One of the things I have my clients do over the course of our time together is create a persona (or three) for their customers’ Big Challenge/Desire. (It’s part of the Biz Story Outline.)

We ask the question:

Who, or What stands in the way of your client getting what she wants?

We need to know the answer because it helps us tell better stories about how we fix those problems.

Remember my Starter Recipe for writing marketing copy? The 2nd ingredient is knowing exactly Why the problem hasn’t (yet) been solved.

Let’s look at my business, for example.

I’ve identified almost a dozen evil characters that stop you — and sometimes me! — from getting our marketing done.

I wrote about one of those villains awhile back (remember the evil robots?) and the post was much more engaging because I focused on showing (not telling) my readers how something as innocent as automating your marketing can “kill” your efforts.

It wasn’t a Game of Thrones epic by any stretch, but it was better than a straight lecture on why you should rethink all that automating.

Let’s face it. Stories with conflict or drama are the ones we tend to enjoy most.

Kitchen KnightStories where everything is light and love, rainbows and unicorns — with zero evil to battle — are a bit yawn-inducing. Even a romantic comedy needs to employ some level of credible challenge to hold our interest.

As marketers who care about building on positive messages — and who want to stay away from fear-based ones — it might feel a little weird or uncomfortable to think about your story’s villains.

If you worry that you’re manipulating your audience by poking their soft spots, you’re not alone. LOTS of us feel that way.

But if we believe that “He-who-must-not-be-named” might gain power if we speak about him, it’ll hold our marketing back from hitting its mark.

Here’s the truth: you must name the thing before you can talk about fixing it.

You don’t have to go on and on (and on) about it to get the point across. Promise. But without a villain or nemesis, your story will feel bland, contrived and flat.

timethiefHere’s another example: A few years ago, my survey helped identify the top villain for most of you: The Time Thief.

She apparently keeps at least 40% of you from getting your work done. (And is most likely to blame for your connections to those evil robots, too.)

I’ve used this character to talk about the nitty gritty details of implementing a marketing plan (or biz story outline). It helps my clients better understand their own challenges around time management and where those challenges come from. Is it they’ve got “too much to do” or that they just need to buckle down and prioritize?

When we talk about The Time Thief, they can look at their time management issues a bit more objectively because it’s “outside” them. Of course, consciously they “get” that conquering the Time Thief is completely within their power.

How Could You Personify (or, in one case, animalify) your customers’ problems?

Here are just three examples you might enjoy:

Caution: this one has language NSFW:

One thing you probably noticed is that these examples also help us laugh at our problems. And humor goes a long way toward making a story (or a marketing message) stand out in your prospect’s mind.

What about you and your clients? Who’s the big villain you help them conquer? Share a description or two in a link below. (And if you’ve got an image of that creep, share that, too.)