Tell me a story, read me a Little Book- part 2
Finding the Right Story: The S.T.O.R.Y. System
So how do you find the right story? For starters, talk to customers. Get them to tell about their experiences with your product or service. For every product or service, people have stories. Everyone has an airline story. Everyone has a cockroach story.
People even have stories about the time they were taking out the trash and the bag broke! Glad connected with that story when they created the line, “Don’t get mad, get Glad.” They ran with that line for decades! It was powerful not just because it was clever, but because it evoked the right story.
But how do you find the right story that will help you make your point more vividly and bring your message to life? Where do you look for the story? Here’s my system:
S.T.O.R.Y.: The 5 Story Triggers
I use the STORY acronym, which points to five story triggers that can help:
S – Solution to Problem (tell a problem-to-solution story)
T – Transpose (put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re speaking to)
O – Overhear (imagine you’re a fly on the well overhearing a customer’s conversation)
R – Remember (remember when you had a similar experience)
Y – Yearn (what does the customer or other person yearn for or need?)
Solution to Problem. Try to tell a problem-solution story: a person has a problem, your product or service comes to the rescue, and then there is a happy ending. Just like in the movies! Observe how TV commercials often do this (some better than others).
Transpose. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask, what are they thinking? How do they feel? Often this will lead to a story. Marketers interviewed consumers about what it would be like to not have any milk in the house, and consumers told stories of coming home to enjoy a snack, such as chocolate chip cookies, and finding no milk! The marketers used these stories to create the legendary Got milk? campaign.
Overhear. There are two ways to do this. You can actually overhear customers by doing customer surveys or focus groups. Or you can try to imagine what customers might say if they were having a conversation about your product or service. Imagining this conversation for Heritage Plumbing & Heating led us to a story about a husband and wife discussing what to do about a plumbing problem. The resulting line we created, “Honey, just call Heritage!” became the core of their ad campaign for 10 years.
Remember. Reach back to your own experiences to try and find a story. When I was creating a mail campaign for MHT to a list of CEOs, I recalled a conversation I had with a CEO years before, and the story he told me led us to a winning direct mail idea.
Yearn. Ask, what do the people in our target audience really want? And why do they want it? What do they yearn for? Thinking about this question may trigger a story.
And it helps if you keep listening to customers and keep reading widely. You may even want to keep a story notebook and jot down possible ideas.
When I tell people that the most powerful marketing and communications tool is a story, I sometimes encounter skepticism. People wonder if stories are really that important—especially for a very serious field like theirs. So let me tell you about the role of stories in one man’s career……..
Don’t forget to tune in for the final Part 3