Mom glides gracefully towards the sound of the ringing doorbell. The door opens to jubilant family members, fawning over the newborn in her arms. Three-day-old Susie basks in the attention while her six-year-old brother, Billy, watches from the hallway. “Isn’t she adorable?” “Look at those curls!” “What big blue eyes!” Billy manages to tip-toe just high enough to see his own reflection in the hallway mirror. “I have blue eyes, too …” he mutters quietly.
Suddenly, Dad is beside him. With a hand on his shoulder, he suggests fast food. Sitting at a booth in the restaurant, Dad tells Billy, “You know, she’s gonna need someone to show her the ropes …”
If you’ve read this far, then my story engaged you. Never before in the history of mankind have so many people had so many ways to be informed or entertained. In our media-driven, YouTube watching, music video consuming, iPod listening, video game addicted society, it’s easy to miss the underlining element each of these contain … a story.
Even the commercials we try to avoid are weaved around a story, such as the one I opened with—one of the most effective and touching McDonald’s commercial I’ve seen. As I said in my last article, stories appeal to our emotions. And it’s emotions (not logic) that makes people act … which is why I still choose McDonald’s over any other fast food restaurant.
Which is also why you should be utilizing this powerful technique when talking to your prospects and clients.
But you need to do more than just tell a few good stories. Some years back, a copywriter colleague of mine offered to review the copy I’d written for my website. After reading my logic-filled arguments about the benefits of web marketing, return on investment, and the positive end-results I could produce, he asked me this: “Where’s the drama? Where’s the story?” At the time, I had no clue what he was talking about.
My answer lay in that McDonald’s commercial. Notice it had nothing to do with Big Macs or Filet-of-Fish sandwiches. It was the story of a little boy whose life was suddenly disrupted by the appearance of an unwelcome baby sister to compete for his family’s affection. McDonald’s became part of his story by becoming the setting for this conflict to get resolved. Instead of talking about their great tasting, highly-nutritional fast food, they used narrative to weave themselves into the story and become part—not just of the plot—but of the happy ending.
Each time you’re in a prospective client’s office, there’s a real-life drama unfolding right before your very eyes. Unless you figure out how to become one of the main characters in that drama, you’ll always be a red shirt … you know, the ones that beam down to the planet with Kirk and Spock but never seem to make it back to the ship.
So how exactly do you do that? Just like every good story has a cliffhanger, you’ll have to wait until next week to find out.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.