Richard Fouts

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Richard Fouts
Research Vice President
2 years at Gartner
23 years IT industry

Richard Fouts guides digital marketers on best practices for evaluating and deploying emerging digital marketing techniques to ensure marketers make fully informed decisions about their marketing investments. With extensive experience in brand management and marketing communications ... Read Full Bio

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Why Marketers Omit the Most Important Part of Their Story

by Richard Fouts  |  November 22, 2013  |  3 Comments

Have you ever known anyone who triumphed over extraordinary circumstances? Sure, we all have.

  • Seven years ago, doctors told my youngest sister she had four months to live. She proved them wrong by fighting back hard – and today she’s back on the stage, pursuing her theatre career with a vengeance (doing four shows per year).
  • In Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, Lou Gerstner recalls a time when his company was hemoraging cash, so dramatically that bankruptcy was imminent (his turnaround plan brought IBM back, even breaking its pervious performance records).
  • When a couple of 18-year-olds (Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning) launched a publically available mp3 file sharing platform, it was shut down by court order (but re-emerged to re-define an entire industry).

As marketers your stories may be as dramatic as this, but you have some good ones. Stories of customers who conquered the impact of a tough situation – with solutions that you provided. Yes, you were the shining knight on the white horse. Perhaps you helped save a business, or brought a product back from the dead, or maybe you impacted a  decision that sent a campaign into the stratosphere.

Whether a story features an aspiring actor, the CEO of a global corporation or a kid in a dorm room, overcoming impact creates story drama. And as ordinary humans, we tend to remember those stories.

But as marketers, we tend to omit the impact part of our tales. That’s unfortunate, because without impact, there’s no urgency to act. Without impact, there’s no business case.

If the impact part of the story is this critical, why is it so often omitted?  Because it’s hard work. Stories of how your solution mitigated (or exploited) quantifiable impact takes some effort. But it’s worth the dig. If you can cite real impact, you’ll join the pool of memorable stories, versus those that are forgotten as soon as they are told.

Your story doesn’t have to have a mind-blowing, game-changing impact. One of my favorites is from the Ford Motor Company – with stories of shoppers whose full hands impact their ability to open the darn trunk …

When shoppers approach their vehicle, they have their hands full, which is why the trunk of the Ford Focus opens with a simple wave of the foot — beneath the rear bumper.

Or this one from my older brother, who has stopped blaming his children for an impact that caused him to sacrifice his favorite toy…

My sportscar became impractical after we had the twins and I dreaded giving it up, but now that I have my Mercedes SUV I wonder why I waited so long to buy it.

Or this one from a provider of perishable goods:

My bakers collectively throw out a ton of food each day, because they can’t anticipate buyer behavior. Now, with predictive analytics they know what to sell – and when - which has increased profits in our European stores by 20%.

Hopefully you’re observing a pattern in these stories, where negative impact – is crushed  by the marketer’s solution.  So before you launch into your product story, take a step back and consider your buyer’s situation – and the impact it is creating on things such as productivity, time-to-market, employee morale, or the bottom line.

The higher the impact, the better the business case.  The better the business case, the higher the urgency to act.


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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 maillot football pas cher   November 28, 2013 at 3:30 am

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  • 2 David H Deans   November 29, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Richard, you raised the question why marketers avoid detailing the challenges that were encountered on the path towards a solution — I may know the answer. It’s very common for marketers to want to make their case studies seem painless for customers. But I agree, that’s not a complete or realistic story.

    Moreover, we know that the Hero’s Journey is often used as a model for explaining the power of storytelling in entertainment, but it’s very hard to get marketers to adopt this proven approach. Likewise, when I try to get clients to describe the back-story of how they achieved an outcome, most don’t want to share that additional insight.

  • 3 Marketers omit important part of story | Marketing Foro   January 20, 2014 at 12:53 am

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