May the force be with you. This line from Star Wars was a central part of my childhood. Now, it is part of the childhood of a new generation of moviegoers, as the series has renewed in the last few years. When the new episodes came out and immediately connected with new viewers, I thought to myself “what makes this series so great?” While there are many theories, I think the shortest, and arguably best, answer is simply that it is truly relatable and timeless. Specifically, Star Wars is the classic hero tale, a storytelling device that has structured myths and stories for centuries.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell first detailed the “hero’s quest” that underscores this type of story. In the hero quest story, the hero leaves her ordinary world and ventures into a new place. She survives a series of ordeals and trials to prove herself, is granted some sort of treasure, and returns home to share her fortune with those that were left behind. You see this story play out in Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and so many other popular tales.
In this series, we’ve discussed how to assess your strengths and weaknesses, how to better productize your offering, and how to think about your relative position in the space. As we get close to the end of our Service Provider Transformation Blog Series, it’s now time to think about crafting a story that connects with your audience and best communicates your unique solutions and everything we’ve discussed so far in the series. You might not sell any action figures, but you’ll definitely sell more managed services! So, how do you do this?
How do you capture the elements of the hero story to advance your business? The answer is in breaking our tendency to focus on ourselves. We tend to want to be the hero of our story, but the real hero should be our customer. Your company has done some great things and it is understandable why you would want to focus on those things. The key point to remember is that someone, your customer, was the beneficiary of your services and accomplished some kind of business goal. Your story should focus on that. If we tweak the elements of the hero tale a bit, we can think about our conversations with our customers in this way: they are in an unfamiliar land, facing many challenges. How can we help them succeed and return home with fortune? Here are some helpful tips:
- Start your story with what is important to the customer, not to you. Too many Service Providers start telling their story about technology. Instead, start with your customer as the hero and then begin to consider what is important to them and their future success. Think about what their business model is, how they make money, how they go to market, what their competitors look like, and what changes their industry has experienced recently. You need to understand where your hero, the customer, is on their quest so you can determine how to best help them.
- What are the macro-level trends that are impacting their industry? In the hero tale, the hero faces a series of trials. The hero in your story, the customer, is facing many trials in terms of how they use and consume technology. Macro trends around public cloud, distributed workloads, and an ever-shifting technology landscape create challenges. Your customers struggle with new consumption models, with the integration of the public cloud into their legacy computing models, and with understanding what new technologies to embrace. They are looking for someone to help them overcome these challenges. Luke needed Han, Chewy, Yoda and others to come alongside him to achieve his goals. Your customer is looking for similar help. (And, if you happen to have a Millenium Falcon, they would probably think that was cool.)
- Consider what business challenges this may cause for our hero. All of these trials create business challenges for your customer. How do they embrace new models while preserving their current investments? What if they pick the wrong solution and it hurts their business? At this point, you have identified your hero, you have considered what industry trends are impacting them, and now you must consider, specifically, the business challenges they face. We all knew Luke was going to have a showdown with Vader; it was inevitable. What are the inevitable business challenges your customer must overcome?
- Show your customer how you help them address this challenge. Now is the time for you to be the Han Solo and Chewbacca to your customer’s Luke Skywalker. You have a broad range of expertise and knowledge that you can offer to help your customer address these challenges. While your customer has been busy on their hero quest alone, you have been helping other customers overcome their trials, so you have valuable experience to offer. This is a key point—your customer is looking for you to help them. You have the knowledge and experience they so desperately need.
- At last, you can talk about the features and benefits. So many Service Providers want to start here, with the features and benefits they can offer. But, without truly understanding the trials your customer is facing, you don’t know which of your solutions are most relevant. By understanding what they are trying to do and accomplish, you will know exactly what tools you can offer. Han, Chewy, R2-D2, and C-3PO played different roles and brought different tools to the quest. In the same way, you have many solutions you can offer. Now that you understand their specific needs, you can recommend specific, tailored products and solutions.
- Everyone goes home with treasure. The last element of the hero tale is that the hero returns home with treasure for the people she left behind. If you help your customer overcome their trials, they will be more successful as a business. If you align your company to the goal of helping your customers become heroes, then your company will thrive. This entire narrative becomes a virtuous cycle, in that when you help one company, that adds to your store of knowledge and expertise. This cumulative knowledge helps you show other customers how you can help them overcome their unique challenges.
You have a great story to tell, but, resist the urge to make your company the hero of the story and instead make your customer the hero. You do this in how you market, in the conversations you have during the sales process, and how you engage with both customers and prospects. Let your customer be Luke, the hero; you can be the Han, Chewy, or Leia that helps the hero accomplish their goals.
Once you become proficient at telling your story, with the customer as the hero, you’ll be better positioned to solve their problems and win their business. You may not have a blockbuster movie on your hands with lucrative merchandise deals, but you’ll likely expand your customer portfolio as you become the missing piece they need to complete their quest. Then, you’ll have some spare change to buy a ticket to the next great Hollywood blockbuster story!