Be your prospect’s Obi-Wan Kenobi

Be your prospect’s Obi-Wan Kenobi

It’s fun to dunk on the idea of storytelling in marketing. When Mark Ritson did it on LinkedIn, his post did numbers, with plenty of marketers weighing in to say they were sick and tired of the term.

And while you disagree with Ritson at your peril, I’m about to do just that. Because your marketing always has a story.

It’s just not always you who’s telling it.

YOUR PROSPECT IS TELLING THEIR OWN STORY

Think about how your prospect will tell the story of how they made a change in their business.

“We had a problem. So I went looking for the answer. I asked colleagues, read the reviews, did the demo calls and tested the different solutions. I finally found what we needed. I spent months implementing it across the business and making sure it was delivering what we needed. And that’s how I secured my promotion.”

Most businesses focus on being the solution in that story. That’s a natural thing to focus on. You want to be the answer to your customer’s problem and the tool they used to secure that promotion.

But there’s an even better way to insert yourself into this story. To do that, you need to understand how your prospect is telling their story.

THE HERO’S JOURNEY

The Hero’s Journey is a popular narrative formula. Like e=mec2 but a better budget.

It was popularised by Joseph Campell, who said that every story uses elements of the same formula: the hero goes on some form of adventure, faces trials and tribulations, finds a great treasure, and returns changed by the experience.

Here’s a shortened version of the Hero’s Journey, alongside examples from the most famous story to use it:

CALL TO ADVENTURE

The hero starts their story in the Ordinary World, but an event (external or internal) calls them to leave their safe, straightforward existence.

“You’re my only hope.” Luke Skywalker discovers a hidden message within his new droid, R2-D2, who holds the secrets to destroying the Imperial Death Star.

MEETING THE MENTOR

The hero encounters a seasoned traveller who imparts training, wisdom, or equipment that will help the hero on their journey.

“Your father’s lightsaber.” Luke meets Obi-Wan Kenobi, who invites him to learn the ways of the Force.

TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES

The hero enters an unknown world where they face trials, make new friends, and encounter new foes.

“These guys must be really desperate.” Luke eludes Imperial stormtroopers and joins forces with Han Solo and Chewbacca.

THE ORDEAL

The hero confronts death or faces their greatest fear. They emerge from this ordeal with new life or purpose.

“What a wonderful smell you’ve discovered.” Luke almost dies at the hands of a foul beast and nearly gets squashed in the trash compactor.

REWARD

The hero discovers a treasure. It might be something they were searching for, or might be an unexpected reward for surviving the Ordeal.

“Get back to the ship!” Luke rescues Princess Leia. They escape from the Death Star so they can deliver the plans to the Rebels.

ROAD BACK

The hero begins a new journey to return the treasure home. There will be more trials, perhaps even a chase.

“Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.” The Millenium Falcon is pursued by TIE Fighters as it escapes the Death Star.

RESURRECTION

The hero is sorely tested before they reach home. They may experience another moment of death and rebirth, or may need to sacrifice something.

“I’ve lost Artoo!” Luke flies with the Rebel fleet to destroy the Death Star.

ELIXIR

The hero returns home with the treasure or reward, changed or even transformed by their journey.

“The Force will be with you. Always.” Luke finds his place within the Rebel Alliance and has a new ally: the Force.

That’s the Hero’s Journey in a Star Wars nutshell. And your prospect is telling the exact same kind of story when they buy from your business.

Just with fewer Death Stars and wookies.

YOUR PROSPECT’S JOURNEY

Let’s take another look at the story your prospect told.

“We had a problem (Call to Adventure.)

“So I went looking for the answer. I asked colleagues, read the reviews, did the demo calls and tried out the different solutions. (Tests, Allies, Enemies.)

“I finally found what we needed (Reward.)

“I spent months implementing it across the business and making sure it was delivering what we needed. (Ressurection).

“And that’s how I secured my promotion (Elixir).”

Now look at where you wanted to appear in the story: the Reward stage. That’s halfway through the journey! That’s assuming, of course, that they picked your business to work with.

But did you notice something missing from your prospect’s story?

The Mentor.

The Mentor is the one who shepherds the hero out of their Ordinary World and through their trials and adventures. The hero learns at their feet, heeds their advice, and makes choices based on their wisdom.

Play that role for your prospect and they’ll learn to trust you, like you, and look forward to hearing from you. That puts you in a much stronger position when they come to choose a product or service, and can even overcome objections you’ve struggled with in the past.

For example, if you tend to lose business to a cheaper competitor, you might find the trust you’ve built up as a Mentor overcomes the cost objection; after all, it’s often worth paying a little more to work with someone you already know will be trustworthy.

HOW TO BECOME YOUR PROSPECT’S OBI-WAN KENOBI

Well, you could get some help from your local cosplayer. But if your Alec Guinness/Ewan McGregor impression leaves something to be desired, better to be their Obi-Wan through your copy, righter.

And how do you do that?

Think elixir.

Because your prospects’ agenda isn’t the same as yours. Your agenda is to get people to become your customer (reward). Your prospect’s agenda is to find a solution to their problem (elixir).

So your content needs to work towards both of these agendas.

GUIDE THEM AT THE BEGINNING

A lot of businesses focus on content that nudges prospects as they get closer to a purchase. This is good content to have; there’s nothing wrong with targeting the low-hanging fruit.

But this is pure reward-thinking. It doesn’t speak to prospects until they’re in the “Ordeal” stage of their journey.

Your prospect has been looking for help well before this point. They’re looking for a guiding authority to help them understand the strange world they’re about to step into.

That’s where you come in. Create content that explains the depths of the problem, the wider ramifications, the possible solutions, the things to look out for, the factors they might not have considered. You’ve got a wealth of understanding and expertise. Share it!

Better yet, you can create content that shows them a problem they didn’t even realise they had. You become your prospects Call to Action too!

Here’s a few of my favourite examples:

British Assessment Bureau provides a cyber security white paper that reveals the greatest threat to a business’ data security is employees falling for phishing and social engineering attacks. Readers are left wondering how to tackle this threat. Perhaps with an Information Security Management System?

GoSquared offers an email course that teaches business owners about the importance of customer engagement, why it’s important, how to do it, and what sort of results they can enjoy. Readers wonder how they can engage with their customers; perhaps with a software system?

Lexham Insurance offers a cluster of blog content about the burgeoning electric motorbike industry, the trials and tribulations of manufacturers, the pros and cons for riders. Readers are left wondering if their next bike won’t be electric, and now they know where to get their insurance.

In each instance, the content reaches the prospect before they’re deciding on a particular product or service, and imparts wisdom and guidance they’ll need to make their decision.

GO BEYOND THE CONVERSION

A lot of businesses don’t create content for people who have become customers.

“But we’ve got their money, James. The marketer’s job is done, right?”

Does Obi-Wan give up once Luke has rescued Princess Leia?

“Well, he kind of does. Dying has a way of stopping you in your tracks.”

Good point. But Obi-Wan’s disembodied voice continues to guide Luke to victory. He helps Luke blow up the Death Star, save the Rebellion, and get a shiny medal (AKA, the Elixir).

You don’t have to let your competitors strike you down and become a floaty voice in your customer’s ear. That’s creepy. But you should keep creating content for your prospects after they buy. Because then you’re helping them beyond your reward and towards their elixir, be that pay rise, promotion, pat on the back, and et cetera.

So guide your newly-minted customers with superb content. Implementation guides. Tips to get the most from their shiny new product or service. Advice on other supporting processes, tech, or services they can adopt to get even better results.

MAKE YOUR COPY, RIGHTER

Throughout your prospect’s journey, they’ll want your copy, righter. That means every piece of copy they encounter needs to be clear, clever, or funny (or all three). Anything dull, corporate, or confusing is going to undermine your good work and nudge them towards a competitor instead.

And I do mean anything. That’s why it’s worth spending time on the “boring bits”. Entertaining terms and conditions put a smile on the prospect’s face. And every smile is a further step towards liking you. If those terms are clear and easy to understand? That’s a step towards trusting you.

Even when it’s time to bust out the legal jargon, you can still put a smile on your prospect’s face. In fact, when your prospect expects the copy to be dull (like a contract), it takes very little to delight. One mild dad joke, deftly handled, can often be enough.

Of course, Obi-Wan Kenobi didn’t make many dad jokes. Tough crowd and all.

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