I specialize in audience-centered brand storytelling, and my favorite aspect of onboarding a new client is discovering the bits and pieces that culminate into a narrative.
As a little girl, I remember sitting at my grandfather’s knee, listening to stories about WWII, growing up in the South, inventing contraptions, and bizarre friends. The topic didn’t matter as much as the time spent learning from a real storyteller. Whether we were wandering through a forest learning about birds and plants or reliving a distant event, he knew how to keep things interesting.
Thanks to Grandpa, I learned stories capture our attention by striking an emotional cord. This is true of brand stories and applies to any product.
Establishing credibility as a company means demonstrating an understanding of the pains customers face. You’re solving a problem with personal impacts, not just providing a technical fix. An essential aspect of your narrative will be social proof.
The driver for most high-value purchases is emotion. We want referrals from friends or an endorsement from a trusted influencer. Price or specific features are important but typically don’t outweigh negative feedback from a peer.
Digital content strategy should revolve around making a connection with your buyer. Even if your product is technical! Technical buyers are more emotional than we’d like to admit. They don’t make purchase decisions based solely on technical specs. They’ve been burned by vaporware and ask people in their social network whether they’ve heard of a vendor. They want recommendations and assurance.
What is a Brand Narrative?
A brand narrative isn’t about your company or the product.
A brand narrative tells a story about a customer’s struggle, the solution to their problem, and their life after the solution is implemented. A brand narrative should be all about the ideal customer: the difficulties they face, how these problems impact their lives, and, yes, how a product solves their problems and improves their lives.
Focusing on technical features and differentiators from word one is a common mistake. People want to kick off their presentation or website with a claim that they’re the number one premium provider of the product.
The problem is, anyone can be creative and find a way to make these claims.
Consumers are skeptical. Just look at how news outlets are viewed by either political party. It’s not enough to claim something or even supply evidence. People have to feel like it’s true.
Once developed, a brand narrative serves as the backbone for all future major pieces of content. It should be consulted when establishing or redesigning a website, used as the foundation for your pitch deck, and inform your content strategy.
Who Should Have a Brand Narrative?
Not everyone needs a brand narrative. If you’ve got a simple product that offers a straight-forward solution with zero competitors, you can skip developing a narrative.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you will benefit from a brand narrative:
Most of us can benefit from a brand narrative. I’m a freelance writer, and I absolutely need one to help differentiate myself from my many, many competitors. Even if you have a simple product and zero competitors, a brand narrative can help you tell a cohesive story about your company in a way that appeals to customers.
Who Should Design Your Narrative?
I know many business owners who have tried to form their narrative and are confused about why people don’t get it. They don’t understand why friends don’t respond positively to their elevator pitch or why they ask questions to clarify what they do.
As a novelist, I learned very quickly that I should not edit my work. After spending months staring at the same words, they start to run together. Backstories I’ve created in my mind don’t make it on the page, and characters make confusing decisions without knowing their backstory.
The same happens with business owners. It becomes tempting to focus on the technical innovations that make the product unique and efficient. Many come up with new terms for their niche product.
New terms lack meaning and are often confusing. While technical buyers will eventually want to know the details behind how your product works, they won’t trust a word you say until you prove your product does what your marketing department promises.
Customers just want to know if you’ll solve their problem and be a trustworthy business partner.
Hire an Expert
If your marketing department is very lean or you are a marketer heading a lean department, consider outsourcing to a freelance specialist.
If you’ve got open headcount, find a marketer who fixates on telling your customer the perfect story. You’ll need someone who’s technical enough to understand which metrics to track to determine whether the messaging is effective.
Even if you have a large team, an outside perspective can be tremendously helpful.
DIY With Guidance
If you’re in the seed fund stage and need to run on a very lean budget, you can teach yourself. Read The Challenger Sale, Gap Selling, and Contagious: Why Things Catch On then study Andy Raskin’s perfect sales narrative.
Take notes of competitor messages you like and words you hate. Develop your narrative using the guidelines and template I’ve provided below. Try it out on friends, family, and coworkers.
The real test is whether your pitch deck or website resonates with your target audience.
Research Your Ecosystem
Before you can build a narrative, you need a deep understanding of the accounts you’ll be targeting. You’ll need to determine how many primary customer profiles you have (the people making the purchase decision). You’ll need to decide whether or not you have influencers (people who find your company and advocate for your product but don’t have purchasing control). It’s also an excellent exercise to determine whether these two groups are the end-users of your product and any gatekeepers.
Using a children’s book as an example:
Using marketing automation software as an example:
Define Your Buyer’s Problem
When I ask business owners this question, I hear, “They don’t have our product.”
Why did you build the product? You noticed a gap in the market. What made you see this gap? Did you experience the pain of inadequate solutions yourself or watch others struggle?
Let’s say you sell digital storage with unique analytics capabilities.
Your prospect’s problem isn’t a lack of storage options or analysis.
It’s a lack of time. They’re so busy writing reports and trying to mine network traffic that they’re missing areas to optimize their storage and prevent future breakdowns.
It’s a lack of visibility. They’re missing potential risks. Not knowing what failed adds time to find a fix, which goes back to a lack of time.
It’s a lack of respect. Because the tools they’re working with are limited, they look like they don’t know what they’re doing, especially when executives expect their network always to be functioning.
Starting your introduction with empathy for your prospect’s problems will go over much better than merely telling them they need your product.
How You Solve Their Problem
Your product is the solution to your prospect’s problem, but how you solve it needs to be framed from the prospect’s perspective. Give them an outcome, then follow it up with how you reach the outcome. Make your copy relevant to a specific audience.
For example, if your product is a marketing analytics solution and you’re selling to a CFO:
Allocate Resources By Proven Impact
It’s frustrating to sit through a budget conversation that doesn’t tie an investment back to revenue. When every marketing tool is integrated with your CRM, ROI data is at your fingertips. You can even view progress on new initiatives in real time.
You know a CFO’s primary concern (aka problem) is maximizing their returns on investment. With a marketing tech stack that’s fully integrated (your product), they can finally have budget conversations with CMOs that are data-driven (their problem solved).
If you were selling the same product to a CMO, you would frame the same solution differently:
Prove Marketing ROI Without Question
Integrating your entire tech stack allows for easy access to marketing ROI. When early funnel activity can be tied to sales productivity, it’s easy to advocate for the tools necessary to be effective. These insights also make marketing’s value a no-brainer.
You know a CMO’s primary concern (aka problem) is proving their team is producing pipeline and revenue. With a marketing tech stack that’s fully integrated (your product), they can finally do their job without everyone second-guessing them (their problem solved).
List multiple outcomes/solutions by target persona. Keep them laser-focused on your target profile, make it clear that your product is different from competitors, and highlight how your company is special.
This is the most crucial part of a brand narrative. Not only will prospects be more likely to believe what your customers have to say about you than your marketing department, but you’ll also be able to validate that your key outcomes/solutions are aligned with what your target audience cares about.
If your customers rave about features you didn’t think to include (such as outstanding customer support), figure out what to throw out and incorporate the new finding into your outcome list.
Customer evidence can be hard to get, especially for fledgling companies. Whenever you sign up a beta customer, make sure to set expectations early that you’ll be asking for feedback. If you’ve spoken with a customer and they were willing to rave about you over the phone but they don’t have a great email response rate, try drafting a quote for them using their words that they can approve or change as needed.
The less work you ask them to do, the more likely you’ll get a positive response.
The Brand Narrative Template
To help illustrate the final output I deliver to my customers, I’ve populated the brand narrative template below with my own business values and goals. This is done after researching their current web presence, social media accounts, and a minimum of one hour spent with the client asking detailed questions about the current state of their company and their future vision.
Keep in mind this isn’t the format I would use for a web page or pitch deck, but elements would be used and reused for many company assets.
My top priority is bringing my customer’s unique voice and personality to the forefront.
I believe in celebrating diversity and that inclusion should be a given. My customer’s culture should be respected and preserved.
Every engagement is important and must be carried out with transparency, authenticity, and respect.
Trust is everything, and connecting with customers only happens with authentic communication.
Quality is more important than quantity.
Our goal is to connect with readers on an emotional level while adhering to data-driven practices
Technology Startup Founder/Marketer
You're focused on customer acquisition, but you have a suspicion your message isn't hitting the mark.
I focus on your target audience’s problems and then highlight why you’re the solution using evidence and storytelling. In today’s market, trust is everything, and connecting with customers only happens with authentic communication.
It’s Hard to Rise Above the Noise (The Problem)
You developed a cutting-edge product engineered like none other. You're proud, and you should be!
It's not easy to meet user demands, let alone plan for the future.
Now you're focused on customer acquisition and retention, but you have a suspicion your message isn't hitting the mark.
Customers Want Solutions, Not Features (Why Change)
A cloud-native IoT scale-across hybrid-enabled security-conscious application isn't enough to inspire the most technical of audiences.
Sure, they'll want to know how the product works. Eventually.
But their main concern is solving a problem painful enough to push them to consider a change.
Connect With Your Customers (Why Us)
Camela specializes in creating customer-centric brand narratives. We'll focus on your target audience’s problems and then highlight why your product is the solution using evidence and storytelling.
In today’s market, trust is everything, and connecting with customers only happens with authentic communication. That’s why Camela applies her values to her own work. Camela handles every client engagement with authenticity, transparency, and respect.
Whether you’re redesigning your website or developing a content strategy, Camela can help.
What Her Customers Say
"Camela has been a huge help in developing and refining our company's message to our various stakeholders, honing and articulating our value proposition, content optimization and web infrastructure improvements, and overall company branding. Camela's help, advice and guidance have been instrumental in taking our business to the next level." — Neil Jirele, Founder/CEO of AppyHour
"Camela is legit. She stepped right into a tight turnaround and delivered above and beyond what we were expecting. So much so that we're now working with her on a regular basis. And each and every time she's delivered superb work. Can't say enough about how much I enjoy working with her." — Chris Nixon, VP Growth of CaliberMind
“Our marketing and sales orgs love having Camela on board as she always has the entire marketing and sales process in mind. Camela excels in understanding and delivering messaging on the customer journey from unware to conversion. It's a true joy working with Camela- she takes the challenge away from content creation and has turned it into a process I look forward to!” — Whitney Wiliams, Strategic Partnerships at aboutGOLF
“Camela operates with a high degree of precision and commitment, with well-timed and effective communications. She was an indispensable member of my team at Qumulo and I would hire her again, in an instant.” — Peter Zaballos, Member of the Board of Advisors at Simplata Technologies
Why Camela? (Key Outcomes/Benefits)
A Writer Who Puts Your Voice First
Camela’s top priority is bringing your company’s unique personality to the forefront. She believes in celebrating diversity and that inclusion should be a given. Your voice should be respected and preserved.
Worry-Free Client-Facing Representation
Camela is an articulate professional who has extensive experience interfacing with customers and executives. Whether you need copy created from scratch or existing copy revised to meet new guidelines, she can help.
Technical Content Made Simple
Finding a talented writer who understands technical concepts can be a challenge. After fifteen years in the technology industry, Camela’s experience as a system administrator and analyst give her a solid foundation for picking up the nuances of your technology
Quality Content, Measurable Results
In this age, it isn't enough to publish a high volume of content. You need a writer who is skilled at connecting with readers on an emotional level and understands technical practices. SEO optimization and social sharing strategies are incorporated into every article.
Call to Action
Camela is considering new clients at this time, but space is very limited. Contact her today.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.