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The story of 2023

A common struggle with storytelling is that people don’t know where to find good stories.

The truth is, you don’t find good stories, you create them. It is through the telling that a story is born.

A great place to start is 2023.

2023 delivered unique events, both globally and in my personal life. I’ve met people who’ve challenged and inspired me. I’ve faced setbacks, celebrated victories, discovered joys, and made some tough decisions.

What did 2023 bring you that made an unexpected difference?
What did you learn that changed your course?
Who crossed your path and left a mark?

Why not take the time in between the years to turn one of the answers into a story, your story of 2023?

PS: We’d love to hear it! Why not share the lessons in a post (or in the comments).

It’s too expensive!

Or is it?
Because maybe it’s too cheap.

Price is a story. A cheap price tells a different story than an expensive price.

It’s too cheap when your customer chooses the competition over you because the story your customer derives from the price has destroyed trust in your offer.

Price is also an enabler. Higher prices enable more premium offers.

It’s too expensive when the service you provide can’t live up to the story your customer derives from the price.

Clarity and complexity

Clarity doesn’t make complexity go away, it makes complexity accessible.

The purpose of clarity is to make the difficult feel easy. To give us an entry point to the rabbit hole. To light us a path through the mess that makes sense and is easy to follow. It makes the complex feel simple.

But of course when complexity is accessible, it can help to reduce complexity.

Marketing stories that work

A great product solves a problem, resolves a struggle, or fulfills a desire.

It tastes delicious without me having to cook. It sounds awesome while being affordable. It’s efficient, sustainable, stylish. It gives me a feeling of mastery or pure joy. Or whatever it is for your product.

Great products transform me into a better person. One who eats healthier, takes better photos, works with more focus, or makes better decisions.

Essentially, it gets me from point A where I still have that struggle to point B where my struggle is resolved.

It’s that transformation that great marketing stories capture. They give us the feeling of being seen with our struggle and they light us the path to a better future where that struggle is resolved.

Marketing stories work when the struggle is real and the path to the future is accessible.

They keep working when the product delivers on the promise.

Speaking up on their behalf

When Simon Sinek or Brené Brown tweet a sentence, it gets them 1000 likes and 100 retweets in a matter of minutes.

When you (or I) tweet the same sentence, it doesn’t work that way.

So, why do people love these words when Sinek or Brown say them but not when you do?

Because you’re a stranger while Sinek and Brown are not. In fact, for many in their audience they are heroes. And as such, they speak up on behalf of their audience. They say out loud their audience’s thoughts.

The appeal of their tweets is not that their audience agrees with the celebrity but the other way around. For the audience, it feels like their hero agrees with them.

And this is why it matters whether you’re a stranger or not. Because nobody cares for when a stranger agrees with them. They don’t know you and so you haven’t earned the right to speak on their behalf.

It’s been the same for the celebrity when she wasn’t famous, yet.

The safest way to earn the right to speak on their behalf is consistency. Show up consistently, speak the truth consistently, capturing your audience’s thoughts consistently. And have a little patience.

Enough is not enough

There’s no shortage of great products. Take almost any industry and we have enough of what it sells.

We have no shortage of great yoghurt flavours, we have no shortage of cute plush toys, no shortage of coaches, an abundance of great books, fantastic music, pens, furniture, cars, and on and on and on …

There just is no shortage.

And yet, there’s this one idea that is still missing.


Because you’re going beyond making just another this or that.

You’ve looked closer. You understand our struggles. You get what we strive for.

That’s a difference. Rather than building a great thing and trying to make us get it. And buy it.

You get us. And build a very special thing that’s a perfect match for what we need.

And that’s why we want it. And buy it. It’s made for us.

Price as a message

In our regular Clubhouse session on leadership communication we had an interesting discussion about price. One of the participants reported that they managed to get a deal despite having the most expensive offer (by far) among 12 competitors.

Upon further dissecting the pitch it turned out that they got the deal not despite being the most expensive competitor but because of it.

The customer’s management told themselves the story that they only deserve the best. The high price communicated exactly that.

So, when it came to pitching the concepts, the decision was basically already made at the moment the customer heard the price. Everything that came after that was just there to justify why this was indeed the premium offer that they deserved.

This is an important lesson about pricing. Often, the price is seen as the result of adding up the effort of everything that went into building the offer. Yet, price is essentially a story. And so a different perspective on price is that it can also be the starting point of the story. The task of building a product is then to build a product that deserves to be sold at that price point. How does our offer need to look like so that – despite the premium price tag – it still feels like a bargain?

A million ways to tell our story

Today, we’ve got a million ways to tell our story. We can tell it on video, audio, or write it down. We can publish it on YouTube, LinkedIn, or Instagram. We can record podcasts or chat live on Clubhouse. We can tweet with 240 characters or write long-from blog posts. We can call on the phone, meet in person or give a speech.

Yet, no matter how we choose to tell our story, one thing always comes first: Making a connection with our audience.

This is not about technology, nor about the format. It’s about empathy, clarity, and caring for our cause. It’s about understanding what matters to our audience and finding the words that make them see.

The beauty of it is this: When we get this right, our story becomes independent of the platform, the format, and the technology. When we get the story right, we’ll be able to tell it on any platform, using the format that fits us best with the technology that we have.

History vs. Story

It’s spelled “story” – without the “hi” at the beginning. Still, many people approach telling stories as recounting historical events. In a chronological order. Even if their audience couldn’t care less about how it all began.

It’s much more interesting to ask yourself what gets your audience most excited. What’s most surprising to them? Or most interesting. And then work from there. Once you tell them, what do they want to know next? And next. And so on.

For example, sometimes it’s more interesting to work backwards by asking “How was that possible?” or “What led to this?” Just like some of the most exciting detective stories start with knowing who the murderer was but leave the audience dying to learn why she did it.

The guiding star is our audience’s curiosity. What are they dying to know? More often than not this is different from the chronological order of events.

Don’t make your story a history lesson, make it an interesting story!

Football is boring

… unless we root for a team. At which point a whole range of emotions kicks in: hope, joy, sadness, anger, …

When we don’t root for a team, it’s just 22 people running after a ball and trying to kick it into a goal. The same is true for any sports.

As long as we don’t root for a player, watching a Tennis match is among the most boring activities on earth. We must care for the outcome. Otherwise it’s just two people smashing a ball.

What’s the outcome that your audience cares for when you talk to them? Where is the player that they root for in your story? (Hint: It’s not you.) What makes it more than just a person reading off their slides?

Spread the Word

Picture of Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz