How to Master Story and Completely Transform Your Business

by Craig McBreen · 37 comments · Content Marketing


The-Power-of-StoryWhat’s the secret to standing out online?

How do you build authority and find those prize customers you covet?

How do you really make it in the online jungle?

If you deliver a consistent, helpful, engaging narrative with a core message and a specific audience in mind, you’ll blow past the competition.

Because story done right makes you likable, trustworthy, and helpful. And people buy from those they like, know and trust.

Of course, but where do you start?

#1. First — Acknowledge the Power of Story.

What captures your attention, often holds you spellbound and won’t let go? What is forever etched in your memory?

A great story.

And if you’re online and want someone to buy from you, you must bond with them in some way. A consistent and engaging narrative does this.

Think about it this way: Your client is on an odyssey and you’re helping them find their way. Your useful, engaging storyline creates a bond, puts you top of mind, and earns you the right to sell.

#2. Second — Realize Their Pain is Your Foundation.

Find your ideal customer’s pain point and center your epic tale around that.

Think as a wise sage teaching your customer how to outsmart and blow past their impediment to greatness. They are the superhero (not you). You’re simply there to help them vanquish the enemy.

Your solution is geared to their long-term success. Your answer might cure their ills, but you must first build trust through story.

#3. Third — Treat Your Prospect Like an Idol.

In fact, you should work like an over-caffeinated eager beaver to tweak, refine, and deliver the best content possible to your prized audience.

Your goal is to make them the superstar, so they love you, come back to you and tell all their friends about you.

If there is anything that doesn’t help them on their way, do me a favor and chuck it in the bin.

#1 Revisited (The Power of Story).

So, let’s get back to the power of story done right.

One of the most successful blogs on the planet is Copyblogger. If you’re familiar with Brian Clark’s creation, you understand how masterfully he’s used story to build a massive audience and sell products that help.

He did this in his own agile way by realizing a few things …

A. Your customer wants to be courted.
Content marketing is about romancing the customer over time, not going for a deep tongue kiss on your first date. Trust is part of love and takes time to develop. Plus I’m guessing you want to be the romantic who is rewarded with love and affection, not the creeper who gets slapped in the face.

Love thy customer. The fine peeps at Copyblogger sure do.

B. You must work to build a firm foundation of extremely helpful content.
Copyblogger calls this cornerstone content. It drives the machine and supports the brand, because it’s something people keep coming back to. It’s the rock everything is built upon.

If you don’t have this type of in-depth content, look here and get busy (I sure am).

C. It helps to think more like a teacher and less like a marketer.
In fact, you should treat your ideal customer like a hero. Immerse yourself in their world and get to know them intimately. This positions you to best help them solve their problems and continue their journey.

Pretend your client is Danielson and you are Mr. Miyagi.

D. Story is the best way to frame the problems of your audience.
It’s an iterative process that helps you craft the best products and services over time, and find the right customers for them. (I needed to repeat this).

E. All good things take time.
Selling through storytelling is about nuance and falling in love over time. Pull, don’t Push and be calm, but focused in your approach. This will take time.

To me, the inbound marketing approach of Clark and crew is almost Zen-like in its subtlety.

#2 Revisited (So What the Heck is a Pain Point)?

Well, what is troubling your ideal customer? What do they fear most? What “thing” do they need to get past?

If you discover and solve IT … you are golden. You are Miyagi.

Derek Halpern has made a career out of helping people by taking advantage of something called a thread of discontent.

Defined in his own words:
“It’s a problem that a majority of people have with one specific blog or company. It’s a chink in their armor, and it’s an opportunity for you to convert them into loyal subscribers and customers.”

A thread of discontent is a problem that is not being solved effectively. And your customer’s problem is the enemy you’re helping them get past. You just need to do this better than the other guy.

But this doesn’t happen overnight. You must work your fingers to the bone to craft magnetic and helpful content. The iterative storyline you build over time helps you achieve this.

So why is Social Triggers so successful? And what practices will help your business do the same?

A. Realize the agile way is the only way.
Use analytics and feedback — through email, comments and social — to continually test, listen, and refine. Testing and feedback is fuel for your content marketing fire. It’s obvious Derek is fairly obsessive about this.

B. Be the customer.
Just about every post at Social Triggers is focused on the reader’s world and how to make it better. Again: the customer is Daniel, you are Miyagi.

C. Use story to convey that you know exactly what their pain point is.
To me, this is your sweet spot, because once they realize this, your content becomes magnetic. It’s also the spark for your client’s metamorphosis.

D. Be the expert.
Fake it ’til you make it won’t work, I know. But, please have a little confidence, K? If you know something that can help others, you are an expert. You don’t have to be perfect, just keep listening and learning and don’t be afraid to display your knowledge to the world.

By using story over time to deliver foundational blog content, Derek sure got attention, but he also paid attention.

Paying attention is very important!

He got in touch with the world of his potential customer, found the enemy and taught them how to eradicate it. This is the storyline over at Social Triggers.

The more he listened, the better his delivery became, because he didn’t have to guess any longer.

Story infused with creativity, utility and a little old fashioned chutzpah, helped build authority.

And with that kind of authority people were soon lining up to see what he had to offer.

#3 Revisited (What About This Hero Thing)?

One of my favorite bits of advice came directly from Copyblogger media.

The advice? Treat your ideal customer as the hero. If you do this time and time again it just might transform your world by rocking theirs.

You can probably guess that I like The Karate Kid, but a much better example is found in the storyline of George Lucas’s baby …

Star Wars is a fairly modern incarnation of the “Hero’s Journey.” Yes, my kids laugh at the pre-digital special effects and the general hokiness of it all, but the movie endures.

Star Wars is based on a tried and true formula: a simple (familiar) story told on an epic scale (Luke’s journey from nobody to hero).

But the meat of the story (Luke’s epic journey) is why the movie is so magical.

So what did Clark and crew deliver to me? And how should you approach your writing?

The protagonist in Star Wars was Luke.

The story was about his journey to greatness.

From zero to hero.

Your prospect is Luke.

You?

You are Obi Wan, of course. And your job is to make them (your customer) a hero.

So stop trying to play superstar, and realize this isn’t about you. Instead, approach your content like some wise, old sage.

Use story to help your hero on their epic journey. And use it to master your grand lesson plan.

Be the teacher. Tell an amazing story. Rock their world and see what happens.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Demian Farnworth November 11, 2013 at 10:00 am

Well done Craig!

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Craig McBreen November 11, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Hi Demian,

Thank you, Sir! Appreciate you coming by today.

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Rob Skidmore November 11, 2013 at 10:59 am

Great post Craig! Just what I needed right now.

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Craig McBreen November 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Hey Rob,

Glad I could help ;)

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Mary Stephenson November 11, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Hi Craig

Very good points to remember when we write posts.
Patience and persistence is the only way to see some kind of success. But content must be good if one wants readers that keep coming back. Content has to be based on what the reader wants or what they don’t realize they need. There have been websites I have searched on that promised in the Google search to be what I wanted and yet when I get there it has nothing of value. The ones that have kept their promise of my search, I go back to on a regular basis.

Mary
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Craig McBreen November 11, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Hi Mary,

Thank you, great points, all! And I certainly try to keep my promises here ;)

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Maxwell Ivey November 11, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Hello; I enjoyed the post especially the analogies you used. Its fun when a serious blogger and coach can help us by using examples from our favorite pop culture movies. I have recently been posting a series of articles to help people prepare to sell their surplus amusement equipment and related items. In this i have shared the knowledge gained from helping many others in their efforts. I still have days where i don’t think of myself as an expert but many of my commenters mention my obvious experience in the field and expert status. I especially think it is interesting how much i have managed to learn about what makes good photos or video in spite of being almost totally blind. this comes from listening when my brother tells me which photos to use and why one is better than another. We are all experts in something and like positive thoughts and good breaks they are out there if we keep an open mind and look for them. So, I hope people reading this will challenge themselves to make a list of aspect of their field where they are an expert. Thanks again for the great post and take care, max
Maxwell Ivey recently posted..Some new and unusual electric go karts from Rides and FunMy Profile

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Craig McBreen November 11, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Hi Maxwell,

Thanks. I’m a sucker for those old movies and they’re great examples of the hero’s journey.

Well it sure sounds like you’re doing all the right things. even though some days you don’t think of yourself as an expert.

Just sharing what you’ve learned over the years makes you a wizard to someone out there. “That” person So glad they hapapened to find you and your expertise ;)

Didn’t realize the challenges you have to deal with, but glad your brother is there to help. And I do love what you’ve written here … People should challenge themselves. Agreed!

Thanks for stopping in.

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Maxwell Ivey November 11, 2013 at 10:07 pm

hi Craig; just shows what happens when you think with the right mindset. after reading your reply i thought about how in the last week the owner of an auction company called wanting my assistance with carnival and amusement park rides. he is experienced in family entertainment centers arcades and redemption games. and i got a great email this morning on a lady who saw one of my Facebook posts saying how she wished she had known about my site before she bought the food equipment to start her own business. and i’m a fan of the old cartoons and radio shows lots of good old fashioned good triumphs over evil there only thing is all the heroes like the shadow nick carter the green hornet casey crime photographer, etc all had at least one person that knew their secret identity and that was unknown to the world. at least obi one miagi and sancho panzo all at least got equal billing. and whether you are blind or sighted you have to challenge yourself even if some days the biggest challenge is just getting out of bed sitting down at the computer and putting one word after the other. looking forward to your next post, max
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Craig McBreen November 11, 2013 at 10:15 pm

So true, Max, so true :) Some days just getting out of bed and starting “it” (whatever “it” may be) is the biggest challenge.

Cheers to your success and thank you!

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Adrienne November 13, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Hey Craig,

It use to make me so mad when people would tell me to go after your customer’s pain points. I thought that was so cruel but I didn’t fully understand at that time about marketing and what this all meant.

I mean if I have a problem and you seriously can provide the solution for me as well as deliver it in a way that I thoroughly enjoy and you make me feel like I’m special then you’ve definitely got a customer for life. I’m a darn loyal customer too and will praise them till the cows come home.

That’s how it’s done online and that’s how people like Brian, Darren and Derek all continue to do so darn well over at their blogs.

Great job Craig delivering these goods my friend. Love it and am definitely sharing.

~Adrienne
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Craig McBreen November 14, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Hey Adrienne,

Well it does sound cruel, doesn’t it?

But this is the way it’s done and if you’re looking to gain traction online, paying attention to the guys above is certainly not a mistake, especially that Clark fellow ;)

Thanks for stopping and and hope all is well.

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Quantum Aykira November 13, 2013 at 10:52 pm

This is an excellent post and I want more like this.

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Cole Wiebe November 14, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Hi Craig,

A great reminder. The world lost one of its greatest story tellers about a year ago. Have you listened to some of Zig Ziglar’s audio training courses? I listen to them from time to time to get in touch with my inner story teller.

- Cole
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Craig McBreen November 14, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Hi Cole,

I have listened to some of Zig Ziglar’s talks, but never took any of his courses. I do know the man will be missed! Thanks for stopping in!

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Ralph November 15, 2013 at 5:20 am

Yo Craig.

I like what you are saying here but I don’t agree with the Social Triggers model unless I don’t understand it. I find ST spammy so I unsubscribed. Please help me understand why exploiting on other company’s weaknesses is a good model. Hey, maybe I just don’t get it. He’s a “successful” blogger and I am a weekend warrior.

What I think the message should communicate is learn from your mistakes and the more you put in the more you get out. Copyblogger is huge and they also have a massive market.

It’s all good. I don’t want to think negatively and we all can’t groove on everyoneeequally. I just don’t get the ST thing.
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Craig McBreen November 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Hi Ralph,

I don’t agree with everything ST does (or Copyblogger), but you certainly can’t argue with their respective successes in this fickle online world. More to the point, I thought they were perfect examples of story done right … each in a Completely different way of course. Love him or hate him, Derek is doing something right over there. And even though Copyblogger is huge, Mr. Clark has fairly humble beginnings, me thinks.

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Renaud Gagne November 19, 2013 at 6:59 pm

That was an amazing read.

Stories really touch people on an emotional level. The best definition of selling I’ve heard was:

“Selling is getting people emotionally involved in a future that is good for them and get them to commit to take action on achieveving that result” I think it was Dan Sullivan who said this.

Storytelling is the key to connect to the emotions, the soure of action and you’ve explained it masterfully in this post.

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Craig McBreen November 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Hi Renaud,

Thanks and you’re certainly spot on. It’s difficult to win over readers without story done right, plus it makes this whole process a lot more enjoyable, don’t you think?

Thanks for stopping in. Appreciate the comments.

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Susan Neal November 28, 2013 at 10:42 am

An inspirational post, Craig – I particularly like your points about tweaking and refining your content and getting rid of the rubbish, also the suggestion that we should think more like teachers and less like marketers.

I also agree with Renaud’s comment about the need to connect with readers on an emotional level – that’s what all great stories do.
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Craig McBreen December 1, 2013 at 11:34 am

Thanks, Susan!

I’m all about getting rid of the rubbish ;) And I agree with Renaud as well.

Appreciate you dropping in.

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Maxwell Ivey November 29, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Hello; an excellent post with great examples and links to solid resources. when i was reading this i thought about a couple of examples that I believe are perfect. In the james bond movies there is always a scene where q is showing bond the new gear that the tech wizards have come up with to help him survive his next herring mission. And in all the recent batman movies he has a meeting with the c e o of wayne industries to discuss new tech toys. neither q nor the c e o are the hero but batman and bond would be less likely to save the day without them. I’ve heard that there are three steps first they have to know you, then they have to like you and then they can trust you. sounds like your post is pushing relationships and being the man or woman behind the heroes and hero wens. thanks again and take care, max
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Craig McBreen December 1, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Hi Max,

Love the examples and old Q was always one of my favorite characters :)

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Jim Wang December 2, 2013 at 5:51 am

This is a very powerful idea and it really does take a mindset shift, be less of an orator on stage and more of a mentor in the trenches. Great idea and you chose some fun examples. :)

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Craig McBreen December 3, 2013 at 7:58 am

Hi Jim,

Thank you! “… it really does take a mindset shift, be less of an orator on stage and more of a mentor in the trenches.” Perfectly stated :)

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