In 1984, two artists used a simple process to create a story that captivated an audience for years and generated billions of dollars in revenue.
That same process is being used today by a master copywriter to attract hundreds of thousands of paying subscribers.
With companies creating millions of web pages of content marketing, finding an untold story or a new angle can feel like an impossible task. Especially when you want to avoid creating a story so unique nobody understands it … or wants to pay for it.
So how do you create a story that cuts through the noise and strikes at the heart of your ideal client?
Let me tell you about a simple, 4-step process to get that done right now …
Why a fresh angle is so hard to come by
One of the easiest places to start in writing your business story is what you do and who you do it for.
You’re probably already familiar with a number of businesses whose story is based on this premise, for example:
- Social media marketing for real estate agents
- Sales training for technology companies
- Direct response copywriting techniques for bloggers
- Education design as the foundation of an online business
That’s still a strong place to start, and if you find a logical combination that hasn’t been done before, it won’t take much to stand out from the crowd.
But what if your combination of ideas has been done before?
What if it’s been done not only many times over, but by bigger, better known names? How do you create the additional edge that stops people comparing you to the many other business offering that you have?
The dark side of unique
You may be tempted to rack your brains and find something you can do or offer that nobody else has ever done before.
Sometimes this can work to attract attention and customers.
Or it might just attract attention … and no customers.
Even huge corporations with a gazillion dollar marketing budget have had their fair share of unique flops. Just Google the McDLT burger …
So, what can you do instead? What really works?
Creating a billion-dollar story
In 1984 two cartoonists decided it would be pretty cool to have a best-selling comic strip.
Not just one they would love to write, but one their audience would love to buy.
So they started by thinking what their target market (teenagers) were really into at the time.
After extensively brainstorming a list of teen topics, they circled the top three things which were:
They matched this combination to their love of comic strips and their skills as cartoonists to give birth to a craze that would go on to generate billions of dollars of revenue in licensing.
I love this story, not just because I grew up watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and have watched several episodes out of nostalgia while writing this), but because it’s a simple way to create a fresh angle that marries what you want to deliver and what your customer wants to have.
I learned about this story from Mike Palmer’s talk at last year’s AWAI Copywriting Bootcamp. He’s the head copywriter at Stansberry & Associates Investment Research. Since being there, he has attracted more than 400,000 paying subscribers and his most successful promotion achieved a gross revenue of $5.2 million.
And it’s this type of process he uses as a starting point for creating fresh stories that catch the interest of of readers.
The beauty of it is that you’re not limited to using it to define your brand or business. You can experiment with it for blog posts, eBooks, products, or new services.
So let’s work through an example of how this might work in a topic with lots of competition: Marketing advice and services for small business owners.
Step 1: Revisit what you do and who you do it for
You can’t write a strong story if you don’t know who you’re telling it to.
If you already have a customer profile, dig it out and set it in front of you. Build a clear picture in your mind of who you want to reach and remind yourself what you can offer them.
Remember, our example topic is marketing advice and services for small business owners.This is a pretty broad area with lots of competitors who are already operating and established. Using the following steps, you can still carve out a story no-one else is talking about.
Step 2: What are your customers happy to pay for?
Your story is only going to work for your business if it aligns with your customer’s demand. In the above example, a few things your customers are probably happy to pay for might include:
- Email / mail subscribers (assuming those turn into leads)
- Exposure of their business to their target market
So far this follows a pretty logical order for creating a story, and most people offering marketing for small businesses are talking about getting people more sales, more subscribers, leads, and exposure.
But you can start telling an ever-fresher story by considering …
Step 3: What other conversations are they having?
Entering the conversation your customer is already having is a well known marketing strategy for getting your reader’s attention.
But it doesn’t have to be a conversation about something they want. In fact, it’s often something they’re sick and tired of.
So, in the example above, small businesses may be getting sick and tired of companies promising sales and leads without proof or credibility.
Or perhaps you’ve noticed more business owners want to be known for the personality behind the service, not just what they do.
And with content marketing methods rapidly evolving, you may have seen examples of questions, confusion, and interest surrounding videos, webinars, and infographics.
Eventually, you might come up with a list of interests that looks like this:
- Increasing skepticism — more demand for proof
- Interest in well known business personalities / personal branding
- Increasing interest / confusion over new methods of content marketing
By this stage you might already see opportunities for telling a new story, or creating a new product that catches their attention and still gives them what they want.
Step 4: Add in a dose of “you”
Your business story naturally focuses on your customer, and then on the product you offer, but you can add an extra layer of interest by including elements like:
- Your personal interests
- Your professional background
- The reason you started your business
- Your skills
So let’s look at a couple of different ways we could combine the elements from these 4 stages:
A marketer with a personal obsession for facts, figures, and analytics notices a growing popularity for articles containing case studies and results. He decides to start a campaign of testing one marketing initiative a week, sharing the results, and explaining how to interpret the analytics. He starts promoting his “see-through marketing” explaining that it’s a reaction to business owners struggling to make sense of knowing what marketing actually works. If his story is a hit, he can then start to launch training programs and products that build on this interest and demand from his customers.
Or, take the marketer who has been in every musical since nursery school and feels at home on the stage. She notices more people want to use videos and webinars, but don’t know how to present themselves, smile, to hold their posture etc. She shares her stage experience and trains entrepreneurs to stand out in the “Broadway of online business,” helping them attract subscribers and build trust with confident, charismatic presentations.
The same four steps, but two completely different market positions. And as you can see, these four steps can be combined and interpreted in countless ways.
If you play around with the four steps, you can build a story that combines your strengths, personality, customer demand, and current trends to tell a story nobody is talking about in your industry.
And it’s one way to stop your business being seen as a commodity by your customers.
Instead of being just “another” copywriter, marketer, or web designer, you’re the copywriter, marketer or web designer who … [insert your story here].
What’s your story?
What do you think?
Do you look for a story to connect with when you’re hiring someone? What are the stories of businesses you admire? What elements stand out to you?
Let us know in the comments below!