Whether you’re just starting out in business or you’re a seasoned pro, I often see one common mistake that holds just about everyone back. This mistake is so costly, it actually puts people out of business. And the crazy thing is, it’s easy to fix!
Today I’m talking about the often dreaded conflict in your brand story and how to maximize this part of your content so your brand or business stands out as the solution to the problem.
Unbeknownst to most business owners, conflict is at the heart of a successful business. Without it, why would your customers need you? But often times, business owners don’t want to address any sort of conflict in their content marketing, website, sales copy or social media feeds. Many don’t want to trudge up negative feelings for their clients, while some simply don’t want to focus on what’s not working and instead focus on what could work.
Understandable but not a great business strategy. Let’s learn why that is and how to fix it once and for all…
The Driving Force of Any Story is Conflict
Every great story starts with conflict. Look to your bookshelf, the latest blockbuster movie or even the story of your life – conflict is front and center.
In the best stories, the main character must overcome something to either restore or preserve harmony:
- A loved one is kidnapped and the main character must rescue them
- A husband or wife cheats and the character must start their life anew
- A supporting character dies and the hero must avenge the death
- Raiders enter the land and the people must fight back
These are examples of straightforward external conflicts. But we all know stories – the really great ones – have both internal and external conflict that must be resolved to find peace and restore order from chaos.
- Harry Potter not only goes up against Voldemort, but he must constantly stand up against his own fears of inadequacy as the chosen one.
- Bridget Jones must stop dating bad men but more importantly, foster self-confidence and self-love along the way.
- Elizabeth Gilbert battles a broken heart while wondering if she has what it takes to live life on her own terms (so she travels the world to find out).
Without conflict, we just wouldn’t care.
There must be some kind of struggle, some uphill battle, that a character (and a brand or business) must journey to defeat. So while many entrepreneurs exclude this part of their business story, it’s actually the one that causes the most suspense and draws in potential customers the best.
Now that we understand why conflict is so important to a story, we must understand it from a customer’s advantage.
Conflict and Your Customers
Conflict makes you (and your business) relatable.
Who’s never had any conflict? Any struggles? Anything to overcome?
It’s the human condition to strive for harmony in an unpredictable world.
Utopia sounds lovely but it would be rather boring after a while. That’s why conflict matters. It’s what makes us human.
The struggles you face, and the reason why you may very well be in business, has a lot to do with your ideal clients. Their struggles are your struggles. Your struggles are theirs. Understanding this allows your business to become relatable and empathize with more potential clients.
The Two Types of Conflict in Every Great Story
Building rapport requires both internal and external conflict. Not sure what your conflict is? Ask yourself these questions to get the ideas flowing…
- What am I (or my business) up against?
- Who’s the “bad guy” to my brand?
- Who’s the villain that I’m out to defeat?
- What’s the first reason customers come to me or want my product?
Let’s take my business for example. The “bad guy” to my business is online noise. My entire brand is built on telling stand out stories that get women-owned businesses seen, heard and adored…and build stronger, longer lasting brands so women can make greater meaning, more money and have a larger impact. My clients come to me when they struggle to gain traction online, when they aren’t making money or are feeling frustrated with selling in the digital domain.
Take a minute to free write who or what you’re up against and how your customer experiences this external conflict in their own lives.
- What’s the moral dilemma?
- Do you have what it takes to succeed?
- Why should anyone listen to you?
Internal dilemmas show up as Imposter Syndrome, lack of confidence in abilities and often address some moral dilemma the main character grapples with. Internal conflicts usually aren’t spoken of but are felt. Many of my clients worry their business idea won’t get off the ground or they worry they won’t make it as an entrepreneur or freelancer.
Take another minute to step into the shoes of your customer and see what they are really struggling with. How does your service or product support them in moving through their struggles?
Putting Conflict to Use
Positioning your clients as the hero of the story, with your business/product/service as the guide, what two types of conflict are they up against that you can help them overcome?
If you’re struggling with this, check out the case studies below. I picked random brands that I am aware of (both service and product based) to spark your own imagination.
Main Character: A woman struggling with her period or fertility
Guide: Period Girl’s products & services
External Conflict: painful periods or no periods at all, infertility, hormonal imbalance
Villain: hormonal birth control (the pill specifically)
Internal Conflict: is something wrong with me that I can’t have a normal period? Will I not experience my dream of becoming a mother? Do I have what it takes to regain control over this health issue?
Main Character: Women (and some men) looking for a new, hip way to connect to spirituality
Guide: Gabby’s books, meditations and programs
Villain: outdated and judgmental thought patterns, the Ego
External Conflict: a rushed or fast-paced way of living, feeling ungrounded, feeling disconnected from others, struggling with judgments and negative thought patterns
Internal Conflict: unhappiness, learning to have trust and faith in unseen powers, a deep desire for dreams to manifest
Main Character: Anyone looking for healthy, certified organic and ethically harvested solutions for health issues
Guide: DoTerra essential oils and products
Villain: big pharma and an outdated healthcare system
External Conflict: the high cost of medicine and related costs, disease, physical manifestations of disease
Internal Conflict: Is there a better way to take control of my health? Can I really be healthy without needing all (or some) synthetic drugs? Can I restore my health for good?
One Final Thought…
All great brands have both types of conflict present in their marketing materials. Nike is not only up against excuses (external conflict) but it’s also up against the fear of mediocrity (internal conflict). Apple is up against confusing and sluggish tech (external conflict) as well as the internal struggles of learning new technology and not being seen as savvy (internal conflict). Positioning your product or service as the support our hero needs to overcome both conflicts at once guarantees greater success than only addressing one conflict at a time.