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When in Doubt, Tell a Useful Story

David Sherry
2 min read

I get it, it feels complex.

There is so much nuance to human nature, that it can't help but be the case that every interaction and campaign you create to market to your audience can feel like there are a thousand things to consider...

So, let's keep things really simple, and create a heuristic to return to when things feel complex or when we don't know what to do next.

This idea gets to the essence of marketing.

Use it like a grounding mat from which to stand on any time you feel you've lost balance.

Here it is:

When in doubt, tell a useful story.

A customer is calling to complain... ? Tell a useful story.

Looking to close a deal? Tell a useful story.

Launching a new product? Tell a useful story.

Speaking at a conference... on a podcast... in a job interview... ?

Tell a useful story.

Useful to whom?

To the person you're interacting with.

This means meeting them where they are, not where you are.

This means imaging how they see the world, and telling them a story which fits within that worldview but leads them to see something new.

Useful how?

Useful in helping them with a problem or a desire they currently have.

Each day we walk around with problems and desires in our heads. These are the things we're paying attention to.

If you're desiring to go to Hawaii, you're more likely to notice the new deal on Southwest from LA to Hawaii.

If your problem is that you need a new type of workout because you're burned out on your current one, you're more likely to be open to hearing from the local run club.

These problems and desires are the fuel behind what we focus on.

So speak to people based on these problems and desires, not based on YOURS.

If someone's desire is to go to Hawaii, they're imaging jungle, beach and sun. Don't try and sell them on your 5 day excursion across the glacier in Alaska.

A story, why?

Because humans aren't rational,  we're mimetic. We're visual. We function on emotion. A story helps create context around the stories we have in our heads related to our problems and desires.

A story is a way for the person you're speaking with and trying to change to put themselves in an imaginary new place where you simultaneously get the outcome your'e looking for and the outcome you're looking for.

A useful story has the purpose of helping the person you're telling it to.

And if you do that enough... Just maybe you might both get what you want.

xx David

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