As you may or may not know, I was a film major in college. Yup. That’s baby-faced Lacy, my senior year in high-school, posing with the props of what was to be my career.
And while I now lovingly (and only half-jokingly) refer to my film degree as “my $80,000 cocktail party conversation starter,” being a film student taught me an awful lot about storytelling.
If you want to learn how to tell a compelling story? Study movies. I think people tend to discount popular movies as not being “art,” but there is an art to the storytelling of popular cinema that cannot be denied.
Believe it or not, your business is about storytelling, too. Yeah, I don’t care what you do — you could be an accountant, a handbag designer, a graphic designer, a VA, or a coach — your business is about stories.
And if you understand those stories, you’ll understand your content marketing at a whole new level.
When filmmakers think about their stories, they have to make the leap from words to experiences. They start with a script, words on a page, and end up with a fully realized experience on screen, and to get there, they use storyboards.
Before anyone ever yells, “ACTION!” the director sits down with a storyboard artist and visualizes every shot of the movie.
The first time I heard of this idea being applied to business was from Air BnB founder Joe Gebbia. Apparently he was watching a documentary about Walt Disney, and was inspired by the images of storyboards from Snow White. So he and his team hired an illustrator and storyboarded the entire Air BnB user experience. And then he applied the concept to his team, asking them to storyboard what it would look like if they were doing their best work.
But how do you relate this back to your business?
Well, as I said before, every business has a story. Your customers have a story, an experience, that they go through on the way to making a purchase, after they make a purchase, etc. And you can storyboard that story to find your content ideas and opportunities.
First, you’re going to want to gather some supplies. You can use good old post-it notes if you want to, or plain paper, or something fancy like StoryboardThat.com — whatever floats your boat. I suggest starting with post-its and moving to something else once you have the basic story worked out. And don’t worry — you can sketch out pictures if you want to, but you can also use words. This isn’t about artistic skill.
What you should end up with is a bunch of sticky notes that tell your story.
But, again, what does that have to do with content marketing?
Chances are, on your first run through, you won’t hit every step. As you look at your preliminary storyboard, ask yourself, “What problem is my customer facing at this stage?” Write it on a new post-it.
Let’s take an example here. An accountant doing this exercise might have a storyboard that says something like this:
What problems does the client face at each step? Well, to start, maybe collecting all that data is hard. Maybe making the time to sit down and look at their financials is hard. Maybe they have a problem because they’re scared of their financials. Maybe they don’t even understand how to pull their bank statements or which receipts they should be saving.
BOOM. Every single one of those problems is a topic you can blog about, tweet about, share on Facebook. If the accountant can solve any one of those problems with information in a blog post, he is doing his customers a service.
Let’s look at our handbag designer’s story:
So, what problems does a person shopping for a new purse face? You might think, “This is silly; my handbags are a luxury purchase. No one has a problem with a purse…” But that’s just not true.
First, who is shopping for the purse? Is it a woman who wants to look stylish? Is it a mom looking for a utilitarian bag that looks awesome? Is it a befuddled hubby hoping to find the perfect gift? Each of these people has different problems they are looking to solve (and therefore, different blog posts they want to see).
How does she find the website? How does she browse through the purses? How does she pick out the one that’s best for her?
Each of these steps offers an opportunity for education or inspiration in the form of a blog post.
You can get dozens of ideas from a single storyboard, and if you have multiple kinds of customers (like the handbag example), multiple reasons people come to you, or multiple avenues they take to reach you, each of those is another storyboard. The possibility for generating ideas becomes practically limitless.
When you’re storyboarding, you’re constantly asking yourself, “What’s the next step?”
For my personal business storyboard, the next step after helping you generate ideas is helping you to get them organized. And I do that with a course I call Blogstorm. It’s a powerful, four-part guided brainstorming, strategy, and organizing tool to help you get the next six months of your content out of your head and into a plan. If you’re interested, click here to read more. The course is on sale for a limited time, so don’t wait.
And now it’s your turn. Snap a photo of your storyboard and share it with me on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #bizstoryboard. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!