Most business success stories sound like the worst fairytale ever:
Once upon a time, someone had a problem.
Then they found our product and lived happily ever after.
This isn’t a success story. It’s a suck-cess story.
Suck-cess stories lack drama and consequence. They’re neat little packages of unremarkable facts topped with a cute bow. The problem with suck-cess stories is that life doesn’t work that way. Everything including products and services has flaws.
The StoryHow Institute’s mantra is that a story is the result of people pursuing what they want. Business storytellers understand that when humans pursue their wants, things get messy. So, rather than shying away from such imperfections like marketers, storytellers seek them out by asking messy questions:
- What are the implications of not solving the problem?
- Will solving this problem create another one?
- What risks are associated with someone buying our product? Internal politics? External perceptions? Personal or professional repercussions?
The answers to such questions form the real backbone of any success story. They’re the details that help listeners see themselves in the story. But for some reason, marketers feel compelled to streamline their success stories. They cram their obsequious copy with silly little terms. My favorite? “Seamless.”
- Our seamless business process.
- Our seamless software interface.
- Our products integrate seamlessly with your (fill-in-the-blank).
Folks, there’s no such thing as a seamless process. Everything has flaws. Flaws make stories interesting. Our attention is drawn to them. And when something is presented without flaws, our natural curiosities drive us to look for them.
So, it begs the question. if flaws are normal, why do marketers compulsively gloss over them? The answer can be described in one word. Trust. Marketers don’t trust their audiences. They lack faith in their listener’s ability to draw conclusions. They believe that any flaw (or seam) will result in a lost sale. Therefore, marketers continue their foolish attempts to lead lemming-like audiences off predetermined cliffs by spinning, obscuring or tap dancing around their seams.
The next time you’re asked to write a success story, think like a storyteller. Embrace the messiness. Describe how your customer struggled to finally choose your product. Have faith in your audience’s ability to deal with life’s imperfections, because it’s what they do it every day.
Oh, and one more thing. Unless you’re a sailmaker, tailor, or seamstress, you probably shouldn’t be using “seamless” in your marketing copy.
Photo Credit: Harris & Ewing, photographer. “Betsy Ross of the Capitol.” Washington, D.C. [March 2, 1937] Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/hec2009008972/.