A STORYTELLING FORMULA FOR PRIVATE CLUBS

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Have you ever cried reading a book or watching a movie?

Most of us have.  That’s because story is the most powerful tool there is to compel the human brain. The imagined experiences in a story can become so real to our brain that you’ll shed a tear for someone who probably doesn’t even exist.

When we read a story or watch a movie, our brains light up the same way they would if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading or watching, which is what makes a great story so engaging and memorable.

But great stories don’t happen by accident. They are extremely formulaic – just like music.  If you filter noise through certain principles and rules you get music.  A catchy tune gets stuck in your head because the brain registers them differently.  Story works the same way using formula to filter random events through very serious rules.

Here is the framework based on the most popular elements in nearly every story:

1. A hero character wants something;

2. And encounters resistance or a problem;

3. That they can’t solve themselves, so another character steps into the story as their guide;

4. Who gives them a plan;

5. And then calls them to action;

6. Resulting in either success or failure.

Sound familiar? Star Wars. Moneyball. Good Will Hunting. Karate Kid.

 
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Not surprisingly, Hollywood is built on storytelling formula and tests them weekly at the box office. But top brands like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks also harness the powerful formula to their advantage by applying it in a marketing context. Private clubs can do so as well.

By filtering branding and marketing messages through this same framework clubs can clarify their messaging too so that it resonates better and becomes more memorable.

Here’s a basic overview:

Step 1 – Identify the Hero: The critical mistake when it comes to branding is to position your brand (club) as the hero in the story. Your club is not the hero in the story, your member is.  Here’s the paradigm shift: there is no benefit whatsoever in getting your club’s story out.  The reason is nobody cares about your story…they only care about their story.  So the difference is that you have to understand the story your [prospective] member is living and what role your club needs to play within their story.

Step 2 – Isolate the Basic Need:  A hero in a story wants something that is clearly defined.  So the very first thing we need to do if we want to invite members into the story we’re telling is we need to define something they want as it relates to your club. The mistake that most brands make: they either don’t clearly define the basic thing that their customer wants, or they define too many things that their customer wants. It must be simple, relevant and repeatable - meaning a lot of things get left out.

Step 3 – Find the Internal Problem:  We tend to offer solutions to external problems, but human beings buy solutions to internal problems. An external problem for a prospect might be a desire to play more golf. But the internal problem describes how the external problem makes them feel – frustrated that public golf takes too long to play and takes time away from family. People join clubs to resolve internal problems (frustration, tension, self-doubt, fear, jealousy, envy, identity, etc.) so work to identify and resolve these in your marketing.

Step 4 – Be the Guide:  In story, if the hero could resolve their own problem they wouldn’t have a problem.  So they need a guide.  There are two requirements to positioning as the guide.  Empathy, meaning that you show that you are like your members and that you care for them and understand their pain; and, competent, meaning that you show that you are capable of helping them solve their problem.

Step 5 – Offer a Plan:  As their guide, you need to tell [prospective] members how to do what you want them to do. The brain is drawn towards clarity – give them a few simple steps, even if they are basic. Step 1: Call to schedule a tour.  Step 2: Apply for membership.  3. Meet with our Membership Chair.  By offering bite size chunks that people can wrap their mind around you bridge the gap for a potential member. People will almost always choose the brand that communicates the clearest, even if what they offer is inferior.

Step 6 – Call them to Action: If you are not asking your members to do something, they won’t. Do you want them to attend an event, refer a friend, or schedule a tour? Then this should be said clearly and plainly, and should be the most obvious option for them.

Step 7 – Define the Stakes: Describe what is at stake for the hero, both in terms of success and failure. Determine what the end of the journey looks like and how the club will participate in their transformation through a better way of life, special benefits that members enjoy, and what people who don’t join will miss out on.

Use each of these buckets like chords in a song. You don’t have to use them all every time, and the order can vary, but everything you communicate (website, social media, etc.) should come from one of these buckets. If not, you are creating noise and confusion and likely giving up opportunities to competitors who are being more clear.

Mike Phelps

Redondo Beach, California 90278