Corporate Story Beat Sheet
Start with Sales. All marketing should. And let's add in the most fundamental piece of marketing collateral in existence–the case study...
Sales Calls and Case Studies
Case studies and sales calls are the core acts of company storytelling. When you listen to successful sales calls carefully, they follow a pattern that, ideally mirrors the company's success stories on behalf of its clients. Every prospect in a sales call takes a journey with the salesperson, from a visionary goal in the prospect's mind (what Blake Snyder calls "the promise of the premise") to a reflection of that goal in a new reality (a final image of a change that has taken place for the client). The marketer's case studies or client success stories and the salesperson's process are both at their height of effectiveness was making the same journey. MadPipe developed these charts to show the relationship:
If this is not making sense, zoom out and read the original article for context.
The MadPipe Beat Sheet for Sales and Marketing
A beat is the smallest element of any story. A "beat sheet" is a list of beats that are universal or always present. Stories might have additional features that are unique to a particular story, but a beat sheet attempts to nail down what MUST be present for a story to be complete, fulfilling, or successful. From the charts above:
1. Greet & Relate (or Who They Are): The emotional connection is non-negotiable. A prospect WILL NOT become a client or at least will hold back full commitment if they don't feel connected. Most sales conversations will start with the 'small talk' ("So, what's shaking at Acme Typewriters?"). In the same way, a reader of a case study won't feel connected to the case unless that personal reality is reflected in a way to which they can vicariously relate ("Acme Typewriters occupies a highly competitive place in the market...").
2. The Visionary Goal: Every prospect has some ultimate outcome they want to achieve. It's never just "write me a white paper" or "take over my logistics". There's a broader objective like "give my company a clear, compelling voice as an industry leader" or "let me scale rapidly and take on new markets". An effective sales conversation and case study each hit that very early.
3. The Pain Points: A positive goal is always accompanied by a negative pinprick of pain (e.g. "We don't have the in-house talent to tackle this at scale." or "We don't have visibility on the data we need to make effective decisions."). The salesperson uncovers that pain early on and acknowledges it. The marketer reflects it in the case study because, when a client is representative, lots of other people feel the same pain.
4. The Basic Hurdle(s): The hurdles are distinct from pain points. Hurdles are the barriers to the prospect taking the most obvious or expeditious course of action to resolve–e.g. just hire someone or do it yourself. It often comes out as things they've already tried ("We outsourced this to freelancers, but that left us with the need to manage them." or "We hired an exec to build an in-house department, but the overhead ate our lunch.") Hearing the hurdles gives the salesperson tools to pitch and the marketer the weaknesses in alternatives to the company's offering.
5. What We Will Do (or Did): At some point, the salesperson proposes a solution. A marketer, writing a case study describes that solution, in the past tense. The solution is not only the particulars of how the company will deliver the visionary goal, mitigating pain points and leaping over hurdles but the unique particulars of how it gets/got customized to this particular client. When really sophisticated, it will include the emotional "pivot point"–the deep-seated reason for the client choosing us versus someone else (e.g. "a felt connection with a highly personal, down to earth support team" or "the comforting sense that someone gets them and understands their ultimate desired outcome").
6. Information & Concerns (or the New Immediate Reality): Once the prospect hears a solution, there are usually questions–if anxiety is low, they're often just requests for information ("Would projects be by the page, the word, or what?"); when it's high, they might be direct challenges ("I think you're fairly new in the technical side of this field, right?") A salesperson will answer those questions and quell those objections. A marketer will reflect, in a case study, the immediate new reality ("they got a finished white paper") in a way that implies confidence toward the underlying concerns ("the technical language was crisp and accurate, but accessible").
7. The New Ultimate Reality: When a novel or movie has a premise at the beginning (lonely man without love paralyzed by an event in his past), that promise must be fulfilled. The narrative can be a tragedy (he resigns himself to an unproductive life alone) or comedy (he finds love and breaks out of his funk). But never coming back to it or addressing the premise put forth at the start (in a sales call, case study, or any story) is unacceptable–the audience will revolt. The salesperson doesn't get off the call without returning in this way to the "visionary goal" ("You're going to scale a lot easier from now on." or "Your audience is going to see the incredible leadership your company represents in the market.") Same with the marketer's case study–it's not enough to say "Now, we manage their logistics." or "And we wrote their white paper." We go beyond "got what they asked for" to "we delivered on their visionary goal" in whatever words it takes to reflect that.
Web Pages and Product Brochures
The beats are applicable to the full range of corporate story. Whether you're writing a product brochure or a web page, giving a sales presentation or drafting a case study, this formatting guide for corporate storytelling works. Here is a more general, widely applicable chart that may be helpful:
Let us know what you've created with it; we're eager to keep learning!
MadPipe designs, directs, & delivers education projects marketing implementations. Our secret sauce is plotting your organizational narrative–the compelling corporate story. To dig deeper, visit madpipe.com. To contact us, visit madpipe.com/contact.