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How to Make Story Your Core Message

I’ve been writing about the use of story in marketing for years, and here’s what I know. A great story has many significant elements, and to have the greatest impact, each of these elements must be built in a certain order. The good news is that there’s a framework that any business can adopt to create an amazing story and grab their ideal customers’ attention.

Story is the hot marketing topic these days but it’s been with us forever. In fact, there’s a book I think everyone should read called Sapiens – A brief history of humankind. In it the author concludes that while humans were not always at the top of the food chain, they got there by developing the ability to tell stories – true and false – and use stories to get large groups of people to take action.

Perhaps the key point where I differ with most is that many people still focus on telling their story. I personally think it’s more about figuring out the story your client and prospect is telling themselves already and tapping into that. To show you what I mean, I’ve written a step by step guide below on how to craft your brand’s story for messaging.

Understand your brand

This sounds like a no-brainer, right? The fact is, however, many businesses have a tough time articulating what their brand is and what it represents. Before you can craft your story, you must understand your brand to its core. Having answers to the questions below will get you going in the right direction:

  • What is your secret sauce? What is the one thing you do better than anybody else?
  • Why should your audience care?
  • What are your audience’s wants, needs, and pain points that you can help solve (more on that below)?
  • Why would your audience need the solutions you provide?
  • What’s preventing them from finding a solution?
  • Why should they pick you over the competition?

There may be other questions that need to be addressed depending on your business, but having answers to these core questions is a good start. Through this process, you can find your brand’s authenticity, which will make for great storytelling.

Develop a Client Persona

A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. You should have your persona in mind not only for your marketing efforts but for all business efforts. Personas help to visualize who your target audience is. To appropriately define your persona, you must understand what drives them, what they believe, what they fear, and what they desire. The more information you have to build the persona, the better your marketing and storytelling will be.

Create your hero

Remember, the story is not about YOU.  The hero of your story is your client persona. They need to see themselves in the story which starts with their challenges, problems, and issues that they don’t know how to solve. To appropriately create a hero for your story, you must:

  • Learn the hero’s backstory – This is where developing a client persona will really come in handy.
  • Give them an antagonist – What kind of story doesn’t have a villain? Help your hero understand the problem they face that you can help them solve.
  • Call them to duty – Cue the Bat-Signal! Your story must give your hero hope that they have the power to overcome whatever the challenge is. They need to feel like what you have to offer is hope and empowerment, not just products and services.
  • Help them persevere – You have to be prepared to demonstrate you’ll be there with them until they overcome their challenges. Be there every step of the way until their problem is solved.
  • Free them – Show them the results and impact they’ll receive from your solutions. Make their fairytale a reality.

Craft the Journey

Today, most marketers understand the value of story as a way to market and sell just about anything. However, few understand the right way to use story and narrative as a way to guide people on the perfect journey.

Once you have the hero for your story, you can actually take them on their journey. When your persona is looking for solutions to their problems and answer to their questions, it’s up to you and your marketing efforts to give them what they’re looking for. When you understand the goals your personas are facing during each phase of their journey, you can create content and campaigns aimed at their specific desires. It’s important to interact with your persona as early on in the journey as possible before they make any decisions on their own without your involvement.

Become storytellers

Once you’ve carefully crafted your brand’s story, you need to tell it. You need to share it with your audience and include it within all of your messaging moving forward. Your website is a great place to start.

Here’s the thing, people buy stories before they buy stuff. The better you get at storytelling, the more likely you’ll able to turn people into customers.

Are you currently using story in your messaging? How has it impacted your business?

How to Create a Core Message

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Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch

In this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I’m going to talk to you about Creating a Core message for your company. I’m not interviewing anyone – it’s just me talking to you and providing you with valuable advice on how to successfully navigate through your Customer Journey.

Using my own best practices as a consultant, speaker and author, I’ll teach you how to craft a message of differentiation. You’ll dig deeper into why you do what you do, what makes you different and how you’re uniquely suited to serve an ideal client.

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • What “themes of value” are and how can they help you constitute a focused core message
  • How a “talking logo” will set you apart from your competition
  • Three inspirational books that will help make you a stronger writer and have you thinking critically as you glide through your own customer journey

Want to find out more about Duct Tape Marketing and the multitude of resources we offer? Check out the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network, the Duct Tape Marketing System and our entire library of free eBooks.

This week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by our friends at Hover. Do you need a great domain name for your great business idea? Hover makes this quick and easy. Go to and use the promo code JohnDTM for 10% off of your first purchase.

6 Admitting We Have a Problem Is the First Step

One of the most fulfilling moments in my consulting work comes when a client finally flashes a hint of realization that they do indeed have an affliction.

And that affliction is – that they desperately need to be exactly like everyone else in their industry only older, bigger, and more results oriented, cost effective and partner centric.

The treatment for this is not pretty, but it usually starts by showing them a series of test results like the ones listed below that include comparison results from other patients with the same disease.

After the denial phase fads some are ready to move on to a treatment that involves the radical process of asking their clients what they do that is actually worthy of turning into a core message of differentiation.

Friends don’t let friends die a slow boring death of sameness.

This has been a public service announcement brought to you by your friends at the Duct Tape Council.

26 Simplify

There is a somewhat famous Albert Einstein quote that goes: “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

I think the application of that thinking to marketing, and more specifically marketing messages, is crucial, now more than ever. Confusion breeds caution and caution breeds no sale. No matter how complex your solutions are you must find a way to communicate them in very simple terms – terms that make it very easy for the prospect to jump directly to results.

There are two very important paths that one must develop in an effort to simplify their business and brand promise – message and process.

Your core message should be simple, clear, consistent, and buzzable. One of my favorite examples of this strategy is a St. Louis entrepreneur by the name of Scott Ginsberg – Scott, or Hello My Name Is Scott as some know him, has done the same simple, clear, and buzzable thing for 3000 + days and it is his business. (Go find out for yourself!)

Your process should be simple, clear, consistent and visual. By process I mean, generically, how someone gets the results they are after through your product, service, or engagement. For some, it may be an actual mappable set of steps that makes explanation of “how you work” a simple affair. For others, a diagram of success might help tell the story. (Two books on this subject you might check out – The Back of the Napkin – Dan Roam and slide:ology – Nancy Duarte.)

Here’s the diagram I use to demonstrate the components of a Duct Tape Marketing system and marketing plan. I keep working on it trying to get it down to one or two words, but not simpler.