I’ve never had a problem staring at a blank page for hours on end. It’s always been easy for me to sit down and type. Don’t get me wrong. I probably don’t type about anything useful, but, the actual act of writing creates momentum that always takes me in a useful direction. Years of storytelling experience has taught me little tricks that help find that momentum–the most valuable being the test. I first wrote about testing in The Four-letter Word that Drives all Stories and will expand upon the concept today.

Tests work because they force something to happen. Positive test results indicate that things are on track while negative ones indicate that something must change. In other words, negative test results signal the beginning of a story while positive tests signal the end of one. And therein lies the rub for marketers who seek to be budding business storytellers. The problem is that most upper management forces their marketing teams to wear blinders that only allows them to see the positive test results. And that keeps the team from finding the real stories.

Think about the initial reaction a prospect had when first introduced to your product or service. Did the person like it? Was the reaction strong or tepid? Or perhaps the reaction was mixed—where the product fit from a functional perspective, but was too expensive, or the price was right, but adopting it would require massive changes in the way the customer did business. Such negative test results offer the beginnings of potentially great stories because something must change. Perhaps the customer will negotiate the price, find additional budget, or uncover an innovative way to transition from the old system to the new.

Negative tests are the basis for a cause-effect relationships and force counter-reactions. The stronger the negative test result, the stronger the counter-reaction, and the more interesting the story.

So, the next time you’re seeking marketing stories, try a test. Test your customer’s assumptions, theories, and their wills. If the results are positive, do one of two things: end the story or keep testing. Once you hit a negative test result, you’ll have found the beginning of your next story.


Photo Credit: Cassinelli, Pete, Bob Cassinelli, and William A Wilson. Bulldozer Freeing Tractor Stuck in Mud. , 1978. May. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/ncr000652/.