What's your story?

Marketing has become quite complex with many moving parts that must be in sync to yield results. Regardless of which aspect of marketing you deploy, there are two primary ways to measure results: Conversions and Shares. The former is pretty obvious, right? Stick a CTA (call to action) somewhere, use a lead magnet (that free offer your prospect is salivating to get in exchange for giving up their email address) grab that email and blast daily/weekly offers away. It's a numbers game and depending upon what you're selling, you may just need a small rate of conversions to make a profit. Easy, everyone's doing it.

Now, the second critical aspect of measuring marketing results is the ability to 'engage', not convert. To make things simple, let's think of conversions as a benchmark for generating sales, and engagement as a benchmark for "this is cool, I need to tell my friends about it." - or, an efficient way to increase and expand your reach to those who otherwise would have never heard of your company.

Not so easy, but everyone is doing it.

It all started in 1993 with Simon Sinek's Ted Talk, "Start with why." With 957,000 views the "why" has become a marketing mantra for anyone developing brand content and even misson/vision statements. If you're one of those seeing this for the first time, the concept is very simple: People care more about why you're in business than what you actually do. While Mr. Sinek created an entire industry around his talk, I don't think his concept, as brilliant as it may be, is original.

"They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel." - attributed to Carl W. Buehner who was a high-level official in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Like everything else us humans do, the "why" has become the go-to everything in marketing - tell them a story first and sell later.

There's nothing more disingenuous than story fabrications like the ones that are so prevalent among some big marketing gurus in my space. Ready? Grab that tissue box because here is comes:

"My parents were poor, I dropped out of high school to support my single Mom. I saved enough to buy a car and it quickly became the place I called home. Then one day, on my 21st birthday, I decided to change my life. I bought a used laptop and developed a marketing system that allows people like me to make a six-figure income per month. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't easy. I was rejected a lot, no one was clicking on any of my links and then...BAM, I couldn't believe my PayPal notifications. I don't want anyone to go through what I've been through and so I am sharing my system with you today for $97..."

I am not suggesting that every marketing story that is being told for the purpose of engagement or conversions, is made up. But we must recognize that digging deep and truly identifying  the 'why' is hard work. Sure, you can make the stuff up and some people may actually fall for it, but in a well-connected economy and given the large numbers of BS that buyers have to go through to find real 'whys',  we've all become quite adept at spotting fake content.

Abraham Lincoln was right:

"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

Here's the thing: One meaningful connection originated by a genuine story is worth a lot more than hundreds of shares or likes of a fake story. The ultimate test of engagement is not shareability (although marketing gurus will always point to those numbers first) but the actual connection that resulted from it. That requires hard work not just searching for your own 'why' but more importantly understanding your customers' why. If you generate great content that winds up as "you had me at hello", good for you. For most of us, like all relationships, you have to invest in them to get what you really want.

Never underestimate the hard work that is required not just searching for your own 'why' but more importantly understanding your customers' why. If you generate great content that winds up as "you had me at hello", good for you. For most of us, like all relationships, we have to invest to get what we really want.

Tell a story don't sell a bridge.