This week it was 20 years since Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets book was published. Most people have read the Harry Potter series, but just in case you haven't, here's a quick summary (and bear with me because I promise there is a business point to this blog post):
A young boy who happens to be a wizard is faced with a big problem. The evil villain who killed his parents wants to kill him. What he wants is to find out the truth of who he really is.
But he has a few problems:
Luckily he has Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts school to guide him. Dumbledore has the authority to do this – he’s one of the all time great wizards. At the same time, he is fond of Harry and can really empathise with what the kid is going through.
He sets him a plan. Collect 7 Horcruxes (bits of Voldemort’s soul stashed in magical objects) and to destroy them. Sadly, he doesn’t give Harry all of the plan, forcing him to have to figure it out for himself. But he does leave him some pointers.
By the end of it (and without wanting to spoil the story for you), Harry can either fail and the world is plunged into doom, or Harry can succeed and save the world from evil while at the same time realising the truth about himself that he has been searching for.
It's a story that has made J.K Rowling a household name and a very wealthy woman. But the storytelling process used in this book - and most others - is the exact same process you can use for your business. Here's how it works:
Hero wants something. There’s a villain. He has several external, internal and philosophical problems. A guide comes along to give him a plan. He takes action. And the conclusion ends in success or failure. Ultimately the character is transformed.
So how does this relate to your marketing messages or brand story?
Harry is the hero. Your client is the hero.
Dumbledore is the guide. You are the guide.
Voldemort is the villain. Whatever your client’s problem is, that’s the villain.
Most companies make the story about themselves, not about their customer. If the Harry Potter books were told from the same perspective most businesses tell their stories, it would look like this:
A famous, very talented wizard is available to teach young wizards how to rid the world of evil villains. Dumbledore can rattle out a million spells and has a very fine wizard hat, cape and wand. He even has a pet phoenix. He has reams of testimonials from the Wizarding Council saying just what a stellar wizard he is. He recently helped a young wizard called Harry by teaching him how to track down and destroy an evil wizard. You should send him an owl if you’d like his evil villain slaying services.
If you were a boy wizard in need of this service, you might be compelled to get in touch with Dumbledore and enquire about his services. But isn't the story much more interesting when you put the character at the heart of the it?
Relook at your website. Is it written from a Dumbledore or a Harry perspective? If it's all about you and what makes you brilliant, you're making yourself the hero. You're being too Dumbledore. You need to be more Harry.
Customers want to be the hero. They are the one with a problem. They are on a journey to transform themselves and to do that they need a guide. That's you. Position yourself as such. Show them how you can help them but keep the story focus on them.
I'd love to claim this method as my own. But it actually comes from Donald Miller, whose book Storybrand, I read. I now help my clients tell their stories this way. I help them create a simple story that puts their customer at the heart of it, with clear messages about how they can help them, while taking your own back story, vision, misson, values and brand archetype into account.
It's not an easy thing to do. You really have to put yourself in the shoes of your clients. At the same time you have to cut out the noise that can make messages hazy and you need to keep checking that you're not making yourself the hero again. It's tough getting this right and may take several rewrites to perfect. But then again, most good stories do.
If you could do with this kind of help, get in touch or take a look at my CampfireClarity™ package. Let's make magic together.