Play the Background: How to Make Your Print Buyer the Hero

“Hey, you, look at me! Can’t you see how great I am? I am the best there is. You’d be a fool to work with anyone but me and my business, for we are THE BEST.”

Ugh. Insert eye-roll here.

Most people actively avoid those who exude an attitude like this. But, have you ever noticed that many business owners think it’s ok to market their business this way? They seem to miss the truth that messages like these, with their know-it-all attitudes, are cringe-worthy whether they come from the neighbor down the street or a business trying to market itself.

Owning a business doesn’t give anyone an excuse to be an all-about-me marketer. No one likes a glory hog, and this includes your print buyers. Many companies fail to recognize that marketing actually works best as a supporting role.

If you want your marketing to be effective, it needs to play the background, not take center stage.

Every Story Has a Hero. Who’s Yours?

In every story, there’s a hero and there’s a guide.

Think about this: in The Lord of the Rings, Frodo had Gandalf. In The Hunger Games, Katniss had Haymitch. And, of course, in Star Wars, Luke had Yoda.

Have you ever wondered why that is and why there must be both? It comes down to two things:

  • Everyone wants to play the hero. In all of these movies, we identify with the hero. We ask ourselves if we’d be able to overcome the same challenges. “Would I have the courage and strength to bring the one ring into Mordor to destroy it? Or survive the Hunger Games?” We enjoy picturing ourselves in these scenarios, which is why we instinctively get behind these heroes and cheer them on to victory.
  • No one wants to go it alone. While we want to know if we can accomplish and overcome these things, that doesn’t mean any of us want to go it alone, including our heroes. What’s more, we’re not meant to go it alone. Think about it. If Frodo or Luke or Katniss could solve the problems themselves, it wouldn’t be a problem at all, and it’d make for a pretty lousy movie.

The hero and the guide work together to succeed. The problem in marketing is that marketers often mistakenly take on the role of the hero instead of guide. This formula doesn’t work. You can’t have two heroes.

As Michael Stelzer of Social Media Examiner says, “When companies tell their stories, they subconsciously compete with the ego identity of the very person to whom they’re speaking.”

So, how do you step back in your marketing to allow your print buyers to play the hero role? These tips will help.

6 Tips to Make Your Print Buyer the Hero

1. Know what your print buyers want.

It’s incredibly difficult to help guide someone if you have no idea what they want.

As the guide, it’s your job to define what your print buyers want as it relates to your brand. For example, is printing what your print buyers want, or do they need help telling their story or growing their brand?

Set aside some time to define what your print buyers want. Then, update your brand’s story (website and marketing collateral) to make sure your messages speak to the wants of your print buyers.

2. Help your print buyers identify their antagonist.

Sometimes heroes don’t even know what they want; they just know something is amiss.

To be an effective guide, you might need to point out what they need in order to be the hero. What are they up against? Who or what is the antagonist to a print buyer?

While this might sound complicated, it really isn’t. Print buyers are looking to overcome numerous things, including spending excess amounts of time and money, poor quality, the inability to get their name and message out to the right people at the right time, lack of inspiration, changing marketing trends, and more.

Highlight the antagonists (or pain points) that have the most impact on your unique audience.

3. Offer your print buyers a plan.

What can you provide your print buyers to help them overcome their challenges and still be the hero?

A guide that has nothing to offer isn’t a guide; they’re a bump on a log or even, at times, a liability. Luke doesn’t want to carry Yoda around on his back for nothing, right? Yoda had to provide a plan for Luke in order to be beneficial to him. Gandalf laid out the plan for the destruction of the ring. Haymitch explained to Katniss that she needed to get people to like her in order to get sponsors and stay alive in the games.

So, ask yourself: what plan is your print business providing to help your print buyer heroes overcome their antagonists?

4. Put your print buyers in the spotlight.

It’s pretty common to see people, even heroes, remain stagnant until they’re called to action.

Most of the time, it’s the guide that calls the hero to action and puts them in the spotlight. You can do the same for your print buyers. What are some ways you can highlight your print-buyer heroes to call them out?

Need help? Consider highlighting print buyers in your blogs, direct mail newsletters, tagging them on social media, or even doing a short webinar or Facebook live. The main idea is that you shine the light away from yourself, put them in the spotlight, and ultimately call them to action.

5. Don’t make it all about you.

While this one point could sum up this entire blog post, it’s worth repeating: marketing is not all about you.

Think about it this way. Are your print buyers more interested in all of your awards and accolades because they want to know you’re great, or are they more interested in what those awards mean for them?

As the guide, it falls to you to highlight what impressive and impactful things your print buyers can do when they use your products and services – not what cool things you can do.

Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, understood this concept perfectly in their advertisement for their MBA program. The ad was a picture of a college student with the following quote, “They didn’t brag about how far they could take me. They asked where I wanted to go.” Bam! That’s it. Vanderbilt put their audience as the hero, took a step back, and offered themselves as the guide.

This is what marketing should be.

Remember these four words: “so that you can…” With any marketing messages you put out, communicate the benefits it brings to your print buyers. Your strengths are just strengths until you communicate how those strengths will benefit your prospects and customers.

6. Become your print buyers’ biggest cheerleader.

Being a hero is scary and exhausting. Heroes need the guide in their corner cheering them on and helping them persevere and stay the course.

How are you reminding your print buyers you’re there and available whenever they need you? You don’t need to be in their face, but you do need to stay connected and remind them you’re there for them. Consider a monthly direct mail newsletter, social media, or email marketing. Consider a monthly phone call just to ask how they’re doing.

It’s these connections that solidify the hero/guide relationships and position you to be the one they turn to for help.  

Want to learn more about making your print buyers the hero? Check out the book Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.