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How do increase brand loyalty? Most people do it by focusing on increasing interactions, but wonder why there’s no real boost in loyalty from customers. If you’re telling your customers about the heroics of your business, surely they’ll be more likely to engage?
The truth is that more of the same thing doesn’t change the results. To change the outcome, we must change the story. Instead of increasing the number of interactions, we need to be strategic about the interactions we make.
You need to change the narrative. You need to change the story. And all good stories have a hero.
The hero needs to be your customer.
Do you make your customers feel like heroes?
Now, thinking that customers are important is obvious.
What, did they slay a dragon or something?
Believe it or not, they actually did. Every single one of your customers did. And your prospective customers are trying to avoid becoming their dragon’s next barbecued meal.
Understanding this, and knowing what you can do about it, will give you an advantage that precious few online business owners know about or bother with.
I love stories. I loved them growing up, and I love creating them through business ventures today. Stories are fundamental to us as human beings.
I remember getting a story-book my mother picked up from a yard sale when I was young.
It was a Sonic the Hedgehog book with multiple endings, where you choose the ending by making decisions as you read through.
Depending on the decisions I made, I would either lead Sonic to victory or to his demise. I was always shocked to read a story that would have Sonic plummet into a fiery chasm, never to be seen again.
I had to read it again and again until Sonic prevailed. Stories grip us.
I enjoy browsing through online business websites. I accept that’s sort of weird.
I find that most businesses don’t bother telling stories. I also notice that of the very few that do, that most of them are telling the wrong stories.
Storytelling is a fundamental way us humans interact. It transcends language barriers and borders.
But most businesses don’t bother with them. Often, they’re just another vendor.
Are they cheaper? Is their product better? Are they backed by some cool VC firm? How nice for them. But very few businesses tell stories that matter.
Of those that do tell stories, they tell them about themselves. Good, but only half good. You can be different.
You can make the customer a hero. How?
We love watching stories, reading them, and experiencing them. According to research, we don’t just understand when we hear stories. Our brains actually respond as though the story were happening to us.
We can harness this.
Think about this for a moment. We can share stories, and they become real to those that listen.
In terms of your business, stories are already happening. They’re happening all around your business, to your customers. You can harness these stories, and there’s a very specific place that you fit into them.
A story has five core sections, which we must work through to make customers feel like heroes.
Before we go through them though, let’s understand who the hero really is. In most stories I’ve read, the eventual hero doesn’t start out particularly heroic. He becomes that hero as a result of going through the story - that story is your opportunity to help them.
Your hero starts life in the story as a normal person. He’s fine, really. Just going about life as he does. Doing his thing. Perhaps he likes to fish. Perhaps he has a comfortable 9-5. Perhaps he takes milk and sugar in his tea.
The following five sections are what make up the fiber of that hero’s story. Let’s go through them together, and let’s see where your business fits in.
The situation is where it all begins. This is where normal life of your customer starts getting interesting. This is where our hero discovers he has a problem.
Perhaps he has a tool or service he uses regularly, but it breaks. Perhaps he has a new need that he’s not encountered before. How does he satisfy it? Perhaps he finds himself with a problem that he has no clue how to solve. How does it solve it?
The situation is where the story begins, and it’s where the hero will start looking for answers.
And he'll look all over the web. If a toaster can receive 1,226 reviews, think how much research your customers will be doing on choosing a solution to a real problem of theirs.
The activity is where the hero experiences a struggle, in the face of his new situation. Whether it’s a dragon, or a dilemma, at this stage the hero has acknowledged his situation and attempted to resolve it.
Of course, his efforts fail him. Perhaps he can’t decide on which new service to use in place of his broken, old one. Perhaps the new problem is so nuanced that he can’t for the life of him figure out how to overcome it. Perhaps it’s so confusing he doesn’t know where to look or who to trust.
What does he do? What can he do? How will he defeat the dragon?
It’s the Change that alters the trajectory of the hero’s story. Up until now, everything seemed pretty hopeless for our hero. Here, with the Change, he gets access to the all-important ‘thing’ that changes everything.
The change it’s not always obvious, either. For example, in the movie "The Matrix", it wasn’t crazy world-manipulating, bullet-stopping super-abilities that changed Neo's story. It was belief.
In that story, your business is Morpheus. You’re equipping Neo with what he needs to succeed in his own story. You have the pills, you have the training, you have the resources to take Neo from 1337 hacker to superhero.
Equipped with his all-important ‘thing’, this is where our hero prevails over his struggle, dragon or situation.
The right course of action became clear, thanks to you, and everything from then on was a walk in the park. The change was successful, and victory is his!
It’s your job to help your heroes win. The dragon is fierce, but don’t let your heroes give up.
With his victory, comes his reward. This is where the hero’s win is rewarded. He gets his dream girl, the world is saved, and so on.
The Girl represents the benefit of the Win.
For example, as a result of signing up for your service, his problem vanishes, or he saves more money, or his vision is realized, or his community is benefited. He won. He’s a hero. And you helped become that hero.
At the time of writing, there are 1,075,443 children’s books in English on the North American version of Amazon. That’s a whole lot of books. That’s a whole lot of stories.
Stories are great, but if we don’t learn, then apply what we learn, what does it matter?
Telling your customer’s story boils down to understanding their story, then equipping and motivating them to become the hero of it.
When I first tried contact lenses at a local opticians store, the optician handed one to me and said, “go on, see if you can do it, I believe in you.”
I appreciated the sentiment, but without having any rapport with her, it felt a bit fake.
You can’t just start calling people heroes when you don’t know anything about them. If you do, you risk coming across as fake or annoying. You need to show your customers that you understand them first. Make your declaration of heroism feel educated and genuine.
The kind of learning required to pull this off will require you to dig deep. You have to go the extra mile. It’s a big part of what we talk about here on this blog: making a great experience, thorough user testing and persona development will all help you better understand your users.
Men and warriors alike need something to fight for, or they may wind up fight for the wrong thing. Your customers need something to overcome.
Thankfully, they likely arrived at your website because they know they have a problem already. It’s as important that you define your customer’s problem as it is to define your proposed solution.
Without a clearly defined problem - or dragon - how do they know when they’ve won? Or lost? And how do they know if you have the right way to overcome it?
Learn about your customers and learn about their dragons. Define the dragon for them. Make it real.
With the dragon clearly defined, it’s time to give your customers a sword and a shield. The best sword and shield on the market.
It’s also time to give them cheerleaders. Let them know they’re being rooted for as they make good decisions - affirm them in their decision making and empower them to take action.
Fairhead Creative is focused on motivating people to action. You need a little bit of that in your business: empower your customers to overcome their dragon, and encourage them along the way.
This plays directly into the last bullet. Motivating and encouraging your customers to see the fight through is integral to their success.
This is where many people give up. You know how it feels to have you interest wane, or energy drop, or attention divided. It’s a noisy world we live in. Seeing things through isn’t always easy.
Perseverance is hard on your own - things can become boring, or annoying, or confusing. Your job is to make it none of those things, and help them beat their dragon.
If they beat their dragon, help them see the results they’ve achieved. Oftentimes when a customer signs up for a service, they hear the same message from businesses whether they do a good job of using it or not.
Watch closely to see if they achieve their goals, and if they do, celebrate them! Show them the difference they’ve made.
Make them proud of what they’ve achieved. They achieved something. They got the girl. Make them so proud that they go Facebook-Official with their girl.
Every customer has a story, in every area of life. Whether it’s the story of how their emails weren’t getting delivered properly, or the story of how their hosting provider wouldn’t help them when their site went down, the list is endless.
And in every story, there’s an unknowing hero who has a situation, an activity, a change, a win and a reward.
Your task is to discover what stories are happening around your business.
What is your customer’s story?
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