3 Stories AEC Marketers Must Master ““ SMPS-PRC 2017

3 Stories AEC Marketers Must Master ““ SMPS-PRC 2017

 

Recommended Books on Story
Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
What Great Salespeople Do by Bosworth and Zoldan
Tell To Win by Peter Guber
A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath
Resonate by Nancy Duarte
The Story Factor by Annette Simmons
Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull (Pixar Founder)


Recommended TED Talks on Story
How Great Leaders Inspire Action (start with why) by Simon Sinek
Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown
The Clues to a Great Story by Andrew Stanton (Pixar)
The Power of Storytelling to Change the World by Dave Lieber
The Power of Story by David Lecours


Resources For Storytelling Improvement or Inspiration
TED.com
Pecha-Kucha.org
StoryCorps.org
Toastmasters.org
ThisAmericanLife.org
TheMoth.org
RadioLab.org
One-Story.com
Serial Podcast
99percentinvisible.org
Get Mortified


Slide Deck from David’s SMPS-PRC 2017 Anchorage, AK Presentation
To download presentation slides via Slideshare, click here.


Presentation Colophon
Hardware: Apple Macbook Pro, Keyspan PR-EZ1 wireless presenter, GoPro
Software: Apple Keynote using dissolve, cube, and magic move transitions
Typography: Vitesse by Hoefler & Co., Interstate by Tobias Frere-Jones

Great Designers Lead with Story ““ LDC Athens

Great Designers Lead with Story ““ LDC Athens

Video of Great Designers Lead with Story Training Session


Recommended Books on Story
Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
What Great Salespeople Do by Bosworth and Zoldan
Tell To Win by Peter Guber
A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath
Resonate by Nancy Duarte
The Story Factor by Annette Simmons
Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull (Pixar Founder)


Recommended TED Talks on Story
How Great Leaders Inspire Action (start with why) by Simon Sinek
Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown
The Clues to a Great Story by Andrew Stanton (Pixar)
The Power of Storytelling to Change the World by Dave Lieber
The Power of Story by David Lecours


Resources For Storytelling Improvement or Inspiration
TED.com
Pecha-Kucha.org
StoryCorps.org
Toastmasters.org
ThisAmericanLife.org
TheMoth.org
RadioLab.org
One-Story.com
Serial Podcast
99percentinvisible.org
Get Mortified


Slide Deck from David’s Presentation
To download presentation slides via Slideshare, click here.


Presentation Colophon
Hardware: Apple Macbook Pro, Keyspan PR-EZ1 wireless presenter, GoPro
Software: Apple Keynote using dissolve, cube, and magic move transitions
Typography: Vitesse by Hoefler & Co., Interstate by Tobias Frere-Jones

To Sell Is Human Book Review

To Sell Is Human Book Review

To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink

I rec­om­mend To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink to any­one in the A/E/C industry because, as the book says, “we’re all in sales now.” Many A/E/C firms claim that “every­one in the firm sells,” but they rarely offer sales train­ing. This book fills that knowl­edge gap, even for those that don’t think of them­selves as salespeople.

This sum­mary high­lights the why, what, and how to apply the core con­cepts of the book.

WHY
1) Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.
2) Sales has changed more in the last 10 years than in the pre­vi­ous 100.

WHAT
ABC used to stand for Always Be Clos­ing. Accord­ing to Pink, ABC now refers to Attune­ment, Buoy­ancy, and Clar­ity.

Attune­ment “” The capac­ity to take someone’s view and cal­i­brate your words and actions to match. Pro­pos­als and Pre­sen­ta­tion Inter­views need to be attuned to our buyer’s chal­lenges. If the RFP is writ­ten using spe­cific lan­guage, then selec­tively adopt that lan­guage in your response to demon­strate an under­stand­ing of their challenges.

Buoy­ancy “” The capac­ity to stay afloat in “an ocean of rejec­tion.” After pur­suit losses, Pink rec­om­mends inter­rog­a­tive self-talk. Dur­ing your next go/no go delib­er­a­tion, inter­ro­gate your­self. Ask “can we deliver this project with excel­lence? If yes, then list the top 5 rea­sons why. Use these 5 rea­sons inspire your pro­posal and presentation.

Clar­ity “” Mak­ing sense in murky sit­u­a­tions. Pink defines this as prob­lem find­ing, then prob­lem solv­ing. Teams that win fre­quently make rec­om­men­da­tions about poten­tial project prob­lems that the client hadn’t even considered.

HOW
Pitch, Impro­vise and Serve are how to apply the new ABCs of sales.

Pitch “” Sum­ma­riz­ing the essence of your project pur­suit into a mem­o­rable tagline or phrase can help your mes­sage stick. Accord­ing to Pink, rhyming “taste great and goes down eas­ily.” A great resource to help with rhymes isrhymezone”‹.com.

Story is another bril­liant way to pitch. Story is mem­o­rable, pow­er­ful, and emo­tional. Big deci­sions are made on emo­tion, then later jus­ti­fied with fact.

Impro­vise “” To Sell is Human reminds us that there are three main rules in Improv. Hear offers, say “yes and,” and make your part­ner look good. Being a great mar­keter means being a great lis­tener. Mak­ing your part­ner look good can be directly applied to pre­sen­ta­tion inter­views. Not only are selec­tion pan­els lis­ten­ing for what you say, but they also observe how your team inter­acts. Mak­ing fel­low team mem­bers look good com­mu­ni­cates that you will make your client look good.

Serve “” Pink reminds us to make our work both per­sonal and pur­pose­ful while serv­ing oth­ers. By under­stand­ing your client’s per­sonal hopes, dreams. fears and inse­cu­ri­ties, you will offer bet­ter solu­tions. Also, ask why a pur­suit mat­ters to you and your team. Then share your answers in pro­pos­als and inter­views. If your pur­pose for pur­su­ing a project improves qual­ity of life or improves the world, then your team now has an inspired mission.

What’s your reac­tion when you think of a sales per­son? The terms most often used are “pushy, slimy, slick, obnox­ious, etc.” This is the old model of sales, try­ing to con­vince buy­ers. Nobody likes to feel manip­u­lated. To Sell is Human offers a new model. A model based on emo­tional intel­li­gence, pur­pose and ser­vice. Since we’re all in sales now, it’s nice to know we can use our pow­ers for good

How To Craft AEC Stories That Win New Business

How To Craft AEC Stories That Win New Business

Marketers are buzzing about “story.” Ten years ago, we were frothing about “branding.” Like “branding,” I’m concerned that the term “story” is being applied too liberally, and will lose its credibility. To avoid this, we need to be precise when referring to “story.” Story has a definite structure. By learning this timeless structure, all AEC marketers can better tell stories to win new business.

Robert McKee, a Fulbright Scholar praised in Hollywood for his consulting on narrative structure defines story as “the expression of how and why life changes. A story begins with balance, then something throws life out of balance, then a story goes in to describe how balance is restored.”

In previous posts, I shared why AEC Marketers should use story (the why), and the three stories we must master (the what). Now, I’ll recommend how to craft your stories (the how). Story structure will make your stories, and firm, more memorable. Stories move a prospect along the continuum of getting to know, like, and trust you, and your firm. Well constructed stories filled with emotion and vulnerability build relationships. As you know well, relationships win new business.

Story Structure 101
After reading a gripping novel or seeing a moving film, have you ever wondered if there is a secret formula for story success? There is, and it’s no secret. You may have heard of the famous 3 act play: Introduction, Rising Action, Resolution. I prefer the structure below from  What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story by Mike Bosworth and Ben Zoldan. These 5 stages are the “secret sauce” for all great stories. I’ll use an example of an AEC “Who We’ve Helped Story” to illustrate these 5 stages.

  1. Setup – This is where you drop your listener into your story. Quickly ntroduce your characters, location, and any relevant background information. To make your protagonists likable, share what makes them human (dreams, fears, desires, etc.). The audience needs to connect with your project team and want them to succeed.
  2.  Conflict – If there is no struggle, there is no plot. It just isn’t interesting. There needs to be something formidable that stands in the way of your project team’s success. In the AEC world, this could be timing, personalities, budget, politics, or physical constraints.
  3.  Turning Point –  Stories are explanations of how and why life changes. This is the aha moment that changes your team. This could be some new insight that alters how your team solves problems on the job site, or the reason why you entered a new market. The turning point could even be an epiphany that changed the strategic direction of your firm.
  4.  Outcome – This is an untangling of events in your story. Think of movie credits rolling where we learn what your favorite characters are doing with their lives today. The resolution explains how your story ends and what effect the experience has had on your team.
  5.  Your Point – In this stage, you reinforce your theme or point of your story. This is often a core belief or value that your firm holds. If your firm has a new way of delivering projects, this is where you would share that process. It might sound something like this, “as a result of what we learned by continuously overcoming X, our firm believes that Y not only is the best way to deliver projects, but it also separates us from our competition.

Recommended Story Development Process
The way in which you develop a good marketing story is not the order in which  you ultimately write or tell that story. Because clarity and brevity are so important in marketing stories, write or tell the story in chronological order (stages 1 thru 5 above). Develop the story in this order:

  1. Your Point – Ask yourself, “why am I/we telling this story?” Possible answers may be to share your impressive safety record, demonstrate your creativity, or persuade that your project delivery method saves money. Always start with why.
  2. Outcome – To make sure your story ends in a way that supports your point.
  3.  Setup
  4. Conflict
  5. Turning Point

Now you have the key elements, practice writing or telling the story in chronological order.

Share Emotion
Great story structure without emotion is like a jumpy house before it’s been inflated. Emotion gives it life, makes it interesting, and ultimately memorable. There are 6000 words in English to communicate emotion. Use them to describe how your main characters feel, not just what happened. If you just recount the facts, expect to put your audience to sleep. Consistently ask yourself, how did your protagonist feel at each stage of the story. Feelings are the glue that constructs real and likable characters. Emotional connection is also what makes your story, and your firm memorable.

Reveal Vulnerability
This is the hardest thing to do for AEC firms. Our work is so highly technical, and we are consistently asserting our expertise, that to reveal vulnerability seems weak. But we actually gain power when revealing vulnerability. Try this with a friend. Reveal something you may be struggling with, or a mistake you’ve made and watch what happens. Because of what neuroscientists call mirror neurons, your friend will most likely share something vulnerable in return. In simple terms, this “monkey see, monkey do” behavior is a mutual exchange of emotion. This is the definition of a relationship. By telling your story, your prospect may tell you their story. This is where you learn what your prospect’s pain points are, and what you can do to solve them. It takes courage, but going first in revealing vulnerability, is critical. You establish that it’s safe to be real, that your prospect can trust you with their authentic story. It’s counterintuitive, but vulnerability makes you more likable, not less. Perfection is boring, stiff, and lifeless. It’s our imperfections, that make us likable. Stories about when your firm made a mistake, what you did to correct that error, and what you learned, are incredibly powerful relationship builders.

Nothing is more intimidating to a writer than a blank sheet of paper. My intention is that this post serves as a template for you to jump-start your stories. By utilizing a proven story structure, and integrating emotion and vulnerability, you will create stories that elevate your firm’s proposals, presentation interviews, and websites to win new business.

What Do You Think?
Does having a structure constrain or enhance your creative storytelling?
Any examples of where you’ve revealed vulnerability, and it’s helped or hurt you?

Related Posts
Why AEC Marketers Must Master The Power of Story  (The Why)
3 Stories AEC Marketers Must Master (The What)

Recommended Books on The Power of Story To Win New Business
What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story 
by Mike Bosworth, Ben Zoldan
The Story Factor by Annette Simmons
Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph w/ Hidden Power of Story by Peter Guber
resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Dan and Chip Heath
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Dan Pink

 

3 Stories AEC Marketers Must Master

3 Stories AEC Marketers Must Master

3 Stories AEC Marketers Must Tell

As mentioned in the previous post, Why AEC Marketers Must Master The Power of Story, stories that connect on an emotional level are persuasive. But does this mean stories about your cat will help you win new business? No, there are three specific stories all AEC Marketers should master. These are the About Me, About Our Firm, and Who We’ve Helped narratives. Telling these stories well will make you and your firm more memorable, build authentic relationships, and demonstrate your ability to solve problems that prospective client may be facing.

Where To Tell These Stories:
Where To Tell the 3 Stories

The About Me Story
This is the story that introduces you to someone new. You want to make your first impression memorable and meaningful because people hire people they know (and trust). The only way to build trust is to share who you are in an authentic manner. The key to this story is to move beyond a list of your accomplishments, or a chronology of your work experience. Cold facts lack the emotional impact needed to connect with your audience.

The point of the About Me story is to explain why you do what you do. For example, tell why you are a marketer for an architecture firm that specializes in higher education. Once you answer why you do what you do, go back and build your story to arrive at this conclusion. For more information on story structure, read this post: How To Structure Stories To Win New Business.

The following story archetypes can give your About Me story a head start in connecting with your audience because there is built-in familiarity. The challenge plot has you overcoming a formidable challenge. Examples include David vs. Goliath, any underdog, or Star Wars. A rags to riches plot describes you as a normal person achieving something extraordinary. Examples include Cinderella, Annie, or Oprah. The what I’ve learned plot shows you, as the main character in struggle (often with yourself). An example of this is Abraham Lincoln and what he learned from the many failures he overcame.

David Lecours’ About Me Story Example

The About Our Firm Story
This is the story of your firm’s journey. Try to resist a historical timeline. A better approach is to focus on a few key milestones that add emotion, not just facts.

The About Our Firm story doesn’t tell what your firm does, or how, it tells why. The point of this story supports the purpose of your firm. For example, KAA Design’s purpose is to “design beautiful warm contemporary homes that enrich people’s lives.” Their next step to develop their story is to mine the company history for events that led them to arrive at this conclusion.

A good story involves conflict. This could be an internal strategic struggle such as trying to be experts in too many market sectors. Or, this could be an external struggle such as responding to a changing marketplace. Companies typically resist including struggle in their stories because they fear it will make them appear weak. But the opposite is true. Showing vulnerability adds power by showing that your firm is real and can overcome challenges.

There are a couple of timeless story archetypes that fit really well for About Our Firm stories. A vision plot that describes the future of your firm or the future your firm can create if hired. The recommendation here is to take a bold position, be polarizing. People don’t follow tepid leaders. A great vision plot is the I Have a Dream speech from Martin Luther King Jr. This vision plot is great for attracting likeminded clients and employees.

A revenge plot can be effective. Apple employed this strategy in their famous Mac vs. PC ad campaign. It can be more effective for AEC firms to seek revenge on a societal or building problem, not a competitor. For example, if sustainability is a core value of your firm, then taking revenge on inefficient buildings and climate change is a compelling story.

The Who We’ve Helped Story
This is not one story, but a series of short stories. These stories are so essential for Professional Service firms to tell because they demonstrate your ability to solve problems that prospective client often face. It allows prospective clients to see how your firm thinks, and deals with problems.

All you can sell is a future promise. The best way to demonstrate a future promise is by telling stories of your firm fulfilling past promises.

Challenge plots work well because they demonstrate overcoming adversity. Another option is the classic love story plot where boy meets girl, boy messes it up, boy works hard to get her back. This is a great opportunity to show vulnerability. Aquatic Design Group tells a story of specifying a pump that their vendor recommended without doing their own due diligence. The pump turned out to be insufficient for the massive university swim stadium they had designed. Aquatic Design Group took responsibility for the error, had the pump replaced at their own expense (costing half of their design fees), and won lifelong loyalty from the client.

Mine your past projects for bright spots. Share stories where clients adopted your firm’s unique value proposition, and how they benefitted. Develop your story by first establishing your point: why the client chose to hire your firm. The resolution is how your firm delivered, and what benefits the client received as a result.

I recommend that you have a Who We’ve Helped story for each of the main objections you consistently hear in your business development efforts. For example, if you consistently hear that your fees are higher than your competitors, share the story about how a previous client had the same concern, and how your firm added so much value to their project that any incremental fee difference more than paid for itself.

Randy Mendioroz, Aquatic Design Group, Who We’ve Helped Story Example

Conclusion

As Professional Service Marketers, our enemy is commoditization. Stories are the antidote. Nobody can legitimately tell your About Me, About Our Firm, and Who We’ve Helped Stories. Your stories are unique and they will set you apart from your competition.

What Do You Think?
Have you used one of these stories? Was it effective?
Did telling your story inspire your prospective client to tell you their story?

Next Posts To Read
Why AEC Marketers Must Master The Power of Story
How to Structure Stories To Win New Business (coming soon)

Recommended Book That Inspired This Post
What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story 
by Mike Bosworth, Ben Zoldan

Why AEC Marketers Must Master The Power of Story

Why AEC Marketers Must Master The Power of Story

Trojan Horse carrying emotion

As AEC Marketers, we are in the business of persuasion. Aristotle, the father of persuasion, defined it is a combination of logic (logos), emotion (pathos) and credibility (ethos). Our industry is really good at two out of three of these tactics: logic and credibility. But 67% would earn us a “D” if enrolled in Persuasion class. We must connect emotionally to be fully effective. Story is the perfect vehicle custom-built to deliver emotion.

Is emotional connection too squishy, warm & fuzzy, Kumbaya for the AEC industry? No, we are already using it. Our industry is built on relationships. How are relationships built? By creating positive emotional connections one person at a time.

Stories Help Us Lead
Quick, who are the greatest leaders in American history? I’ll wait for you to list three. Your list might include Kennedy, Lincoln, or Martin Luther King because a common skill among great leaders is the ability to tell stories. This extends beyond politics. When musicians, actors and athletes use story: as defined as authentic expression that moves audiences on an emotional level, they become idols. While our goal may not be hero worship, storytelling helps us lead in business too. Beth Comstock, Chief Marketing Officer of GE says, “you must first tell a story, before you can sell a story.” Leadership and storytelling are inseparable. Plato said, “people that tell stories rule the world.” Which market would you like to rule?

Story Allows Us In
Nobody likes to be sold. We feel manipulated. Our audience keeps their defenses up against our persuasive charm. But story can let you in. When people listen to, or read a story, they become physically more receptive. They relax their shoulders, release their jaw, and even lower their heartbeat. Story also induces mental relaxation. Listeners become less analytical and can reach a trance-like state. This is why parents read stories to their children before bedtime. Story connects to the subconscious and imagination centers of the brain. Story, like a Trojan Horse, gets us inside the gate to then move our audience to act.

Story Moves Our Audience to Buy
Human beings liked to be moved on an emotional level. It makes us feel alive. We seek out emotional experiences on the page, stage, screen and stadium to escape from our overly logical lives. While logic makes people think, emotion makes people act. We purchase using emotion and later justify with fact. Think about the last big purchase you made. Maybe it was a house or a car. Sure, you did logical research. If you are really nerdy, you created a spreadsheet comparing positive and negative attributes among your choices. But, when you had to decide, you probably went with your gut. You walked into your new house and it just felt right. Selection committees don’t choose a firm solely based on lowest fee (a logical decision). Emotional connection, a feeling that the team will be great to work with, influences the final decision.

As Professional Service Marketers, all we sell is a promise to deliver. This promise must be credible (your firm’s reputation) and logical (proven project delivery method). These two attributes will get you on a short list. Harnessing the power of story to connect emotionally can win you the work.

Next Post To Read
How to Craft AEC Stories To Win New Business
The 3 Stories AEC Marketers Must Master

Books That Have Informed My Thinking on Storytelling To Win New Business
What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story 
by Mike Bosworth, Ben Zoldan
Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell the Best Stories Will Rule the Future by Jonah Sachs
The Story Factor by Annette Simmons
Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story by Peter Guber
resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Dan and Chip Heath
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Dan Pink

Your Thoughts?
Has your firm used story to win new business?
When have you used story? In bios, project sheets, firm overviews, presentation interviews?
Do you find written or oral stories to be more effective?

LecoursDesign is a branding and digital marketing agency helping A/E/C* firms attract clients and talent.
* A/E/C = Architecture / Engineering Construction (but you already knew that)
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