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 your client’s 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 associate with negative feelings or behaviors, while some simply don’t want to focus on what’s not working and instead focus on what could work instead.

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 what you’ve overcome in your life – conflict is at the 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

  • An enemy storms the country 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 viewpoint.

Conflict and Your Customers: Bridging the Gap

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 relate 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…

EXTERNAL CONFLICT

  • 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.

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.

INTERNAL CONFLICT

  • 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 widely shared but are left unspoken and implied.

Take a 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 internal 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.

CASE STUDIES

#1 The Period Girl

  • Main Character: A woman struggling with her period or fertility, especially if coming off the pill or synthetic hormonal birth control

  • The Guide: Period Girl’s products & services related to natural, non-synthetic hormone balancing

  • The Bad Guy: hormonal birth control (the pill specifically)

  • External Conflict: painful periods or no periods at all, infertility, hormonal imbalance

  • 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? Why doesn’t my doctor listen to me when I complain of weird symptoms or sensations related to my period (or lack of one)?

#2 Gabby Bernstein

  • The Main Character: Women (and some men) looking for a new, hip way to connect to their spirituality

  • The Guide: Gabby’s books, meditations and programs

  • The Bad Guy: 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

#3 DoTerra Essential Oils

  • The Main Character: Anyone looking for healthy, certified organic and ethically harvested solutions for health issues

  • The Guide: DoTerra essential oils and related products

  • The Bad Guy: big pharma and an outdated healthcare system

  • External Conflict: the high cost of medicine and related costs, disease, physical manifestations of disease, child-based ailments, synthetic or processed foods and medicines

  • 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? How can I help my children stay or be healthy? Can I solve X Disease without spending tons of money?

ONE FINAL THOUGHT…

All great brands have both types of conflict present in their marketing materials. Nike is not only up against rocky terrain and physical exhaustion (external conflicts) but it’s also up against the fear of mediocrity or giving up (internal conflicts). Apple is up against confusing and sluggish tech (external conflict) as well as the internal struggles of finding a system that supports the creative professional (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.

NEW TO BRAND STORYTELLING?

Download ‘The BrandStory Blueprint’ and learn the secrets to a stand out story formula!

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