I’m preparing to work with a client team on their marketing plan for the next year.
The group is excited to start talking about which media, various tactics we’d use across the social platforms they employ, and how we’d communicate to consumers. I’m pretty sure that I’ll bring the discussion to a pause by asking them to tell me the story before we focus on any of that. I’ll get several curious looks but I think that’s the most important question one can ask as the plan begins to take shape. Why?
The story is what defines everything else. If we’re going to be successful in touching the consumer we need to do so in a way that resonates with them and stories are the things that drive that connection. Obviously the consumer needs to be the hero of the story. Well, maybe the focus of the story is a better way to say that. They will be confronted with an obstacle and that problem is solved by whatever it is you’re selling. Seems pretty basic, right?
Take a look around you. How many pieces of marketing content can you spot that have it backwards? The product is the hero, the consumer just a spectator. How many tell a coherent story (they have beginnings, middle, and ends)? How many have a call to action, even if it’s subtle?
Once we all agree on the story we’re telling, the focus becomes translating that tome into each channel and each medium. We may need to alter the story slightly to be more specific to the audience we’re reaching through a particular medium but the basic story itself needs to remain intact. If we’re really doing our jobs well the message will resonate, the characters (which might be the product and the consumer) will be well-formed, and the call to action will result in whatever it is we want them to do – a click, read something else, give us an email or maybe even buy something.
Tactics are, frankly, the less-fun part. Writing the story is fun and an important first step. So ask yourself – what’s your story?