As dubious as you likely feel about Taylor Swift, she represents something important in our culture. And no, this is not a column about the “Ten Business Lessons You Can Learn from T-Swift.” What I mean is that she is the most visible pop culture variety archetype of adolescent pain — the precious currency of pretty much every piece of art and music since we drew on cave walls.
If you can remember back to when you were a teenager, you know that angst. It seemed so unique to you. The most compelling part of this phenomenon is that this angst is, in fact, not at all particular. It is the pain we all feel at some point.
If you think of business as a human, you can rest assured many are like a teenager. High performing business people I have interviewed for the past decade tend to be convinced that the problems they face only happen to them. No one understands them, so how could anyone have a solution to their troubles?
These angst-ridden business people are the same ones to whom you have been trying to market and sell your wares. And its likely you have run headlong into their mindset. When you try to provide these people with solutions — just on an information basis — they will not hear it. Because they are cloaked in terminal uniqueness.
The best way to reach angsty decision-makers is the same way pop musicians reach teenagers. You need good stories. By using the proven formulation of effective storytellers, you can break through that tough visage. A storytelling model can be used in a conversation, a sales presentation or in a meeting.
The best way to reach angsty decision-makers is the same way pop musicians reach teenagers. You need good stories.
The concept of using stories is not new in the context of marketing and sales. While a lot of us know narratives can help to change minds, it is not always obvious how to structure your story for the most impact. The following framework is based upon Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth — it is the same structure that guides the narrative of popular films such as Star Wars.
Here is how to get started:
1. The Call. Begin the narrative with a hero character. Describe him. The hero character can be you or another former client or a colleague. Your hero is successful, but they are facing a tough crossroads and don’t know which way to go.
2. The Crossing. Illustrate how the hero dealt with the kind of change you are proposing. Emphasize how it felt when they first started something new. For the hero, there will be growing pains and difficulty, but you will explain how he overcomes the hurdles.
3. The Atonement. Show how the hero acquired your proposed solution and how your solution unlocks an entirely new understanding of how to face their problem.
4. The Return. After they have the solution, the hero is forever changed. They find a way to integrate the new solution they found into the way they do business.
While it may seem simple enough as a framework, most business people skip the first parts and go straight to the solution phase of the story arc. The person to whom you tell this story must first feel an authentic empathy before they will be willing to listen. If you can master this ability to couch your branding and solutions into short narratives, you can more easily speak in a medium that will allow others to really hear you. You can reach them where they are, and you can inspire transformation.