really started to become more engaged with me and what was going on.
[09:21] I think Buffer’s doing a really decent job of that these days. They don’t necessarily tell the inside story like all the other guys, but they are giving you glimpses into how they pay their people. They released all their compensation number publicly. They have all their metrics up on Baremetrics at, I think it’s buffer.baremetrics.io so you can basically see how much money they’re making. And their transparency is part of that story.
[09:43] So stories get people talking if they’re told well and they’re told consistently over a long period of time. Especially if people start relating to you. We talked about this a week or two ago that when we started telling more of our story on this podcast then people become more engaged and they put up with an episode or two that isn’t as tactical, isn’t as super ultra productive or super helpful for them because they’re really just invested in your story.
[10:09] Mike: People can definitely have a story that they tell about themselves in relation to their company. It especially comes true when you talk about the product that you’ve built and you say, “I built this because” and you talk about some of your past work history experiences or problems you’ve encountered. And again, you’re telling a story, and it’s not necessarily about the product but it’s about the trials and tribulations that you went through in order to get to the point where you are today where you built that product because you had this problem that nobody seems to have solved in the way that you needed it to and here are the different reasons why those other things didn’t work. And you take a look at some of the corporate evangelists like Matt Cutts from Google and Rand Fishkin from Moz and then people like Scott Hanselmen from Microsoft, all of these people have a story about where they came from. As you start becoming more familiar with the things that they do you hear more and more bits of this story. Nobody ever sits down and listens to all of a particular person’s story, but you hear different pieces of it spaced out over the course of months or years in different places, and as you said, it’s one of those things that help the story resonate.
[11:10] So if you start looking at things like literary examples, a lot of what you would probably consider the classical stories that really resonate with millions of people, they tend to follow this common idea called the hero’s journey. Twelve different things in the hero’s journey. But if you start to think about classic literary examples that follow the hero’s journey you come across things like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, The Godfather, Harry Potter, and the Lion King. All of these things kind of embody the hero’s journey. And one of the things that I came across in doing the research for this episode was Nick Reese, and I’ll link to his blog in this. He essentially simplifies this into what he calls the journey to success. And the journey to success boils down to these five basic points.
[11:51] And the first point is identity. Who were you when you started your journey? What was it that you were doing? How were you doing it? What was the lay of the land like when you first came into the picture where you want to start this story? Because obviously you don’t want to start all the way back when you were five years old unless the problem really came from that point. Where do you want to start talking about that? Where is the first place that you came across this problem and how can you introduce people to it in a way that’s going to be meaningful to them?
[12:18] Rob: Right, and you’ll notice as we step through these points, that this outline is very close to most Mixergy interviews. And Andrew has talked about that, how he uses the hero’s journey but how he uses that in his outlines to have a consistent format. And that’s what really separated his interviews early on from everyone else is that he started using this outline which is to- you’ll hear him start the interview, and the very first thing he says is, “Tell us where you are today.” So you want to start with success. And so my MicroConf talk two years ago was about HitTail and I was trying to talk about that journey, and I started- one of my first slides was the revenue curve. So I gave the punch line right at the beginning. And the revenue curve starts low and then does this big hockey stick thing. That’s what I started with. Then I said, “Now, let’s scroll it back, and let me tell you where I was and when I got it.” And I talked about the depths of getting started and how hard it was and how much money I paid. That was who I was when I started the journey, and again you’ll notice that Mixergy interviews do the same thing. He’ll say, “Where are you today?” And then he’ll say, “Okay, let’s roll the camera back. Let’s roll back a year or two. What were you doing then and then how did you move forward?”
[13:24] Mike: The second phase in this is turn against the status quo. What did you want to change about your prior identity or prior world? What sorts of things were you running into that were challenges? How were they not working out? How were you not able to overcome those challenges in a way that was satisfactory to you? This is kind of where you can start talking a little bit about your product or your service a little bit as well because those are the types of things that have led you to create the product or service you’re going to be selling.
[13:51] Rob: And so it depends on where you’re telling this story, but typically this is going to revolve around you being unhappy with all the software options that were out there or you really struggling with something that you needed to build a solution for. Or noticing that a friend had a problem and then going and building a solution. This is the impetus and this is where you really try to get people engaged because they can see themselves in your story. They start thinking, “Oh yeah, I have a problem too, and maybe I can do this.” or maybe “I’ve done this.” And then they start relating with you, and that’s really where stories start to succeed is when you bring people in and make them feel like they are or could be the protagonist.
[14:30] Mike: And that entire idea really helps them become much more engaged in the story. That kind of leads into number three which is the struggle. What sorts of things did you struggle against as you started to create this change?
[14:41] As you mentioned, if people kind of associate themselves as potentially that protagonist, you’re reaching out to people who may also have similar problems. You’re talking to them as if they’re they ones having these particular types of problems.
[14:53] Rob: This struggle has to be there. If there’s no struggle the story isn’t interesting. Because if you come out and say, “I was this person when I started, and then I really had this problem that I tried to solve. And then I coded it over a weekend, and it took off like a shot, and I’ve had a lot of success since then.” That’s interesting in a certain kind of unicorn and Cinderella way. It’s a Cinderella story. But most of us do struggle as we get our apps going and as we’re trying to start these businesses. It’s typically more interesting to hear about the long struggles and then breaking through and what they did to break through. We can relate more to that. As much as we do want that lottery ticket idea that just takes off, I think the struggle is a big part of it.
[15:37] Mike: I think the point you made about the Cinderella stories is only warranted in these cases where we want to be the person who doesn’t struggle. We want to be a Cinderella story. We want to be in a situation where things just get that hockey stick curve growth and we don’t really run into any challenges. That’s what we want for our own story, but at the same time, that’s not what we generally encounter and not what we experience. So those struggles resonate with us and that’s why they resonate with us. If you hear those stories where the person really didn’t struggle with whatever the challenges were, that doesn’t resonate with us which is why don’t tend to remember those types of things.
[16:13] Step four of this journey is insight. And what sorts of unique tools did you build or what insights did you have that made overcoming this challenge easier? Did you have ten or fifteen years’ experience in that particular industry? Was there some library that you came across that connected the dots for you that you decided to build on top of? There’s a lot of different things that kind of factor into this. But if you look at anybody who’s successful and look back at their history, generally there’s this situation that they were in that the reason they’re successful today is because of the situation they were in. And one of the things that I’ve seen is a lot of people relate themselves to other people, but along with that. You also have to remember that somebody else’s experiences helped shape them and get them to where they are today. And trying to copy somebody else’s success just by copying the things that they do is never going to work, and the reason it won’t work is because you didn’t go through the exact same experiences that they did. So because of that you’re not necessarily going to have the same insights that they did into the problems that they’re trying to solve.
[17:14] Rob: There’s a really good point here. If you don’t have struggles and it just takes off for you, you really rarely will have insights that are worth anything because if you don’t have to struggle through it and try different options and fail and then eventually succeed, then let’s say you had this amazing idea and it took off like a shot. You sell that app, you start the next one. You’re going to run into problems that you don’t know how to overcome because you have never faced them before because you lucked out with a good idea. We’ve seen this. There are entrepreneurs who A) have a really big first hit, and then they can’t repeat it, and they continuously struggle after that.
[17:49] The other thing that I’ve seen is people who have one big hit, and then they go write a book or they do talks or they write blog posts about how you can make it big or how they did it, but it’s not applicable. The insight isn’t there because they didn’t have to struggle through it. I especially think this is common with first-time entrepreneurs who have some success because they do learn a lot of things, but if they had that hockey stick idea right away and didn’t have to grind it out, then you do skip over a lot of the learning and you won’t have as much insight as someone who did in fact have to grind it out and who’s able to then repeat that, right? Because those insights are what allows them to do it a second, third, and fourth time.
[18:29] Mike: And this is kind of the very idea behind fail fast. You want to run into those challenges and try to overcome them and fail only to have to turn around and say, “Okay, that didn’t work. Let me try something else.” And the idea behind fail fast is to just simply iterate as quickly as you possibly can in order to gain insights as fast as you can.
[18:48] There’s people out there who say you shouldn’t aim to fail at all, and that’s not what that’s talking about. It’s about being able to make your mistakes quickly and then pivot and then make the right decision from there so you do get those insights and you do learn quickly.
[19:00] Step five in the journey to success that Nick Reese talks about is resolution. Who are you today and who do you serve? I do have a question for you. You said that you tend to start out with the resolution first as opposed to starting out with who you are. Do you find that that works better or is that something that you’ve tested or no?
[19:17] Rob: Yes. That’s what I’ve found. I haven’t tested it, I just know that I’ve done it many times in talks, done it in interviews where I start with the end. The thing that it does, it gets someone to buy in early to care about your story. Because if you just start and you say, “Here I am. I’m the founder of this, and five years ago I was a developer” and you start talking about your story from there, people aren’t that interested. But if you start and you say, “Look, I took an app and I grew it from zero to $25,000 a month.” That’s where you start with the resolution of the story, and then you back up, then everyone’s like, “Wow! I totally want to hear how he did that.” Right? It gives them that punch line. Now, you don’t tell them the whole resolution because your whole resolution might be a five or ten minute discussion. But you give them a glimpse into it. Just a teaser – maybe thirty seconds or sixty seconds – just enough to show them what it was, and then if they stick around at the end then you can really dive in to what it was and how you got there.
[20:09] Mike: So as you’re going through these different steps, there’s a bunch of things that you need to keep in mind. The first one is that you need to know what your audience is. And if you don’t have an audience because you’re really just starting out, you need to pick one. Who is it that you want to serve? Who is it that you can think of that’s going to be your ideal customer? And in many cases that’s going to be somebody who’s like you, who is in your situation, who’s experiencing similar problems, and you want to be able to talk to that person and essentially put them in your shoes. You could look at it the other way, you’re trying to put yourself in their shoes, but the reality is you have the insight from your point of view, and you’re trying to create a story or create surroundings around them that they can relate to. That they can say, “Oh, I went through this and it’s really close to the things that you’re talking about.”
[20:51] Rob: Yeah, and one thing you’ll notice is that a lot of the people that we’ve mentioned who have told their stories – Joel Spolsky or Eric Sink – they were telling their stories to designers, developers, startup founders. I think the reason these guys all come to mind is because that’s the space we’re in and that’s what we pay attention to. But I also think it just works better if your people are online because then it’s easier to tell that story online. I think there are limitations to picking an audience- if you pick an audience that’s completely offline and not talking to each other or they aren’t on forums and they aren’t doing the discussion stuff then it’s hard to tell your story online. Now, if you’re going to give a conference talk, that’s a different story, right? Then you know what your audience is and even if you’re talking to electricians or counter top installers or whatever, then you’re going to know them, you’re going to know how to communicate to them, and you have their ear for the duration of your talk.
[21:22] Mike: I heard a podcast, it was the business and boot strapping podcast, it was with Brecht Palumbo who gave an attendee talk at MicroConf a couple years ago. And he said that when he was first getting started one of the things that he did was he went to local groups of real estate investors and was talking to them about the types of challenges that he was running into as a real estate investor and how he was solving those. And it kind of led into his story about how he built his product from using public data sources and essentially selling subscriptions to that data online now. If you listen to that particular episode he very closely goes through that and sets that up. And he is affiliated with that audience. He is one of them, so it makes it a lot easier for him to relate that story to them even though it is in an offline fashion because he is giving a talk to them in person.
[22:30] The second thing is to choose your point of view, and it’s perfectly okay to be contrarian. If you look at a company like 37 Signals they are very contrarian. They really want to draw a line in the sand and divide people and say, “We’re on this side, and you’re on that side.” And then to the audience they’re essentially saying, “Choose. You need to choose whether you’re on our side and you understand what we’re talking about and are with us or you’re going to go off and be somebody else.” And in some ways at least early on it was very much about either you’re a designer or you’re not. If you’re not a designer, go away. This information is probably not for you. And since that time it has expanded quite a bit I think. But in the beginning stages you really need to draw those lines in the sand and figure out who it is that you’re affiliated with and who is probably not a good candidate to pay attention to you.
[23:17] Rob: Yeah, I would go beyond saying it’s okay to be contrarian. I would actually encourage you to try to think of insane things in ways that other people haven’t. I think that’s the way that if you believe in your opinions and you’re able to justify them and you are contrarian that’s a way to make a name for yourself. With that said, there’s a difference between being contrarian, having an opinion and being a jerk. And being overbearing and using words like “always” and “never” which I hear people use and it just pisses me off when someone comes out and they’re like, “You should always do this! You should never outsource your core product!” Whatever. You hear people say that, and that’s not true. Maybe it’s most of the time. Maybe it’s 70-80%, but it’s really troublesome to me. It’s okay to be contrarian, but you let people abuse this and they sometimes take it too far. Be careful with that. Know yourself. Know if you’re the kind of person that would take it too far, and just be careful with taking your frame of reference which is probably pretty limited and trying to extrapolate that to the whole world in always and never language.
[24:17] Mike: The third thing to keep in mind is that you need to choose the premise that sets up the story that you want to tell. And by that I really mean that you need to be able to set up your story in such a way that you can logically move from the beginning of the story to the end of the story without losing people in the middle. So that you’re not making these giant gaps where you talk a lot about getting your first customers and then fast forward a lot and skip over a lot of important things. You end up in a situation where you’ve got 10,000 or 20,000 customers, and people are like, “Wait a second. I don’t understand how you got from 100 customers to 20,000. That just doesn’t make any sense to me.” You really need to pay attention to the audience’s point of view, and understand that they simply don’t know everything that you are talking about. They don’t know the whole story. There’s lots of details that they’re not going to know, and if you have a completely fresh set of eyes on the story, you need to be able to make sure that you’re not skipping important things that are going to confuse them.
[25:09] Rob: Yeah, I think this touches on the next point that you make. You have an outline here which is honor the audience and view the story from their side. Everything needs to flow and make sense. This is what editors are for.
[25:20] So that means if you’re going to do a talk, if you haven’t written a bunch of talks, then you probably want someone to hear it before you give to everyone to make sure that there aren’t gaps because it is really easy to have gaps in a talk. It’s also easy to have gaps in a series of blog posts if you’re doing content or even on your about page. It is easy to have gaps. It’s also easy to give too much detail, right? It’s hard to edit it down to a palatable amount of data, palatable amount of information that still tells the story and doesn’t leave anything out. So there’s a lot of craftsmanship that comes into this, and I think that spending quite a bit of time honing the story will be well worth it because it will resonate with people more.
[26:03] Mike: I think that’s one of the things that when you start looking into how to write a good story and deliver a great presentation, things like that, I don’t know if enough time is spent on cutting stuff out. As you said, it’s very easy to overwhelm somebody, and if you start overwhelming them, you end up with all this content in there that isn’t necessarily relevant or doesn’t highlight what you wanted to highlight, and you get people bored. People start to listen or they’re invested early on but then they’re like, “Come on. Please move things along. You’re not getting to the point.” That’s one of the things that people definitely need to pay attention to when they’re trying to craft these stories.
[26:39] Rob: Yeah, I think an interesting illustration in this is that any Mixergy interview you listen to is going to be about an hour long, and typically when you listen to them you’re kind of like, “Huh.” I think it’d be nice if this was thirty minutes long because I would be able to listen to the whole thing. But what you don’t realize is when you’re being interviewed you’re leaving huge amounts of information out. You just have to. Because even to just squeeze your story down into an hour you have to leave so much out, and Andrew really pushes the thing along in order to really do it. So even getting a good story into an hour long interview or forty-five or fifty minute talk onstage is a lot harder than it sounds, and you will find that you have to leave things out and keep only the pertinent points that actually keep the story flowing and making sense.
[27:26] Mike: Yeah. And I think the last point I want to make about this is that your story is really an argument for a particular point of view. How it is that you address this particular challenge or this problem or if you have software that solves a problem in a very specific space, your story can be an argument for why your product is the best at doing that. And that helps you to position yourself against the competitors in a number of different ways. It can be not just pricing, but it can also be about where you came from. Are the people that you’re going against these large enterprise challenges or are they funded companies? Are you the underdog? And you really want to position yourself in a way that shows that you are struggling to do it, and you are overcoming challenges. Whereas those other people are lazy, they’re kicking back, they’re not really doing anything because they don’t really care. And if you can show those struggles you can illustrate them to people, that’s what will resonate with them, and that’s what will attract people to your brand.
[28:19] Rob: I’m going to let you in on a marketing secret that I’ve used for years. We just talked about how to tell your story. If you turn it around you learn how to tell your customers’ story, and you learn how to tell their hero’s journey from not having the software to having your software and what life will look like before and after that and the things they struggle with early on and the results they’ll get once they use it and you can learn to craft that story, that is one of the best long form sales letters you will ever read. You have to genere-size it. You have to talk to “you.” You can’t tell a story like, “Hey, John did this.” I guess you could, but it wouldn’t work as well. What you really have to do is get into the conversation that’s in the person’s head who is reading the sales letter, and tell them their story to themselves. And as you come along side them in the first few paragraphs, they will buy in and they’ll be like, “Yes, this is exactly me.” And then as you move on, then they’ll say, “Well, of course I want to do that. I want the end of my journey to look like that.” It’s an amazing marketing technique that is very powerful. I’ve done this with some long form sales copy. Actually, I’ve done it quite a few times. My most recent example of this is if you go to the Drip homepage, getdrip.com, we just pushed a new long form homepage live a couple days before recording this, and it pits us no longer against increasing conversions in email marketing, but it’s going into the marketing automation space. Email marketing automation. But if you read that story and it gets in the mind of someone who has tried marketing automation and is fed up with the status quo and Drip’s positioning itself to be the answer to that. So if you read through that it’s another way to tell a story, and it’s not about you in this case; it’s about the customer.
[29:59] Mike: So again, just to point out this outline was put together from a bunch of different resources including Nick Reese’s blog, Copy Blogger: Narrative First, The Writer’s Journey. We’ll link up to all the different references that were used for this in the show notes.
[30:11] Rob: If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or email us at email@example.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for “startups” or by RSS at Startupsfortherestofus.com where you’ll also find a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.