How do you want people to feel when they buy from you?
How do you want people to feel when your sales team shows up? What fears might they have that stop them from staying with you or buying from you? As a marketer, if you really want to stand out from competitors and emotionally connect with your customers, these are important questions to answer.
In this interview, we learned from Anthony Butler, author of Primal Storytelling and founder of the Marketing Agency Can-Do Ideas. From Helena, Montana, Anthony talks about his journey of discovery. He was a linguist and served in the army, but his story really kicks off when he gets fired by one of his marketing agency clients, who told him that his work hadn’t made any difference in the business. That was a turning point in his career. In this episode, we find out why.
In this conversation, Anthony shares his Primal Storytelling methodology and how he helps clients drive emotion in their marketing. We find out what questions you need to ask yourself to better connect with your audience. He also guides us through his process to map sales to marketing and what type of content and messages we need to deliver at each stage.
Anthony Butler is the founder of the digital marketing agency Can-Do Ideas and the creator of the Primal Storytelling content system. A highly regarded expert in brand storytelling and digital marketing, Anthony graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and the US Army Ranger School. He is a combat veteran and commanded an infantry company in Iraq during the invasion of Baghdad. He is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and currently resides in Montana with his wife and two sons.
Anthony started his company out as a tech support company for marketing agencies, where they would help them implement HubSpot. They were helping companies implement HubSpot and then manage it. After some time implementing HubSpot, a big financial company asked him for help creating content for them. Two years later, they were producing content at scale for other businesses.
“I have a clause in most of our contracts that says that if you went out of the contract, no questions asked, you can get out. We do good work and we stand by it. And I had someone take me up on it. And this CEO from a tech company called us and said, hey, Tony, all the work is on time and professional, but we’re going to fire you. It’s just not moving the needle. And I was like, what? This has never happened before. I can’t believe it.”
Anthony admits it was a righteous firing because when you hire a marketing agency you’re not only buying expertise. You’re buying the results.
“You want leads. You want attention. You want sales and you want your sales team to cry because the marketing agency sent them so many leads, they can’t manage them all. That’s the sign that things are going well.”
This was a wake-up call for Anthony because when he started looking at dashboards across all of their clients, he realised it was really hit-and-miss. They were following a similar process for each client. Although they had systems in place, Anthony and their team were missing their clients’ secret sauce. What was it that moved the needle for them? During his process of figuring this out, he went to a business conference in San Diego, where one of the speakers talking about marketing said something that sparked something within him. He said that people make decisions with emotion, and then they try to justify them with logic. So, he began wondering which emotions are those, and how many emotions there are.
Anthony started doing some research and stumbled upon the idea of evolutionary psychology and the categorisation of emotions.
“And that’s what the book is about. I went through all the research, and then I started testing. I’m a marketer. So I tested all these ideas against and with clients to see what worked and what didn’t and narrowed it down into a system to help companies create content that’s going to move the needle, it’s going to generate leads, it’s going to help you build an audience.”
His content system, Primal Storytelling, was created with the goal of helping marketers and entrepreneurs take a step beyond trying to write for an algorithm or to rank on Google and just write for real people. It’s a system that encourages them to write something that people care about and show empathy for the audience. It was sparked by what Anthony calls ‘the absolute graveyard of corporate blogs’.
“Have you ever read a blog from a giant corporation that you loved, that you bookmarked and that you wanted to print out and take it home with you and share with your family? And the answer is no.”
For Anthony, the path to success comes from thinking about the one message that would make the audience think about your company in a different way. The message they should hear about you and that would help them in a profound way.
“We can’t write for everyone. Primal Storytelling is not a book my mom would love to read. But if you’re trying to grow a business, if you’re a professional marketer and you want to understand how to create viral content. Then it’s a book that you might be interested in. If you want to write a better copy it’s a book you’re definitely interested in. It’s just a very narrow audience.”
We rarely feel just a single emotion. In his book, Primal Storytelling, Anthony outlines the nine emotions that you should focus on as a marketer. For him, the most overused of them is outrage. It’s everywhere. Every headline is about outrage, followed by curiosity and secrets, he says. We see examples of that flooding the internet every day: ‘the one dress that every actress wore on the red carpet’, but they don’t tell you what it is; or the one secret to beauty, to losing weight, etc.
“And why do those work? Why is clickbait so focused on secrets and outrage? It's an emotional response. It’s clickbait. You know, if you click on it, you’re going to some BS landing page that is going to try to get you to click on all their bizarre ads, right? But you want to know what Charlize Theron was really doing? What really makes her beautiful?”
In that sense, what Anthony tries to help marketers with is having a place to start. In some studies, scientists have identified more than thirty different emotions and multiple gradients of them. For instance, when you watch a horror movie, there are elements of surprise and suspense, as well as horror. All three together are very powerful. There is science behind some of these movies trying to manage our emotions throughout 90 minutes or two hours, says Anthony.
Marketers rarely use extreme emotions in their content. Instead, they use gradients. But, understanding the extremes helps in thinking through the everyday emotions that a small business can tap into to get more attention from its audience. For Anthony, this has to do with empathy, love and spirituality, things that we overlook but could easily be used.
Marketers often overlook the single factor that is vital in every business: how does your brand make your customers feel? Anthony offers the example of cars. When he asks people why they drive their cars, the answer is complex, but when they move past the typical logical reasons like ‘it has power windows and great breaks’, it comes down to how you feel within your tribe, how you feel when you drive it around.
Whether a car costs millions, or it’s an old second-hand car that you bought for $500, they both fulfil the same purpose: transportation. What changes is the way you feel when driving them and what you think people think when they see you in them. The same happens with clothes, or even your partner. There are a lot of mixed emotions involved in your decisions that boil down to how they make you feel about yourself and your place in the world.
“I think a lot of expert marketers know this, but it can be really hard to convince that software company that thinks they’re changing the world with their whiz-bang new tech that you know what? The emotions behind what you’re doing are really important. One of the core pieces of the book that I really delve into is that you’ve got to focus on that piece when you focus on the primal storytelling formula.”
In his agency, Anthony has hired Ivy League graduates from marketing schools around the country. When they join them, they don’t know anything. Up until then, at school, they’re still learning 1950s ‘Mad Men-style’ advertising, like how to make a perfume commercial. But, that’s not how a small business goes to market today if you’re under $500 million. What you need is a direct response. You need leads and people to pay attention to your business so that you can grow, says Anthony.
One of the parts of that formula is the tribe (family, friends, etc.) that defines the audience and what their hopes, fears and dreams are, as well as the demographics, and psychographics. Another part is delving into their driving emotions and primal urges that keep them or that entice them to do business with you. In his book, Anthony gives an example of the time he was hired by a big Manhattan company that had Fortune 1000 clients. They had decided to go into the middle market with about 100-500 employees, but they were failing. Their sales team wasn’t closing any deals.
They asked Anthony to go there, and he realised that they didn’t know how they were making their prospects feel. They weren’t connecting with their prospects because they didn't understand their needs or their psychographics.
“Psychographics are the mental makeup of an audience. What are their hopes? What are their dreams? What are their hobbies? What kinds of people are they internally? And trying to understand what their motivation is. That’s the psychographic side of it. I really like to focus on hopes and dreams and then relate those back to a brand. Because when you start to understand the motivations behind why someone might want your help or not, it can really help you work through the fear side of it.”
One of the things that Anthony does for clients is mapping their sales process to their marketing, from the top of the funnel content to the bottom. They try to get people to find them and get brand awareness, but also, to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of people choosing their brand over others.
“If you think if you’re a company of one and you don’t have competition, you’re in a terrible business. You need competition because that’s where the business is. That’s where high prices come from, from good competition. And when people are fearful of changing where they are, they’re looking for something original. They’re looking for something new. They’re looking for something that is really going to move the needle from them.”
When you go further down the funnel you get into the decision-making cycle and start to rethink your choices. In the middle of the funnel, you’re looking to create transition stories, that is case studies, and testimonials of the before and after using your product or service. When someone worked for you before, what was it like before they found you? What was it like when they worked with you? And then what were those results? Finally – and this is where many companies really miss opportunities – is the bottom of the funnel. This is the final step that leads need to take. You have to make them the hero of your story.
“You have to show how that decision is a win for them personally and for their company. And if you’re missing one, and if it’s a team sale and everyone on the team can say no, but there’s only one big decision maker, it’s a minefield. You have to have a win for everyone on that team.”
In marketing, adds Anthony, what you do is map those hopes and fears, the psychographics of each of the decision-makers in the team.
In his experience working in multiple cultures and languages, Anthony advises that as a marketer, you need to be mindful of where your audience comes from and the cultural implications of that, as your content might not have the same impact in two different countries.
“You must understand your market and have enough empathy. And you’ve got to learn what those cultural differences are. One of them is between the UK and the US. What is really stark is this underlying cultural theme of the side hustle, and everyone needs to be an entrepreneur and you should be starting your own business. That kind of grind mentality in the US is a big thing right now. It’s a cultural trend where I think the UK has been a little wiser and pushed some of that off with, ‘hey, you know what? I do want to make my family first and a business second.’ It’s something that you really have to think about, but that comes back to the core issues you got to test.”
Dominic Monkhouse is a proven architect of business growth with a demonstrable track record. As managing director, he scaled two UK technology companies from zero revenue to £30 million in five years. Since 2014, Dominic has worked as a CEO and executive team coach, helping ambitious CEOs and their leadership teams reach their full potential and achieve sustainable growth. He is the host of “The Melting Pot with Dominic Monkhouse” where he talks with some extraordinary thought leaders, fellow business authors, and CEOs to absorb their wisdom. Dominic is the author of F**K PLAN B: How to scale your technology business faster and achieve plan A, an exciting blueprint for cultural change and business transformation.