When I was in college, there was a central area of campus flanked by five buildings that was called the Pentacrest. There was always a certain person with a large presence in that area. We called him the Pentacrest Preacher. Day after day he would position himself along the sidewalks of the Pentacrest when large numbers of students were walking by, shouting his message of sin and repentance. We all heard him, but there was one problem – no one was listening.
According to traditional marketing ideas, the preacher was doing everything right. He identified his target market. He crafted a targeted message with a clear call to action. He found out where his target market was located, and when they were there. He positioned himself in that place at the right time, and shouted to make sure he was heard. Right place, right time, clear message… but no impact.
To us, the Pentacrest Preacher was an object of ridicule. He was in our space, but he hadn’t earned our attention. He hadn’t shown us he deserved our ears, our minds, and our hearts. Too many marketing campaigns operate the same way. A targeted message with a clear call to action means nothing if it isn’t accepted and acted upon. As a marketing firm or company, you can’t just barge into your customers’ space and expect to be heard. You have to earn your place. You have to deserve your audience.
Tell Meaningful Stories
The preacher on campus shouted insults at students and told them they were destined for demise. Obviously this doesn’t capture the hearts and minds of young people. What is your company’s message? Are you telling meaningful stories that connect with the real lives of the people you address? It isn’t enough just to yell out your benefits or the pain of being without your products and services. You have to craft a story.
A story has several elements. There’s a beginning, an apex, and a conclusion. There are compelling characters. There’s a conflict, and often a hero that saves the day. Think about your target audience and what resonates with them. What things cause conflict? What heroes save their day? How can you insert your brand story into that narrative in a way that’s authentic and compelling? Once you can tell that story, you will begin to gain your audience’s real attention.
Provide Real Value
Once you begin to weave your story, make sure your brand provides real value to your target market. If you find that you’re forcing a fit, you may need to back up and re-evaluate your ideal customer. Understand what your key competencies are, and what important problem you solve. Your customer should be someone who has that problem and is looking for the solution.
The next step is to intertwine the story with the value. Use the characters and conflicts that exist in your target market’s current framework. Create meaning with your narrative. Authentically present your product as the hero who can save the day. When you create a compelling story that meets your customer where they are, but then takes them on to where they want to be, you will have earned your place in their space.
Does that all sound fluffy? I’m not asking you to put cute kittens in every blog post (although they have an odd tendency to go viral). However, it’s of vital importance that you understand the stories that already exist in your target market’s space and integrate yourself into that narrative. Without that, you’ll simply be like the Pentacrest Preacher – right place, right time, clear message… no impact.
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