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Episode 22: Clarify Your Message with Better Storytelling

by Matt Johnson, on Feb 3, 2020 3:33:01 PM

What if I told you that your customers don't always purchase the best products at the best prices? In fact, nine times out of ten, suppliers are chosen based on how well they communicate the value they offer to their end-user. On this episode of the Takeover, I explain how distributors and suppliers alike can grow their sales through the power of crystal-clear storytelling.

Luke Skywalker is piloting an X-Wing dangerously close to the surface of the Death Star. This planet-sized weapon of mass destruction is priming cannons for a cataclysmic attack on a nearby planet, sheltering the rebel base.

The fate of the galaxy literally hangs in the balance.

Tailing closely behind Luke is a trio of Imperial tie-fighters led by none other than Darth Vader. R2D2 is shot. Luke only has one chance to take down the Death Star before millions of innocent lives are destroyed.

To make matters worse, swirling around in Luke's head are questions about the battle of good versus evil, light versus darkness, the power of the Force, and of course, whether or not he has what it takes to be a Jedi Knight. With a reassuring voice from Obi-One Kenobi, Luke steadies his breathing, trusts the Force, and fires his torpedos. Luke hits the target, disabling the Death Star, defeating the villain, and proving to himself and his friends that he does indeed have what it takes!

The reason why this moment in Cinematic history is so powerful is because it satisfies a deep-rooted human desire for the hero to win.


The hero's journey, is THE storytelling template of a broad category of tales and lore that involves a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed. From Frodo and the Ring to Neo in the Matrix to Jesus in the Bible, every story that captures our attention and our hearts follows this same template. You could say that it is the very DNA of storytelling.

In its simplest form, the hero's journey can be described as follows:

A hero, who has a problem, meets a guide. The guide offers the hero a plan, and calls them to action, resulting in either tragedy or success.

In business, you are NOT the hero, but the guide. Your customer is the hero and it's your job to meet them where they're at on their journey, provide them with a plan to win, and call them to action.

Get ready to learn three ways you can use Storytelling in your industrial supply business. But first, let's watch a short video that further explains your customer's journey and your role in it.



1. Unify Your Team with a Compelling Mission Statement

Sadly, many organizations I've visited are unclear about WHY they exist and HOW they help their customers. This is as common in a small, 5-person local distributor, as it is in a $100MM supplier. It's not that the leadership is unsure why they exist and how they do what they do, it's a failure to clearly communicate the mission and vision to their team.

Before we crank out the next marketing campaign or slap a new slogan on the delivery truck, let's make sure that everyone on our payroll can articulate the mission and vision of our company, so that they can in-turn demonstrate and communicate that mission and vision to your customers. 


A great mission statement will do three things in as few words as possible. First, it it will introduce the conflict. Have you ever read a story or watched a movie that did not center around conflict, a bad guy, or an internal struggle? Secondly, it will define a destination. What does success look like for your customers? How do you plan on helping them get there? Finally, it will foreshadow what's at stake. If there is no failure, no fear, no consequences, your mission will be in inconsequential and therefore, irrelevant to your team and the customers you serve.

If you're not sure how to create a compelling mission statement, take a look at ours. Feel free to use this as a template that you can follow to create your own. Don't fill it with a bunch of flowery, mumbo-jumbo about "profit" and "fiscal responsibility" that only sounds good to your stakeholders. Keep it simple and straight to the point so that anyone can easily memorize it.

At Spinstak, we know independent distributors and suppliers struggle to compete against national brands. We’ve created software, strategies, and services that utilize personalized catalogs to grow their business and build a legacy that stands the test of time.

Step 1: Introduce the Conflict

At Spinstak, we know independent distributors and suppliers struggle to compete against national brands.

In other words, our hero (independent distributors and suppliers) struggles (both internally and externally) to compete against national brands (the villain). 


Step 2: Define the Destination

We’ve created software, strategies, and services that utilize personalized catalogs to grow their business...

Independent distributors and suppliers struggle to compete because they often lack the resources and staff necessary to build and manage catalogs and technology which could help them grow their businesses. Our vision is to give them access to the right tools and team that can help them at a price they can afford.


Step 3: Foreshadow the Stakes

...and build a legacy that stands the test of time.

This line is subvertly foreshadowing the opposite of a legacy that stands the test of time, i.e., a business that is either acquired or dissolved. Depending on the ownership, either scenario could be viewed as "failure" or a "tragedy" that we are seeking to avoid.

Spend the time to clarify your mission statement so that your team has a unifying foundation. Many organizations find it helpful to hire an outside consultant to help capture this mission statement and put it into action.

If you are interested in a two-day workshop that helps you clarify your message, click here to schedule a free consultation

Schedule A Consultation


2. Clarify Your Message Online So Your Customers Will Listen

Arguably, the most-important marketing tool you own is your website. This is often the first impression your prospects have of your brand, and for many, it could be the last. If a prospect visits your website and they cannot understand what you offer, why they need it, and how to do business with you in less than 5 seconds, they are GONE!

Over the years, I've seen more distributors websites than I can count, and I have to tell you, only a handful are memorable. The rest, well, they just kind of blend into each other. The design is often cluttered and confusing. Take a look at your website right now. If it lacks compelling copy, a marketing one-liner, a clear call-to-action, or an easy-to-follow plan outlining how to do business with you, then chances are, you're missing out on a ton of potential leads.


eCommerce is important to be sure, but I would argue that having a good design with storytelling copy and clear message is what will help you win new business. If your customers were looking for Amazon, they would be there, not browsing your website.

The reason why they're considering you is not because you have every SKU, but because you understand their world and can serve, supply, and solve problems that Amazon simply can't. 

Focus on telling that story, and remember, you're not the hero! Do you think your customers care that you've been in business since 1938? Sorry, but they're not interested in your history, values, or accolades. It's not a bad thing to have that information on your website. In fact, it can be a great tool for attracting the right kind of talent, but your customer is focused on their story, their problems, and ultimately, they are wondering if you can help them.

3. Unify Sales and Service with a Brand Script

In 16 years of marketing, the most eye-opening moments for me have been opportunities to spend time on the road with outside or regional sales reps. I get to see first-hand how they use the marketing collateral, flyers, catalogs, samples, etc. to communicate the company's value proposition to the customer.

I've seen the good, the bad, and everything in between. In our industry, sales reps are notorious for being "rogue, lone wolves" who do their thing and convincing them to follow a processes is a challenge to say the least. Rather than trying to get everyone to do sales the same way, I suggest that you focus on getting everyone to use the same script -- a brand script. 


A brand script is a story that follows the hero's journey template and succinctly communicates your company's mission, vision, and value proposition. This brand script needs to be utilized on your website and your marketing collateral. It also needs to be talked about in your leadership meetings, sales meetings, and staff training.

This story is one that will immediately resonate with your ideal customers. The light bulb will go off, you will earn credibility, and most importantly, have the attention of your buyers.

And attention is the name of the game! We walk out of the theater if the movie is boring. Maybe we fall asleep on the couch. We stop reading the novel that doesn't connect with our souls. I would argue that life is simply too short for unclear value propositions and bad movies. 

Let's do our best to tell a story they'll remember!

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