Storytelling Techniques and Operationalizing Commercial Insight
Last week I reviewed how switching from the AIDA model to the Hero’s Journey could help you build better nurturing and content. Today, I’ll discuss how the famous Zuora Deck works using the Hero’s Journey. A secondary framework that leverages the Hero’s Journey is called Commercial Insight, which is detailed in CEB’s The Challenger Customer. A careful review of the two frameworks demonstrates the two methods are the same: using the same persuasive steps to help an audience take their journey with you.
Before we go further, there’s a reason I’m discussing storytelling techniques with you. Putting content into a nurturing stream is the easy part. Having something interesting to say is not as easy. Most companies (yours included), spend a lot of time blasting out messages across different channels. Those messages almost always say, without any proof, “My company is the greatest at X, you need X, so click here so we can sell you X.” I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all done it.
Even some of the great content marketers are prone to this promotion type. And there is a time to say you are the greatest. It’s almost never at the top or middle of the funnel. It’s just not. There is a better way to share your good news more effectively. If you are ready to listen, let’s take a look.
The Zuora Deck
The recent Zuora Deck post by Andy Raskin made the rounds this quarter. Mr. Raskin analyzed it, but only to a point. I went deeper, discovering the deck combines the powerful Hero’s Journey with Commercial Insight while embedding psychological influence triggers. The deck is so well constructed that the message is clear without a live narrator. Here’s my expanded storytelling analysis from the slides Mr. Raskin provided. (You can look at others here and here).
There’s a shift from the world we were in, to this new world.
This opening teases that there is a promised land for the audience, something more than what we do now. If you’re interested, perhaps it’s time to step beyond the Threshold of your current world.
There are winners and losers in this new world.
The people who stay behind will be losers. You don’t want to lose, do you? This is a deep loss aversion psychological trigger. It fits into the Hero’s Journey to get the lead to the Threshold of stepping outside of the old world.
What happened to the losers?
The losers are the companies of yesteryear who stayed behind. Still staying behind? Now this fear of missing out hits loss aversion again, attempting to make the pain of change seem less than the pain of losing.
Will you be a winner by joining us?
The mentor now reaches out her hand to pull you across the Threshold. What’s holding you back?
Others have taken the journey, shouldn’t you?
Oh, by the way, firms like yours, people like you, have already taken this journey with us. We can help you do this successfully, so don’t be afraid. The promised land awaits, and others are already there.
There is a path to winning, and it involves Zuora.
Stepping across the Threshold means you have us and our special tools to help you. Once you use us, you will make it to the promised land.
When done well, the prospect is prone to say something like, “Great, when can we begin work?” The conversation about money becomes secondary. There may be a competitor involved, often as a formality to say all options were examined.
What is Commercial Insight?
The commercial insight in the Zuora Deck is “the subscription economy is here and the successful firms made that change.” It sparks interest and can break an existing mindset in the audience, allowing them to question if they are competing in an old, or new, way. Lead nurturing is about helping tell this story, equipping buyers with this understanding so Sales can complete the journey in person.
“A Commercial Insight teaches the customer something new that reframes how they think about their own business, and leads uniquely back to you as a supplier.” –Pat Spenner, CEB.
Another way to think about it is if you were in a one-on-one conversation where you have to convince the buyer of your point of view. The way you do this is to lead them to this new conclusion by breaking their old reality. How you do this follows a consistent process. This is essentially what happens at military bootcamps and religious conversions. Of course, it won’t work on everyone all of the time.
One way to think about the Commercial Insight is it is the critical mission your firm is on. Perhaps it is the “Why” of Simon Sinek fame. Perhaps it is helping marketers tell a revenue based story (Marketo, Eloqua). If it exists at all, the insight is a fundamentally new understanding of a business. As the quote explains, that new understanding means requiring a new supplier, which is your firm.
Former salespeople may see a connection between Commercial Insight and the questioning techniques in SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. The Challenger Customer offers one method of digging into what your commercial insight is, however, I offer two other methods.
SPIN Selling Questioning
The summary is that proper research and questioning methods allow a salesperson to lead a prospect to the realization that they have a serious problem that wasn’t fully understood before. If you are still working on what your commercial insight is, I highly recommend this technique as part of your customer development process. Here’s an example that could have been part of Marketo’s early customer calls:
- Situation: how do you manage your email list now? How do you track success?
- Problem: what’s the biggest problem you have when explaining results? Was it hard to train the team to use this?
- Implication: if training marketers is hard and time consuming, what does that mean for your campaigns? If your CEO wants more leads, but you are having problems tying your efforts to spend, what does that mean?
- Need-Payoff: why is having a clear email to lead conversion ratio important to you? If you could see how marketing impacts the pipeline, how would that help you achieve revenue targets?
Try this out to see how the lead will make the sale for you.
Five Whys/Fishbone Diagram
The Five Whys with a Fishbone diagram can help work back from the problem statement the customer has. If the customer is concerned with high costs, you can ask “Why” until you have several variations on why and how costs impact their business. You may uncover a new understanding of how your unique value can solve the cost problem in ways that were not explained earlier. The book discusses how Xerox wanted to sell color copiers to K-12 schools that were under budget cuts. Color’s nice, but why do we really need it? It turns out that school administrators care deeply about student outcomes and that color materials were proven to engage students better and improve those outcomes. There’s always money to improve outcomes, right?
Consider your experience with any martech vendor. There’s rarely budget for new tools. What happens when the vendor discusses your need to be at the revenue table? What if you could demonstrate your marketing spend is driving revenue, and isn’t a cost? Wouldn’t that be worth something to you?
Embedding commercial insight into lead nurturing stories
Once you have articulated, and tested, the commercial insight, your nurturing programs and sales tools will fall into place more easily. When using commercial insight, the plan is to show the lead the path from their Current Beliefs, to a new set of Beliefs. Persuasion experts know this can only be done with some sort of shock that breaks the person out of their frame. Once a person is ready to accept the new reality, it becomes easy to share the Commercial Insight and offer to help them realize it.
And it is very interesting to see these steps align perfectly to the Hero’s Journey, which takes someone out of their current world and into a new one, full of adventure and success.
|Journey Stage||Funnel Stage||Buying Stage||Challenger Stage|
|Call to Adventure||Known||Learn||Learn|
|Mentor and Helpers||MQL||Assess Options||Frame-break|
|Challenges||SQL||Assess Options||Commercial Insight|
|Revelation||Opportunity||Are you the right one?||Insight & Benefits|
|Atonement||Closed-Won||Negotiate and Buy||Unique Benefits|
|Return and new world||Post Sale||Build new world||Build new world|
There is much, much more to this process that this blog post and deck can reasonably share with you. The rest is in the hard work to build out the details. Let me know how it goes!