Who's the hero?
I have heard Brad Barbeau of CSU Monterey Bay talk several times on the use of the hero's journey in marketing. And I like it. So I thought I would share it with you - along with how I have for years failed to apply it (of course I wasn't aware of it then).
The basic concept is that people communicate and think in narratives. Whenever you communicate with then, it's the story that counts. The Hero's journey is a narrative they are familiar with and thus they are likely to associate with it and act on it.
What is the narrative?
It's as old as the hills - updated to Star Wars (now pretty old as well).
|The element of the narrative||Who/what is it?||In Star Wars?||Example|
|The hero||Your customer||Luke Skywalker||You as a CEO|
|Beset by enemies||The things keeping them from success||The empire||Lack the full range of expertise, tools, contacts, and support to win over customer/investors/partners/ control costs / meet legal requirements / create barriers to entry and stickiness / build an effective team / create internal diligence documents and a deal room / or some of many other things (It's tough out there!)|
|Meets a guide||Your company||Obiwan (old Ben) Kanobi||Angel to Exit|
|Who brings them what they need||Your product/service||Luke learns about the force (service)||Brings you expertise, tools, contacts, and support|
|To help them win||Your customer wins||Luke blows up the death star||So you can find your path forward / get funded... be the hero CEO of your soon to be successful company|
|For now...||They need you again||Episode 5||You will eventually need to mature your company / grow it / get an exit, and of course we can help|
The last one is mine... after all, you want recurring revenue don't you?
That's pretty much it
So why do I keep typing? Well, .... because there's a bit more to it.
Brad did the hard part (he read Campbell's book). I did the easy part, telling it to you briefly. But there's a bit more to it...
The way you apply it to marketing (I am trying to but we will see...) is to:
Identify the hero: Who is your customer? What are their characteristics?
Identify the enemy: What is their challenge that you are going to help them overcome?
Be their guide: How do you present your value to them as a guide to help them find their path to overcoming their challenge?
Provide a solution: What is your solution and how does it help them?
Make them the hero: How are they now the hero that succeeds?
Again and again: How do you pay for the cost of customer acquisition?
And just to be clear, you might not want to present it that way. There are issues of messaging and presentation that I haven't gone into here.
I know - I keep coming back to it. As a company, you need to do this at a cost that allows you to make a profit in a finite time frame so you can grow and succeed by reinvesting. That means that the time to money and the number of "turns" per unit time have to be big enough to overcome the cost of being the guide while still helping the hero (your customer) succeed. Obiwan was apparently a retiree living on a pension in the middle of nowhere who died helping Luke as his last act as a living being (yes I know he lived past death, but that's a whole different narrative). My goal is to help you grow as a company and thrive while helping your customer achieve their goals. Which means your company has to live on.
"There is no try - there is only do - or do not". That's from Star Wars as Yoda teaches Luke to become one with and use / be used by the force. Of course in my world, I seem to have to try in order to do. If I do not try, I do not do. So if the force is with you and you don't have to try to do, then you likely don't need a guide. Let (May) the force be your guide (with you).
But unless you are strong with the force, and until you become a startup / funding / growth / exit Jedi knight, like Han Solo, you will have to hone your skills and try, get a little help from your friends, and win the day even when the force is not fully your ally.
That's the hard part
Of course, as the hero, you are the one that has to overcome your adversity in order for your company to succeed. Just as I have to do over time for Angel to Exit to continue to succeed. I do it by always trying to learn and apply what I learn, as you should.
As your guide, Angel to Exit can only advise you - provide you with knowledge of the force - the nature of the world. We can suggest alternatives, help you work out feasible paths forward, provide access to our tools and techniques, help you use them, introduce you to folks who can help you in whatever phase you are in when the time is right, and help you cope with the enemies that beset you.
But you have to overcome the obstacles in front of you. Because the evil of failure can only be overcome by you - our hero!
For the non-science fiction fans among us, "The Illyad" and "Oh Brother!" can be used as the more classic version of the narrative and the modern movie example. Of course the more you look, the more examples you will find.
These examples are themselves couched as narratives here, and the more you look at it, the more you are likely to see that anything and everything we think and communicate may be considered in light of the lens of a narrative (thanks again Brad for the discussion). It's not the only way to think about it - but it's a good one to consider.
And per Columbo... one more thing. You are our hero, but your customer is your hero. To be a hero, you need to make others their own hero.
Copyright(c) Fred Cohen, 2018 - All Rights Reserved