Have you ever had the experience of watching a colleague glide through a plan presentation and effortlessly gain approval? It can be frustrating to feel that, despite your own plan being more “buttoned-up”, you still faced extensive challenges from executive management.

This article will explain what happened. Learn how to pitch a marketing plan using the formula described below, and your next plan presentation will be more successful. You’ll also upgrade management’s perception of your communication skills — a key factor in getting promoted.

The Secret To A Successful Pitch Is Storytelling

Your colleague likely employed effective storytelling techniques, and you can too. It’s not complicated, especially once you understand the process. But first, you may want to know if, how, and why storytelling works, specifically in business.

Does storytelling work in business? Take a look at the box office, best-selling book sales, any top-rated Netflix show — and even iconic brand stories like those of Apple and IBM. In all cases, you’ll find a link between these great stories and immense profits.

How does storytelling work in business? Mythologists like Joseph Campbell have broken down the common components of a great story. Campbell called his roadmap “The Hero’s Journey.”

Through our own company’s four decades of helping companies build powerful strategic plans, we’ve designed an effective approach for replicating this journey in B2B strategic plans. We’ve seen it work time-after-time, and we’ll show you how to do it below.

Why does storytelling work in business? Because plans are often pitched to overwhelmed executives via a parade of presentations over a very condensed time period. Good stories wake up their brains!

How Screenwriting Can Inform Your Marketing Plan Pitch

Writers of screenplays have found The Hero’s Journey to be a very powerful way to structure highly successful stories, with Star Wars being perhaps the most famous example. Adapting this approach to the presentation of your strategic plan will set you apart from everyone else. Here are the components:

  1. The Call to Adventurein myths, the hero is called on to solve a difficult and specific task in the world. In a strategic planning context, this is where a specific business/market challenge is articulated and scoped with goals and metrics.
  2. Trials and Failuresthe hero meets with significant challenges as she tries to answer the call to adventure. In the business world, this is where past attempts at success in the market are summarized (including failures), and the expected future challenges (e.g., new trends, new customer needs, new competitors, etc.) are outlined.
  3. Death and Rebirth — the mythical hero meets with the ultimate choice — change or fail in her quest! In business, you often have to face what we call “the cold shower of reality” before you can change the future. This is the part of the plan where the customer’s frustrations in this market are revealed — as well as your company’s and competitor’s shortcomings in solving this challenge in the past.
  4. The Transformation the story’s hero changes in ways that allows her to resolve the challenge. In your plan, this is where you lay out how you are going to change the game in your favor – highlighting all of the new and different things you are going to do to solve the customer’s frustrations and win their business and loyalty.
  5. The Gift the hero learns the secrets of permanent and long-lasting success. In business, this is where you highlight the investments and resources necessary to deliver long-lasting success for your customers, and therefore, your company.
  6. The Returnthe hero returns back home “full-circle”, successful, and with a new level of confidence in her ability to solve similar challenges in the future. In strategic plans, this is where we spell out our “full-circle” execution plans to ensure that our strategies, investments, and resources will lead to new levels of sustainable success.

How to Incorporate the Hero’s Journey Into Your Marketing Plan

The following table goes deeper, giving you thought-provoking questions, specific tools, and a script for introducing each part of your strategic plan/heroes journey:

Step in the Hero’s JourneyStrategic Questions Answered in Your PlanTools That Will Help You Answer This QuestionWhat You Might Say to Introduce This SectionAdditional Notes
1. The Call to AdventureWhat is the scope and nature of your plan, with your target sectors, goals, and metrics all highlighted?Sector/Market Prioritizer

Business Challenge
“This is our business challenge, and here is some background on how and why we are focusing here.”If your challenge and market focus is quite clear, you may be able to skip the prioritization step
2.Trials and FailuresHow have we fared in the past in this market, and what are the expected future challenges?The Look-Back

Trend Analysis Influence Map

Benefits Ladder.

Competitor ID
This is how we have competed in this market in the past, and how we see the market shaping up in the future.”If your product or service is brand new, you may simply focus on how competitors have fared in the past
3.Death and RebirthWhat are the customers’ frustrations in this market and your company’s and competitors past shortcomings in solving this challenge?General Ability to Compete (Current State)These are customer’s emerging and unsolved needs that no company – including ours – is resolving adequately.”Even if your company is dominant in your market, this is where you point out your own vulnerabilities
4.The TransformationWhat are the new and different things you are going to do to solve the customer’s frustrations and win their business and loyalty?Segmentation Targeting Segment Prioritizer

Differential Advantage

Future State Ability to Compete

“Here are the ways that we are going to attack our business challenge in a way that will allow us to differentiate and meet our goals.”Present the output and findings from a subset of the 6 tools suggested in this section – which ones brought you the most insight?
5.The GiftWhat are the investments and resources necessary to be successful in your business challenge?Value Proposition

Company Standard Financial Formats
“Here are the investments necessary to solve our customers’ problems and meet our objectives.”Make sure to tie the investments specifically back to how they are going to help you solve customer issues and challenges
6.The ReturnWhat are our “full-circle” execution plans to ensure that our strategies, investments, and resources will lead to new levels of success?GOST

Company Standard Execution Formats
“These are the immediate, mid, and long-term execution steps we will take to be successful in our business challenge.”Again, be certain to map all execution steps back to specific aspects of your strategies defined in “The Transformation” step

Your Well-Crafted Plan Deserves a Great Story

Don’t misunderstand — storytelling won’t cover up a poorly-conceived plan. But that’s not you anyway.

Think back to the glib colleague we mentioned at the beginning of this article — the one who glided through their presentation. Can you recognize any Hero’s Journey elements in their presentation?

While you are at it, you will also likely admit that their plan was more buttoned-up than you previously thought. The construction of any great story requires appropriate attention to detail.

Your well-constructed plan and your strategic skills deserve respect, recognition, and full funding from your executive team. Using the Hero’s Journey and storytelling in your next plan presentation can get you there.

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