[Podcast] How to Use Strategic Narrative for Brand Growth with Andy Raskin

[Podcast] How to Use Strategic Narrative for Brand Growth with Andy Raskin

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

In this episode, Matt and Jacob sit down with the master of ‘Strategic Narrative’ Andy Raskin.

Andy walks through how to create a narrative which positions your brand as the front runners in a movement and how this cuts through noise and galvanises companies around a powerful purpose.

sponsored message

Adobe Creative Cloud Discount

If you want help punching up your brand positioning, this episode is not to be missed.

Listen Here

Love the show? Please review us on Apple.

Play Now


Watch on Youtube

Learn Brand Strategy

Best Brand Strategy Course Online

sponsored message

Brand Master Secrets helps you become a brand strategist and earn specialist fees. And in my opinion, this is the most comprehensive brand strategy course on the market.

The course gave me all the techniques and processes and more importantly… all the systems and tools I needed to build brand strategies for my clients.

This is the consolidated “fast-track” version to becoming a brand strategist.

I wholeheartedly endorse this course for any designer who wants to become a brand strategist and earn specialist fees.

Check out the 15-minute video about the course, which lays out exactly what you get in the Brand Master Secrets.

Transcript (Auto Generated)

sponsored message

Hello, and welcome to JUST Branding, the only podcast dedicated to helping designers and entrepreneurs grow brands. Here are your hosts, Jacob Cass and Matt Davies.

Hello folks, and welcome to another episode of JUST Branding. This time, you are in for a real treat because we have the one and only Andy Raskin with us. Who is Andy?

Well, I came across Andy when somebody recommended to me one of Andy’s videos, and he was talking about this lofty subject, which we’re going to tuck into in today’s episode of strategic narrative. Andy is a consultant. He specializes in working with CEOs and really working with them on their simple story that powers their success.

He’s got a background in scaling tech products and rumor has it, Andy, that you actually started your career working at Apple. Is that accurate? And you’ve come a long way from there, right?

Yeah, well, I was a marketing intern at Apple Japan in Tokyo during business school. So yeah, I did work at Apple early on, but just for a little while.

There we are. You’ve gone on to bigger and better things than Apple. I like that.

Perhaps we could start there really with your story and you’re discovering this concept of strategic narrative. I’d love if you could just give our listeners a bit of a backstory and then we can dive into strategic narrative.

Yeah, happy to. Well, first of all, thanks so much for having me on. It’s a real pleasure to talk with both of you, a privilege.

I started kind of like you said, I started as a software developer. I was a computer science major in college and a few years after that, a friend and I had an idea for an app. So this is like late nineties, so Windows app.

And we coded a prototype and we put it online where you could download it. And we started getting some users and then we started thinking, hmm, maybe we could get some VC money. So of the two of us, I had gone to business school, so okay, I should write the business plan.

So I wrote it and we sent it to a bunch of VCs and the reaction was really bad. And most of them just didn’t reply at all. And one of them though replied, listen, Andy, I rate every plan I get on a scale of one to 10 and yours is a one.

And then next to that, he wrote in parentheses worst in case we thought maybe one might be like the top of his rating scale. And no, so, but then under that, this is when they would still like print it out and send it back to you with written notes. He had written in the margin, not a compelling story.

And I didn’t really pay much attention to that until a few weeks later, I was walking by a bookstore and there was a sign in the window that said, for anyone who wants to tell a compelling story. And there was an arrow to these stack of books. And the books were all about screenwriting, which I knew nothing about.

I mean, I’d seen movies, but I didn’t know anything about the art of that or the craft of it. And so I bought these books and I read them. And the first thing I realized that this author was saying was that a movie is a pitch.

I never thought of this before, but you know, what is Star Wars a pitch for us? You know, Star Wars is a pitch for the way you win in the world is by being, you know, quote unquote, good person, caring about other people, you know, trusting the force, the good side, not the bad side, not the dark, the light side, not the dark side. But the way that the pitch is structured is very different from what I had learned in school, you know, in how to structure a pitch.

So I read these books and I tried to apply what I learned from them to our pitch, you know, for our business. And because, and that’s not an easy thing. I mean, we’re not building a three act screenplay here for any brand or company, right?

So what applies, what doesn’t? These are questions I’m still asking today, but I tried to, I did my best and we sent it out again. And there was a total shift.

We started getting interest. And after a few months, we had a term sheet from some pretty good VCs. And that really kind of sparked my interest.

Like what is this story thing that I knew nothing about that seemed to really help me? And how could I sort of use that or help others use that?

So, so powerful, isn’t it? Like, yeah, I also sort of have stumbled across storytelling as a mechanism to evoke emotion and meaning. So, of course, I want to run through you just to see your thoughts on this, okay?

sponsored message

So I define brand as the meaning people attach to a product, service or organization. Okay, so it’s not just the logos and the fonts, it’s in their hearts and minds. It’s like the meaning they, whatever that might be, they attach.

And branding is the attempt to manage meaning. And so if we were to say on a psychological human level, well, what is the best way to manage meaning? Like how do we make sense of the world around us?

The psychologists tell us exactly what you were saying, which is that it’s through storytelling. Like that is how, as humans, we connect with stuff, with information, and we make sense of it. So it doesn’t surprise me at all that this tract that you’re on is similar to some of the stuff that I’ve discovered just works, right?

As humans, if we can tell it in a narrative form, we all can’t help it. We’re all alongside you, Andy, getting that disappointing concept through, a bit of paper through, and then at the shop window of the bookstore and we’re all alongside you reading the books and then out the other side. So the way you tell the narrative, it helps us come alongside the hero, the protagonist.

I think there’s two domains for this.

That story I told, that’s a personal story that is about my origin story, and great to know it hooked you in some ways. That’s good. I tell it a lot.

If anyone’s heard me before, they may have heard it before. But like I said, when we’re pitching our product, let’s say, and the companies I tend to work with tend to be like, they’re selling to really big enterprise buyers and long sales cycles. It can’t be all that.

How do we apply this to that? Because it feels like a different. Those are the kind of questions that I started asking.

It was about a year, maybe a little less, after we got that investment, I noticed that Mark Benioff was pitching this new company called Salesforce. And he’s doing very much what I learned about in the screenwriting books. So the structure of a movie like Star Wars is there’s kind of like an old game that the hero is playing at the beginning.

So when we first meet Luke, he’s a teenager, he’s complaining, he wants to have adventures, he’s playing this complaining teenager game. And eventually Obi-Wan comes to him and says, listen, there’s this princess we got to rescue, and we’re all under attack, bad things happening. And in order to win, you’re gonna have to play this other game which is this caring about people, taking responsibility, all this kind of stuff.

And what I saw Benioff do was, when he came out with Salesforce, already this was a category, there were some very large companies, Siebel in particular was a very large player in this space of Salesforce automation or customer relationship management as they called it back, but Benioff said, he didn’t say like, hey, here’s our Salesforce and it’s better than them. That’s not what, than those others. That’s not how he did it.

sponsored message

What he did was he said, software is over. He said, there was a game that we all played called software. And of course he meant it in the sense of software, you’re gonna own and operate yourself.

And that is now the road to ruin. And there’s a new game, he called it the cloud. The cloud had been used in other contexts, but not quite the way he used it, which became the most standard way, which is a new approach, a new mindset.

And this is the, all the winners are jumping on this bandwagon. This like high level narrative about the world, this structure, I saw, I started to see it in the companies that were not only like building marketing brands, but where the CEO was like aligning the company successfully, where they were recruiting successfully, where sort of the story was driving everything.

Yeah, so it was like omnidirectional, within and without, galvanizing within, and really kind of making ripples without. And that’s the power, as you say, of the paradigm shift from, and I love that example that you just gave of Salesforce. The way that it was presented as a revolution, right?

It’s something completely different, like the cloud and all of this stuff. And that’s quite a big ask, right? Because I remember first, I am getting old now, and I do remember the idea of a cloud and someone first sort of explaining it to me.

And I was like, that’s never gonna float. That’s insane. Think of the risk, you know?

But now look at us all, we’re all on the cloud. And that Salesforce was one of the biggest kind of, I guess pioneered in that space from a software perspective. So you have to go big or go home, don’t you?

When there’s a new shift like that, that’s going on, because you need to convince, and that’s the hardest thing. And data actually alone does not do that. You have to make sense of it.

And that’s what you’re talking about with the strategic narrative.

I think the first thing you have to do is you have to name the shift. I mean, to us now, looking back, oh, the shift to the cloud, that was obvious. That was a thing that happened, and he just started talking about it.

It was not obvious at the time. It was, and it was already happening. I mean, the company I started, we were building cloud-based software, but we didn’t name it.

We were delivering our service through a web browser, whatever. He’s the one who names it in a very simple way so that people can make sense of it. And so I think, yes, I agree with you.

And it’s a very, you said kind of go big or go home. Every team I work with, these are usually pretty large companies and will come to some shift that feels like it’s fertile territory. And they’ll say like, well, but it’s not totally, the shift hasn’t totally happened.

And if you look at software, there’s still people who run their own software. So it’s never gonna be 100%. But can it be enough where we can say, this could be a way to define the way we think about the world in a different way that then explains, well, why we built our product in a different way and all the rest.

I mean, this is really deep stuff. Like the, I’m gonna throw a little theological curve ball like just in, right? Because some people might not know, but like I’m fascinated by the Bible, right?

And I’m not gonna get all religious on you, but let me just mention something. In the story of the biblical account in Genesis of the creation, right? God creates Adam, puts him in the garden of Eden, and Adam’s got something that he’s allowed to do.

He’s allowed to name all the animals, right? So all the animals come before Adam and he names them. And one of the reasons, interestingly, in the text of the Bible that it says is that it’s because Adam was to kind of have dominion over them, right?

In other words, Adam was responsible for them, was owned them in a sense in the hierarchy of the structure of things. And so that just came to my mind. When you were talking about like, you’ve got to name the paradigm shift, you’ve got to own it.

And the person that can name it and own that really has immense power over the process of things. And I think that’s something that’s interesting. So I guess the question for our listeners, right?

Would be like, well, what are you owning, right? What are you naming? What’s the paradigm shift?

And how do you structure that? So quick question though, before we perhaps tuck into some of the detail there, Andy, just as a high level definition, how would you define a strategic narrative as opposed to the storyline of Star Wars, for example?

Yeah, I’ve changed my definition like every six months or year or so. But the one I like now is, and I’ve had this one now for, I don’t know, probably about a year, is it’s a story that transforms the art of selling or the act of selling into the act of enrolling people in a movement.

And from the flip side, viewed from the buyer, it’s a story that shifts the act of buying to the act of joining a movement. Because if you think about it, Benioff, a lot of the other big examples I talk about, so I wrote this piece on Medium almost 10 years ago now called The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen about a company called Zwarah. Zwarah, the CEO, was employee number 11 at Salesforce.

So he got this approach directly from Benioff. And he comes out and says, hey, we now live in a subscription economy. The old way was you’d sell people things one-off and say goodbye unless maybe they came back.

Now you’re going to have this always on relationship with them through services and et cetera. He does exactly the same thing. And when you watch CEOs like this, it almost feels like what they’re really selling is that movement, that new game.

Of course, they’re selling their software, but the way that I think, like you said, it sort of creates ownership of this space.

Yeah, yeah. And it makes it really compelling and exciting even. And also I think the way that it’s framed, the new game, old game, winners, losers, kind of really appeals.

And it always makes you worried like, hey, maybe am I a loser? Like, I don’t want to be a loser. Like, I need to get on this, like, cause I’m a winner.

So like, don’t tell anyone, because like, I wasn’t really on board. Now I’m on board, like I’m a winner. So it’s very powerful.

There’s a really, there’s a subtle thing that happens there that I think you would get to if you followed that, where, you know, when I work with a lot of teams, one of the things people will say is, well, I don’t want to go into a sales call and tell them, oh, you’re a loser, because you’re doing this the wrong way, right? And here actually is where that personal storytelling thing, it’s sort of a side thing I don’t talk about much, but I think comes into really handy. I’ll give you an example of this.

So one team I work with is a company called Gong. Gong is, they make software for sales teams, where the software, you record your sales calls, you know, that you’re doing on Zoom or whatever, and then it applies AI and comes out with all kinds of insights about, you know, what competitors are being named and what messages are seem to be working. They’ve gotten all kinds of cool data, like, you know, how many, like if you point three times on average per call, that’s like, you know, that’s improving your sales, but if you go beyond that, it’s, I don’t know, all kinds of stuff like this.

So, but anyway, we worked together on, early on, that company is huge now, but they were just starting around series B. We worked together as CEO. Amit Bandoff said to me, listen, we’re gonna be a big company, but how big depends on how good we get this narrative.

And in particular, how this narrative plays with senior leadership, because at the time they were really seen as kind of a tool for like sales enablement, nothing against sales enablement, but that it was like a sort of like a tool for recording calls versus this intelligence that we’re gonna get that the leadership is gonna, right? So we came up with this narrative, Amit did during the work, goodbye opinions, hello reality, that hey, the old game is you’re gonna run your sales team on opinions. It was great game for a long time.

Now we have these new ways of really finding out like what’s really happening in the world in our sales interactions and other places. And, but when Amit first came up with that, he was like, well, you know, I don’t wanna tell people that they’re wrong for like using opinions, right? So what he did instead was tell his own story and said like, hey, listen, I was a CMO and people would ask me like, why did you, you know, why are you losing deals?

Why are you winning or losing deals? And he’d say like, you know, what did I have to go on? I had a lot of data.

I could go into Salesforce and I could look at, you know, loss reason and look at what the, you know, how the breakdown, but if you look at that loss reason, well, what’s that data coming from? It’s going from, did a salesperson even take the time to come and do a pull down menu? And then basically they gave their opinion about why they, you know, and they’re usually were things like, I wasn’t in the zone, you know, like, so we’re not getting a lot of real hard data about an objective information about why.

So he’s would go into calls and say, you know, hey, I did this too. You know, we didn’t, this, and I struggled. So he’s bringing it to himself, not just saying, hey, you are doing it wrong, but hey, we were all doing it that way, but then the world shifted.

Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. I like that.

There’s a number of things that you’ve just hit on there that I just want to sort of shine a little torch on. So the first is the personal story, right? And there’s like a macro and a micro set of narratives, I always think.

If it’s in a sale situation, the macro is, as you say, the sort of the overarching brand and product kind of that you want to sell. But then as you say, there’s the individual that’s selling it, you know? And if those two things can marry, you know, in terms of the narratives, I think that’s where it gets super powerful.

And even amongst leadership teams, one of the things that I’m finding is the personal story and personal brand of the leader is particularly in the B2B space where people’s reputation and people buy from people is absolutely crucial to form part of a strategy, right, for a brand. So if you think of, I mean, just classic ones, you know, you think of like Virgin, right? You always think of Richard Branson, right?

The Virgin story and the Richard Branson story are pretty intertwined, right? And I think any CEO should take really seriously their own, the way that they show up as an individual and make sure that it aligns with what they’re trying to say on the macro level. What are your thoughts on that, Andy?

And then I’ve got one other point I want to throw in before we shift the shift category, but do you see that personal and that brand narrative, if you like, and how do you sort of suggest that those two are connected?

Oh, absolutely. And I think when you define that strategic narrative, that old game, new game shift, that becomes like sort of the North Star story that you’re evangelizing all the time. And you’re doing it in different channels and you’re not always talking about it at the high level, you’re talking about examples of it, or when you’re do a podcast, maybe the name of it is a nod toward that story when you write a book.

So the CEO of Zwora, Tian Suo, he wrote a book called, I think it was called Subscription or Subscribe or something like that. And that was the name of their user conference, Subscribed. So everything is sort of, the North Star for everything becomes that.

You know, in my work, I always work with a team that’s led by the CEO. And I work directly with the CEO as the person, like the person is the person who with me is building the narrative. And a lot of CMOs, that doesn’t work for them.

They see that as their job. And that’s fine. What I’ve found is in the projects where it was the CEO leading it, those were the most successful ones.

Of course, the CMO always played a huge role, but also had a product and maybe the CTO, maybe a co-founder or whatever, they’re all playing really important roles. But I think the CEO has this special kind of power and responsibility to define this narrative. And some CMOs will say to me like, oh, well, our CEO delegated it to me.

So I guess we can’t work together, okay. But every once in a while, I hear from one, definitely the minority, but happily enough where they’ll be like, oh my God, yes, if you could help me get our CEO to nail this story down in a way that this isn’t just a marketing project, that’s going to make it so that when I’m building campaign, building assets and building things, they’re tied in and aligned to something that’s just not I thought of, but the whole leadership team has been aligned on and came up with together. So that’s been a really important one that I’ve learned over the years.

So Andy, Jacob here, just buttoning in. I’d love to know the process. If they haven’t got a story or maybe the North Star is a little bit off kilter, how do you help a CEO or the brand craft that story and get things aligned?

What’s your process?

Well, the first question I think that we have to answer is, in what format are we going to write this thing down? We want this story to be the story, like I said, that’s powering everything that we’re telling everywhere. The traditional answer to that question is, let’s put it in a place the world never sees.

Some kind of internal, usually marketing document that has the messaging architecture or some called the messaging house, or I don’t know, there’s some messaging, and it has fragments of messages, maybe pillars messages, whatever. Then the idea is everybody’s going to use that as, come back to that and pull messages from it whenever they talk to customers or investors, whatever. And I found in my career that that would break down.

People, especially outside of marketing, didn’t come back to this thing after a while. And even if they did, it was very hard for people to take these fragments of messages and string them together into something that worked really well. So, I experimented a little and eventually came to the sales deck as the core narrative asset.

And this works especially well for the B2B kind of companies I’m working with. I mean, the sales team is the most important channel for delivering message to customers, or certainly one of. And so, when I work with teams, I decided that the thing we should be building is the sales deck.

And I was surprised at how many CEOs liked that. I thought that they would push back on it. Well, the sales deck is, you know, isn’t that an output of some other more fundamental sort of messaging or strategic thing?

And, you know, this idea of, no, that is the fundamental strategic thing. I think a lot of, because a lot of the CEOs I work with, you know, they were starting, they were in on the, they were the founder, often founding CEO, and they experienced how central this sales deck is and how important the messaging of that was.

So Andy, so we talked about format, but what next? You know, once we’ve agreed that, like how do we actually get about, I guess, gathering the right information? Like you talked about the movement.

Like how do I get to that point where I start to frame things and how do I even do that?

So the first thing I do is I ask the CEO to create what I call the strategic narrative team, which is the CEO and up to four other people. And typically these are heads of like sales, marketing, product. Sometimes there’s like a co-founder, COO kind of person.

Often this limit of four people in addition to the CEOs is quite difficult for the CEO, especially at very large companies. Early on, I would kind of give in a little bit. Okay, we can have a fifth.

And I always was sorry for it. And over the last couple of years, I haven’t. And often the CEO will say to me, you know, oh, you know, I remember I asked you for another person.

Now I realize why we didn’t do another person. I think there’s like this magic balance between, yeah, we want to have a few points of view and we want the people in the room who are sort of like, you know, have the inputs to the story, but also are super critical to own it going forward, like smell their scent on it. But we don’t want to have too many people that we can’t get to some kind of alignment.

So I start with that group and I do a little brainwashing to them of this structure of how to structure this narrative, you know, in the form of a sales deck. But then I’m basically just asking them, like, what are the pieces of this? What do you think could be that shift that’s going to be the thing that we’re, you know, the movement that we build on?

And they have some ideas. I also have them talk to customers and ask customers, like, well, you know, not so much like, what do you love about our product, what don’t you love about our product, which is good information to have also, but what has shifted in your world such that what we’re delivering to you is like life and death urgent? And very often that question, there’s a few other questions, but very often that question will give us some hints and maybe some validation of one direction among several we might be thinking about to take this narrative.

I then build out a draft with the CEO and I have the CEO present that to this small team. And I always tell them heads up, this is going to be the low point of our work together. And you can imagine why, like the team has all these millions of great ideas, but in order to get to something kind of clean, the CEO has had to throw out almost all of them.

And this second session where the CEO is presenting that is often a very emotional session because people are having to deal with, well, we can’t have everything. And the good news, this is where the team gets to say, hey, what’s working, what’s not working. And then I find also the team is always right about, maybe the CEO won’t agree with every nitpick, but the general direction it has to go.

And so the CEO and I go back and rebuild it. And I have them present again. And basically, eventually we get to a place where we’re feeling comfortable and I have them design it.

So it’s presentable. And then we start using it in real sales calls. We’re not rolling it out to the whole sales team, but using it in some real sales calls so we can get a sense like, well, how is this working?

And we always learn a lot. Like, oh, that line we were so excited about and thought we were so genius about, yeah, nobody cares. And oh, we’re always getting this one objection, maybe we can handle that.

People are saying, oh, yeah, but I still don’t get how you’re different from X. So maybe we can build into the story. That’s one of the things that I think we know, we know we have a really good story, is when the company has been getting these questions, well, how are you different from X, Y and Z?

And now we don’t get those anymore because it’s just so clear.

So you go into like this ideation brainstorming process and then you check that with your team, you reiterate, improve it, then you test it and kind of repeat that process until you’ve nailed it.

Yeah, and it’s them, you said you, so I wasn’t sure what you meant by you, but it’s not me taking it out and testing it, it’s them. Sometimes it’s literally the CEO, sometimes it’s the head of sales or one salesperson will get to start doing some calls with it and start learning and start iterating on it.

Design thinking almost, getting out there, planning with it, prototyping, refining, love it. Love it. One thing you said about the clarity and the…

Well, there was something actually I just want to come back to because I never got to it, but I think it’s worthy of just thinking about this and I’d love to get your thoughts. You mentioned the example, and I can’t remember off the top of my head to make you know of it, of the company that you worked with. They were talking about Goodbye Opinions, Hello Reality.

What was the company?

This is Gong.

Gong, right. That’s right. So Gong, one of the things you said there was that one of their objectives was that they could sell to almost like users, and they had this kind of very functional positioning initially in the market, but they wanted to move up the ladder to more strategic thinkers like leaders in organizations.

And this is something I come across all the time in my work, particularly in the B2B sort of technical space where products perhaps have been being sold on the features and functionality that they offer. But at a certain point, there’s this maturity that takes place, where particularly if you want to scale and go like more to sell to larger organizations, suddenly you’re not talking to a technical buyer, or at least not initially. The decision makers are not technical or functional or understanding of any of the jargon and the features.

Like they don’t understand that. So one of the things that is always a struggle is to try and make the software, the thing, the product, the brand, if you like, relevant at a higher level, like higher conceptual level so that once you pass that gate, yeah, then now we can get down into the real nitty gritty functions and features. But hey, the CIO understands what this is all about.

The CMO understands what it’s about, and now we can get with the tech. Is that something that you found this approach really helps with? And just wondered if you’ve got any thoughts on that.

Let’s go back to Star Wars. So Obi-Wan comes to Luke and says, hey, let’s go, you know, Luke has been belly aching for a long time. Hey, I want to go be a pilot and have adventures.

And Obi-Wan says, great, I have this, we have this mission and, you know, and I want you to do. And what is, do you remember what Luke says? He says, you know, it’s kind of late.

And I really got to go home. Who does this sound like? The reluctant buyer.

You know, it’s the person who’s like, oh yeah, I want to be innovative. And I want to, ooh, you know what? We just don’t have budget for that this quarter.

Let’s talk next year.

Well, it’s risky, right? Because there’s a lot going on out there. And, you know, we don’t know what’s in the darkness.

So we’d rather go.

There’s a lot of potential things we could solve. So what makes Luke eventually go? I don’t know if you remember this, but the Empire kills his aunt and uncle or his foster parents.

And it’s pretty much assumed, it’s kind of indicated that they’re now after him. And probably he’s going to be dead. So what shifted there is the stakes, very high stakes became personal for him.

And then he took action. You know, people often say like, oh, you should make the story emotional. And I always wonder, well, what does that really mean?

To me, my definition of that, at least in this context, is that it’s emotional to you if you perceive stakes. And stakes means upside, big upside and big downside if I don’t do anything. That if I keep going the way it is, it’s going to be a big downside.

It’s not going to just be okay. And I think the same thing has to happen for the senior buyer or the senior level roles that you’re talking about. So in the situation I think you were talking about, we have a product that has some traction among the lower level users or the direct users.

And our growth targets mean, and maybe we’ve had more features, we’re going to have to start selling to higher level folks. And what I found was that the strategic narrative was a really great tool for this. Because what we could do is we could say, hey, this movement we’re championing, here’s why it has stakes for you, the direct user, but also here’s why it has stakes for you, the CEO or whatever the relevant roles are.

If you think about what Gong did, the initial story that most people thought about Gong was, okay, we can record our calls and rewatch them. And that is not a high level stakes story for the CRO. It’s so nice to have a story for the CRO.

But when the story becomes, hey, do you want to be basing your decisions, the way you run the team, on opinions or having a view of reality in a granular way of what’s happening? Do you want to be able to answer the question, why are we winning or losing deals based on your opinions or based on what’s really going on there? Wow, this starts to have real stakes for that leader.

Most times, I work with a team. We build out these persona role-specific or sometimes industry-specific translations of the story. Hey, if this subscription economy is here, how is that changing the world of music?

Instead of buying CDs, we’re now subscribing to Spotify. This is an old story, but this was back then. For all of the relevant roles we’re targeting, can we come up with a reason why this shift we’re talking about has life and death stakes for them, life and death in a figurative way here?

Amazing, absolutely amazing.

And I guess sometimes, depending on the type of product or the brand, sometimes it could actually be life or death stakes, right? If you really can see the relevance of your product, if it really sort of helps society, they could, as you say, push it, push it, see where those stakes go. I think that’s obviously only relevantly.

You’re tying it to the outcome as well, right? The fact that you’re focusing on reality equals more sales. You’re reframing old versus new and what it actually means for the customer or the brand or the business.

Yes. We like to kind of turn things negative every now and again. This is mainly Jacob, but I’m going to do it this time.

Yes, usually you, babe. I’m going to do it. So what do you find the pitfalls are with people when they start to sort of play with this concept of strategic narrative?

Like, have you seen any kind of classic things that, or sort of, I don’t know, yeah, pits that people fall into? Like, what’s your experience in how things could go wrong?

Yeah, there are like a million ways. But there are definitely like a few that I tend to see. Well, one for a while was that article that was on Medium, that greatest sales deck article.

People would get a hold of the… So Zora, after that article came out, they got a lot of requests for their sales deck, this great sales deck that I was talking about. And they posted a kind of a version of it that you can actually download.

And what I found was a lot of people were just kind of taking those slides and just pasting in their own logo and maybe changing it. So, and they’re like, hey, this is not working. So that’s not a great approach.

But there are a few things I’ve learned about kind of what makes a good old game, new game set up and a few things that don’t. So one pitfall I find is people will define the old game as something dumb. So if you notice like opinions to reality, the old game opinions, it’s not really, it wasn’t wrong.

I mean, that was what we had to go on. Like that was the way you won. Whereas another way you could say is you made dumb decisions.

That was the old game. That’s not the old, that’s not a, so somebody to say like, oh, the old game was, we wasted money doing blah, blah, blah. We don’t wanna name it in a way that makes it sound like we were just doing bad.

We wanna really name it in a way that, oh, we, the world was a different world and we operated according to its rules back then, but those were the rules and now they’ve changed. So that’s a really big one. I also, one of the other big ones I find is, well, I mentioned having the CEO lead it.

That’s this controversial one, but I’m a really big believer in that. And I guess maybe a third one might be that, we’re thinking we’re going to get some slogan like, goodbye opinions, hello reality, put it on our website and done. And that’s not going to work.

We have to come up with this story in a way that we can commit to it so that, and doesn’t have to be everything, but I don’t know, maybe like 80% of the content we’re putting out there is some form of building up this story and adding juice to it.

Now, amazing, amazing, really, really helpful. And I think we’ll, you know, we’ll start to sort of cruise to the end, but I just want to squeeze every last bit of value out of you seeing as we’ve got you. So they were the negative things, but what are your top tips to really succeed with a strategic narrative?

Like what are, if I was to ask you three things that you could give our listeners or to think about, what would the top three things be?

One, I’ll say CEO leads it. So CEO is the one who runs this with, because I really think the CEO is the only one in the organization who has really the power and the responsibility to really make some of the calls that this narrative is going to require. I’d say that talking to customers part is a really big one.

Obviously, if you’re just starting out, if the company is a very, very early stage, that’s not going to be as possible. And so do the best you can. But as you have customers, can you get them to validate it?

Can you hear it from them? And very often, there’s just a lot of great clues that I get when we talk to customers. And then I’d say the last one, well, I guess I’m kind of going on the flip side of the, is I was gonna say, build out 80% of your content that talks to this narrative, which I’ve already said, but how do you do that?

How do you start doing that? I’ll often start with the team. And once we get really comfortable with the narrative and in sales, it feels like it’s working.

Okay, what’s another big asset that we have to deliver that maybe we’re doing a big product announcement and how can we do that product announcement in a way that it’s framed by this narrative and is also giving juice to the narrative? So often we’ll just start to, almost at a leadership level, build out a few assets to give the team a sense of like, well, how would we all keep doing this?

Nice, nice. So is that like variations or extensions of the narrative? Is that how you’d sort of see that?

I see it as, you know, embodiments of it and yeah.

Nice, cool. Jacob, anything from you before we wrap?

I’d love to go a little bit deeper on that. So what does that look like? How do you extend that out?

So you have like your core story, but how do you make that into, you know, the rest of the marketing material or internal documents, for example?

Yeah, I think it’s such a case by case situation. And yes, we might have to have some marketing house or something like that, that sort of takes some of this stuff and codifies it for a larger group. But I really feel like the best way is, you know, we’re framing everything with the narrative.

So, you know, one example, well, so one piece of content that’s often one of the first things I see people do is, okay, we have this narrative, we have all these personas we talked about, can we do like a blog post or whatever for each of these personas that is talking about the shift and how it changes their role? And, you know, and then that starts to, you know, create all kinds of other, you know, it sort of creates a template for how we might talk about this to the different people.

Super smart, super smart. As you say, like, it makes it relevant to them, right? To their persona, to why they should care and helps to manage the meaning, which brings us in a full loop.

So Andy, look, I’m sure there’s tons more, and I know there’s tons more that you could speak to on this subject, but where can folks find you? Like, where do we find your content? Where do we find you online?

Where are you most active?

Place I’m probably most active is LinkedIn. So if you just look for me on LinkedIn, I connect with anyone reasonable who wants to connect with me. And then my website is andyraskin.com.

Amazing, amazing. Well, look, I want to thank you on behalf of all our listeners for taking some time out to have this conversation. You’ve been super generous.

And I approached you out the blue and you were just really nice about it. So thanks so much. We appreciated it.

I’ve appreciated the conversation. It’s been great fun. Learned loads.

Yeah, what’s the future looking like for you, Andy? What are you most interested in focused on going into the next couple of years? Is it more of this stuff or have you got any big plans?

What’s the future like? And then we’ll close.

I hope it’s more of this stuff. I just really love working with CEOs and leadership teams on this stuff. It’s really hard.

Every time I go into one, I’m like, why did I do this? Because I’ve made it sound like, oh yeah, we just talk to customers. But as you can imagine, it’s often really difficult, but it’s also just really rewarding too.

So yeah. Yeah, and I didn’t think we were going to get into the Bible today, but yeah, we went there too. So, you know what I mean?

We do all sorts of JUST Branding. There we are. Well, thanks so much for accommodating us and as I say, really appreciate it.

Thank you.

My pleasure. Thank you.

Share This Post: