The Hero of Your Company Story (Hint: It’s Not You)
Have you ever noticed how obsessed we are with ourselves?
Walk by a mirror, car window, or reflective building, and who catches our eye? Look at a group picture and who are we looking for? That’s right: me, myself, I. While we could bemoan this reality as self-centered, doing so won’t make it untrue. It simply is. Unfortunately, many brands haven’t figured this out. Go to their website and it’s all about how great they are. They make the mistake of telling a company-centric story, positioning themselves as the hero while the audience is something like a damsel in distress. No wonder visitors aren’t drawn in. If you have a great product or service that saves your clients time, money, or heartache, you may be tempted to do the same. After all, isn’t your company’s story about … your company? Not really. Here’s why …
Whose story is this, anyway?
When you and I wake up every morning, whose “story” are we in? Are we a cameo appearance, bit part, or supporting role in someone else’s story, or worse, have we switched places like in Freaky Friday? That’s silly. No, we have our own desires, our own goals, and our own lists of things to accomplish today. We are the main characters, the protagonists, the heroes in our own stories. Of course, as we go about our day, our stories are intersecting with the stories of brands whose products or services we might decide to procure. When we do so, it’s almost always because we have come to believe that those products or services will help us get what we want, moving us forward in our stories, either directly or indirectly. Even acts of altruism can be traced back to some kind of personal benefit (but that’s another topic). And here’s where many brands can get it wrong. If they are not careful, “telling their story” by merely promoting features and benefits can position themselves in the lead role, overshadowing the story of their audience. This is not unlike people who can’t stop talking about themselves. Not attractive.
Classic “Hero” Marketing
Examples of classic “hero” marketing abound. Here’s one (R side) from the home page of a well-known, international tech distribution company we will call “Ingrid Micro.” There are ten slides on their home page, and each of them following this pattern: “Ingrid Micro is/does X/Y/Z … for you.” Ten slides like later, I have the distinct feeling that this story is all about their company, not what I’m trying to accomplish in my business. Clearly, they are the subject of the story. To improve its effectiveness, they can position the site visitor as the hero by making a subtle change to the headline to something like: “Your on-demand, global infrastructure.” This makes it about me, the visitor. This second example (L side) is not as bad, but it can be improved to say “Tools to help you drive growth and profitability.” With both examples, we already know the brand name because their logo is on every page – it doesn’t need to be repeated in every message. In fact, doing so repeatedly hurts them because it sets up the brand as the hero. Instead, leading with/putting the emphasis on what the visitor wants, does a better job of creating interest because it more quickly helps them understand how the brand helps them get what they want. In short, it’s visitor-centric. So if your brand is not the hero of its own corporate story, what role does it play?
This client-centric approach positions the brand, not as the hero, but as the Guide who enters into the story to come alongside the hero in order to help them get what they are seeking. This is the Obi-Wan to Luke; the Miyagi to Daniel-san; the Haymitch to Katniss. The Guide has the wisdom, the method, and the formula for success. The hero often bucks their authority, but in the end, following the Guide’s advice results in success and personal transformation. Being accepted as a Guide by our customers is all about demonstrating empathy (“we know how it feels to have your problems”) and authority (“this isn’t our first rodeo”), and having a plan for success.
At the end of the day, our site visitors, prospects, and customers need to be able to find themselves in the story we are telling, and if they are going to listen to us, theirs must be the most important role – the role of the hero. The irony here is that by putting our clients’ stories first, serving and helping them succeed actually benefits us, making the relationship a win-win. Those are relationships we cherish, and those are the relationships we keep. Want to learn how to tell your company story so that your clients are the hero and you are the guide? Download the Story Message Map here. Want your website to reflect a customer-centric story optimized for conversion? Make these five simple tweaks.
Founder + vCMO
I tech help brands grow through story-based marketing. When I’m not doing that, I’m stopping my two boys from burning down the house.