We’ve all experienced bad storytelling at some point in our lives: the keynote speaker who reads every word on their PowerPoint slides, the annoying colleague who always forgets the punchline to the joke, the pushy salesman who goes off on tangents until he loses his point completely. We roll our eyes, crack our knuckles, gaze out the window, and just hope that the story comes to a quick and painless ending.

Storytelling, like marketing, is both an art and a science. There are capabilities that are inherently in you as a marketer — like copywriting and creativity — that can be fostered and sharpened, but not necessarily taught. Unfortunately, that art is lost unless you bring a little scientific rigor to your marketing communication planning and execution.

Is your story so compelling that it can transform your customer into a six-second storyteller on your behalf?

Building on the TopRight “3S methodology” of the right Story, the right Strategy, the right Systems – measured through the lens of Simplicity, Clarity, and Alignment – Transformational Marketing occurs when your customer not only understands your story but also wants to be a part of it; when your story becomes their story. At that point, your customer’s experience transforms from engaging with you in a transaction to becoming part of your community and ultimately an advocate for your brand.

Why? Because they have adopted your story – why you do what you do; what it is that you do; and how you do it – as their own. This is the Art of the Story.

As all good marketers know, great copy and engaging creative don’t happen by accident. Likewise, great storytelling can’t be left to the whims of a “creative genius”. You need to inject a level of scientific rigor into the storytelling process that infuses the perspective of your customer into your story.

So, how do you marry Scientific Discipline with the Art of the Story?

There are 5 key questions you must answer to make sure you are effectively communicating your story from the customer’s point of view:

  1. Why should I care or even listen?
  2. What will happen if I engage with your story?
  3. How do I engage with you?
  4. Can I understand your story in 6 seconds?
  5. Where are you taking me? (i.e. What is the destination that I arrive at by engaging with you, buying from you, staying with you, and advocating for you?)

Let’s take a quick look at each.

5 Questions to Bring Science to the Art of the Story

1. Why should I care or even listen?

At the core of getting your story right, of creating a compelling narrative with purpose and guiding the brand positioning, is the question “Why do you do what you do?”

This sounds easy. As we all know, particularly those of us who have gone through this process, it isn’t. It forces you to focus on the difference you actually make for your customers as your guiding principle. For a customer, it requires answering the “so what” question.

Why should a customer care? Why should they listen to your story? Wrestling this question to the ground from the customer point of view requires getting out of the comfort zone of purely marketing a product’s features and benefits, which is often the default mode for marketers. It requires you to go to a deeper and emotive level of engagement with your customers by distilling down the “why we do what we do?” as a company into a “why” that captures the customer’s imagination.

Unfortunately, most customers have neither the time nor the inclination to try to figure this out on their own, which is why this question needs to be answered through the simplicity of a great story. For customers, the “Why” must speak to the true impact and purpose that you deliver. This “Why” must resonate with the customer in such a way that it represents something of which they want to be a part. By simplifying your “Why” and aligning it with your target customers, they will want to learn more about the rest of the story.

You need to inject a level of scientific rigor into the storytelling process that infuses the perspective of your customer into your story.

2. What will happen if I engage with your story?

What you do as a company or organization is about what you are actually doing to deliver your “Why”; what you are doing to enable your customers to access and achieve the power and purpose of your “Why”, and make it their “Why”.

If you have given your customers a reason to care, a reason to listen, and a reason to interact with your brand, you must now convey how that translates to their daily professional and/or personal lives.

When your customers engage with you, you must paint a picture of what their life will look like with your product or service, and what would be missing if they choose not to engage with you further. Your customers need to believe in your purpose and they need to see how that specifically translates to their everyday world. Paraphrasing a line from the movie Jerry Maguire: “You complete them” in some way. By filling in that blank with the clarity of what it is you actually do, you can concretely and intentionally transform some aspect of your customers’ daily life.

3. How do I engage with you?

Your customer’s journey – or what we refer to as the Customer BuyWay – needs to highlight a clear path to engagement and productive action, with specificity over what to buy, how to buy, and how to effectively implement and use your products and/or services. All of this must flow directly from the “Why” and the “What”. Your customers care about your purpose and what that means to them. They can see the impact of how you can provide a specific value to them and, as a result, how their life would be different.

The next question is “How” should your customers engage with you? You need to create specific messaging that instructs your customer “How”: how they can access your story, your products, and your services, and how to use all of the above to make a difference and impact in their daily lives.

Correctly answering this question requires you to put yourself in the mindset of your customer. You are literally telling them a story about how they should engage with you and then navigating them in a straight line to take a specific action (e.g. buy, renew, review, refer, recommend). If customers have to work too hard to figure this out, it means your story is not working and they will not be engaging with, buying from, or advocating for your brand.

4. Can I understand your story in 6 seconds?

There has been a fair bit of debate over the past few years about just how much advertising the typical person is exposed to each day. 500 messages? 5,000 messages? 50,000 messages? While the exact numbers are interesting to ponder, no one debates the fact that the total number of messages has been increasing steadily due to the distribution impact of the Internet, the proliferation of “screens”, and the pervasiveness of mobile devices in our daily lives.

“We’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970s to as many as 5,000 a day today.”

– J Walker Smith, Yankelovich Consumer Research

The implications? Well, for one, businesses need to do something special to be noticed in this cluttered environment. And secondly, with all of the multi-tasking going on, you better be quick about it!

Here is the simple truth of marketing and communications today: you have roughly six seconds to earn the attention of your prospective customer. Yes, six seconds! A six-second window for making a connection. Six seconds to give your target audience a reason to care and a reason to want to learn more. Furthermore, if that connection is lost in those first few seconds, then it is really lost and they are most likely not coming back.

Does your story, and how your customer experiences that story, make them want to engage with you further – giving you the chance to close a sale?

Does it pass the test of simplicity, clarity, and alignment in six seconds?

Is your brand story so compelling that it can transform your customer into a six-second storyteller on your behalf?

Remember, the point of marketing is not always about closing the sale. Sometimes you are just starting a conversation and inviting your audience to spread that conversation in their own authentic voice of advocacy.

5. Where are you taking me?
(i.e. What is the destination that I arrive at by engaging with you, buying from you, staying with you and advocating for you?)

After your customer understands your story, they will care and want to learn more. They will want to engage with you and learn how to buy, and maybe even advocate on your behalf. When your customers embrace your Six-Second Story and why it matters to them and their lives, you are in a conversation with them because they want to be in that conversation.

Where will you take your customers over the long term? What destination will your brand and the customer arrive at together? For your customers to truly understand and activate your brand story in their lives, this is the final, most essential question for your customers to be able to answer.

Transformational Marketing tells the story of why you matter to your customers today, what their journey looks like in the future, and how that journey will transform their customer experience. It is important to remember, as with any great brand story, you are not the hero of the story. Your customer is the hero. You are merely the guide, the Sherpa, that leads them to a destination which they could not get to on their own. That destination is the culmination of your 6-Second Story (the Why, What, and How) pointed directly at a destination to which you are uniquely able to guide them. Upon arriving at the destination, your customer has made your story their own. They want your help in leading them because they understand the impact of what you are offering them – that the place you will arrive at together could actually be transformative.

Remember, the point of marketing is not always about closing the sale.


So, that’s it. Take the time to answer these five questions and you will be on your way to bringing scientific rigor to the art of your story. Your answers to these questions will make a big difference in whether your audience views your story as just another transactional relationship or a story that emotionally connects with their professional or personal journey. The only story that really matters is the one where your customers want to become part of the story. And for them to do that, they need to understand it and what it means for them, through the lens of simplicity, clarity, and alignment.

Transformational Marketing occurs when, through the art of the story, you transform your customer from a transactional buyer into a life-long brand advocate by making your story their own. Learn how you can harness the power to transform your marketing through simplicity, clarity, and alignment in your Story, Strategy, and Systems in our new ebook Transformational Marketing: Moving to the TopRight.