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Build a story that connects

Is your marketing a destination vessel or a pleasure cruise?

In my experience, more often than not, companies settle for marketing built on a hazy understanding of their buyers. When I ask brand and company leaders to tell me about who they are targeting, worst case scenario they share something extremely broad such as, “Enterprise,” “SMBs," or “Consumers.” Best case scenario, they know a bit more. If they are B2B, they might say, “They are in (this vertical) and some from (that vertical) and they are usually a leader or decision maker in (this function).” If they are B2C, they might say, “Targeting all Millenials.” Mayday.

It’s then the marketing team’s challenge to take this extremely distilled understanding of the customer and build a story that connects. Because there aren’t many details on what that audience cares about, the messaging focuses on generic value propositions like, “get there faster” or “do more with less” or “automate (this), so you can spend more time on (that).”

A good story hinged on any of these promises is like a pleasure cruise with no destination. It may look stunning and feel delightful, but it isn't going anywhere. That's because this story is left to lean heavily on the bells and whistles of what you are selling – the what and the how – because that is what you know in full color. Without the understanding of your target audience – the who and their why – you have an aimless storytelling vessel hoping to drift into the right harbor. Building an emotional connection with your buyer will be very difficult.

Understand your buyer

If this sounds familiar, don't worry. There is a great opportunity for improvement. Here's how to quickly get to know your target audience right under your brand's own roof.

Imagine if you knew this about your buyers…

🫶 What motivates them?

😡 What frustrates them?

🥇 How is their success measured?

🚧 What obstacles stand in their way?

You might be surprised to know that if you gathered together a diverse group of people within your company who touch the customer at any point in the relationship, they will each know at least a smidgeon of the answers to these questions. When brought together, your customer's bigger picture in full color starts to form.

Next, imagine if you answered the above questions for each audience that plays a role in your buyer's journey. Each different function – product, sales, marketing, support, procurement, finance, compliance, HR – will have a unique set of answers. If there are multiple roles involved in your customer relationship, you can start to see that answering these questions for each of those audience segments equips you with quite a bit of data about who you are marketing to. As a result, the opportunity for authenticity and the making of stories that connect with and build trust with these people grows.

Much of this data, ideas, and insight will be rooted in the emotional drivers of your buyer and real users. As we've discussed, emotion is core to building stories that connect. It's the rudder that will steer your storytelling ship into the right port.

Build a story that connects with your buyer

Tapping into your buyer's motivations, frustrations, and state of mind once they are seeking solutions to the problem you address (i.e. buyer intent) is what you need to not only lead with empathy, but also to shape an effective marketing strategy and programs that bring this strategy to life.

Your customer-facing employees will know the answers to questions like this…

🗺️ Where will you find your customer?

🧐 What will they be looking for first? And next?

🚧 What obstacles will you help them overcome?

🧰 What resources will you need to craft to do this?

🦑 Who will they involve along the way?

All of this can be woven into powerful storytelling that connects with the people who care about it most. It's this color and context that can transform your brand into one your customer recognizes as the way to get to their desired destination. In tandem, your marketing becomes a vehicle for your company to be squarely aimed at and make headway toward its desired destination – awareness, revenue, loyalty.

There are a lot of turns between getting your ship on the right track (in the form of a story that truly reflects what's important to your customer) and then getting that ship docked. So begins the Customer Journey. I'll cover that in a subsequent piece.

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