How to Make Your Customers the Hero of Your Story

I use the idea of hero a fair amount when I talk about what we do. I don’t use it in an egotistic way, more aspirational really than anything. I think aspiring to be a hero to someone is a good thing.

kindercapes via Flckr CC

You can substitute leader if you like, but I love the image of hero because I think it paints a much more vivid illustration of the whole package – struggle, denial, acceptance, achievement, and purpose.

While I think it’s important that you and your business strive to be the hero in somebody’s story, I think it’s equally important that you understand how to position your customer or community as the hero of your story.

Below are some of my thoughts on how you do this and if you find yourself thinking this sounds a bit like crafting a screenplay, it’s because there’s a bit of that art to it. In fact, there’s a book I would recommend to anyone that takes this idea to heart. It’s called Save the Cat – The last book you’ll ever need on screenwriting by Blake Snyder.

Learn their backstory – Before you can really thrust you customer into the hero’s role you have know who they are and you find that out by knowing where they came from, what’s bugging them and what they really would rather have that they don’t.

This kind of information isn’t rentable, you have to dig, and it’s starts with asking, listening and paying close attention. I don’t know how you could manage this, but I’ve always thought the greatest marketing research tool you could ever create is family dinner. You could learn more than you would ever need about a person by going with them to their parent’s house for dinner one Sunday.

So, short of that, how could you learn what makes them tick. Spend time and earn the right to learn about them outside of your business context. Follow everything they share in social media, it’s a lot like Sunday dinner in there at times.

There is no greater way to earn trust than to demonstrate you understand someone’s story.

Give them an antagonist – Every great story has a bad guy or girl, it’s what makes us cheer for the good guy or girl.

There are times when you draw your customer closer by simply helping them understand who or what the antagonist is. Sometimes they don’t even realize what the problem is that your business can solve. Many times you have to help them see the extent of the enemy’s grip.

Now, more often than not the word antagonist here is simply a metaphor for a challenge like leaking profit, poor time management, wasted effort, lost opportunity, living in pain, or needless risk, but you have to help them understand what they are up against.

Call them to duty – In order for someone to be a hero they must be called – they must have an idea to serve.

Your marketing story must give them hope that they have the power to overcome whatever the challenge is. I know this is starting to sound a little dramatic, but that’s the point, a connection to a higher purpose or at least a meaningful idea is much stronger than simply trying to convince someone that they need what you have to offer.

In order to create impact in the life of your customer they need to feel like what you have to offer is hope and empowerment. Those are pretty strong words and you’ve got to believe them if your customer is going to be the center of your story.

Help them persevere – Once you’ve demonstrated that you know who your customer is, you know what a rough time they’ve endured trying to results and you know what the future overcoming their challenges might look for them, you’ve got to be prepared to demonstrate you’ll be there with them until they do overcome.

I guess you could demonstrate this most easily in your sales, service and follow-up, but it must be a part of the story that your customer understands is a given.

Free them – Finally, help them understand the results they’ve received, help them measure just how far they’ve come, how much impact they’re making on your business and perhaps in the lives of those they now impact.

Since I’m attempting to apply these rather abstract ideas to no particular business I know some will find this idea a bit confusing at best.

Here’s my suggestion, grab a piece of marketing copy you currently share with customers and ask yourself this series of questions:

  • Does it demonstrate they we get who they are?
  • Does it paint a picture of the real challenges they face?
  • Does it provide hope for what a future without those challenges could be like
  • Does it give a solution for how those challenges could be addressed?
  • Does it offer proof that others are indeed experiencing these results?
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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Rosie Taylor

    It’s brilliant how you equated the process of creating a story to writing a screenplay. Many great business stories don’t get told because the owner doesn’t see it or they are humble about their accomplishments. By putting the customer as the hero, it’s easier to see why a great story helps to tell people why you’re different. Now I have to go over to Amazon and pick up Save the Cat.

  • Frank Pipitone

    Excellent post.  I am a bankruptcy lawyer and I was already trying to implement these ideas with my clients.   

  • Chicago Suburb Events

    As much as I love hearing that I saved the day from my clients, I love hearing even more how they took what help I gave and helped someone else. Thats when you feel the best that you are not only helping but teaching and reaching more people than you expected to do. That is thanks enough, as any hero will tell you is not necessary but appreciated.

  • Chicago Suburbs Events

    I went through our brochures and asked the 5 questions and we are already revising. Thanks.

  • Nicole Elmore

    Great post!
    It is important to make your customer feel like it is all about them. Make sure you always provide value to your customers. Ultimately, happy customers will increase customer retention and are a great source of word-of-mouth marketing.

    Feel free to check out my Business Blog.

  • Tyra

    Hey John, I think this is a great idea. Customers likes to get all the importance and the attention and your suggestions are good as well. This is wonderful. Thanks for sharing it!