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  • Francisco Mahfuz

E60. Turn Your Customers Into Story Heroes with James Rostance



Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.


Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story powers.com and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a coffee.com forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.


Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories, the people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is James Rostance. James is a b2b marketing powerhouse. After working for the BBC, he specialised in producing video marketing campaigns for b2b businesses to out market their competitors and attract loyal clients at scale through social media. His latest book sell without selling is coming out next month. James is also the host of the foreword for the number one b2b Marketing podcast in the UK. And the reason he's here today is because he has just launched his latest venture story hero, where he joined the power of story with video to create irresistible stories, selling case studies. I actually think James is a bit greedy, because he's got the video company. He's got the number one podcast, he's got the books. He's got his rugged good looks. Can he at least leave story for the rest of us? Well, here he is. Ladies and gentlemen, James raskins. James, welcome to the show.


James Rostance 2:07

That's an awesome intro. Thanks so much. Yeah, that's really cool. Thank you.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:12

Yes, as I said to you, I wasn't overly bothered about getting your official bio, because getting this type of intro then is one of my things when it comes to podcasting.


James Rostance 2:24

It's authentic as well. And you know what the scripted public speaker bios while send me to sleep and which is why I was struggling to send you one. But I'm so glad that you had your own take on that. Thank you.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:38

So one of the things that that I thought was was really interesting, because you just launched this company. And as we were chatting before, I reached out to you nine minutes after you launch the company, I got it, I got one of those notifications in social media that happened, I congratulated you and probably said something nonsensical. And then we got you on here. So I started looking through, what's your background with this stuff. So you know, who who is James with story, and I started looking through your podcast for one, four. And I don't know if this has anything to do with it. But I could find three guests that talk about either storytelling, or the emotional or how you need to connect with with clients or customers emotionally. And this was started in December 2019. And there was another one in January 2020. So poke Ashley Craig, and then you had Jessica Giglio in April 2020. Is it Is this a coincidence that these guys are this people have anything to do with this venture starting now?


James Rostance 3:41

That's an awesome bit of research and and you're bang on the money I would say there. So yeah, in in doing my show, the 414 it's been speaking with all of the different guests, that has led me to create ultimately these stories selling case studies. And and yet, you've you touched on the basically the chap that set this all off for me, it was when I spoke with Paul cash from rooster punk. He's one of the industry's absolute standout leading experts in storytelling writes, and the way he described what the power of story could offer, and why it's important the difference it can make, how it connects with people on an emotional level, that just sold me and that was hugely pivotal. And from then I then set about learning about the story, storytelling, and everything that goes with it, which was a bit of a challenge because I was rubbish at English at school. So I kind of feel like a bit of an imposter in this sense because I'm academically not qualified to do it. But Paul's talk on, on story on the power of story and what it can do. Inspired me gave me the confidence to I guess go forward and learn about it. So that's what I've been doing.


Francisco Mahfuz 5:04

Let me take on a couple of things just said that first of all, the last thing you said about school and not being qualified, when That's complete nonsense. I'm gonna tell you why. Because I am a complete nerd. And I always read extensively, including things that are that are perhaps too embarrassing to admit to have read, like, role playing game manuals about vampires and werewolves. But I have taken I've got an English Literature degree. Okay. The last thing that I can say that I've learned from taking that degree was storytelling, because that's not you know, being qualified for it. And there are people that study storytelling in itself. But unless you're one of those people, you can have degrees in you can even have degrees in marketing and things of that nature, without having gotten much into storytelling the way you're getting in now. And I've gotten in a while back. So I think it's it's a very strange thing, because it's the most obvious communication skill. There is everybody. Oh, yes, I love stories. Stories are great. How many people do genuinely know that are decent storytellers. In a personal context, let alone a business one, like comedy friends are genuinely good at spinning a yarn. Most of them are boring as hell.


James Rostance 6:25

Yes. And you know what? This journey of discovery of learning all about storytelling, really taught me that exactly what you just said there. storytelling as a skill is very much of that. And it's surprising how few people actually possess the ability to do that understand the structure on all of them on a wonderful nuances that go into it, to then ultimately be able to reliably scripts and deliver stories in their truest form. So yeah, it's, it's kind of a mini superpower, I'd say.


Francisco Mahfuz 7:01

That's the, that's the length. That's the language that a lot of people use. Now, I, if you if you look at my if you look at my website, or even the cover of the podcast, art star, this is kind of like a super superhero inspired thing that I did, I, you know, the name of my podcast, and my website, and everything is story powers. And I had a friend who was a very good graphic artist to design. So I was like, Okay, imagine I'm on a stage, but think superhero and do a drawing of that. And that's, that's what the artist, and I say, I say all the time that it's, it's, it's a superpower. And it's the one is the original superpower. Right? It's the one we all had, and we kind of lost, feel free to steal that there is not mine, I'm sure. I really


James Rostance 7:48

liked that as a, I guess, kind of a cultural reference in a way because soon, as you said that, that made me think made me think straightaway that actually and let this amongst the research. We, as human beings learn to tell stories before we could even speak. And I referenced that to us draw up drawing on cave walls. So we're telling stories, the pictures, so yeah, in terms of the original superpower, I would definitely agree with that.


Francisco Mahfuz 8:16

There's something that is perhaps even more basic than then the story, the outward story, you know, people join a cave. So people have been talking to each other, which is just that we remember things in stories. And in most cases, we think of things in stories, because it's very difficult if you if you just try this exercise, if I give you a number, or anything I give you a picture, picture sometimes can tell you enough, but if I give you a number, if I give you a fact, you need more, you need context. And the context is okay, well, this, and then because of this than that, and if this thing is causing, which is essentially a story, right? So there's a before there's an after, and there's whatever you're talking about in the middle. So it's very difficult for us human beings to sink without context and consequences. And the difference then is the types of stories we normally will talk about, you can stick a conflict in the middle, because if you don't have that, and it doesn't work. Let me let me take let me take a step back. One of the things you say in your website, is that case studies, which is something businesses love to use, don't actually work, that there's a problem with typical case studies. And obviously story would be the solution. But But what is that problem? What Why is it the normal case studies don't work?


James Rostance 9:36

It's because marketers generally have lost the appreciation of what a case study actually is. And what I found and actually, this was backed up in a wonderful piece of research called the 2019 20. The 2019 b2b Buying disconnect report. And it revealed that that's most of the time Case Studies case studies are nothing more than adverts thinly disguised as case studies, it's straightforward. This is the problem I had. And I found the solution lives instantly wonderful, I can't speak highly enough about the solution that I've just found. That's an advert. And this is doing a massive disservice to would be purchases because buyers once case that case studies are hugely valuable, because it helps them along their educational journey. Now, it's important to understand that from from the customer's point of view, they want to want to understand the full story, that the full route to ownership, what challenges that they're likely to face in in this problem or need that they have, what considerations that they need to take on boards, what other factors should be factored in with their purchase decision, and also what with all of that, creating a set of buying criteria, and they they're only able to do that through the education process, and a true case study, which tells the full story of the path ownership, a case study that that does that is then serving the customer, and that's what potential customers want. However, in this report, it revealed that buyers disregard the majority of case studies because they know that they're just thinly disguised adverts.


Francisco Mahfuz 11:27

Yeah, one of the things I noticed a lot and this goes for case studies, this goes for a lot of sales speeches, this goes for even a lot of stories is that I often say that stories need to be relatable, specific and in have emotion. And what I find is that when they all go sort of together, they all interweave those three points, but most case studies, they are not specific enough. And by that, by that I mean, they don't have enough real life details. So when you listen to them, they sound like a narrow advert sounds like someone it's glossing over what the situation is or what the solution is. And weirdly enough, what you need to do to fix that is make it as specific to one human being as you can, because then it feels real. Whereas if you're trying to cast a wider net and go, Oh, but I don't want to talk about this one person, because she is this way. And then our ideal customers are not always all like her. They don't need to be all exactly like her, but they need to feel that she's a real person. If they don't, if they don't, then it's going to feel like an advert. Often the difference between a really good story in an OK story. And okay, story doesn't go into the details. So it becomes more like an overview. And I've said this a tonne of times, it's like history class in school, right? It was boring as hell, but then you grow up and you watch Rome, or something like that, and you love it because there's all the gory details of what life in Rome used to be like. So that's the I think that's the problem with a lot of case that is they're just not detailed enough. And because they're not detailed enough, we we really struggled to Unbeliev them and see ourselves in the struggles that those customers are facing.


James Rostance 13:14

I think that's very much the key. And I also believe it's really important to always remember that customers are fundamentally interested in what's in it for them. And I always say that that's not a negative concept by any means, but we're driven to find what's in it for us and this is why generic advert case studies I just missing the mark because they're not saying right you you with your problem or need that you are seeking to solve. This is a body of knowledge that will help you ultimately make an educated and informed decision. And that really shouldn't be what marketers are striving to do. Because when you do that you will ultimately be thanked for by the customer because you've given them what they've wanted.


Francisco Mahfuz 14:03

And I think the other problem that we we haven't touched on yet is is what is one of the things that you would have learned I guess from your conversation with with Bo cash the the MD of Rooster bunk because that if I remember correctly, that whole podcast is about how emotion factors into business decisions. And there is this line from a book called The happiness hypothesis from Jonathan Hyde, where he says that the human beings are we making a decision human being is riding an elephant so the the hoots you know the little elephant rider on top is the rational brain and the elephant is the emotional brain. So as much as you might, as much as the Mahood might really want to make the elephant go this way or that way. If the elephant is not engaged in that decision, it's not it's not really happening because the power differential differential is too big. And in that's the thing with with I think case studies or a lot of other business communication that they they miss the markets, they're not really appealing to our, to our emotions, they're not they're not engaging us in the way that we need to be engaged to be inspired to action. That's the problem. I tried to fight on a regular basis when I tried to convince people why they should tell stories, because it's one of the best ways to engage people emotionally.


James Rostance 15:22

100%. And you know what? That's exactly what did it ultimately when I realised that right? Once you appreciate that with a story, it has a structure, because an A story has has structure, it's not a story, right? And there's this critical need to factor in an emotional journey into it as well. Because otherwise, it's just a delivery of facts, and you lose the audience, just like your history teacher did, right. So that's why I realised, okay, why we need ultimately a structure and with a formula for creating case studies that successfully take the viewer on a journey to ultimately deliver all of the information that that we need to then finally come to a a business decision in your favour for everything that you've taken through, and I ultimately boiled that down to a nine step formula, to be able to do that to take into this journey to deliver stories and in case studies.


Francisco Mahfuz 16:28

I'll get to your structure in a second. But both a couple of things that came to mind when you were when you're speaking more. The first one is about the is about the journey. And this is something that has become more and more apparent to me, the more I learned about storytelling, which is that the end has to be almost the opposite of the beginning when it comes to stories. So I just, I was, I think just today, I put out something on social media, where I'm talking to a storyteller he taught, and he's teaching me how to ruin movies for everybody. And in the way he does that is he says, you know, if you know what the beginning is, you know exactly what the end should be. And the example he says he always loves it says, I know, so When Harry Met Sally, but they're saying I hate you in the beginning of the movie, the opposite of that is that they love each other. I mean, that's a pretty obvious one. But then he gives another example, which is of a movie called boat, which is a Disney animation. And it says, Okay, so is watching the movie with his kids, and nine seconds into the movie stops the movie and says, This is a movie about a dog who needs to find the home, and he needs to find friends. And his kids say, how could you possibly know that it's been on for nine seconds, and it says, well is a dog looking sad, at the window of a pet shop. And there are no other like, all the other dogs around him are leaving and being taken into a house into home. So you know, he needs to be happy. He needs to be out of that pet shop. And he needs to have some other dogs. Have some friends. So that's exactly it. So I think where, where people don't realise it sometimes in a case study would definitely fall short of that is you need to have that journey of things changing throughout a needs to be something you care about. Because if it's not you can change but not care about changing and that doesn't matter. A great deal.


James Rostance 18:24

Exactly. And that ties in perfectly with the whole concept. That's it's, it's all about the viewer about your potential customer about what's important to them in their world and what and what they care about.


Francisco Mahfuz 18:38

How do you differentiate what you're doing, which we'll get into more detail in a second, from just a testimonial? What is the difference between what you're doing and just a Client Testimonial where they actually being honest and telling us what's what's the case?


James Rostance 18:53

Great question. They are two different marketing assets. Very similar. And and you do need both of them. Absolutely. But the different assets. So a testimonial, I think is the kind of the icing on the on the on the cake part, or it's the or it's the starter, if you will, with a case study being the main course. So the testimonial is there to give the buyer confidence that the company is a good potential partner, and it's there to provide reassurance that they are indeed a good choice. And actually storytelling should and does play a part in testimonials. My gripe with most testimonials is that they're very surface level and a lot of the time and this is super bad. But you will find testimonials turned into basically a promotion for the person giving the testimonial. Hi, my name is Bob. I've been doing the removal business for 15 years. and 60 seconds of the testimonial has gone up with Bob talking about his removal business. And this is of no use to me. Whereas far better to structure our testimonial, which tells a story of how of what their experience was in working with the company. And, and all of the touch points that matter such as trustworthiness, timeliness, staying on budgets, ability to respond to certain changes that are that came up. So that's the testimony. That's what it's for. And with regard to timing, this is really important as well, what you'll find is that testimonials are typically binged watched. So yeah, we're all familiar with binge watching these days, which is why 60 seconds seems to be the complete sweet spot for them to take into account that they're binge watched. And really, you're, you're looking to get an overall view. So short or short testimonials in quick succession is how you do that. But crucially, each one structured to tell a story and to hit certain touch points. Alright. And the other side, then, but worst case studies, case studies are an asset to specifically help with the education process to help them with their research, to understand as mentioned, the route to ownership and, and ultimately, giving them everything that they need to make an educated and informed purchase decision. A case study is better able to do that than any other type of marketing asset, because of what you can put into it. And the fact that you can deliver it as a story because when you deliver anything as a story, it anything you say within that is accepted without challenge by the audience. And this is in stark contrast to if you're making marketing claims, because


Francisco Mahfuz 21:54

unless you've you've arrived at three in the morning and is Melmac booze, then so so


James Rostance 22:01

let's add that as a caveat to when Yeah, yes. Explain this previously, I've said okay, right. So long as it's not a wild, outlandish claim, then anything you deliver as a story is accepted without challenge. But I'll add your one to the mix there of Yeah, unless you've done it with 3am Stinking taboos.


Francisco Mahfuz 22:19

I make that point often in the way, the way I've made it is this, I say, a story is accepted, unless they have any reason to believe you're a liar. Because they're not going to question if you say it happened, most people tend to work from the basis of okay, but that sounds okay. If you tell them it happened, it happened. Now, if you push it too far they go. But that sounds a bit outlandish. But that doesn't seem likely at all. And that's when they'll question it. But if it's if it's a normal story, which is most of the big stories used in business are not about extraordinary things and about everyday things that happen to to the employees to the customers, then unless they have any reason to doubt your credibility, or, or you know, you know, the time you arriving home and how you smell, then they will take that as you say it at face value, because otherwise, they just think you're dishonest. And I don't think that I don't surprisingly, that's not what most people start out from, I'll start out as


James Rostance 23:18

Yeah, well, as I learned, actually, the psychology at play here in the fact that people accept what you say in a story without challenge. And for a marketer. And I almost clear to say this, well, you know, we have to use this, this concept ethically. But as a marketer, for whatever you say, in a story to be accepted without challenge is huge. Like, it's incredible. And when I learned that, I got very excited by that. But I looked into this a bit more. And what I discovered is that unsubstantiated claims, particularly marketing claims, or anything we deliver, as fact, are prime triggers for what's known as pushback. And pushback is the it happens when we encounter something which is at odds which we currently know or believe to be true. So if I hit you with a facts, then if that's not what you currently believe, then what happens you actually stop from being in story listening listening mode, and then you you set about in your own mind, working out why that fact doesn't compute is not is not true, and how and why it's at odds with what you're saying. So in a marketing context, if your audience then flips into analytical mode, you've lost them the sale is completely on on hold until they've got this out of the way. Whereas when you deliver a story that bypasses that pushback filter, and you're good to go.


Francisco Mahfuz 24:50

I guess it's because when you are giving when you are talking to someone and you're giving them information, you are trying to give them a piece of the puzzle of the world. When you tell your story, you give them a piece of the puzzle of your world. So if I say, Oh, this is what marketing is, and you have a different opinion about marketing, I'm now arguably contradicting your views of marketing. If I say, oh, in my experience, you know, I lived it, I was in this agency and this type of sub, we were trying to stuff and he never really worked in you, you have had success with that you probably think, oh, strange, because for me, that worked. You're not questioning what I'm saying? Oh, interesting. Because my experience with that was different than yours. You know, whereas if I say that doesn't work, you go, no, actually, that does work. I know for a fact that that works.


James Rostance 25:39

That's a really good example of that exact concept in action. Yeah.


Francisco Mahfuz 25:45

And I like the pushback term, you use it. I've heard other people say this, and I have repeated it often as well, which is that most of what we do, we push information out, we push opinions out, we push our own thoughts out to other people. And that gets pushed back, as you said, whereas what a story does is a story is not a push strategy. It's a pull strategy. So he hear the facts, as I understand them, do what you want to them. And then people can they don't get defensive. They just go okay, well, okay, well, that yeah, that kind of makes sense. Yeah, no, I mean, that seems strange. But, yeah,


James Rostance 26:23

I've got to give credit. By the way, I actually got that principle from the book Secrets of question based selling. And fantastic book it is. It's an early 2000s book on sales. And in that book, and I've struggling to remember the author's name, but it's definitely called Secrets of questioning by selling. He says that the only two things which bypass a person's push back filters are questions and stories, the only two things so yeah, total credit for him, and he gets into beautiful detail in the book. But fantastic find,


Francisco Mahfuz 26:55

yeah, the question. A lot of people like, if you if you're telling them that, if you ask a question the mind has to answer. Rather, the mind completes the picture. That is the famous example of you know, think of an elephant. And I remember I did this in a in a, in a speech once, where I, it was about that type of subject. And I said to everyone, okay, I'm gonna ask everybody to, you know, close your eyes now. You know, try to clear your mind. And whatever you do, don't think of me naked.


Keep your eyes closed. I'm definitely not naked. I'm not taking versus getting very nervous that maybe I was taking my clothes off while they had their eyes closed. But yeah, it's 100% the case? I think it's, we are answering questions. Even if we're not, we don't want to answer the question, I think is just a net. That's just how the brain works. And its story. I don't think it's that but with story, I think it's just that you've now given me something that is true. You know, assuming I don't think you're, you're a liar. You've now given me something that is true. If that doesn't match with my understanding of the world, I now have to find a way to deal with that. Whereas I could just disregard your opinion as an opinion.


James Rostance 28:18

Hmm. Yes, actually, opinions was the other thing. Yeah. opinions and facts are the two things we've pushed back on. But yeah, powerful stuff.


Francisco Mahfuz 28:29

Yeah. Yeah. So your approach is, is very specific, because this is something perhaps I should have mentioned earlier. So you are podcast aside, you're a video guy. So most of your expertise comes in video. And most of the work you've done is in video. So what you've gone and decided to do is set up a very specific service where you helping people create this story selling case studies. But it but it's a video only thing. I mean, I guess they can have other uses for it once they have it the content, but what you're doing is the video, right? Like everything that involves writing it and filming it and correct.


James Rostance 29:05

Yeah, a complete done for you. Video case study service.


Francisco Mahfuz 29:10

So my question there is, because you've talked about a formula before, and there plenty of storytelling formulas out there. And you've gone for something very specific that is not specific that almost everybody goes through. So almost everybody goes to the hero's journey, as the most famous, the one that every single Pixar movie is based on are most of them. Our Star Wars was based on that. And it's the traditional thing of you're in the ordinary world, then there was a problem, a call to adventure. You don't want to take it a guide comes in and convinces you to and support you along the way. You struggle a lot. At some point, you look like you're going to lose but you don't. And then your friends help you and at some point, you get stronger, you get transformed by the experience. You're going to go back to your ordinary world having changed and now take all this knowledge back so that's the one that you Most people tend to use when they try to use some sort of formula for storytelling in, in marketing or sales. You've gone for something more specific, which is one of the seven basic plots, which comes from a book from Christopher Booker. Yeah. And for anyone who's ever heard this, so in his book, Christopher Booker says that all stories are come, they can fit into seven basic plots, and they are overcoming the monster rags to riches, which is like a Cinderella story. Quest. So you're going out to find something so maybe Raiders of the Lost Ark, voyage and return which I'm trying to think of a movie now but I'm sure there's plenty of movies and they go to a strange land and come back comedy tragedy and rebirth and rebirth. I think I think the the outside the foundation myth of Christianity, or Jesus is a pretty ordered Lion King are pretty good examples. I think Lion King is better than the Jesus one. But that is singing at least. But that's a clear example of rebirth whereas you die and then you come back to life more powerful


James Rostance 31:11

Scrooge that's the other famous one rebirth.


Francisco Mahfuz 31:14

Is this gonna counter this rebirth that he


James Rostance 31:17

starts up a certain way and encounters a series of revelations? And then comes a better person?


Francisco Mahfuz 31:24

Yeah, sure. Okay, so So there's seven of them. Yeah. And the some of them clearly wouldn't be suitable for for marketing. And I got a really interesting opinion on that from the guy for JJ Peterson from storybrand Oh, yes. Yeah, he said that he he, you should never use comedy. If your brand is a either a luxury brands, or, or is trying to, to come across as an expert or authority brand, because that just doesn't work that you cannot make those things work. But But, but, you know, I was surprised when he said that there is one that is 100% the best one, or at least for what you're trying to do. And he's overcoming the monster. So how did you come to that to that conclusion?


James Rostance 32:12

Well, that's a good question. Right? So I love that actually that that you're managed to to just reel off all the seven different formulas.


Francisco Mahfuz 32:21

They're written in front of me I have notes I mean, I know most of them but I you know, always forget whether to and then I'll spend three minutes going Ah, crap, it was seven but I can remember five. So you know, I have notes


James Rostance 32:37

clearly clearly you've learned well from your guests on your show. Did Did we had the magician say right yeah, that's all part of the setup. All right. Well great stuff. Well, yeah, yeah. You're so on the on the money with the fact that yes, it's the the hero's quest is one that everyone focuses on and it's the best known and Cena this was a development process. The part of coming up with this formula is what I worked on all throughout last year so you know, Coronavirus, kicking off and everything. I was busy learning about holistic, storytelling, Lark. And at first I thought, right, cool. Yeah, the hero's journey sounds like a good plan, but because I'm always reminding myself as we've done twice already on the show already, that it's always about the customer. You know, it's about what how they see the world and what's in it for them. I thought, you know, what, if I'm looking for a story structure, that the hero's journey doesn't quite fit, it's close, it's pretty good. But it's missing a few things. So I experimented around with it. And I mapped out the core elements of of the formula for the hero's journey. And was it was okay, it didn't quite hit the requirement to be able to help the buyer with their research process. And, and then for the marketer for them to ultimately make a business point and business case in their in their favour. So, then, I started looking into overcoming the monster, and then like a mini, which call its epiphany moment I went. Because, of course, over that whole concept with overcoming the monster story formula is that the story's hero encounters a challenge or problem, which is either a threat to himself or his homeland. He then has to take action to sort or take a set about overcoming this threat, encounters a series of challenges and setbacks along the way before at the end, rising victorious against all odds against the monster which which was a threat at the start. And I thought, You know what, that's actually A much better rough format and structure for delivering case studies.


Francisco Mahfuz 35:07

And I guess that I guess that what that will probably do is that it will have, it has it will have the added advantage of helping companies frame the because the monster has to be, you know, has been an enemy. And the enemy in that particular case should be the customers problem. Yes, I guess that's what that ends up being the case, which is what Steve Jobs did very well, when he had, you know, every presentation he ever did involved heroes and villains. The hero wasn't always apple, but it was something that Apple had created. The one difference of for him, which might or may not fit your structure is that the villains that he had, were often just very common basic things. So it could be IBM, or a company that was meant to look like IBM in that famous commercial that they had. Or it could just be, you know, the grief of having to carry around cables and try to keep stuff updated between your computer between your iPod between your iPad and all this malarkey so but he always had heroes and villains, you know, as presentations and you can do the, the the hero's journey without having a very clear villain. I guess it all depends on how you frame it. Yeah,


James Rostance 36:25

yes, you're right, you can. But the overcoming the monster has got more relevant conflict and contrast for telling this kind of story. So


Francisco Mahfuz 36:38

not questioning or is that I put it on the I haven't done anywhere near as much learning and practice with with those structures. Because most of what I do. So I'm not going to say that what you do is fiction, because it's not. But you are crafting, though that that story. And that's what I think is really the difference between a testimonial and something like you're doing that as your own is often nowhere near as crafted. He might be slightly directed. If you ask the customer a few questions, they can just tell me about this, this and that. But you're not crafting it, you're not trying to put it in a cohesive narrative. In a lot of the stories that I tell him that I tell people to tell. They're smaller, they don't take a great deal of crafting. So you're not changing the structure of it. Usually you just these elements are important that element just highlight this, other than that, but it's not a it's the hero's journey, we just complicate the hell out of it for people. And they will look at and go, but this is all that happened. This was happening. I did this I did that that happened after like, how do I fit in the seven points into here? So I don't use the hero's journey a lot. But I know a lot of people that use it very successfully story brand, who I've mentioned before we've mentioned before being one of those those examples.


James Rostance 37:55

Yes. Yeah. And I love that book as well. In fact, that story selling was there was their book. And


Francisco Mahfuz 38:03

we I think was was the book was called


James Rostance 38:05

Building a story brand building a story around Donald Miller. Yes, yes. Super important book as well, with the testimonials, just skipping on to that a briefly. What I've certainly noticed, in all my years of doing this, because well I've been in video production for no 23 years now. And testimonials are very much a bread and butter element of video production. But typically what you will find is that producers or video producers, like doing the fun stuff, when it comes to video, which is filming. That's the best part, right? And then you've got editing and crafting it afterwards. But the big thing that most people miss out on this is the element beforehand, the planning. And if you don't properly plan, for example, a testimonial, what you'll end up with is on the day, when you're sat down with a person to be interviewed, they will ask a series of questions. And they'll be basically hoping that they will come up with a nice answer. And that's the industry standard way of doing things hoping that they'll come up with a good answer. It's understandable, but that's not on. And and this is another thing that really bugged me and I've since worked on to find a solution to it. And the solution is that you need to work with first of all the clients the vendor to find out what was special about that potential testimonial giver. Or what's the proper word for customer Okay. Give her


Francisco Mahfuz 39:36

what that test T


James Rostance 39:39

Oh testimony Yeah,


Francisco Mahfuz 39:40

witness. No, that's crime. I'm sure that is a word for someone who gives a testimonial but I'm sure we can roll on.


James Rostance 39:48

See this is where an A level in English would have come in. Oh, so handy. But right. Okay, I'll get I'll get back on track. So before you do the testimonial, this is the way that I do it. And I fully recommend that one adopts this as well, is that you need to work it sit down with the client beforehand and ask right? What was special about the the the the service that they got? And what were the various touch points that really mattered to them? And what are the things that you really want to highlight? That was a real win for you in helping that customer. And this is when the client will say, Oh, well, actually, you know what, because we had to get around this particular problem with that customer, we did this. Now, other companies wouldn't have normally done that. But we did. And that meant that the client had had delivery of the service or the product while ahead of schedule, and we actually saved them 354,000 pounds, aha, so that's a big win. So what you then do is that with these particular wins, that the client says that are important, that particular end customer, you then reverse engineer questions to to lead ultimately, the the person who you'll be interviewing, to talking about that. And what happens then is that the person giving the testimonial will then cover that in their own words, and then they will be covering something very, very specific and also incredibly benefit driven, which is a wonderful thing, because when a potential future customer is watching this testimonial, what they see is this customer say, well, actually, the delivery timeframe was brought ahead of schedule, because they, they covered this, and and they took care of that. So then that's a win for everyone all around, the viewer gets a much better understanding of why they should trust and work with that customer with that vendor, because this testimonial feature person is in their own words, get being very specific. And that doesn't normally happen if you just ask loose open open questions and hoping for the best.


Francisco Mahfuz 42:02

True, true, and I have a feeling now you're going to you're going to need you're going to feel the need to find out what that word is. He might be weakness, but that's not I mean, it's just we're just gonna have to say customer because nothing else is gonna sound remotely connected to talking about


James Rostance 42:20

yes, you know what I think let's go with with customer because a lot of the time and marketers are guilty of this, of coming up with jingo, and acronyms and all this stuff, when in actual fact, like just avatar? Oh, my god, yeah, just anytime you can bring it back to how it really is, is a wonderful thing. And I do believe that audiences and customers appreciate it when you speak in, in real plain language,


Francisco Mahfuz 42:47

which, which is one of the most basic definitions that I use, when I'm when I'm explaining to people what a story actually is, in a business context. A story is a real life example that you use to make a point. That's, and the basic technique that I give them is that you know, how most people do is they give an explanation, the equation is not overly clear. And then so the other person has to say, Can you give me an example? So I would say just invert those things. Give the example first. And then if needed, you give your long winded explanation about the theory and whatever. And often the example is going just going to be enough to for them to understand what the hell you're talking about. Because you're probably using real language. You're talking about real people. There's like, oh, yeah, well, I had this customer he did this does that and that's what happened. Okay, I get it. I was like, I've seen a lot of people talk about this, as was the one of the things that storytelling does is humanise business, which, which sounds kind of fancy to me. But it's essentially you're just making sure there is an actual human being into whatever you're talking about. And strangely enough, most businesses fall foul of, of the opposite, which is there's, there's no real person anywhere near the product or the explanation or sometimes even the, the adverts it's all about features and benefits and others of the stuff that supposedly everybody knows there's Ansel


James Rostance 44:14

and that is the ultimate justification and motivation really, for marketers now moving towards storytelling and adapt and adapt, adopting, adopting storytelling because if it's if you don't, then it's everything is very synthetic is the word that comes to mind here. It's official. It's official. Yes. Yeah. And you can't connect with that. So the, the, the marketers who are going to do the best are the ones that factor in and and really work towards adopting storytelling in the marketing.


Francisco Mahfuz 44:51

Yeah, no, I completely agree. And that's the that's the torch I'm carrying. I just wanted to ask you one more question on the, on the on the structure because As your structure is an I have it in front of the static memory. But it's hook the hero pain or desire tension complication contrast solution transformation in the business point. And I wanted to ask this because most of them are sort of self explanatory. I just wanted to ask about point number six. Contrast. So what do you mean there by contrast?


James Rostance 45:27

Sure, would you mind if we went through them, just so that everyone is definitely up to speed with it, so go for it with when you've got a formula, that for me, I'm a big fan of them, because it's the key to repeatable results, repeatable and reliable results as well. And that now more than ever, is really important. So yeah, the the first element that that you have to have. So this is, by the way, for everyone, to set this out. This is my nine step storytelling formula, specifically created for case studies, which was adapted from the most successful movie formula of all time, which is overcoming the monster. So of the nine steps, then the first one is hook, the the case study has to have a strong hook right from the beginning. And what you will notice with a lot of case studies is that they just start drowning, and you're, you're bored from the beginning. Now, if you bore your audience in the first 10 seconds, they're not going to watch the rest of it. So you have to have a compelling hook. And you have to work at this, right at the top at the beginning of your case study. Because you need to quickly communicate why this case study is of relevance and of interest, and what the viewer is going to learn from it. So that's why it's very clear that


Francisco Mahfuz 46:47

give me give me an example of the type of thing that you would use or people should use for a hook.


James Rostance 46:53

So it will be teasing, the challenge that that they were up against, and giving a flavour of what's to come but without giving the answer to


Francisco Mahfuz 47:07

a trailer. And exactly,


James Rostance 47:09

yes, goodness knows that the movie industry and and very much now any series on on Amazon, or Netflix leverages that perfectly. You the hook at the beginning, makes or breaks the entire thing, and is the reason why you do or do not watch. Yes. Then after that, then you've got to introduce the hero. Now. I love the concept that people don't really care about what you have to say about your product or service. But they would invariably love to hear a story about how someone in a similar position to them had a problem or need similar to their own. And to then follow that hero. So the concept of the whole thing is about making your customers, the heroes of your marketing stories. That way, you're never talking about yourself. And and also you're shining a spotlight on a never ending number of potential heroes or potential stories, right, it then makes it a lot more compelling. Interesting. So that's step number two is hero. Step three is pain and desire. We need to understand and closely associated with the pain that the hero is experiencing, or the or the desire that they have in terms of change that they want to adopt, or the place where they want to get to. So that's understanding it. The fourth step is tension. Yeah, there's you know, without tension, it's a bland passage of time, the tensions massively important to the story. And in a b2b case, study tension would be in the form of a pressing deadline, the need to increase profitability, threat of legal action, for example, or prosecution if if this thing is not sorted, then after that, you got that the complication, the complication, then throwing the whole thing into jeopardy as to whether or not the hero will be successful on their, on their their ultimate journey. And then yes, that then we get to contrast. Now, contrast, I'm really excited about this part, because this is something that that sales teams will be massively appreciative of. So contrast does one of two things when we're talking about this in the in the context of the b2b case study. First of all, it lets you highlight a key area of your product or service and the value that it brings. And the larger more compelling element of contrast is that it helps you tackle and handle price objections in advance. So how So so so this is in regard to the potential cost of lost opportunity, or the value which which product or service ownership brings. So for example, this element of contrast lets you cover, okay, if you don't get this problem sorted, you're going to be exposing yourself to at least 5.2 million pounds worth of downtime and stoppages over the course of the next three years. But seen as our widget only costs 150,000 pounds. And it's guaranteed then to never let you suffer any downtime from that, that 3.2 million pound is pales in significance contrast to the 150,000 pound price of your products. So then price is no longer an object, your sales team is an art. Thank you, you've covered that for us in advance. And price is no longer a problem when you cover that's from a contrast point of view.


Francisco Mahfuz 50:57

Okay, yeah, no, that makes sense. Yes. Okay. And then how? Because Okay, so the solution? And I think it's fairly obvious the transformation to me, it's fairly obvious. So the business point, because if the solution and the transformation are not the business point, what are you covering on that business point? Is that more like a call to action?


James Rostance 51:19

It Yes, it's the, it's the the takeaway that you want the viewer to have. Now, this can either be a core element of your overall sales pitch, and the core element of the body of knowledge that is necessary for a customer for a prospect to have before they become a customer. Or it's your all encompassing case for why they should choose you, and ultimately, why you are able to help them better than anyone else can. What I've noticed is that case studies typically just missed this part. And, and it's really missing an opportunity. Because if you think that because you've you've taken them on a storytelling journey, throughout this process through steps one to eight, they've, they bought into the hero, the problems that are there that the hero's experiencing, they followed the hero to the highs and the lows, the challenges and everything along the way. They've seen them realise the the solution and then see it brought to life. So at this point, they're hyper receptive to the very next thing that you say they're fully locked into storytelling mode. So why would you not leave them with with a with a with a final, big finale, rather, of the business point that you need to make? So it's making sure that you don't waste the opportunity?


Francisco Mahfuz 52:45

Okay. So in the example, you you sort of alluded to, so we're talking about contrast, and you said, okay, so you have all this, there's downtime, there's downtime is costing you all this much. But if you had this widget, which cost you this much, then you wouldn't have this problem. So so I you know, let's say in that story, the hero, which would be the customer, you know, gets the widget, the widget solves all their problems, what would be the business point that comes after they've now solved all their problems, for example,


James Rostance 53:15

it would be unique to the business. But so you weren't using this as a, I guess a case example. It would be if the vendors main point of difference is the fact that they they will do whatever it takes to make sure that this customised widgets, is if their main point of difference is the fact that they will do anything and and whatever it takes to get that delivered on time and and fitted to their process or their machinery, then that's what we cover or recover in the final business points. You could even repeat what has already happened. But the most important is that you make it clear. And this is ironically, what I'm failing at doing right now.


Francisco Mahfuz 54:03

I put you on the spot. Yeah, right. I think one thing we didn't cover on the recording after this point is that you you know, as I said, this is this is I think the first time you've ever guessed at a party, I suppose you've done hundreds and hundreds of episodes of your show. You're not the one being asked the questions usually. So this is yes, they can be this long to get you to get flustered.


James Rostance 54:28

Thank you, I appreciate that. Yeah, it's funny, you know, because I'm, I do spend a lot of my time script writing. And the wonderful thing about script writing is that you get time to to map out, give it a first draft, and then refine and refine and write and then you only publish it when it's completely completely fine. But you're you're right that with this officially being my first podcast interview with me on the other side of the camera. It's you don't get the luxury of refining and crafting.


Francisco Mahfuz 55:00

and also and also I'm asking you, I'm asking you something that is dependent on a whole bunch of different of different conditions, and we've not fleshed out any of them. To be fair, when I sometimes I have to give examples of, you know, the types of things you'd say in a story sometimes and I blank, because I hadn't, if it's a very specific situation that I've come across a million times, then I have the story. If it's not, then it's like, because I'm a terrible fiction writer, I'm a good storyteller, terrible at writing fiction. So unless I have the actual example, at the tip of my tongue, it doesn't come in. So which is why I, when I'm a guest, I don't usually have notes. But but as a host, I always have notes, because if I depend on my memory, then, you know, we could be here for a long time.


James Rostance 55:49

What you know what, say nothing, you could give me a second to kind of assimilate that. So one of my favourite clients is a renewable energy investment firm, and using them as a case example. So for one of their case studies, the their main claim to fame, if you will, is the fact that they've got an incredibly skilled a team for actual maintenance and installation of the of the assets, whether these are wind turbines. And it's a really, really specialised field to safely instal and then maintain them on an ongoing basis. And the benefit for that is that their assets are constantly producing optimal levels of electrical output, because they've got all the processes in place. So in their case, the the business point, which you'd want them to take away for Step Nine of the case study is the fact that like, if you are principally concerned with reliable energy output, and with that consistent and stable returns, this is why glenmont partners are the Your ideal choice of of investment. Management. Yeah, okay.


Francisco Mahfuz 57:04

Got it.


James Rostance 57:05

That was off the top of my head. But yeah, there we go.


Francisco Mahfuz 57:07

Good. Okay, James, you've just launched a company. It's story hero.uk is the is the website to find out more about you, other than your company website, where should they go?


James Rostance 57:22

I've spent so much time on story here. I thought UK I'd say there and only there. And if you'd like some marketing, knowledge, insights and wisdom, then the full one for dotnet is the is my podcast. Yes. There we go.


Francisco Mahfuz 57:40

Okay. Well, thank you very much, James. I hope it wasn't. It wasn't too harsh. This first podcast. And thanks again for your time and for doing this man. I appreciate the exclusive.


James Rostance 57:53

Absolutely. And if you've been a gentleman and a scholar at the same time, say hey, like I really appreciate it. Thank you very much.


Francisco Mahfuz 57:59

All right, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.


I hope you enjoyed the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find this show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tab. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find this. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story powers.com



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