There are a few recurring themes when it comes to what keeps CMOs up at night. One question I hear fairly consistently, though, is “How do I beat my competition?”
CMOs are charged with finding new business and capturing more market share. To do that, they need to find a way to break through the noise and grab not only people’s attention, but also their interest.
So, what do top CMOs do differently? They’ve mastered the art of the BUSINESS NARRATIVE.
If you imagined me saying that with a loud megaphone voice, you’ve already tapped into the magic of storytelling. The human brain paints pictures and does a remarkable job of visualizing and relating to messages that invoke memories and feelings.
No matter how much we tell ourselves we purchased something based on cold, hard facts, it’s scientifically impossible to discount the role our emotions play in influencing our decisions. Any decision. Not just a new car or a pair of jeans, but all the decisions we make in our professional lives as well. A professor of neuroscience found that when the connections between the “thinking” and “emotional” sides of the brain were damaged, people couldn’t make any decisions at all.
What is a business narrative?
Let’s start with the basics. A narrative is defined as “a way of presenting or understanding a situation or series of events that reflects and promotes a particular point of view or set of values.”
We’ve all experienced it. Reading a well-crafted novel, listening to a captivating speaker, or even watching a movie — after all, if the movie doesn’t deliver a relatable message or evoke any emotions, it’s not likely to resonate. Even silent films provided text frames for context and detail when it became possible to include them.
And so it continues into the digital age, with our corporate websites, social media, email campaigns, and digital ads. Our brains are still wired the same way, regardless of the medium. And if people can’t relate to who or what your business is, they will most likely never buy your products or services.
So, a business narrative tells the story of the unique situation or series of events that led to the existence of your business, while promoting a particular point of view or set of values.
Brands that get this right use their narrative as a foundation for all communications with the public. Take a look at three examples of successful businesses that have used a compelling business narrative to their advantage:
- SoulCycle – Find Your Soul
Would you pay the cost of a monthly gym membership for a single, 45-minute fitness class? Probably not if someone put it to you like that. But what if you were promised an inspirational, life-changing experience and a supportive, like-minded community? That’s what SoulCycle does:
SoulCycle’s mission is to “bring Soul to the people,” and they refer to their classes as a “cardio party.” Sounds much better than any fitness class I’ve ever been to!
- Zendesk Alternative
Zendesk, a customer service and engagement software provider, doesn’t just rattle off product features. It supports its bold claim that “the best customer experiences are built with Zendesk” with quirky graphics, photos of happy, stress-free clients, and inspirational calls to action like, “Be the company your customers want you to be.”
Using this narrative as a blueprint, Zendesk doubled down on quirky and human. Instead of another boring corporate overview video, they launched the Zendesk Alternative campaign, which follows the unlikely partnership between Zendesk and a fictional Seattle indie rock band from the ‘90s.
To stay afloat (because they begrudgingly need Zendesk’s services), Zendesk Alternative comes up with an angsty, grunge-sounding jingle that quickly conveys the beauty of Zendesk’s software — which is much more memorable than a list of boring product features and screenshots.
Think your product or industry is too boring to tell a compelling story? Think again.
No disrespect intended, but at face value online surveys don’t make people’s heart race, do they? Enter SurveyGizmo, which describes their business as “Survey software that makes you smile.” Now, when you’re deciding which online survey software to use, are you going to choose the tool that simply tells you what its software does, or are you going to choose the one that ensures you’ll have a calm, stress-free experience, and includes beautiful, friendly illustrations that support its claim?
So, back to one of marketers’ biggest concerns: How do I beat my competition? It’s simple. People buy from people they can relate to. If you haven’t defined your narrative, it’s really hard to be relatable. It doesn’t matter if you’re B2B or B2C. When it comes down to it, all marketing is H2H. Once you figure out how to effectively communicate who you are as a brand, your competition will actually be the least of your concerns.
How to write your business narrative
So, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of actually developing a business narrative. Just remember: you want to make your brand human and relatable, and inspire people to join you on your journey.
A business narrative contains six elements:
- What’s your thesis statement?
Your thesis statement is simply a summary of your brand story. It highlights the main elements of each of the questions below: 1) your business persona 2) where you have been, 3) the promise of what you’re agreeing to do, 4) your buyer persona, and 5) how your buyer persona will benefit. Perform this exercise first to get to the heart of who you are and why you do what you do.
- What is your business persona?
Simply put, describe who you are. Start off with a statement that describes, in your opinion, who you are as a business. This is not a sentence about what you sell, or your benefit statement, but about why you exist today. Every effective narrative has a hero, and every hero must be fleshed out and relatable. Only then will your business become interesting and relatable, and someone they want to engage in conversation with (and that’s the only way to keep a conversation going, really).
- Where did you come from?
Next, share your journey. How did your company become real? Did two engineers decide to use their electrical engineering expertise to improve the lives of business professionals? What obstacles did you have to overcome? Your journey is part of your story, and it’s a key element in any good narrative. Understanding where and why you started makes your story relatable and triggers an emotional response. That’s because it makes your business human and not just another opportunistic company trying to part people from their money.
- Where are you going?
I like to position this question as: What do you want to grow up to be? Some companies have already reached their goal — for example, becoming the leading provider of mobile computing solutions — but others are still trying to get there. It’s important to be clear about your aspirations to inspire people to join you on your journey.
- What is your buyer persona?
Plenty has been written about the importance of defining your buyer personas and engaging in a two-way conversation with your prospects and clients. To achieve both, you need to understand your buyer personas, yes, but your buyer personas need to understand your persona as well (see #2 above).
- What’s in it for them?
Last but not least, let your audience know why they should care. How will purchasing your solution or service positively impact them? Don’t just focus on functionality. Like the SurveyGizmo example above, you want them to know how your solution will make them feel.
So, there you have it. Put these six elements together and you have your brand narrative. You need a compelling introduction to engage your audience (thesis statement), an inspiring journey, and a strong closing to inspire them to take action (why do they care?). They may not remember every detail in between, but if you do it right, your brand narrative will trigger an emotional response, and your audience will feel compelled to take the next step.
At DemandGen, we’ve worked with hundreds of clients to increase quality leads and drive sales revenue. And the way we achieve that is not only through a solid Lead Management Framework and high-performing Demand Factory™, but also through powerful content.
Our experienced consultants can work with you to craft a compelling business narrative that fuels the rest of your content. What’s your story?
Patti Heath is a Consultant dedicated to partnering with clients to achieve their business goals. She focuses on developing demand generation strategy, including lead generation, lead scoring, lead nurturing, and lead management. She enjoys staying on top of the ever-changing digital industry and identifying the best new technological advances.