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The Power of Story and How to Leverage It

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About This Episode

In this special episode, our very own Director of Marketing, Amy Appleton, sits down with Wes Gay, a certified StoryBrand guide and the chief guide at Wayfinder. Wes helps brands use the power of story to create a clear and compelling message for their employees and customers.

 

He’ll show you why story matters – and how by leveraging the right words you can grow your business and attract the right people. By implementing some simple changes, you’ll be able to keep your story alive.

1. Your story allows your team to share a language, and it gives your customers something to be drawn into.

It’s not just pretty copy for a website. When you have a story around your brand, your team can more easily connect and unite around that common cause. Your customers will feel more engaged with you, and they’ll be better equipped to identify with your company.

2. Think of your business as a GPS, not an old-school printed atlas.

When you’re trying to tell them what to do, like how to interact with your brand, make it as easy as possible. List out the steps, and do as much for them as you can. It’s much easier to listen to Siri tell you how to get there than opening up a book, flipping to the page that you’re looking for, and figuring out the map from there.

3. Don’t overcomplicate your marketing content.

Use simple, conversational language. Use the words you and your customers would use in an everyday conversation. Tap into the emotions, the root cause, of what your customers are feeling when they reach out to you for the answers. And make it about them, not you.

 

Do you have a story for your business? How would you explain it to a customer?
Is your team aware of your story? If not, what are some ways you could help them better understand where you came from, as well as how to explain it to others?
What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of your marketing language as it stands now?
What does Wes mean when he talks about making the customer the hero of your story?

Think about everything through the lens of your customer.

Wes Gay

Telling the story for your business and your brand, allows you to draw people in.

Wes Gay

Using the power of story is never an instance of right or wrong, it is a matter of better or best.

Wes Gay

The best stories solve a problem.

Wes Gay

Wes Gay on LinkedIn and Wayfinder

Tricia Sciortino on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Lisa Zeeveld on Instagram and LinkedIn.

BELAY’s virtual assistants

StoryBrand

 

(01:21) Wes talks about the best concerts he’s ever attended. 

(03:55) Wes outlines what Storybrand is and how he uses it to help businesses refine their message. 

(06:10) How did Wes land as Chief Guide at Wayfinder?

(08:08) Why is it important for a business to have a story?

(12:20) “Whenever we assume somebody knows something, we’re forcing them to think a lot more and do their own research.”

(14:35) Are people hesitant to use storytelling as a marketing strategy?

(18:40) The more you define the box, the clearer you define the guardrails and framework, the more creative you can be. 

(20:30) How do you explain to your grandmother at Thanksgiving what you do for a living? Use that same mentality when you talk about your business. 

(22:26) What are some practical things business owners can start doing now to find the right words?

(27:52) For the person thinking they need to revisit their website’s content based on this information, what is their best next step?

(32:18) What is a lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way as an entrepreneur – and how did that help you get to where you are today?

Wes Gay:

Most businesses, whether you’re a small startup in a local shop or a giant global brand, one of their biggest challenges is figuring out what do you say to people so that they understand what you do. They know how to move forward and also they can buy very quickly from you. That is I think one of the number one challenges in business.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to One Next Step, the most practical business podcast in the world, helping you get more done, grow your business and lead your team with confidence with tips and tools you didn’t get in business school. Here are your hosts, Tricia Sciortino and Lisa Zeeveld.

Tricia Sciortino:

Welcome to One Next Step — the practical business podcast that helps you run your business so it stops running you. I’m Tricia.

Lisa Zeeveld :

And, I’m LZ. Today, we have something extra-special lined up for our listeners. Our very own Director of Marketing, Amy Appleton, sat down with Wes Gay, the Chief Guide at Wayfinder. He is a certified StoryBrand guide who helps brands use the power of story to create a clear and compelling message for their employees and customers. So without further ado here is Amy and Wes.

Amy Appleton:

Hey Wes. Welcome to the One Next Step Podcast. I’m super excited to talk to you today. How are you doing today?

Wes Gay:

I’m good. I’m honored to be here.

Amy Appleton:

Well, good. Wonderful. Well, we love to start off our podcast with just asking a completely random question to get us going. So tell me what is the best concert that you’ve ever attended?

Wes Gay:

Yeah. So I’m going to answer like a politician and it’s going to be three concerts and here’s why. I’m going to go with the best concert season I’ve ever been a part of.

Amy Appleton:

Okay.

Wes Gay:

And my first job out of college was in Orlando, Florida. And one of the things people don’t understand about Orlando is so many people come through there not only as tourists, but just touring acts come through. So while I was living there, part of my job, I had annual passes to Universal, like as part of where I worked.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

Well in a six week span, I saw Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind and Fire at Universal Studios. And then a friend of mine invited me to see Gladys Knight somewhere else in Orlando. So in six weeks I saw Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind and Fire.

Amy Appleton:

Oh my gosh.

Wes Gay:

So trying to pick up a top of one of those three, it’s impossible, but it was to see Aretha Franklin singing all of her entire catalog in Orlando at Universal Studios underneath the rollercoaster, because the amphitheater is literally underneath the drop of a giant rollercoaster-

Amy Appleton:

Holy cow.

Wes Gay:

It’s pretty incredible. And then to see those guys at Earth, Wind and Fire are in their 70s, I think at that point she was killing. I mean, it’s like I was tired of watching them and I was in my 20s, like, how are y’all still doing this? I think Gladys Knight sang and just tore the house down as you can expect.

Amy Appleton:

Oh yeah.

Wes Gay:

So those are my three, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind and Fire.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah. I’m not too sure exactly how you would top that, especially all in one.

Wes Gay:

You can’t.

Amy Appleton:

No, I’m not too sure that you could, unless maybe there was some insane rock, 80s rock.

Wes Gay:

Yeah. Like a Bon Jovi.

Amy Appleton:

Like a Bon Jovi.

Wes Gay:

Aerosmith is on my bucket list. I don’t know if those guys are still going to be on a stage when we can go travel places again but yeah.

Amy Appleton:

Well thank you. So that sounds like a fantastic time and kind of lucky you, lucky you to have that in your life.

Wes Gay:

I know it.

Amy Appleton:

Especially in your 20s. That’s like the perfect time for that.

Wes Gay:

I know.

Amy Appleton:

Awesome. Well, Hey, before we get started, I do want to just let everyone know, that’s listening, that we do work together, BELAY, Wayfinder, and that we had come to you when we needed some help clarifying how in the world do we talk about all of our different service lines and have them make sense. So we still do sometimes. You are gracious enough to work within our insane, crazy schedule over here at BELAY.

Wes Gay:

Yeah.

Amy Appleton:

So thank you. But yeah, I’m super excited to get started and talk about StoryBrand and telling stories for your business. So to open us up, tell our listeners who may not be familiar with what StoryBrand is, will you explain that, that framework?

Wes Gay:

Sure. Yeah. Most businesses, whether you’re a small startup in a local shop or a giant global brand, one of their biggest challenges is figuring out what do you say to people so that they understand what you do. They know how to move forward and ultimately they can buy very quickly from you. That is, I think one of the number one challenges in business. And so the StoryBrand framework takes seven elements of storytelling and uses those and then creates a filter. So that makes it much easier for you to communicate clearly. So you’re going to compel more people who are going to buy more from you because obviously we love stories. Our brains are wired for story and the StoryBrand framework uses the tools and tactics of your favorite filmmakers and your favorite Netflix directors and all the folks you love to then turn it into fuel for your business.

Amy Appleton:

That’s excellent. Is that why we always want to watch the next one?

Wes Gay:

It is. Yeah. It’s because the, and we’ll probably get to this more, but one of the core elements of telling a story as is you got to have problems, right? I was on a plane, I don’t know, three years ago. And it was one of those times where the wifi wasn’t working. So I couldn’t really get much work done. And then I’m looking at the movies on Delta and Skyscraper, which is the movie about Dwayne, the rock Johnson versus a building. And Dwayne, the rock Johnson wins as he should, right?

Amy Appleton:

Right. Of course.

Wes Gay:

But if you’ve seen the movie, like there’s this whole buildup, and then he finally defeats the building, which sounds like a crazy premise, but it’s actually the mainstream.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah.

Wes Gay:

And then within like three minutes, the credits are rolling and the movie’s over because we stay engaged as long as there’s problems.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

It’s why when the new Jack Ryan series comes out on Amazon, or why, Queen’s Gambit, any of these series come out, they always end with some kind of a hook or problem because they know you want to rolling to the next one.

Amy Appleton:

Exactly.

Wes Gay:

It’s like we’re recording this on a Thursday. We’re ready for Friday because Disney Plus is smart enough to drop theirs weekly with Falcon and the Winter Soldier and all their Disney Plus series. And they end with a hook and you’re like, oh now, I’ve got to wait a week. What is this?

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

1994.

Amy Appleton:

Exactly.

Wes Gay:

Like where do we live in? And that’s part of the story is like, what are the problems? What are the stakes? And then we want to keep watching and keep engaging until those things are resolved.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah. I don’t know whether it be mad at my brain for that or excited about it.

Wes Gay:

Exactly.

Amy Appleton:

So tell us, how did you find your way as chief guide at Wayfinder?

Wes Gay:

Yeah. It’s a longer story than we have time for on this podcast and with some really mildly ridiculous, quite ridiculous detail. Basically in 2016, I had been working for nonprofits for about 10 years, found myself unemployed and just started looking for opportunities and went a long stretch without anything. And then at the end of 2016, Donald Miller, who some of your listeners probably know he’s been on, I know he’s done, I think Bryan and Shannon had been on the BELAY podcast or the StoryBrand podcast and he’s been on EntreLeadership stuff. And he’s been a lot of places. I’ve been following him as a writer for 10 or 12 years at this point. And he had started this thing called StoryBrand and into 2016, they were doing a copywriter certification. They were building a little momentum as a live event experience. I thought, well, I don’t have a job. I’ve tried to work for everybody else. What if I just try to work for me for a little bit until I get a “real job”.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

I was also talking to a church at that point about being a part-time guy. And I thought I’ll do that. And then I’ll do this StoryBrand thing and then I’ll get a “real job”. So I go get certified, having never done more than just a odd freelance thing here and there for a few hundred bucks. And then within six weeks I had a full-time slate of clients from zero to that. And then it just took off from there. And then that was 2016. The Building a StoryBrand, the book launched in 2017 and the momentum was just built. The first time I worked with BELAY, I think it was 2018.

Amy Appleton:

Yes.

Wes Gay:

I became a BELAY client in 2017. We started work together in 2018 and it’s just been a rocket ship ever since.

Amy Appleton:

That is an amazing story. And I always love how it starts as like, just by chance sometimes in that.

Wes Gay:

Yeah.

Amy Appleton:

And I remember just going back to we had actually found you because we were friends with StoryBrand and we just called them up and we said, “All right, well, we’re going to need some help. So who do you have? Who do you have that could help us?” And honestly, that’s how we found you was through StoryBrand giving us you as the recommendation as someone to talk to. So as a StoryBrand consultant, obviously, and you can tell already storytelling comes very naturally to you, but for businesses, can you explain a little bit more about what do you mean by story? You got into a little bit with the Skyscraper, but why is that important for a business to have a story?

Wes Gay:

Yeah. So there’s a couple of things. One, do you want to have a clear story about your business? So you know what to talk about? You and your team, your staff can start using the same kind of language internally so then it rolls into externally. Otherwise, you’re just scattered all over the place. That’s one reason. Another reason is you want to have something that you draw people into because whatever industry you’re in, more than likely you’re finding against an ocean of noise, I mean, it’s just chaos all day long. And so by creating a story for your business, for your brand, where you use those storytelling elements, you’re going to draw people in.

Wes Gay:

Now, I want to make sure I’m clear, just because we’re talking about the idea of story doesn’t necessarily mean you need to literally tell stories. It’d be great if you don’t case studies and customer stories, etc. But what we’re also talking about is let’s take the principles of storytelling, what we call in StoryBrand the seven building blocks. And then you pull those in and our marketing and our messaging and our communication because StoryBrand is really just a communications framework.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

One of the things I mentioned was a problem. We pay attention to stories when there’s problem. That’s how over a year ago, we were all hooked by a junior college cheer squad in Texas that we had never heard of.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

And whose cheer coach is like the Nick Saban and Bill Belichick of junior college cheer.

Amy Appleton:

Yes.

Wes Gay:

Because there were like all these problems and all these stakes. They were using these elements of story that draw us in and keep us moving.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

We can use those same things in our business. So we want to create a story, but more tactically, we take those individual elements as well, and then insert those into how we communicate, whether it’s we use those in talking about our problem, or we talk about a plan, like what is the next steps that people need to take? What’s the call to action and all these things that we see in all of our favorite movies, how do we use those elements in our communication so that we can be clearer in what we’re doing?

Amy Appleton:

I really liked that part about the steps. I know that that was huge for us and something that, a couple of things that we always go back to in that framework of first identifying the problem that somebody needs to, that you’re going to solve to your point, like the intrigue is in the problem. And then, but it was those steps too like, well, how are you going to do it? And how many steps are you allowed to give people in order to do things? So is there kind of that guide or that rule for the steps? Like when we talk about, oh, and then here are the steps that you’re going to be able to take to, let’s say, talk to us, learn about our product, hear about what we do and the problems that we solve. Is there a guide there for how many steps you should be giving people?

Wes Gay:

Yeah. We typically say three and now, depending on the specific situation, like on your website, we’ll say three, and they’ll be obviously higher level.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah.

Wes Gay:

And then when you get into maybe some email marketing or maybe a social media post, it can be more specific, but we say three, just because much more than that, people start to get a little overwhelmed. You know, I always often say that people are often standing on one side of a raging river and they see how your product or your service and your company can help them. And they see that as the other side of the raging river where the problem is, all they can really see is that raging river in the middle.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

And they see that as the onboarding process, the setup process, the install, whatever that is, that’s what they see. And they think I’m going to drown. So what a plan does is it literally is a bridge that takes us from where they are to where you are and where you can take them and says, here’s the steps you need to take.

Wes Gay:

But the reality is like, we’re all busy, right? And apart from the buying decision that your clients or customers are making with you or your competitor, they’re parents. So that means there might be remote learning support specialist this year.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

That means their employees. That means their spouses or their friends, or there’s like they have other roles and things going on. They don’t live in your world day to day. They’re not in your staff meetings. They’re not in your slack. They’re not in your Asana. They’re not in your company. And so when we forget to give a plan, what we’re actually saying is, “Hey, we’re just going to assume you know how this works.” And whenever we assume somebody knows something, we’re actually forcing them to think a lot more.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

To do the research themselves, instead of saying, “Hey, here’s how it works, do this, do this, do this.” You see this a lot lately in the last several years in these like subscription box companies.

Amy Appleton:

Yes.

Wes Gay:

I don’t know if you have any personally.

Amy Appleton:

No.

Wes Gay:

But I ordered one for my wife for Christmas, that was Birchbox, I think. I did a three or six month subscription. And it’s fascinating to me because like you open that box and it literally says, 1, 2, 3.

Amy Appleton:

I know that.

Wes Gay:

Do this, do this, do this. And they’re making an unbelievable amount of money, right?

Amy Appleton:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Wes Gay:

It’s because they’re literally telling you what to do. It’s almost like we have to think of our companies as a GPS instead of like the old school Rand McNally Atlas, like we’re going on spring break soon. Nobody is going to unfold the Atlas, the monstrosity, map their way from Atlanta to the beach, we’re going to pull up Waze, go start.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

And we’re just going to check out and just literally go where it tells us. That’s how you have to be in your business when it comes to giving a plan and giving steps.

Tricia Sciortino:

Look, work and life don’t have to be so hard. That’s why Belay wants to make it easy and fun, all while catering to you and your needs, because we know you work to live and not the other way around.

Lisa Zeeveld :

That’s also why Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, the Atlanta Business Chronicle and FlexJobs have all recognized Belay as one of the best places to work with.

Tricia Sciortino:

With 10 years of successfully being a 100% remote organization, Belay recognizes that maybe you want to pick up your kids after school every day. Maybe you prefer to work on your own schedule. Maybe you’re an empty nester who wants more flexibility, and Belay offers that flexibility.

Lisa Zeeveld :

So whether you’re a virtual assistant, bookkeeper, social media strategist, or website specialist, Belay has clients right now who need your expertise and insight.

Tricia Sciortino:

You can have a meaningful career working from home while being present and available for loved ones too. And it starts with Belay.

Amy Appleton:

Do you think people are hesitant to use this kind of story telling for their brand or their marketing to like sound woo woo. I mean, what have you heard?

Wes Gay:

Yeah. Some people feel a little woo woo about it. Like we’re going to hear a story. And in some ways in recent years, in large part, I think thanks to Don Miller and the StoryBrand team, more people are talking about story in marketing. And I saw some of that I think is just kind of the wave. But I think the reality is the reason it gets intimidating for people is because it requires you to write words.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

And everybody says public speaking is the number one fear. I think writing, if it’s not tied, it’s like one B, it’s like public speaking, writing and snakes are probably like the top three.

Amy Appleton:

Yes.

Wes Gay:

And public speaking, like Tricia CEO of BELAY posted on LinkedIn today about why there’s some people prefer meetings and really it could be an email?

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

My response was because it’s actually easier just to show up to a meeting and talk than it is to write a thoughtful email that actually conveys everything that’s in your brain.

Amy Appleton:

True.

Wes Gay:

The blinking cursor on a blank pages is really intimidating. So I think a lot of it is it requires us to come up with the right words.

Amy Appleton:

Okay.

Wes Gay:

And when we do that for our own businesses, we forget how to speak English. And we just forget how language works. We can do it for everybody else all day long and help them figure their problems out. But when it comes to in our business and using stories, using storytelling, it becomes okay, but how do I do it? Like, what does this actually mean? And I’m now intimidated. Am I using the right words? Am I using the wrong words? For most of the time with us, it almost never as an instance of right or wrong, it’s like better or best.

Amy Appleton:

Okay.

Wes Gay:

Like there might be a best way to say it, or best story to tell but what you’re doing is if you get into this, it’s going to be better, more than likely than what you’ve already got.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah.

Wes Gay:

Right. So it’s not going to be wrong unless you’re a lawn care company. And now you’re talking about, I don’t know the problems people have when they get their haircut. Like that doesn’t make any sense.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

But as long as you’re trying to think about it through the lens of your customer, it’s going to remove that headache and that obstacle of, oh, I don’t know how to do this. This is really intimidating.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah. And you did mention, like, this is what we’re talking about in terms of, this is actually a framework.

Amy Appleton:

It is to your point, it’s not sitting down and necessarily being like, “Okay, well, how do I do this? How do I do this?” And I think that has been the beauty of the framework piece is that it gives that path then of how to write, how to tell a story effectively to your point from the movie. And I know that Donald Miller talks about that all the time in the book itself is like going back to those movies that we know and that we love, they are written a certain way for a certain reason.

Wes Gay:

Yeah.

Amy Appleton:

And you can actually do all of your writing for your company, the exact same way. It just takes a little bit of just trial and error until you can just hone in on the exact story that it is that you, that you need to tell.

Wes Gay:

Yeah. In 2019, I guess, right when we started seeing all the press around Avengers End Game, there’s just all this stuff coming out. And one of the videos I watched was with the two screenwriters for Avengers End Game and it was a Vanity Fair interview or something.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah.

Wes Gay:

And just in context, they wrote End Game, they wrote Infinity War, Captain America, Civil War, and then Captain American and Winter Soldier. I know they wrote those for them. They’ve written more. And they talked about the writing process. And what was fascinating to me is they said they didn’t start their careers as screenwriters.

Amy Appleton:

Okay.

Wes Gay:

But they eventually got into it. And they bought a book by a guy named Syd Field called Screenwriting. And it’s considered in many ways like the Bible of writing screenplays in Hollywood. And he literally said, “This is the formula that Syd Field lays out.” So when we’re in Captain America, Civil War, here’s how this thing happens and you’re like. These guys have written for like movies that have grossed like six or $8 billion at the Box Office. I’m like, well, they bought this book and I’m like, I bought it on Amazon. It’s $14. I’ve read it myself. But it’s like, I can now see, they’re literally following exactly what it says. Now, they’re really creative with it.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

But they’re following it. And I think one of the things with marketing in general and content creation in particular is a lot of people enter into it thinking, well, it’s a creative job. Therefore I have to think outside the box, which doesn’t actually exist.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

Like the more you define the box and the more clear you define the guard rails and figure out the framework you’re going to play in, the much more creative you can be in the much more freedom I think you have to know which direction you’re going to go as to saying, well, we got to write an email, to who?

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

People. About what? Our company, great. That’s an incredible formula for disaster, but that’s how a lot of people approach it.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah. And what I love about that is, is that you are bringing up the point that you don’t have to be a master copywriter in order to at least get this process started.

Wes Gay:

Exactly.

Amy Appleton:

And use this storytelling because truth be told, going back to the clarity and the simplicity is that bigger words are not better. Like you literally are writing to go back to that sixth grade. I know that sometimes they will even say caveman, but it is sixth grade. You need no room for interpretation. You need no flowery language. I mean, unless that is what your audience needs and expects of you. But for the most part, you’re going to use words that you use when you talk in normal speak, not something super fancy. Now, obviously that’s true and not true, right? There are great copywriters and it is a skill and an art, but I’m talking about for the people to just get started and play around with this idea, really just using your own words and the words that you’re using just on a daily basis and keeping that sixth grade in mind is a great starting point for being able to launch into that storytelling.

Wes Gay:

Another way to think about it is how do you explain to your grandmother at Thanksgiving, what you do for a living?

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

And then just talk that way to your customers.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

Because they know maybe as much about you, about what you do as your grandmother does. And your grandmother is not in your entire life. Right. They don’t know exactly what you do, but the reality is, and you see this on LinkedIn all the time, especially in like company bios. And I read these about sections and it’s like, we exist at the intersection of innovation and excellence to deliver world-class solutions to our customers. It’s like, is this toilet paper?

Amy Appleton:

Yeah. You don’t know.

Wes Gay:

Is this like, what is this? Instead of saying, like for us, we help brands find the right words so they attract more customers, make more money and grow their business. Okay.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

As opposed to some of the marketing agencies I see is like, I know those that’s I know that’s English. I know all the parts of speech are there, but I have no idea what that means at all.

Amy Appleton:

Yes. Yes, no. I am with you. If you put synergies in I’m out, like, I don’t understand like synergies with what, and yes. I mean, even going and researching sometimes different websites from people that you’re getting ready to meet or whatever, and you have to pause and be like, I mean, I thought they were, I thought they were an agency owner. Like what’s all this, I don’t understand, like what, oh, maybe I don’t understand what it is that they do.

Wes Gay:

I just want to send people that clip from the Princess Bride, where the guy says, you keep using that word. It does not mean what I think he think it means like Inigo Montoya should be the poster child for this.

Amy Appleton:

All right. I know we could go on and on and on about that. And I think this goes nicely into, you have said, when you clearly define the products or services you offer, it actually makes easier for you to become known for something and to attract people to you.

Wes Gay:

Yeah.

Amy Appleton:

So we’ve kind of toyed around, but I would love, give our listeners like some practical things that they could implement today. Like one thing that would help them find those right words or something they could start with right now.

Wes Gay:

Sure. So the big thing is, think about everything through the lens of your customer, right? Think through their eyes first. One of the things about the StoryBrand framework is we talk about your brand is what we call it, the guide. In movies like Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, classic guide characters in movies. And they’re the ones who come along and say, “I understand where you’re at. I know where you’re coming from,” and I know how to help you. And they have empathy and they have authority. Too often, we get so caught up in our own worlds we just forget to see things through the eyes of the people we’re trying to sell to.

Wes Gay:

So I would say, think about things through the eyes of your customers, what are they dealing with? What’s in their day-to-day world specifically? What are they struggling with? What are their problems that you know you can solve? And sometimes this happens often. People go, I don’t know what that is. Well, do you have any testimonials? Like, do you have any reviews? Do you have emails from happy clients that say, “Hey, you helped us with this.” Find the language that they are literally already giving you voluntarily.

Amy Appleton:

Yes.

Wes Gay:

And then now you have an idea of, okay, this is what I need to start saying to people, because this is what they’re noticing. Like these are the things that they’re responding to. I was just reading a book, and he was talking about this in one of his early businesses. One of the first ones he sold a customer commented about how fast their response time was and how great it was. And he said, “So I didn’t look to improve other areas of the business. He said, I actually looked to improve that because that was the thing I knew he cared about. So we started talking about that more, and then we operationally figured out how speed it up.” So look at what customers are actually telling you already and use their language back to them, and then look to see how you can make it as specific as possible because ironically, specificity is how you actually open the door to a broader audience.

Amy Appleton:

I mean, that is so great. I love the part about going to the clients and just use the words that they’re already using. And I think that goes back to our whole thing about you don’t over-complicate it, they’re already giving you the words that are there. I know for us into that guide part, we really have to check ourselves and to see it happen all the time and other brands of positioning ourselves as the hero. So we’re going to make you great. My product’s going to make you great. My service is going to make you great, all of this. And we even to this day, have to really look at every piece of everything that we write, every piece of copy and just pause and say, “Hold up, are they, as the customer the hero at the end of this story? Or have we positioned ourselves as the hero of that story?”

Amy Appleton:

We literally have a system that we will walk through all the time in every piece of content to just make sure that we’re keeping ourselves in check there because that was one of the big pieces that we had taken away from all of the framework of StoryBrand was stop making it about you and actually make it about them.

Wes Gay:

And that’s hard for a lot of people.

Amy Appleton:

It is.

Wes Gay:

Because small business owners, I mean, we’re wearing a thousand hats and running a hundred miles an hour with a heroine fire, it seems like most of the time.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah.

Wes Gay:

And so you just default to what you know, and the people we work with are all experts in what they do. I mean, they all understand it, the ins and outs of it really well. The problem is because we get so busy, we just forget to think about how is the person I’m talking to thinking this way? You got kids so I know you felt this over the years, but like schools are chief offenders at this. Like we get stuff sent home for our kids. Ours is in kindergarten this year. And so we’re obviously new to this.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

But I’ll get my wife. She had to pull out some of guy’s little notebook yesterday. She was like, “I don’t know what to do with it. What is this stuff? I have no idea. They just assume we know.”

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

And that’s how most businesses are is you just without pausing and said, oh wait, they’ve have got no idea. And this is where we’re coming into their story. We don’t need to ask them to now enter into our story. We need to go into their story and show how we can make their story more successful.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah. That one where you’d have no idea what you’re supposed to do, but yet you’re expected to.

Wes Gay:

Yeah.

Amy Appleton:

Like, that is an awful feeling. Like no one wants to feel stupid. And here you are like the highly educated people. And especially, it’s like, okay, apparently I don’t know how school works anymore.

Wes Gay:

I can’t even manage kindergarten.

Amy Appleton:

I don’t know what happened. I can’t even manage kindergarten right now or nursery school or whatever it is. The orthodontist for me. So like, wait, what are we supposed to, please don’t assume that I know anything about orthodonture because I don’t. I just come here and you do the thing on the teeth with my kid.

Wes Gay:

Yeah.

Amy Appleton:

And that’s exactly what I want you to do. I want straight teeth. You know what the win is at the end.

Wes Gay:

Straight teeth.

Amy Appleton:

I want straight teeth.

Wes Gay:

Yeah.

Amy Appleton:

That’s why I’m coming to you. That’s the end game. My kid walks out with a beautiful smile in two years and many dollars later.

Wes Gay:

And you would think most orthodontist, their website would just say, “Give your kids a beautiful smile.” And they don’t.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

It’s like voted number one orthodontist in Gwinnett County, Georgia is like, who cares? That’s making this about you. Instead of saying, “We give your kids a beautiful smile,” great, that’s what I want as a parent. It gives me that. I will pay for that all day long.

Amy Appleton:

Yes, absolutely. Me too. And I do, and I’ve paid for it twice, just saying. All right. So for the person listening, who has just paid to redo their website and is now listening to this podcast and thinking, oh, so maybe we need to re-look at our website. And maybe the story is all about us. And maybe we’re using words that people don’t even understand, what is the best next step? Because I literally had that conversation with someone the other day where they said, “Oh no, I just spent thousands of dollars,” before I got here, they spent thousands of dollars on a website, “And now I’m looking at it and it makes no sense to me and I work here.” So what is like the best, first step. I feel like that probably happens frequently.

Amy Appleton:

Especially when, after someone meets you or, or learns about the StoryBrand framework, what do you tell them to do?

Wes Gay:

Right. So if you’ve just spent a bunch of money on your website, you don’t want to spend any more money on anybody else. And I get it.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

So there’s a couple of things I would suggest. One would be to go back and look what you currently have and think, how can I work with what I’ve got? And the best way to work with that you got is to figure out, well, first of all, buy Building a StoryBrand and read that book, it’s one of the business books you’re going to read that doesn’t actually waste your time.

Amy Appleton:

True.

Wes Gay:

I don’t want to call the other ones out but there are a lot of business books where I finish and go that could have been about half as long and its not lost a thing.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

StoryBrand is not that way. So read that book and then what you’re going to find is there will be ways to infuse those elements into your website, right? The reality is we are just changing words on the internet. We’re not shooting rockets to space. We’re not performing like emergency quadruple bypass surgery on a battlefield. Like we’re putting words on the internet. So the stakes are relatively low typically.

Amy Appleton:

True.

Wes Gay:

So read that book and then you’re going to see some ways you can insert into what you already have, but that’s the easiest way to do it without spending any more money. Obviously you could hire somebody to bring somebody in to help you walk through that and then figure out, okay, how do I expand this? You may have to have to hire a designer to add some sections or whatever, but start by reading the book and then figure out how you can infuse those elements, into your own website. That’s the easiest way to go.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah. No, that is fantastic advice. Here, we have anyone who joins the marketing team, that book is actually, it is required reading for them.

Wes Gay:

Yeah.

Amy Appleton:

Like we feel like it is that important. I mean, I laugh it’s like this One Next Step brought to you by the StoryBand Building book, but it is literally, it can truly be game changing for people to just understand that framework and the simplicity behind it. It can make a huge difference.

Amy Appleton:

I had the opportunity to actually go to the live workshop when they were doing it probably three years ago. And it was really fascinating to sit in a room of people that would bring up their websites and after a whole two days of listening to the framework and everyone in that room could pretty much say, “Ooh, no. Wait, hold on. That’s not what you say you did.”

Wes Gay:

Yeah.

Amy Appleton:

So here’s what it needs to say. Like, even if you said this, it would be a million times better and people would know that yeah.

Wes Gay:

It’s rearranging words on the internet. I had a guy a few years ago who was a portrait photographer in Chicago and part of his claim to fame or not, part of his niche was his great grandfather had started the studio in 1914. And so, which is impressive, right?

Amy Appleton:

Well, that’s a nice part of the story.

Wes Gay:

That’s really impressive.

Amy Appleton:

Yes.

Wes Gay:

But the problem was that the heading on his website said founded in 1914. And that was basically it, there was a picture and you had to scroll down to really see anything of substance. I said, “Jeff, how many people have called you since you’ve been doing this for 25 years? And said, Hey, you know what, you’re the only studio in Metro, in the Chicago end area who has been around since before world War One. I want to hire you for my family photos.” He said, he laughs, said, “Nobody.” It’s a great, so what you say is we’ve been providing lasting portraits to Chicago’s families for over 100 years, right? So now you’re saying, here’s what we’ve been doing for families for a 100 years now.

Amy Appleton:

Yes.

Wes Gay:

And you’ve just flipped those words to be about the people you’re serving not to be about yourself.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

It’s those kinds of little changes that make a world of difference.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah. That is a great, great example for us to end on, I think today. So I do have a bonus question for you, bonus question. So as an entrepreneur and your own small business owner, what is a lesson that you’ve had to learn the hard way? And then how did that experience help you to where you are today?

Wes Gay:

Yeah, so mine might be unique to marketing clients. Maybe it’s not, or marketing agencies, maybe it’s extends to other ones, but one of the things I’ve learned about as a being in the marketing world and being an agency owner, as marketing agencies are awful at marketing for ourselves. Like we are so bad and it’s not just me. I’ve met so many people.

Amy Appleton:

No. I’ve seen it so many times.

Wes Gay:

Yeah. I’ve seen marketing agency websites. And like, how do you make, because I don’t understand what people are buying because they probably think that way about me at times we just neglect our own stuff.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

And it’s an age old problem because there’s this constant tension of, and y’all know at BELAY too, you can’t just say how do we serve clients? Acquisition and reducing return all those things, but then how do we do the things in our own business so that we can ensure our businesses here longer? Right? So when you’re trying to serve customers and you have this co this outward, kind of customer focused, how do you still prioritize yourself and all the things you need to get done for your business so that you could still have a business to help customers with.

Amy Appleton:

Right.

Wes Gay:

And in marketing, it just means doing your own marketing.

Amy Appleton:

Okay. So wrapping that up, agency owners do your own marketing first, don’t be the peddler, the shoe peddlers family or whatever, the people that don’t have the shoes.

Wes Gay:

The cobblers kid that don’t have shoes.

Amy Appleton:

Cobblers, that’s what it is. The cobblers kid that don’t have shoes.

Wes Gay:

Treat yourself as your number one client, because if you do work for yourself, that’s good, you’re going to be your highest or most profitable client because the work you do is going to produce new clients for you. And that’s how you grow your agency or grow your business.

Amy Appleton:

Yeah. Perfect words to end with. Do this, grow your business, then you grow yourself. So Wes, thank you so much for your time today. It was a super fun conversation. I hope our listeners gained all sorts of insight or they’re probably all crazily running back. They pulled up their websites on their phones or they’re running back to pull it up on their laptop. So thank you so much for being with us today.

Wes Gay:

Thanks for having me again. I appreciate it.

Tricia Sciortino:

We’ve got a great episode for you next week with executive coach Debby Stone. She’ll be helping us discover the art of self-promotion without being sleazy. Check out this clip from our interview….

Debby Stone:

In the book that I wrote, The Art of Self-Promotion, I talk about what I call sanctioned self-promotion opportunities. The times when you know it’s okay to talk about herself. So in broad terms those include when you’re interviewing for a job, when you are networking, when you are brand building internally, or when you are developing a client base.

Speaker 2:

Thanks for listening to One Next Step. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or follow us on Spotify, then join us next time for more practical business tips and tools to help you get more done, grow your business and lead your team with confidence. For more episodes, show notes and helpful resources visit onenextsteppodcast.com.

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