Imagine enjoying fantastic success with your business and opting to never repeat it.
One of those scenarios requires no imagination. Far too often, CEOs realize mind-blowing success and then turn into acetic monks who renounce the best success they ever had.
And what kind of success are they quickest to forsake?
Marketing. Particularly brand storytelling. Especially successful storytelling.
I understand why companies like to slash marketing costs. Marketing is a fuzzy expenditure, not as easily understood as the cost of production and returned merchandise. And brand storytelling, while not a novel concept, is new to many decision-makers. Why spend money on something that reminds you of bedtime with Mommy when you’re struggling to keep up with rising energy costs?
It may be shortsighted, but it makes sense to favor mandatory budget items over discretionary ones. I empathize. What bothers me – what I struggle to comprehend – is the inclination to give up on storytelling that exceeds expectations, storytelling that proves profitable.
I’ve recently been mentally tallying up the KOTAW Girl Gang’s successes and voicing a recurring thought, “Wow, I have to tell that story. It would make a great case study.”
How to Lose $5 Million
So I thought I’d update the story about the client I helped earn $5 million in 48 hours. After he cashed the check, he said he was “done with marketing” and didn’t spend a dime of the $5 million on brand storytelling, public relations, social media or advertising.
Here’s the update: the company’s stock is now valued at 0. Huh?
How to Gain – and Lose – a Page 1 Google Ranking
And then I check on the client whose story we told – and sold — so well that his website moved from oblivion to page one of Google in organic search in just 45 days, ranking him ahead of 100-year-old, billion-dollar competitors. “Thank you and goodbye,” he said, after I told him the exciting news.
Did he make the right decision? I start searching and can’t find him on page 1,2,3,4…11, 12, 13…18, 19… At page 22, I give up. Hmm?
How to Fail With a 1 Million Percent Increase in Sales
Well, how about that client whose direct sales from Twitter soared 1 million percent in 60 days, thanks to our story-driven social media efforts?
The client said, “that’s enough,” and pulled the plug on social media marketing.
I run some analytics: The client’s social media-related sales plummeted to $0 within two months after the client severed ties with KOTAW and never recovered. Really?
How to Kill Your Business After Earning a 500 Percent Return on Storytelling
Let’s see how things are going with the client whom we helped win a prestigious industry award, magazine coverage and peer praise as well as provide a 500,000 percent return on investment in 90 days.
Based on his digital footprint, the client is no longer in business. Seriously?
How to Break Up with Success
And what about the other clients who – in 120 days or less – got more than the sales, media placements, acclaim, social media engagement and branding success they wanted?
Many – too many – gave up on success. They didn’t “go in a different direction” with another content marketing agency, they didn’t take their branding and storytelling efforts in-house. They had success, loved it (so they said) and abruptly ended the affair. WTF?
Trying to answer this question keeps me up at night. It’s not unusual for me to attach greater importance to a client’s success than the client, and I know I’m not alone in this. It’s the nature of creative marketing professionals – certainly among the best and brightest – to bring greater passion to projects than the people who pay our fees. We wouldn’t achieve the results we do if we weren’t driven by our own desires to achieve them.
So I never expect clients to be as wowed as I am by the results we deliver to them. I know I challenge myself to impossible standards and that there is some sort of magic involved when I achieve them.
Like a Virgin
Those “case studies” mentioned earlier? All of those were firsts for me. I had never raised $5, much less $5 million for a client before. I had no idea how to earn a page 1 Google ranking. I didn’t know how to calculate a million percent increase in sales.
I decided to achieve those results and did. It was exhilarating. I wanted more!
Why didn’t the clients? Why didn’t they want another happy ending? Why didn’t they want the best they ever had to be even better?
I don’t have the answer, but I do have a theory. I think there’s something about our relationship to stories that makes us assume they’ll end happily. The prince will slay the dragon, Cinderella will marry Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood will outwit the Big Bad Wolf.
Repeat or Defeat
Sure, we know that companies fail. But a brand story? It must end well.
So as long as a company writes its story – or hires someone to write it for them — success is guaranteed, right?
Well, if you have a good brand story and tell it very well, yes, you’ll likely get one happy ending.
But no company – and no relationship – can thrive with a single happy ending.
There is no happily-ever-after in a brand’s story. It must evolve. It must face and resolve plot twists. It must never take first-time passion for granted.
It must always get better. Or the dragon will eat your business.
Don’t let it happen to yours. Keep the happy endings coming!
Need help telling – and selling – your story? The KOTAW team thrives on making branding magic, and our passion for storytelling success never quits.
We’d love to hear from you and welcome YOUR thoughts about success and happy endings.