Part Four in a series on the Marketing Equation.
nce upon a time there was a small business owner. She wasn’t herself small. She owned what was technically known as a “small business.”
This exceptionally bright “small business” owner (okay, call it an animal behavior consultancy) was unusually talented at not only understanding pets’ behavior problems but also in teaching pet owners how to understand and resolve them as well.
There was one big problem: Greta had great difficulty in attracting new clientele.
She lived in a rural area with both residential homes with family pets and also farms that had livestock, horses, alpacas and llamas (among other wild creatures). She could help not only the family dog change its bad behavior of digging under the backyard deck, but she could also try to convince the family of opossums living under that deck to find a safer location away from the loudly barking Fido.
Furthermore, a side effect of living in an area with lots of animals was that other animal behaviorists also had businesses in her area. She had lots of competition. And to make it even more difficult, some of her competitors used methods she disagreed with. Thus, she had to undo her competition’s bad pet training that was no longer working on Fido. (Hence, the family was rather upset about all that barking at an unseen enemy under the deck.)
Greta had a steep competitive journey to make and wondered how on earth to make it work.
To make it all worse, her savings were dwindling from leaving her cushy, safe university job (in the veterinary department, no less, working as a technician). But she’d already made the leap from safe, full-time employment to two occasional clients, without a plan to get more clients to fill her practice. Oh, dear!
The sand in Greta’s proverbial hour glass was fast running out. She had to get some regular clients fast or slink back to work as a vet technician somewhere.
To top it all off, her landlady had given her a 30-day notice to vacate. The landlady planned to move into the home herself.
With the walls literally closing in and few prospects for new clients, Greta took to the internet to research methods to grow her client list FAST! Her cat sat next to her on the desk. Her dog curled up in the dog bed next to her on the floor.
Lesson #1: Provide lots of drama. (You’re wondering perhaps what’s going on now that you’ve been dropped into the middle of a gripping story. That’s the first part of this lesson in the Marketing Equation. First, you did what was necessary to command your audience’s attention. Second, you were tasked with engaging them. I recommended that you tell them a story — a really good one — to engage their interest.)
The third piece of the Marketing Equation is to educate your target market about your product or service. But that sounds rather boring, no? (I’m not keen on ‘education.’ It just sounds so incredibly stuffy and boring!) Learning is different. That’s interesting.
So how do you educate your target market without boring them to death?
That’s what I’ve been showing you: Tell a great, dramatic story. Have them on the edge of their seats with all the drama you present.
Create a Compelling Hero with a Difficult Problem
Lesson #2: What are the ingredients of great drama?
Let’s start with the beginning: You need a hero! In this instance, it’s Greta, the animal behaviorist. And if you’re selling a product or service, the hero is the customer! (Greta would be my customer. So she’s my hero.)
Relate directly to your audience and you will engage her interest and have the opportunity to explain how you can solve her problem.
And there you have it: Your customer is your hero. The drama is that she has a problem – a big one – a life and death one! (Exaggeration is okay; it’s marketing. It keeps us engaged and interested!) Her journey is the drama, as you educate her so that her problem is solved…by you!
(Back to our story after that commercial break.) Greta surfed the internet for marketing advice for hours, even shooing the cat off the keyboard from time to time. Just about ready to give up, Greta and her pets jumped suddenly when they heard the doorbell ring and a knock at the door.
After the initial ‘security system’ barking away, Greta had her dog sit patiently while she checked the door and spotted a woman on the other side through the peep hole.
“Can I help you?” she asked before opening the door since she lived off the beaten track with her family of animals.
“Are you Greta?” the woman inquired, and Greta was taken slightly aback by the stranger’s personal address.
“Can I help you?” Greta repeated, slightly wary.
Confident now that she’d found who she was looking for, the woman said, “I’m sorry. My cell phone died or I would have called. My husband is ready to throw me and my dog out if I can’t get her quieted down. I’m at my wits end. Can you help?”
Greta was completely shocked. Just what she was looking for: A new client!
Well, I’m not here to write a novel in this one email! You’ll note that the client has almost dropped in Greta’s lap, but she hasn’t yet closed the deal. The woman on the other side of the door needs to know Greta can SOLVE HER PROBLEM. This is where educating your prospective client base comes into action.
Tell Your Story with Interesting Characters and Conflict
“Yes!” Greta said, opening the unlocked door to greet her prospective client. “I speak Fido!”
Greta opens to the door with a big smile on her face. She’s pleasantly surprised to see an energetic, middle-aged woman who is dressed ‘business casual.’ She reminded her of some realtors she had met a while back at a luncheon. She extended her hand to shake that of her visitor’s. “My name’s Greta. Come in,” she pulled the door further open as her dog waited for his opportunity to greet the new arrival.
The woman’s face relaxed considerably at the greeting — as if she’d finally found her rescuer. “I’m Dottie Woods. Nice to finally meet you.” She stepped inside, offering the back of her wrist to the dog for sniffing.
“You said your husband was about to throw you out because of your dog’s behavior?” Greta repeated as she gestured for her guest to take a seat while she closed the front door. “I’m so sorry this has been so stressful for you – and your dog. Obviously, your dog must also be upset.” Her guest was nodding her head vigorously in agreement, relieved for the recognition of the problem.
“Oh, you have no idea!” Dottie gestured in a way that indicated she was at her wits end.
“What if I tell you that not only can I probably figure out what the problem is in one session, but I can also probably solve it and teach you how to reinforce your dog’s new, good behavior so it doesn’t happen again?” Greta asked the belabored Mrs. Woods.
“I’d say you’re a miracle worker, and where do I sign?” Dottie chuckled mimicking signing a contract.
What happens next?
Connect with Your Reader (Prospect) via Empathy and Problem Solving
You may have noticed Greta didn’t immediately jump into ‘educating’ her prospective client, Dottie. She didn’t immediately say, “I can fix your dog.” She started with the most important part of storytelling: She connected with Dottie through empathy. That’s Lesson #3.
Pets are family members. There are strong emotional bonds at play. If Greta failed to acknowledge that at the outset, she wouldn’t get the job because Dottie would perceive Greta as not understanding of her predicament. But since Greta did show understanding of the stress Dottie was under, Dottie was open to listening to the next few words Greta had to offer – the education about what she would do.
And here’s the real kicker: Greta went straight to the heart of the matter: She said she’d solve the problem and teach Dottie how to manage it addressing her primary concerns. That’s exactly what you have to do.
Show your prospects you recognize their concerns and can empathize with them. Then demonstrate how you can solve their problems. This is where you insert the ‘education’ in your story: Benefit, then Feature. (Repeat and rinse as many times as necessary to get the Close.)
I can hear your subtext yelling loudly: “Yeah, but I sell nuts and bolts! What’s dramatic and compelling about that?!?!”
And I say, “Those gorgeous galvanized nuts and bolts will be used to build an enclosure for Fido today so that he doesn’t run out into the road and get hit by a car!” See? Drama.
Let me sum up the process for you:
In your business, the customer is the hero! So…
- What’s her challenge or problem? What does she want she doesn’t have?
- What are the consequences if she doesn’t solve the problem or get what she wants. (Make the consequences dire! Anything else can be TIVO’d for later!)
- Why does she have to get it right now? (What do you have to do to keep it urgent?)
Next, plug in your hero, her problem and your solution to this formula above.
Do not worry about sounding overly dramatic in your writing. You can always tone it down later. It’s much harder to make your writing exciting at the outset. But if it’s boring to you now, you can bet you’ll be boring your audience, too. Use that as your internal barometer to tell whether or not you’re on track to make your story a cliffhanger.
As you go through this exercise notice if you feel energized. Or are you frustrated? Or are you typing faster than your fingers can manage because the story’s so thrilling? These are all indicators of whether you are on track or if you’ve hit a roadblock.
Great Stories Include Common Elements: Great Characters, Conflict and Creative Solution
We love stories. Children won’t go to bed without them. (Many adults too!) Tell gripping stories around your business and you’ll have a captive audience.
Here are a few more elements to help you flesh out your own stories:
- Who’s the villain? Star Wars without Darth Vader wouldn’t exist. In business, sometimes the antagonist is a negative outcome. If the problem isn’t solved, perhaps a branch office will have to close and those folks would be out of work. Terrible outcome!
- Where does the story take place? You’ll recall most fairy tales have a road to follow, a forest to get lost in or a castle to escape from. It’s helpful to paint a picture of ‘from here to there’ for the reader to visualize the story.
- What will happen to your hero if she doesn’t solve the problem? Make the consequences of failure crystal clear. She doesn’t have to be locked in a tower for the rest of her life, but Greta may be homeless if she doesn’t solve the problem. Keep that at the forefront of readers’ minds.
- What’s your hero’s motivation? Dottie wants to keep both her dog and her husband. She has a strong motivator. And don’t forget your antagonist’s motivations. They should run contrary to the hero’s to maintain tension and conflict.
- What’s the moral of the story? Yup. They’ve all got morals to every story. For Greta, it’s along the lines of: help one animal at a time to create one happy home at a time. The hero needs to show she understands the progress she’s made through the journey.
- What principles are at play? Can you hone in on basic principles to amplify: Do unto others as you would to yourself. Help everyone in need. Be honest.
It’s called a ‘target audience’ for a reason: To get them and keep them in their seats (paying attention to you!), you’ll need to employ a little drama. Do it well and they’ll beg for more!