Storytelling

Amazon Is Selling The Stories In The Books With Stories About The Books

This used rocking chair is available for $55,000 + shipping

I sent my friend, Tom Grimes, Amazon’s New Bricks-and-Mortar Bookstore Nails What the Web Couldn’t. In reply he wrote me:

My son Zack went to Tennessee to carve a rocking chair.

He’s into that sort of thing.

When all is said and done he is going to have hours and hours and a couple of thousand dollars invested in his chair.

You can buy a rocking chair at most Cracker Barrels for less than $200.

The man teaching the class made the observation that if they actually were interested in selling their chairs … they couldn’t sell a chair.
They were selling ART.
And when people buy ART … they are buying the STORY that is wrapped around it.
What does this have to do with AMAZON?
When I went through the article I thought … Amazon is selling the stories in the books with stories about the books.
They are providing a satisfying way to find a book that fits amidst the almost limitless number of books you can get.
That Bezos’ guy is a clever guy.

Tom Grimes is a clever guy too. He recognized why Amazon will succeed in retail. Amazon’s is showing that curation and presentation remain the primary reasons for retail to exist. They’re just showing the world what happens when bookstores go through a digital transformation of the customer experience.

What retail categories do you think are ripe for digital transformation?

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A Powerful Conversion Rate Hack – #CRO #CX #UX

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In our experience hacks often fall short. They rarely deliver meaningful results or deliver insight that leads to the next high impact change. A clever or creative hack that doesn’t improve the customer experience is just a band-aid. Hacks are tactical, not strategic. SunTzu wrote: “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”

Tactics are not relevant to your customers’ needs they are just more noise. If a ‘hack’ fails to increase your conversion rate, it’s not because the hack was bad. It’s likely more strategic; you don’t understand your customers needs well enough.

Hacks can be useful if they fit into a strategy. In order for them to be useful, they need to add value to your customers’ buying experience.

Where do good hacks come from?

Would you like to find a treasure map with high impact conversion optimization ideas for your business? You don’t have to wait for some guru to figure it out for you. You can generate your own hacks based on customers’ needs, problems and buying styles.

In our book Buyer Legends – An Executive Storyteller’s Guide Jeffrey Eisenberg wrote:

“We have worked with companies of all shapes and sizes that possessed varying degrees of talent and competence. We have tried it all, training and encouraging our clients to go deep into the marketing disciplines as well as guiding them through adopting a very robust optimization process.

But what we didn’t know early on was how a single piece of that optimization process, what we at the time called scenario narratives, would reveal itself over and over as the ‘one thing’ that has the largest impact on a company’s ability to sell more.”

The ‘one thing’ is a simple process we have developed over almost a decade of our work. The Buyer Legend process provides you a treasure map that any competent marketer can create. They can then use that treasure map to improve their customer experience. That leads to conversion rate increases of multiples instead of increments.

The most powerful hack revealed

It’s not sexy. It’s not hip and edgy. Yet it works every time.  Average marketers will often outperform others who are more experienced and talented.

Hack into your customer’s head. Uncover their needs and wants. Exceed their expectations. And then give them what they really want.

empathyThe simple process we developed to deliver on this promise is Buyer Legends. Buyer Legends will:

  1. Help you understand what your customers needs to provide persuasive momentum.
  2. Help you understand what delights your customers.
  3. Help you to create real-world improvements in your customer experience.

It will take you about 2 hours. Then you’ll have a real treasure map of conversion rate optimization ‘hacks’ for your business.

Make a commitment

You’ll need to commit to providing a better customer experience. Focusing on conversion rate increases is not enough.  It’s that commitment that requires true effort. There is no easy way to make a major impact, you always have to do the work. Trust me, it’s more difficult to be on the CRO hamster wheel. The status quo will continue to yield only incremental results.

We have already written and shared every step of this process on our blog. Of course, our book provides better context, it’s $2.99 on Amazon, but you don’t have to buy it to learn something about Buyer Legends.

Changing the narrative, the future of CRO

We want to start a new conversation about the future of CRO. To survive it must evolve. We want to help marketers help their customers buy. We want to help marketers avoid  irrelevant hacks. We want you to use this process and then tell the world about the results. It’s the only way to change narrative.

Every marketer struggles with managing resources.  Most feel they are under-resourced to make the kind of impact they would like. You don’t have to stretch your resources to test out and prove this process works.

We have also eliminated the “I don’t have the time excuse.” Creating your first Buyer Legend will take you about two hours.

The Buyer Legend process in action

The first step of the process is to create a profile or persona of one segment of your customers. Next you will use the persona to brainstorm a premortem list. The premortem focuses on all the things that go wrong in their customers’ experience. The premortem list alone should provide several new ideas for relevant hacks. You can read more about all five steps of the process here.

For example, we recently wrote about a smart frugal persona (Marcy). This persona was buying a microwave online. In her premortem, we uncovered how Marcy researches prices. If Marcy feels like she can get it cheaper elsewhere then she won’t stop looking. She needs to know that she is paying the lowest price. Bob’s Appliance Outlet (not the real customer) is a high volume low margin business. They sell on price. Now observe in this part of her Buyer Legend how we addressed this specific need:

“…Marcy stumbles upon a website for Bob’s Appliance Outlet. A large banner on the homepage announces that most items qualify for free shipping.  Even more impressive is a smaller banner in the top right corner of the page that says: “Want the lowest possible price? “Name your price” make an offer on any item in our store, and we will do our best to match it”. Marcy clicks on it. She reads the next page. She finds that the price offer feature is simple and straightforward. There is no fine print. She still wants to learn a bit more about the company and goes to the About Us page . After she reads this page she feels confident.  This is a credible company with a credible offer. She then does a site search for the microwave she is looking for and finds it. She reads through the product description and reviews for due diligence. She is delighted.  Her microwave qualifies for free shipping. Elated at the possibility of saving more than she expected, she enters an offer. It is $100 dollars under the lowest price she found elsewhere and hits the Buy button. A page comes back and tells her that her offer was too low but encourages her to try again. She didn’t think they would accept another offer, but felt it was worth a try. She enters a price that is $50 under the lowest price she found before.  This time the offer is accepted. Marcy is presented with a page that congratulates her. It lets her know that her item will ship today.  It asks her how she would like to be notified about shipping. It also asks if a text message is appropriate.”

This ‘name you own price’ checkout hack will be great for their Marcy-like customers. This is a great way to keep price scavengers from leaving their site without buying. Even with a phone number available, few prospective customers want to call Bob’s to haggle. Allowing Marcy to set her price is powerful. Of course, it’s all within the price parameters Bob’s sets in place.

You can give customer what they want

Going through the process and writing the Buyer Legend is rather simple and easy. Implementing this customer experience was a challenge. It was championed by someone in the C-suite. Fortunately, it was already described in great detail and that helped. It still took some testing to get it right for both the customer and the business.

This is just one of the powerful hacks that  came recently from following the Buyer Legends process.

So please, take this ‘hack’ and test it for yourself then please share your results with us good or not so good. We are always happy to entertain your questions and comments.

As always, we encourage you to try Buyer Legends for yourself.  If you need help coming up with your own treasure map of hacks, please let us know, we can help.


 

P.S.The game changers compass image was created by Dave Gray

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Convert More By Crafting Your Buyer Legend Well #CRO #CX #UX

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In this fifth, penultimate, post in the Buyer Legends Recipes Series will help you bring it all together. If you’ve created personas, you’ve done a pre-mortem, as well as a reverse chronology, planned the persuasive momentum, now it’s finally time to write the Buyer Legend itself. Your Buyer Legend will be the action plan for your company to execute on delivering and improved customer experience.

For some of you the idea of writing a story, in itself, sounds messy and even scary. While you probably could execute reasonably well based on the reverse chronology alone, it will not deliver the more subjective emotional experience of the customer. A story is a more powerful way to arouse understanding, empathy, and creativity in your team that is required to execute your planned customer experience. The power of story is part of our DNA. In our book Buyer Legends we explain:

Humans have only one tool capable of communicating the subjective experience of relationship through time, and that’s narrative. Ask someone about a favorite possession, and you’ll hear a story. Ask them about a friend or spouse and you’ll hear a story. There simply is no other way to talk about relationship. And that goes for the relationship between customer and company (or brand) as well.

Before we started using Buyer Legends we rarely saw a standard action plan transform the mindset of entire team. Nothing but stories make them more customer-centric in their thinking. Now with Buyer Legends, we regularly witness that transformation. Still, please realize that while the Buyer Legends process is simple and effective, but not necessarily easy. It’s much like exercising or getting healthy, if you put in the work it will yield results.

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Creating remarkable and persuasive customer experiences with your Buyer Legend

Your Buyer Legend, by design, will create the persuasive momentum necessary to help your customers buy rather than selling them. This is where the Buyer Legends process begins to pay off. It will illustrate  for the team the specifics of what they need to do.  In addition they will understand why they are doing it and how their work fits into the overall customer experience, which allows for better team coordination, and fewer execution cycles. But more importantly it will help you create a customer experiences that make your customers happier.

If you want to create a remarkable customer experience with your Buyer Legend instead of just an improved customer experience, you’ll want to add remarkable (worthiness to be remarked upon) to your story. A remarkable customer experience is what creates word-of-mouth. Meeting or slightly exceeding expectations will simply NOT be remarkable. If you haven’t uncovered a remarkable idea or two in the pre-mortem or the reverse chronology, now is a good time to brainstorm them by using your personas and asking them the following question: “What will impress the heck out of the persona in our Buyer Legend?”

Here are the four elements of remarkability that create word of mouth and help you be remarkable:

I.   Architectural – Apple’s products, packaging, and retail environment are architecturally remarkable, it is the core of their brand and allows them to charge a premium and reap a larger profit margins than their competitors. The erupting volcano at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and actually most casinos on the strip are architecturally remarkable.

II.  Kinetic – Google search results are kinetically remarkable because they are ultra-fast and highly relevant. They typically allow you to find exactly what you are looking on the first few results on the page. This has kept them at the top of the search engine game for years. The flashy cooks at Benihana or any teppan grill are also examples of kinetics. So are the fishmongers at Pike Place in Seattle who toss each other fish and create a fun atmosphere. The flashy lights, music, and satisfying sounds of a slot machine are by design kinetic, and excite people to take another spin. Uber and Lyft are examples of kinetics as well, by making it fast and simple to get a ride.

III. Generous – Being generous with your customer is always more efficient than advertising. It’s about delighting your customers by giving them something of real value for free or cheap. Jeff Bezos introduced Prime Membership which offers free two-day shipping for a relatively small yearly membership free, and every few months it seems that Amazon offers Prime members another real perk. Just last week they added a Spotify-like music streaming service not to mention a generous collection of free movies to stream, a selection of free kindle book rentals, and more. Bezos also opted for paying for Amazon Prime cost with a large proposed advertising budget. That has worked out well for Amazon.

IV.  Identity – Many strong brands create followers that identify with the values of the brand and in turn become cult-like in their obsession. To every Harley-Davidson owner every other brand of motorcycle is a poser. Every Apple fan will tell you until you can’t stand it anymore why you should buy an Apple computer rather than a PC.  Ikea is like crack for those that like to do things themselves and save a little. If your brand strongly exudes a value your identity will be remarkable. Of the four things that create word of mouth this is the most powerful but also the most difficult to execute, primarily because your entire company must have a passion for the values you emulate in your product or service.

Writing Your Buyer Legend

Following the entire process including your Buyer Legend will take you 1 1/2 to 2 hours total, depending on your writing speed. You will get quicker the more you use the process, we suggest you start with a small campaign first to get your feet wet. Obviously if you choose to write Buyer Legends for your entire range of customer experiences and deepen your research it will take substantially longer.

Budget approximately 90 minutes for a simple campaign:

  1. Select your perspective ~ 15 minutes
  2. Pre-Mortem list ~ 10 minutes
  3. Reverse chronology outline ~ 15 minutes
  4. Legend draft ~ 50 minutes

Here is the process for writing your Buyer Legend from our book.

  1. Unlike the outline, you want your story to unfold from the beginning to the end. Don’t be overly concerned with your writing style but rather focus on clearly and simply communicating what is happening to your customer as they journey through their experience with your brand. Be as detailed as possible.
  2. Here are some additional questions to consider as you write your first draft; what needed to happen to get the customer to complete your goal? What opportunities could you have missed? What loopholes haven’t been closed that would hold them back from buying? What opportunities (upsell/upgrade) can we take advantage of? What could you have done to make it easier for the customer along their journey?

Write your legend from the perspective of third-person omniscient,  this will give you a point of view that allows you to describe the journey in your customer’s head and of your campaign in detail.

Ideally, you will include all the following ten elements in your legend:

  1. A person. Who is your customer? This can be a persona or an ad-hoc persona that includes relevant customer data and insight into how the customer prefers to make decisions.
  2. The person’s purpose. What are the customer’s larger goals? How does she define herself? What is she trying to accomplish on a larger level, career wise, personally, socially, etc.? In other words, what is the context of her purpose and her motivation? These things will inform her smaller objectives.
  3. The objective of the interaction. What is she trying to achieve by interacting with your company? What is your conversion goal for this customer at this stage of her buying process?
  4. The sequence of steps in the person’s plan. Tell the story of what the customer is doing at every step of their progress through the sales/conversion process.
  5. The person’s rationale behind identifying the problem and executing a solution. Describe how the customer is thinking before, during, and after each step of the sales/ conversion process.
  6. The key decisions the person will make. Describe the crucial decisions the customer must make to complete the conversion, and describe what she needs (features, benefits, testimonials, reviews) to make that decision.
  7. The emotional struggles the person might face. However a person rationalizes a decision, every person makes the decision based on an emotional dynamic. What is the emotional dynamic? Is it a strongly-felt need? Pressure from others? Trust in the brand? Time versus money?
  8. The anti-goals that will put off a person. What kinds of things must you avoid in this experience? Every person pursuing a goal not only has an objective, they have concerns and anxieties around what they don’t want and don’t want to happen. If you don’t address these concerns and anxieties, or allow even a hint of possibility that these things might happen, you will jeopardize the sale.
  9. The additional constraints and considerations. What else does the customer need to consider? Does she have any limitations that may keep her from converting? Can you do anything to address concerns and remove those limitations?
  10. The reasonable alternatives available to the person. What other options does the customer have? What kind of experience might she have with a competitor? What if temporary or permanent inaction is a good option?

Additional comments on the instruction for drafting Buyer Legends

Those ten elements do not have to be in order, as long as each is present. The first thing to do after a first draft is to check for all elements, and if you left one or a few out, just add them in. Typically the most ignored and misunderstood element is #7: “The emotional struggles the person might face.” It is one of the most crucial elements. Most businesses believe that their customers make logical buying decision, this is untrue. All people, even the most logical thinkers you know, make an unconscious emotional decision first and use logic to justify their decision. Emotions also add tension and drama to the story, making it more compelling and understandable. Here are a handful examples of emotional struggles:

  • He was afraid his wife would be unhappy with him for buying this.
  • He was worried that acknowledging a problem might worry his boss
  • She was frustrated that she couldn’t find the exact product she was looking for.
  • He was afraid failing in this decision would get him fired.
  • She was afraid that this product contains allergens that would harm her child.
  • He felt guilty about last years birthday present being a dud he is on a mission to get the right gift this year.

You don’t have to be a skilled writer to pull off writing a Buyer Legend. You only need to be clear and detailed. You can always have a writer (on staff or 3rd party) edit your story, but the decision maker should preferably write the first draft. This is especially true if you have to work with two or more departments to execute. A high level executive, the owner or decision maker is the only one with authority to insure execution across different departments. Generally the higher up they are in the food chain the more potentially powerful your Buyer Legend will be. If you are a manager or department head, you can write a Buyer Legend for the area that you are responsible for, but you cannot always transform an entire customer experience just your piece of it. Of course we have seen department heads have success using their Buyer Legend to influence and persuade colleagues across departments to implement Buyer Legends because they make the case for a more holistic experience.

Pro tip: add storyboards and wireframes to your Buyer Legend

It takes a bit more work but when we propose Buyer Legend projects to our clients we often include the following language in our Statement of Work:

The combined Buyer Legend will be represented visually as one integrated experience with storyboard mock-up of new web pages, new content and telephone script content recommendations. This will be accompanied by narrative, commentary and callouts explaining the flow of each scenario for each persona.

story-board

simple storyboard

wireframe2

simple wireframe

 

How to can use your Buyer Legend

  • Executives can use it to better communicate your customer experience strategy from the top down, from the boardroom to the stockroom.
  • Marketers can use it to create and optimize campaigns no matter how big or small. It works for both online and offline and for any media platform.
  • Companies can use it to create and optimize an entire system, like a website, sales funnel, or a complete customer experience.
  • Managers can use it to optimize cycles and improve execution.
  • Customer service can use it to optimize customer service channels.
  • Analysts can use it to interpret analytics and make the case to optimize specific channels and experiences.
  • Product management can use it to create and optimize products and services.
  • Content creators and content marketers can use it to plan, optimize and create more relevant content.

We have provided several examples of short Buyer Legends in this series of recipe posts, but if you would like an example of a comprehensive Buyer Legend you can download the story we used to write the Buyer Legends book, you will find it on our resources page.

Buyer Legends are NOT fiction

Your Buyer Legend will always start as a fictional tale using a fictional story and fictional personas, but Buyer Legends are not meant to stay that way. Your Buyer Legend is about creating a new reality than can be experienced by your customers and optimized and measured by your company. Buyer Legends are accountable by design. Next up in our series we will talk about measuring your Buyer Legend once it is live in the real word, I’ll also give you some help in improving them as well.

We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help, please let us know.

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P.S. This is the fifth in a series of Buyer Legends Recipe Posts , please sign up to our newsletter for updates.

 

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Recipes For Practical Customer Experience Design & Optimization #CRO #UX #CX

miseenplaceIf I gave you a recipe some of you would be thrilled and others not so much. You can cook a gourmet meal that will have your taste buds fox trotting. I know that to be true. When it comes to food there are alternative ways to acquire a great meal. However, when cooking up great customer experiences there are no alternatives. If you want customers to to tell the only story that matters, why they love your company, you’ll have to learn how.

Have you ever followed a recipe only to find that you aren’t ready for the third step? I have. The results? Frustration and a poor meal. A few years ago it was takeout or starve, but now, I love to cook. I credit mise en place, that’s French for having having everything in its place as you cook, for my conversion from takeout king to aspiring chef. Mise en place is a small amount of effort expended up front that actually saves me tons of time and guarantees tasty dishes.

The Buyer Legend process is like a recipe for designing great customer experiences. You can use Buyer Legends to define and improve your content marketing, social marketing, search marketing, conversion rate optimization and thereby improve your communications, execution and revenues. You just need to follow the recipe. We’ve published a basic Buyer Legend recipe  but I’ll be adding more detail in this series.

I’ve been training clients and staff in the Eisenbergs’ processes’ for over a decade, Let me show you how to prepare mise en place for the Buyer Legends process.  This is the first in a series of articles that will address each major step of the Buyer Legends process.

Pre-mortem because it is the antidote to Murphy’s Law 

First we’ll explore the most impactful step of the process, the pre-mortem. Some of our largest conversion wins over the last two decades ever were the result of our clients going through the pre-mortem exercise.  Murphy’s law states that everything that can go wrong usually will and a pre-mortem will help you spot previously invisible problems in your current customer experience as well as plan against future problems. But the pre-mortem step is not for the faint hearted as it may show you things about your precious baby that are not as attractive as you wanted to believe.  The only thing that makes a pre-mortem more powerful is by doing a pre-mortem on a persona by persona and then scenario/ campaign by scenario basis. Read the first Buyer Legend Recipe Post here...

Reverse chronology because it explains conversions

Assuming you have a product or service worth buying then you and your customers have the same goal.  You want to sell and they want to buy. That’s why when you are planning a customer experience it is always best to start at the end point and work your way backwards to the beginning.  This step requires you to get very specific about how and why every decision and action needs to be taken in the buying journey.  It’s specificity also makes this step important to measuring and optimizing your customer experience when you finally implement it. Your Buyer Legend isn’t fiction so every detail must be accounted for, not only that but you must create persuasive momentum at every step. Read it here.

Persuasive momentum because there’s no such thing as a sales funnel

Your customer isn’t truly in a funnel. There’s no gravity compelling them through your experience like there is in a real funnel. There is only the customer’s motivation and your understanding of that motivation to create persuasive momentum. Persuasive momentum is the progressive decision making process that aligns the customer’s goals with our own business goals. I’ll show you the three step test that will insure your customers’ experiences are always relevant, valuable and compelling. Read it here.

Personas because their motivations become your action plan

Personas are a common marketing tool, but their value is often misunderstood. Simply put, personas should inform you about exactly what you need to be doing. Personas can be elaborate constructs based on reams of research and data, or they can be constructed quickly with data and information at hand, but as long as they are directionally accurate reflections of a segment of your customer they can be powerful tools that will guide your Buyer Legends processes. I will be discussing how to construct ad-hoc personas as well as help you evaluate and if needed fix your current personas if you have them. Read it here.

Write a Buyer Legend because the only story that matters is your customers’ story

This is the step when you actually pull out your pots, grab a spatula and fire up your burners.  I will tell you all the ingredients to include so you can have them at the ready. This is the step where all your previous work begins to pay off and when you’re done you will have an action plan that can be distributed, implemented, tested, and optimized.  A Buyer Legend is where the rubber meets the road. Read it here.

Measurement because if analysts cannot tell the stories and business people cannot measure the stories then the strategy isn’t truly aligned with customers’ needs.

Your Buyer Legend isn’t fiction, it’s not for fun or for entertainment, or even for creative fulfillment.  This is business, and anything important to a businesses success should be measurable and accountable.  Buyer Legends are both and I will give you a primer on measuring, optimizing, rinsing, and repeating. Read it here.

The Buyer Legend process orchestrates your best efforts and reconciles them to the needs of your customers so you can create profitable customer experiences.  If you want to become even more legendary at using this process I challenge you to follow this recipe series. I look forward to your feedback, questions, and hearing your success stories.

This series is now complete. Please visit all six posts.

As always, we encourage you to try Buyer Legends for yourself, but if you need help, please let us know.

 

 

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Real Brand Storytelling: Mitch Joel Interviews Bryan Eisenberg for the Twist Image Podcast

spos_lowres_rgbWelcome to episode #446 of Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast. I have known Bryan Eisenberg forever. Back when I first started publishing music  magazines on the Internet (in the mid-nineties), there were few people writing about the power of the Internet from a business and marketing perspective. There were message boards and email lists… and that’s where I first started reading the work of Bryan. Now, Bryan Eisenberg is the co-author (along with his brother, Jeffrey Eisenberg) of the bestselling books, Call to Action, Waiting For Your Cat to Bark? and Always Be Testing. We have also shared the stage on numerous occasions, because Bryan is a professional marketing keynote speaker as well. He’s done much than that. He is also the co-founder of the Web Analytics Association (now the Digital Analytics Association), serves as an advisory board member of Search Engine Strategies, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summitand several venture capital backed startup companies (like Bazaarvoice, Monetate,Nomi, TagMan, and more). Most recently, he launched a new startup called,IdealSpot, and a fascinating new book called, Buyer Legends – The Executive Storyteller’s Guide. Enjoy the conversation…

Here it is: Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast – Episode #446 – Host: Mitch Joel.

  • Running time: 46:59.
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Designing The Perfect Funnel

TomFishburnefunnelYou’ve planned the campaign or the test.

You’ve designed the checkout or registration.

You’ve invested time and energy.

Now your customers come along and enter your funnel.

Let’s get real, your customer isn’t truly in a funnel. There’s no gravity compelling them through your experience like there is in a real funnel. There is only the customer’s motivation and your understanding of that motivation to create persuasive momentum.

Your customers’ journeys are their stories, NOT funnels. They could tell you the stories, just try asking them. And those stories don’t always have happy endings.

Your customers’ stories end happily when they are delighted. And for them that may mean buying from you or from a competitor. It’s simply a matter of perspective.

Now you come along and interrogate your analytics to find out what your customers did.

Is this process so very different from what you do?

The most successful companies start with the story from the customer’s perspective. Their business people make that story accountable through analytics. They anticipate what needs to be measured in order for the analysts to understand the actual customers’ experience – did their stories end happily? These stories are then shared with the business people and they learn what needs to be optimized.

Here’s what we know for certain: if analysts cannot tell the stories and business people cannot measure the stories then the strategy isn’t truly aligned with customers’ needs.

It’s time to perfect your concept of a funnel.

Buyer Legends can help you create customer-centered, data-driven customer experience design that is supported by narrative.

 

H/T to Tom Fishburne for inspiring this post with his marketing funnel

 

 

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Business Storytelling: 3 Ways To Have A Happy Ending

Santa Claus will not be bringing any presents to your home. Not that you were naughty, don’t worry we won’t tell on you.
Please don’t be sad, it doesn’t mean you won’t have presents or a story with a happy ending. It will just require a bit more effort to make your holiday magical.
Maybe you already knew that about Santa Claus, but have you heard the story about storytelling and business?

There’s a story currently being told to business people where storytelling is the hero, the dragon slayer. It’s a sappy little story with a cliched happy ending. You know it, after slaying the dragon the business lives happily ever. Lots of stories end that way.

 Just like Santa Claus won’t make your holiday magical storytelling alone will not guarantee your success.

Storytelling is the most powerful communications tool ever and it’s worth mastering.

There are three ways to leverage storytelling to create a happy ending for your business:

 

ONE: Tell  stories to make emotional connections with customers

This is what most marketers think of when they think about storytelling.  Of course we suggest you always make the customer the hero of your story, pay attention to Michael Hinshaw over at CMO.com who tells us that customer experience is emotional.  In a post over at Medium.com  Jamie Carracher offers a nice primer on how to make your storytelling efforts accountable.

TWO: Tell stories to rally the troops.

All great leaders are great communicators, and great leaders understand how to use the power of a  story to motivate, encourage, teach, and inspire their team.  Carol Goman at Forbes does a good job explaining why leaders should leverage the power of story.

THREE: Tell Buyer Legend stories to delight customers and convert more sales

Once a leader inspires her team, and a marketer makes an emotional connection with customers can they deliver on the promises made? Buyer Legends are a brand new type of story, told from the perspective of customers, that help companies become customer focused, data-driven and managed by a common narrative to deliver on those promises made to customers.  Businesses use them to improve the entire experience from attraction to conversion funnels, sales funnels, and to delight the customer when they interact with the brand.  A decent Buyer Legend story documents what that experience is currently. A great Buyer Legend story tells you exactly to optimize that experience.  Buyer Legends are created in story form in order to bridge the empathy gap between company and customer; what Bain & Co calls the Delivery Gap. Tell a great Buyer Legend and a team will know how to design, execute, and test new and improved customer experiences.

We wish your business a happy ending and encourage you to use storytelling.

Happy holidays!

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Can Marketers Keep Their Promises To Customers?

brand_storyIf I promised to give you $10,000 as a gift and then only gave you $5,000 you’d be disappointed. Don’t bother to deny it. Once an expectation has been set anything that falls short of that expectation is disappointing.

Good marketers are paid to attract prospective customers. When attracting those prospective customers, promises are made both implicitly and explicitly. The stories marketers tell prospective customers set their expectations.

And great marketers tell great stories.

There is so much excellent content about storytelling, it’s no wonder that marketers are now telling better stories.

Since you’ll ask, here are two examples:

No doubt, marketers are telling better stories.

But will businesses keep the promises marketers are making?

The facts suggest that most businesses don’t deliver great customer experiences. That unintentionally turns great marketers into liars.

Virtually all of the senior marketers I know are uncomfortable with this situation. Of course, many of them are not in charge of the entire experience but all of them have influence over the customer experience. At the very least they are responsible for the portion of the customer journey that they control.

Flipping the perspective helps marketing strategy become more integral to the business strategy.

So what happens when a marketer takes the perspective of the customer and describes the actual customer journey as a story the entire team can share? I cannot predict how it will work at every company but I do have years of experience watching marketers do just that with Buyer Legends.

I’ve seen three outcomes from writing the customer journey narrative:

  1. Expected CaseThe narrative starts to influence the details marketers can control and optimize. Subsequently, the results gain attention for the technique and it begins to influence other areas of the company.
  2. Best Case – The effort originates in the C-Suite or, as part of the expected case, the narrative makes it way into strategic planning and permeates how the business thinks about customers and their experience.
  3. Worst Case – The marketer realizes that the gap between the brand promise and what the business delivers is too wide and looks for another job where she can maintain her integrity.

In every case it’s a thoroughly worthwhile investment of just a few hours. That is why we wrote Buyer Legends, so that any marketer can get started with storytelling in under two hours. Yes – two hours – which includes reading the book.

Would a Buyer Legend help your company sell more and delight more customers?

You won’t know unless you try.

Please keep in mind that Buyer Legends are not the stories your business tells your customers; that’s promotion. Buyer Legends are stories told from the point of view of your customers; because your brand isn’t what you say it is but what your customers say it is. Buyer Legends are designed to create and improve the interactions your customers have with every touchpoint of your brand.

Try it out, because a great brand today is customer-centric, data-driven and managed by narrative.

 

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Become Your Customer’s Fairy Godmother

JeffSextonFairyGodMother

Can you believe I had this picture taken?

When most people talk about Storytelling in business, they usually mean telling the businesses story.

And while your business undoubtedly has a story and should tell it, that’s not the story you need to focus on in order to improve sales, optimization efforts, or your content marketing strategies.

The story you need to focus on is the customer’s

And the thing about the customers story is this: you’re not the hero of it.

The customer is the hero of the customer’s story. Unsurprisingly.

But not only are you not the hero (or heroine) of the customer’s story, you’re also not Prince Charming, either.

Why?

Because as a service provider or product, you’re simply not at the center of anyone’s life. That center-of-my-life role is reserved for spouses and kids and family. Not for commercials, products, or services.

So if you’re not the heroine nor prince charming, what role do you play?

Ideally, you’re the Fairy Godmother.

Again, you’re not the hero and you’re not at the center of people’s lives. In fact, most people aren’t interested in you at all until they need you to save the day. And then you’re really, really important. For like five minutes.

But if you do your job right, you can bippity boppety boo your way into saving the day and winning the customers business, loyalty, and recommendations.

You help the customer be the hero and fulfill her purpose / destiny / task for the moment.  That’s your role.

But you can’t play that role properly until you understand the customer’s story. You need to know where she runs into life’s snafus. And what she needs during her moments of distress. What her real motivations are. And how she’s making decisions during the moment when you’re cue is called to enter stage left.

If you don’t know these things, you can:

  • Miss the magic moment
  • Arrive with the wrong solution
  • Arrive with the right solution but be unable to explain WHY it’s right
  • Watch as your Cinderella gets help from the wrong godmother!
  • And generally lose or blow the sale

So while Buyer Legends is a powerful storytelling tool for business. It’s not really about your story. It’s about the customer’s story and how that customer experiences your company and brand during that story.

Because your real story isn’t the one you tell. It’s the one your customer tells about you — to herself and her friends.

And she won’t get YOUR story right, until you get hers right first.

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Storytelling to Improve Communications, Conversions, and Execution

“Humans have only one tool capable of communicating the subjective experience of relationship through time, and that’s narrative. Ask someone about a favorite possession, and you’ll hear a story. Ask them about a friend or spouse, and you’ll hear a story. There simply is no other way to talk about relationship. And that goes for the relationship between customer and company (or brand) as well. “

You and I are wired for story. Period.

This is not just a powerful insight into our nature. It is profound and fundamental to our ability to communicate our experiences with one another, and as it turns out, ourselves. Thorin Klosowski over at Lifehacker writes

“A story is a tool to help us make sense of the world. But what about the future? What would happen if you turned your to-do list into a story as a rehearsal for the next day? Personally, it’s helped me not just Get Things Done, but also boosted my memory so that I’ve been able to ditch complicated to-do lists and schedules for good.”

Klosowski then dives into the storytelling process he uses to increase his productivity. Pretty cool, and pretty powerful.

What is good for productivity is even more powerful for improving the communications, conversions, and execution of your marketing.

Grab your copy of Buyer Legends – The Executive Storytellers Guide and in the half hour you’ll invest to read it you’ll learn how to create customer-centered, data-driven customer experience design that is supported by narrative.

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What we can offer you

Four Pillars Ongoing Support

After our workshops, we work with only a few select clients. Your business must be committed to the Four Pillars (as described in Be Like Amazon) on a long-term basis .

Workshops

We kick-off the workshop with a two-day onsite visit. We help you create the Four Pillar foundation for your organization. The entire process takes between 4-8 weeks and the typical investment is $30,000 – $100,000.

Speak at Your Event

We can speak at your event. Our fees are $20,000 in North America, and that includes travel. International fees are $20,000 plus business class travel, from Austin, and lodging. Contact us to discuss your event