This new book, by Peter Guber, should just be labeled the manual for How to Tell Purposeful Stories. As the head of Mandalay Entertainment Group, a film producer, a professor at UCLA and a contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Peter knows story, and how to apply it in a business setting. Not just what makes a good story, but how to put purpose into one to motivate people to do what you need.
Tell to Win will be useful to anyone from executives to salespeople to actors and more, but I find it very inspiring from a marketing perspective. After all, isn’t our entire profession based upon our ability to convince, motivate and persuade people to trust and buy from the companies we represent?
Once you start reading this book, you won’t be able to put it down. But here’s what I want B2B marketers to do, while reading. Recognize that the power of an oral narrative can translate to a written one. Heck, the book is a clear example of that. (regardless that the power of the written story is downplayed in the book, which I'd argue with - especially given his delivery system of a book) This said, ignore that and start thinking about how you can help your prospects and customers share stories about the ideas you share with them as you read.
Here are a few examples of how to read this book as a transformational tool for your marketing stories:
Riding on the Story that Runs Your Audience – essentially this section makes the case for personas. It talks about the effort one goes through if they don’t address the underlying factors of concern for the person you’re trying to motivate. The better connection you can make in regards to what they care about, the more apt your story will be to convince them to do what you need them to. If you don’t put the time in to learn what inspires as well as concerns your target audience (goals vs. risks), your chances of persuading them to do anything are diminished.
The story that runs your audience, as well as the story that runs you is considered backstory. In the book, Peter recounts the explanation given to him by Deepak Chopra:
“Backstories, he explained, emerge out of our memories of past experiences, imagination, and desire. ‘You create stories around these thoughts. Then you live out those stories and you call it life.’”
The Missing Link in Business – I’m sure you’re all aware of the amount of information that’s deluging all of us every day – including your prospective customers. Much of it is disregarded and overlooked because it has no meaning associated to it for us. Humans need to apply meaning to information in order to remember it. This is why feeds and speeds information about our products, waving our arms about our company’s achievements and talking about how great we are falls on deaf ears. It has no meaning for our audience. In essence, it’s not relevant and—without meaning—they don’t care.
Peter shares a story about how print, video and booklets didn’t influence people at World Bank “because the presentations didn’t feel genuine or authentic. However, when the same stories were told person-to-person, audiences listened closely and repeated them to others. The more the audience trusted the speaker, the more they trusted the authenticity of the telling…”
I’ve written and talked a lot about how marketers need to get stories into our prospects’ minds and help them visualize and ingest our ideas so they feel inspired to go tell others about them, discuss the opportunity and do so in relation to the expertise we share. Although Peter’s book is focused on oral storytelling, this example makes the case for the necessity of taking the time to build credibility and trust with our audiences as valuable resources of meaningful information. We can’t just toss out a white paper every quarter and expect people to believe us. No meaning, no memory.
“[W]hen someone tells us a story with data tucked inside, our brains cleverly lock the data onto the feelings we experience while listening to that story. Then, when the information is recalled, so is our feeling of that tell. The more rewarding our experience of the tell, the more positive our view of the data is likely to be.”
Peter makes the point that the more educated we become, the more conceptual and impersonal we become. “[O]ur educational system puts a premium on intellectual reasoning at the expense of emotion.” However, it’s important to realize that all of us tell stories. We just don’t realize that we do. If you really think about how we have conversations, our native language is storytelling. It’s been so since the beginning. It’s how we learn and evolve and how we interact within our communities. Just because we go to the office doesn’t mean a switch is flipped.
Essentially, the better marketers can get at using storytelling to engage their prospects, customers and communities, the better will be their power to connect and persuade people to choose to do business with their companies.
These are only a couple of examples in the early part of the book. It’s jampacked with insights, examples and, of course, stories as anecdotes that will help you transform the way you think about marketing content. The true value is in catching those light-bulb moments where you realize how to create stories that will motivate the action you need. If the red underlines and margin notes peppering my copy are any indication, there are a lot of those moments in this book.
In fact, buy a copy for every member of your team. It’s the best book on storytelling that I’ve read in quite some time.