I have a confession to make. I think about you. Quite a bit.

I dream up what you might have had for breakfast. I envision the conversations you have with your husband or girlfriend. I imagine the situations you get stuck in and the kind that make your whirl with excitement.

You’re the main character in the story I write in my head.

Thankfully, you let me know I’m doing a pretty good job. You write me comments like, “How did you know I was thinking about that?” or “This is just what I needed to hear today!”

I’m no Sookie Stackhouse.

But I do make a point of understanding you.

By now, entrepreneur, you understand that your story and how you weave it is often what differentiates you from a pack of similar makers or service providers. Your story provides the context for your business. It explains what you do and, more importantly, why you do it.

But your story is not the reason people buy.

Someone buys when she understands how your product or service fits into her story. This is the essence of marketing: weaving your product or service into the story of your customers’ lives.

Lately, I’ve read some comments from people who get a little sick when asked to create a customer profile bedecked with demographic informational accessories like income bracket and age. “It’s icky to consider how much money my customers make or where their kids go to school,” they say.

“What does it matter?”

Stories have the felicitous capacity of capturing exactly those elements that formal decision methods leave out.
— Don Norman, Things That Make Us Smart

Yes, wanting to know the median age of someone’s children or their shoe size is icky if it means that you can create a formula that tells you exactly what marketing techniques will result in the most sales. But that’s not why we want to know these figures. These facts, figures, and suppositions help us craft a story.

Just like you, your customers’ circumstances are not separate from the greater narrative of their lives. Their income, age, location, clothing style, favorite coffee hang out, and Android vs iPhone preference help you understand their story. When you fill in the mad lib of their lives, you have a clear perspective on what they love and what they need.

Marketing and sales do not fit into some neat formula or instruction manual. Marketing and sales live in the imagination. They put us in touch with one of the greatest of human attributes:


One aptitude that’s proven impossible for computers to reproduce, and very difficult for faraway workers connected by electrons to match, is Empathy.
— Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind

The empathy we muster for the whole experience of our customers’ stories is directly related to our ability to close the deal.

When you understand a customer’s story, you can become a character in it.

Create your customer story
  • Use Pinterest or a photo editing tool to create an inspiration board that gives you a visual representation of what your customer is like.
  • Write out a “day in the life of” schedule for your customer.
  • Paint a picture of the situation your product or service aims to help with.
  • People watch. Look for people you might imagine to by your ideal customer. What are they thinking about at that moment?
  • Create a private Twitter list of users you think of as your ideal customer. Follow it for a few weeks to get a feel of what in their lives is “tweetable.”

The aim here is not to sell people things they don’t need. The aim is to create the things they do need. The aim is to understand what is missing from the story & supply it the only way your own character knows how.

Would you rather be a character in a story or an advertisement on the page?

That’s what I thought.

Today, forget about honing your own story. Concentrate on becoming a part of your customer’s story. Fill in a gap she didn’t know was there. Help her put into words what has gone unsaid.

Become a character in her story.

Play along. Leave a response below to tell me the story of your customer. Include as many details as you can. Tell me about a problem or question she has. Offer the tale of her greatest success. Today, you be the author.