Does your story have the makings of an epic tale?

Components of an epic storyIn a previous post, I outlined how to identify the components of your irresistible story. These are the components that allow us to construct a compelling narrative. They come straight out of our positioning statement structure:

For (THE INDIVIDUALS WE HOPE TO SERVE)

Who are looking for (THEIR UNMET NEED)

Our organization (HOW WE MEET THAT UNMET NEED)

Unlike (COMPETITIVE ALTERNATIVES)

Ours is the only organization that offers (FUNCTIONAL ATTRIBUTES)

That deliver (EMOTIONAL BENEFIT)

So that we can fulfill (OUR BIG AUDACIOUS MEANING)

Here is how we characterize those story components:

  • The hero – (THE INDIVIDUALS WE HOPE TO SERVE) this story is not about us. It’s about those that we are serving.
  • The unfulfilled need or desire of the hero -(THEIR UNMET NEED) this is what sends our heroes out on a quest
  • The hero’s quest – (HOW WE MEET THAT UNMET NEED & OUR FUNCTIONAL ATTRIBUTES) this is the journey to discover those things that come together to fulfill that unmet need
  • The victory – (EMOTIONAL BENEFIT) this is the summation of all those quest discoveries that reveals to our heroes a highly desired larger meaning.
  • The transformation – (OUR BIG AUDACIOUS MEANING) this is the enlightenment that our heroes experience when they realize that, beyond the victory (EMOTIONAL BENEFIT), they can be part of something that can make a profound difference in our world.

Sounds like the makings of an epic tale, right? Here’s the really great part. These components can be organized in a myriad of ways, allowing us to tailor our stories to wherever our prospects are on their journey to becoming our customers.

To illustrate this idea, let’s look at the customer journey. It defines the 6 stages we all go through in our engagement with any organization. Here are those 6 stages and the question we ask at each:

  • Problem/Need – What is the challenge or opportunity that I’m trying to address?
  • Discovery – How do I address this challenge or opportunity?
  • Evaluation – Can I compare options available to me?
  • Decision – How do I validate that this is the right solution for me?
  • Review – Was this a good decision?
  • Advocacy – Shouldn’t others know about this?

The question our prospects have at the Problem/Need stage is quite different from the question they have at the Decision stage. So the answer that we give – the story we tell – is quite different at each of these stages as well. Before we freak out about having to write 6 different stories, understand this. All the components are the same from story to story. It is how we order them and the time we spend on each that makes each story unique. This makes it all less overwhelming. Let’s take a look at how we structure our story for each stage of the journey.

Problem/Need

At this stage, they are asking, “What is the challenge or opportunity that I’m trying to address?” So it is only natural that we start with THEIR UNMET NEED. This sets the stage by empathizing with the struggle they have. We will follow it by showing them HOW WE MEET THAT UNMET NEED & OUR FUNCTIONAL ATTRIBUTES. That leads them to the EMOTIONAL BENEFIT, and ultimately, OUR BIG AUDACIOUS MEANING.

Here is how much of this story we dedicate to each component:

  • 30% of the story: THEIR UNMET NEED – we have the ability to build a connection by demonstrating our empathy with their plight
  • 10% of the story: HOW WE MEET THAT UNMET NEED & OUR FUNCTIONAL ATTRIBUTES – we touch on these to show our story has depth, but our prospect isn’t looking for all the details just yet
  • 20% of the story: EMOTIONAL BENEFIT – we want them to get a sense of what can be gained, but move quickly to the bigger inspiration of our Big Audacious Meaning
  • 40% of our story: OUR BIG AUDACIOUS MEANING – this is the time to inspire our prospects, so our Big Audacious Meaning gets the spotlight

This is just one of the 6 stages. Use this process on each of the stages of the journey to help outline the story structures.

Setting the stage for an epic story

There is a myriad of story possibilities – all driven by understanding the stages of our customers’ journey and the importance of each of the story components at each of those stages. But make no mistake. This is not a formulaic process. With these story-building exercises, it can be too easy to believe that great stories are a matter of ordering the components correctly and making sure the ratio of words matches the formula for that stage. It doesn’t work that way. Writing a compelling story is not formulaic. Writing a great story is an art. It is an emotional endeavor. The rational structure we have laid out here has a role. It gives us clarity about what to write. It gives us guideposts to stay on the right path. That satisfies the rational part of our brain. Which may be the single most important role of this structure. Because once we satisfy the rational part of our brain, it clears the way for the emotional part of our brain to work its magic with our stories.