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Storytelling That SellsPart 2: Throw Your Features and Benefits in the Trash. Use Stakes Instead.

In our series, Storytelling That Sells, we analyze the components of a good story that grab people’s attention. Today, we focus on The Stakes. Catch up on part one, The Customer as Hero here.  

What’s at stake for your prospect? What do they stand to gain or lose by using or not using your product?

If you don’t know, how can you expect to sell them?

Most companies use terms like “value props” or “benefits” to help describe their product.

The result? Bland and boring copy.

Instead, let’s look at the concept of stakes, what they are, and how to use them. This simple storytelling tactic will snap your marketing to life and help you sell better and earn more.

STAKES: the consequences of taking (or not taking) action.

Remember Lord of the Rings? Frodo and his trusted friend, Samwise, must travel to Mordor and throw the ring into Mount Doom before Sauron’s agents snatch it for themselves and destroy Middle Earth.

If Frodo fails, Sauron will rise, bringing with him a new age of evil, decay, and destruction. If he succeeds, he will defeat Sauron and save Middle Earth.

In other words, there are consequences to Frodo’s actions. These are the stakes.

The same is true for your prospects. What they choose to do, or not to do, has consequences. 

Your job is to define the stakes for them. Ask yourself “What do prospects stand to gain by using our solution? What will they lose by not using our solution?”

Three types of stakes

Stakes can be internal, external, and philosophical. (Other types exist, but for our purposes we’re going to focus on these three.)

External stakes

External stakes refer to the physical consequences of a prospect reaching or not reaching their goal. In Lord of the Rings, the external stakes of Frodo throwing the ring into Mount Doom are the destruction of Middle Earth, as well as his own life and the lives of those he loves. 

TIP: Think of it as an “If … then” statement.  “If X happens, then Y will/will not happen.”

EXAMPLE: “If I don’t deliver the kind of online experience today’s consumers expect, I will lose engagement and revenue.“

Internal stakes

Internal stakes refer to what’s on the line for the prospect emotionally. 

EXAMPLE: “If I don’t simplify the user experience, I’m afraid my business will suffer. I’d feel horrible if I or my staff had to take a pay cut.“

Philosophical stakes

Philosophical stakes speak to a person’s sense of morals or ethics. They refer to the way things “should be.” A great wrong exists in the world that needs fixing.

EXAMPLE: “Users shouldn’t have to spend so much time navigating this system, and my staff shouldn’t be doing so much manual work on the backend. This should be easier.“

Now that we understand the three types of stakes, let’s look at how to use them in marketing.

Use stakes to build a bridge

Once you’ve established what’s on the line for your prospect, make it real by creating a journey. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Define Point A as where they are right now. This is their current state of fear, disappointment or stress.
  • Define Point B as where they will be after using their product. Show them how much better their life will be when their problem is removed.
  • Build a “before and after bridge.” Show them specifically how your solution will take them from Point A to Point B.

In our example above, you could reiterate how an overly complicated experience is hurting the consumer and costing engagement (Point A). However, a new solution can easily create an intuitive experience that consumers love. It will also free staff from doing so much rework on the backend (Point B). But if we want to really drive an emotional impact, we’ll want to highlight one other important moment.. 

The “ahh” moment

Have you ever lost your keys? You’ve searched your house, your car, retraced your steps on your walk, and finally — finally — you find them in your jacket pocket.

That feeling of relief is what you want in your “ahh” moment.

KEY POINT: The “Ahh” moment is the feeling of relief a prospect gets when they’ve found the solution to their problem.

Find the moment. Visualize it. Use it to ground your prospect. Once they feel the “ahh” moment, they won’t forget it.

Struggling to find your story? You’re not alone. At fuoco, we’ve helped many B2B healthcare companies craft their message, differentiate themselves in the market, and use storytelling to grow their business.

Need help telling your story and growing your business? Send us a message or give us a call at (615) 866-9368.

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