Every business needs a brand story.
But before you wade in and start cramming how awesome you are onto your homepage: STOP!
Even though you:
- Started your business from scratch
- Worked long hours
- Built your business up to where it is today
There’s a harsh truth lots of business owners have trouble getting their head around:
You’re not the hero in your brand story. Your customers are.
If your customers are the hero, who the hell are you?
Even though you’re not the main character in their brand story, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a vital role to play.
Because you’re one of the most important characters of all:
The steadying influence.
Whatever you want to call it.
Sure, the hero gets all the praise, but think about it in movie terms – and we’ll use Lord of the Rings as an example (it was that or Star Wars).
The hero is Frodo Baggins.
The guide is Gandalf.
Your customers are just like Frodo at the start:
- In need of guidance
Frodo doesn’t believe he has what it takes to walk to Mordor and lob the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom.
But he will.
Because Gandalf makes him believe it’s possible.
- Pushes him out of the door
- Gives him a plan of action
- Sacrifices himself (you won’t need to die, thankfully) to show Frodo he has to take action to make things better
And even when Frodo’s hope and faith fails, Gandalf reminds him what’s at stake, and that he has what it takes to make things better.
When you think about it, you’re doing the same thing with your business.
The elements you need to include in your brand story.
To create your story, you need to take what you’ve just learnt from Lord of the Rings (sorry if it’s not your cup of tea) and incorporate it into your brand story.
And you do this by:
- Explaining the main problem your customers are facing
- Showing you understand how they’re feeling
- Positioning yourself as the best person to guide them
- Telling them they can change their lives for the better
- Calling them to take action (because they’ll resist if you don’t)
Still unsure how to build your story?
Keep on reading and I’ll show you how to create yours.
How to create your brand story.
Humans love stories.
But when it comes to your brand story, don’t tell YOUR story.
You know the one.
The one where you bang on about your qualifications. How you got where you are today by working hard and how much you appreciate the support of your partner, kids and guinea pig.
Because your customers don’t care about your story. (For more on what customers don’t care about, check out: Why Nobody Cares About You)
Tell your customers’ story instead.
To do that, just follow my five-step guide:
One. Create your hero character
To know what story you want to tell, you need to know who your hero (customer) is. And to understand them better, you need to flesh them out by creating an ideal customer persona.
You do this by thinking about who it is you’re selling to.
But before you get your knickers in a twist, I’ve made it dead easy for you by creating a PDF worksheet for you to print out and complete:
Now, answer all the questions and when you’re done, you’ll have a better understanding of who you’re trying to sell to. But take your time, feel free to brainstorm on a pad first if you need to. And, when you’re ready, you’ll have a document packed full of useful information you can use to write for your target audience.
The more you know about them, the better.
Two. Give your hero a goal and a reason to achieve it
Once you have your main character in place, it’s time to start your story. And like any great story, the hero needs an end goal and a reason to want to do it.
So, ask yourself:
- What do your customers want?
- What’s the problem they’re facing?
- How can you make them want what you offer?
Maybe they need new trainers and only yours massage their feet as they run.
Perhaps they need a new TV and only yours has a picture that’s so clear you could touch the screen and get a papercut from a stack of papers piled on a character’s desk. The end goal has to be better than the outcome your competitors are offering and make them feel their life will be changed forever by choosing you.
Want to see this in action?
Here’s the header of my homepage:
What they want: To make their business sound even cooler, with laid-back, chatty copy.
The problem they face: They don’t already or haven’t achieved it satisfactorily.
Desire to take action: Getting me to do it by clicking the ‘Let’s chat’ button.
In Lord of the Rings, what’s Frodo’s reason for having to lob the One Ring into the fiery chasm of Mount Doom?
Well, let’s just say he won’t be around come Christmas if he doesn’t.
Three. Introduce a problem
Once you’ve got your homepage header sorted, it’s time to introduce a problem.
Think about it: Stories only kick in when a problem or conflict is introduced into the story.
So, don’t be afraid to keep raking up your customers’ problems over and over again.
Like I do on my homepage:
How is this achieved in Lord of the Rings?
Well, Gandalf tells Frodo the Ringwraiths (Naughty, pains in the arse with pointy swords) are on their way to take the One Ring and return it to their Dark Lord Sauron (an even naughtier pain in the arse).
This is hammered home repeatedly throughout the film, not only by Gandalf but by other characters too.
So you’re reminded of what’s at stake if the One Ring should fall into the wrong hands.
Likewise, you’ve got to keep mentioning the problems your customers are facing on your homepage and throughout your website. You’re reminding them that if they don’t take action now, they’re going to have to live with the consequences.
Frodo walked all the way to Mordor. All you’re asking is for them to click a button, book a call or send you an email.
Four. Give your customers a plan
People always follow somebody who has a plan – otherwise, books, films and, well, real life, would be pretty mixed up if they didn’t.
But don’t expect them to buy from you just yet.
Because this is the first time your customers have to take a risk.
They’re going to have to spend their money or give up time to get what they want. It’s terrifying and they’re going to resist paying out too.
How many times have you been tempted to buy or sign up for something but stopped yourself?
Your customers do that to you all the time.
If you show your customers, step-by-step, how you plan to help them and make their lives easier, the more likely they are to trust you and get in touch.
An excellent example of this?
This bit of my homepage:
By giving them a plan of what’s going to happen, the more likely they are to trust you.
Five. Call them to action
Unless your customers are called to take action – they won’t bother.
And to make sure they do, you have to make it crystal clear to your audience how they can get in touch with you.
You do this by:
- Including a contact/buy button in your website’s header
- Numerous buttons throughout your homepage and website
- A button or contact form in your website footer
And make your call to action rousing.
Remind them of the problems they’ll continue to have if they don’t get in touch – or the benefit they’ll get if they do.
Going back to the film, Gandalf reminds Frodo the Ringwraiths are on their way – and even when he outruns them, he’s reminded of Middle Earth falling, which pushes him to carry the ring all the way to the end.
Who is the first person to volunteer to guide him?
GANDALF: I will help you bear this burden Frodo Baggins.
The you of the story.
Don’t hide that you know what you’re doing. Don’t confuse your customers with babbling nonsense that gives them no clear way to get in touch with you.
You know you’re the right person to guide them – so tell them clearly.
Like I do:
What you need to remember.
Your customers want their problems solved, however big or small.
So, even if you take nothing else from the above, remember this:
- Constantly remind your customers what’s at stake if they don’t buy your product or use your services
- Make sure they know how great their future will look if they do
Show them how successful they can be or how easy it is to reduce their problems or stress and you’ll really impress them.
Sure, Frodo loses Gandalf along the way.
But if it weren’t for the push out the door, the plan and guidance, he’d never have succeeded. And yes, I know you can argue Samwise is the reason he succeeds – but who swoops in on the back of a massive Eagle at the end to save Frodo in his hour of need?
And you will too because you’ll always be there for your customers.
And that’s it.
Once you know who your ideal customer is, you understand what worries them and what their problems are.
It’s easier to write for them.
And if you found the Lord of the Rings stuff odd, it isn’t.
It shows you how the structure of a film still relates to your brand story because every story pretty much follows the exact same formula – whatever medium it’s in.
Until next time,
PS. Don’t forget to download your Ideal Customer Persona worksheet to help you get to grips with who you’re writing your website for!