carl heaton

Real Talk – Connect to customers through stories, not sales!

Storytelling is how I worked with companies like Google, Facebook and the UN. They help me run Thailand’s leading technology academy and they are now helping me revitalise our design agency (with a little help from the amazing Storm!) So do you want your brand to be 22 times more memorable?

Quick Jump

I am a father, husband and leader and even though they are different jobs they all share a common trait…. stories!

We, the world, love telling and hearing stories.
American poet, Muriel Rukeyser, said that “The universe is made of stories, not atoms”, so stories are at the very matter of what we are and do.

We all have that friend with whom you know the night is going to be fun – she tells her stories and giggles as the drinks flow.  As business owners, we must know our own story in order to tell it to our customers. Celinne Da Costa from Forbes women wrote:

“Storytelling will not only increase your brand favorability in your audience’s eyes, it can also be up to 22 times more memorable than facts.”

Storytelling is how I worked with companies like Google, Facebook and the UN.
They help me run Thailand’s leading technology academy and they are now helping me revitalise our design agency (with a little help from the amazing Storm!)

So do you want your brand to be 22 times more memorable?

Start with what not why

“We help you go further with less effort”,
“we believe in a world where leveraging good technique is the key to success”
and “we can all do it if we try hard enough”
… what are we? You may have guessed a coaching or consultant firm?
Or maybe a public speaking consultancy?

Wrong and wrong. 

“We” are a local swimming tutor.

See how knowing the “what” gives context to the “why”?
So the first thing to do is really dig down and think of what you are.
A good way to work out what you are is by registering on a business directory. 

Try one of the 19 business directories to submit your company to and by the end of the registration you will be clear on what you are (e.g. “social media manager”).

Who’s standing in front of you?

You, screen, internet, screen, customer.
That’s a lot of stuff between us and our audience. 

Now mix in “fluff”, “bullshit”, “sales text”, “corporate gobbledygook” and you have a recipe for disconnection. 

When i’m writing, like I am now.
I imagine an entrepreneur wondering what the hell telling stories and selling consultancies or tickets has to do with each other.  I imagine that person’s problems and cognitive biases, smile and go from there.
Yup – I smile when I write!
It is a trick I picked up from working at Sky TV’s call center.
#helljobgetmeoutofhere.  Then I imagine their checklist.
This is something everyone has when looking to buy, sign-up, sell, remove, implant or whatever!
They have an action and a list of criteria we need to meet in order for them to take the action with us. Right!? Let’s take for example: I, an expat 38 year old senior consultant and business owner, am looking for someone to run my company social media accounts.
My personal three things are:

  1. Are they in my price range?
  2. Does this person know what they are doing and easy to work with?
  3. Will it just be another waste of money?

Now if I was to write a sales letter or even blog post to attract this person I would have the following story: 

“Tired of wasting time on people who don’t know what they are doing? – we have a proven record of 30% increase in social traffic over a 4 month period for just XX,XXX per month.” 

It’s a small story but I know if I read that I would click to find out more for sure!
Now everyone is different and for sure you will be looking for different things.
So think of who is standing in front of you, think about their personality, demeanor, checklist, frustrations and remember to smile!
Once you have done this, deep breath and start writing!

Tips and Tools

  • So for tips I recommend reading out loud! Always read it to another person if you can. I actually use voice messages on WhatsApp to do this. I send it to my team and as I am speaking into the phone I often hear how crappy it sounds 🙂
  • Secondly I recommend creating a persona on Xtensio as it’s super easy to use! Once you have it filled out, print it out and keep it on the wall so you can picture who’s standing in front of you!


What’s in your secret sauce?

Why should I remember you?

It’s a fair question and here is how to answer it. 

Firstly, let me tell you a quick story of where the idea of a “secret sauce” came from.

koh tao I was invited to teach “Travel Blogging” as part of a group of experienced instructors and I was the 3rd teacher.
The group of 8 keen wannabe travel writers had all been taught what to write about, the industry but they had missed something. 

I walked into the room and I was kindly introduced and my first question was “so what are your blogs about”?

A middle aged woman spoke first:
“I used to be in the army and now I travel around and write about it” Secondly, a well groomed handsome guy”
“yup, me too, I love traveling and writing about it”.  Lastly, a couple explain how they have loved traveling since they met and left their jobs to discover the dream of travel blogging.
The lady seemed quite straight and organised, where the guy seemed like a typical laid back dude.  So I was honest.
I said, “guy’s there is nothing special about any of your blogs and you may find it hard to keep people coming back for more”.
The silence was palpable so I followed up with “what you need is some secret sauce” I picked on the couple as an example, “you guys seem a great couple but you are polar opposites.
Sarah, you seem to like things in order and organised and, Tom, you seem to be more chilled out and laid back.
Use that!” I said.  “Imagine this, you both write the same post of a trip but in your own voice, you combine the text / images and make an easy post.
This plays on your different opinions and way of perceiving a trip”. This was a good example of how adding a little “secret sauce” to an idea can keep it in people’s minds.
Take the time to work out an angle if you tell your story.
For example: it could be from a dog’s point of view when you are selling dog toys or it can be brutal honesty and no bs, like Storm’s writing style.

Tools and tips

  • Goto and type in what you do and you will see a ton of questions which are a perfect source of information
  • Product Hunt can also be an amazing source of inspiration
  • Jump into Facebook and head for the groups around what you do, join and go through their threads and you will be sure to find something. 
  • Quora is also a great source of inspiration
  • Lastly, Medium has a LOT of amazing articles, look for things about what you do and sprinkle in some Pintrest and you have a recipe for a good secret sauce.

Ask what matters 

I was once working as a consultant for a restaurant review website.
One day we had a meeting about the search results page.
We were trying to figure out  what people would look for when scanning a list of restaurants to choose from.
I’m in the room there was only guys and I was worried that whatever solution we would come up with would be biased.

So I asked for some help, and it was a career-changing idea.

I asked one of the secretaries to come over and I asked her what she looks for in a restaurant.
She replied with the usual things, like reviews, price, type but then eyes glazed over she started to try and think of the English words to describe something that would monumentally change the user experience of the app we were going to build.
“I want to know what the restaurant looks like. Oh, no, no… I want to know what it feels like…” She continued to struggle with the words, but eventually we figured out what she was trying to say.
She basically wanted to know what to wear. Now, as guys, we rarely think about what to wear.
We just throw on a pair of jeans, make sure we have our wallet and that’s about it.
But here, in Thailand, you can have a five-star restaurant right next to the place that sells noodles on the road, so it’s quite difficult to know what to wear unless you know where you’re going. 

And why is this important? 

We added little icons to each of the results to show what kind of atmosphere the was,  this helped everyone (guys and girls) choose what to wear and this overall improved the user experience.
Our dedication to asking users what matters to them helped the project to become an award-winning platform.
It was later bought out for a lot of money and now is one of the most popular restaurant review websites in the country. So whatever you’re doing, marketing, design, production,  always make sure you ask the right people the right questions. 

Research has shown that just by asking just five people you can often find  85% of the problems
So as soon as you have your design ideas and your marketing content, just ask a few friends to take a look.

Tools and Tips

  • Bring your target audience into the decision making progress and build ownership. If they see you implementing their ideas they will quickly become your die hard advocates.
  • Ask on social media and local groups about what matters to them, pertaining to your business of course. 
  • Typeform is a very nice form building service and people can actually enjoy filling out a survey! 
  • Google forms are really easy to use and simple to set up. Just make sure you make it easy for everyone to fill out as the settings can be tricky 
  • This article is quite useful for 11 Tips for building effective surveys.


How to tell a story in marketing

First let’s play a game!

It’s called fill in the {blanks}.
(you don’t have to follow this template exactly, it’s just a guide ) For {target audience} who want to {desired action / what matters to them}
{company name} provides {product/service name(s)} so they can feel {emotion(s)} to {desired action}.
They choose {company name} because {secret sauce}


For beginners who want to start a new career in Tech
Web Courses Bangkok provides courses and workshops so they can feel safe and empowered to take the first step.
They choose Web Courses Bangkok because our teachers are friendly experts who know how to inspire students and give them the skills they need to succeed in the tech sector. 

Jump on canva, copy and paste that into a poster template and put it on the wall! 

This type of simple story can give birth to all the little stories you want to tell. 

Find your hero! 

If you are a solopreneur then this will be you or it can be a particular customer who really benefited from your product or service.
Find that person and make them your brand ambassador. 

Be authentic

We can all smell bs and we know when we’re being marketed at, so try these three steps

  1. Write your marketing content and read it out loud to yourself 
  2. Secondly do it again and record and play it back
  3. Lastly do it to a family member or close friend (someone who won’t think twice at giving you a hard time if it sucks!)


Try this template: 

  1. Ask a question based on a pain point
  2. Identify why the pain point is a barrier to what they want to achieve
  3. Clearly and with as little amount of words, explain your offering
  4. Use benefit + so that …. 
  5. Tell them how to take action. 


“Where the hell do you start if you want to be a successful entrepreneur? There is so much shit advice out there that you don’t know how to start.

I help fearless freelancers and energetic entrepreneurs in South Africa jump into their big-girl business panties by teaching them to achieve big-agency results with a small business budget.

With Storm you will get Brutal honesty so that you know you’re getting straight advice, with no bs. 

Actionable advice so that you can get shit done and know step-by-step what to do next.

Big advertising agency results without big agency prices so that you can keep more money in the business

Shut it, Click it, Do it, Done. 

Start being a brand gangster with Storm today. “

Tips and Tools

So what are some other tools to help you on your way?
Here are seven tips:

  1. Create a brand story guide – create a full brand story as this helps you remember who you are and why you are doing what you do. Check out this awesome guide by Hubspot.
  2. Build a brand guide – Ohhh these are sooo useful and I am sure Storm can be of great help here.
    These types of guidelines are super useful when knowing how to phrase something, how the design will work and give you a reminder of your mission and vision.
  3. Analytics – You can find a lot of help with your story telling here for example what content is most popular on your blog, which pages are not important and visited a lot, is your story too long on some pages (the session time will be below 3 mins. If you want to know how to ask the right questions to Google Analytics, check out this guide for businesses.
  4. Targeted content – create content for specific users.
    Are you targeting female entrepreneurs? If yes, then bust out the templates and case studies as they perform very well for this market.
    If you are targeting experienced buyers of a particular product then do some review videos or comparison infographics.
    Don’t get me started on localized content as that’s a rabbit hole that can easily turn into a fantastically interesting black hole. (ref:
    Lastly I highly recommend checking out for WordPress site owners. This plugin can do some really interesting things around targeted dynamic content.
  5. Test it – I highly recommend checking out Mouseflow for your website as you can see what stories your visitors are responding to.
    Try doing multiple Social Ad campaigns based around audience segments and lookalike audiences.
    (E.g. same product can be targeted to one demographic in one way and totally different to another market – e.g. “trainers that will make you look stylish” vs “trainers that help you run further”, might be the same product but a totally different story).
    Test test test!



So there you go! 

Haha, this was supposed to be a quick article but I guess this story developed – and so will yours. 

I have taught over 300,000 people online and 1000’s in person how to do marketing and technology and with all the cool stuff and new ideas it still comes down to how well you tell your story. 

Just imagine that your friend takes you to dinner.
The waiter plops down your dish and walks off vs they explain how the carrots were handpicked by nuns in the Afghan mountains and the Broccoli was picked on a full moon during the summer solstice!
You see!?!
Who would not think that those veggies were now a lot more awesome?  Keep on brand though!
One of the oldest rules in marketing is The Rule of 7. It states that people need to “touch” your brand 7 times before they buy, but on a recent Quora discussion this is now more likely double!
So if you change your story too often then you reset that counter.
Use the same core message with different words and images and you will be fine. 


“Marketing tools change.
Marketing channels come and go.
But stories will always be needed”

– Carl Heaton 2020

Carl Heaton

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