“I don’t want to watch a film. Bad things always happen in films.”

I wasn’t planning on watching a horror movie with my daughter, just another Disney musical.

I couldn’t see what the problem was. Kids all love Disney, right?

But she had a point.

Bad things always happen in films.

Bad things happen in every story.

Sometimes the bad thing is already happening at at the start. Sometimes it takes a while to appear.

Sometimes it’s a mistake that the hero makes that triggers the bad thing in the first place.

But there’s always a bad thing happening.

Fortunately I had a way to get her on-board.

I’d picked up a copy of “The Usbourne Write Your Own Story Book” at a library sale, and it was time to introduce her to story arcs.

Or in their words “The Story Mountain”

[This is the book if you’re interested]

Now, you’re probably laughing at the simplicity of this, but this kids book will teach you the same in 10 minutes as Robert McKee’s “Story” takes 420 Pages to do.

Here’s the lesson:

A story starts when conflict begins, and needs that conflict to be overcome before it ends.

Conflict is an essential ingredient to a story like Turkey is an essential ingredient at Thanksgiving.

Without it it’s a sad, boring waste of everyone’s time.

We talked about a couple of films and how good she felt at the end of them.

The penny dropped that overcoming the bad thing WAS the story. With no bad thing it’d just be an hour of kids singing, and our hero getting bored and being unfulfilled.

But this is a marketing email and we can’t make a 2 hour film every time we want to create a piece of content.

So, let’s see just how simple we can make a story.

This is “Specificity” by Jack Butcher:

Let’s tell the story in words to see how well it’s done: 

  1. We start with one thing, and make a little progress, but that’s all.
  2. We combine two things and make more progress.
  3. Add a third and we make more progress than 1 and 2 combined

We’re stuck, we find a (surprising) way to overcome it.

Conflict, solution.

Without the conflict, the solution has no power. We haven’t felt the pain, understood the emotional stakes involved and felt the relief when the solution appears.

This is why conflict is such an essential part of any marketing.

If you’re dishing out “value” in your marketing, and all you give are solutions, go looking for the conflict that the solution solves.

Case studies and testimonials are a prime example of how conflict improves content.

One of the hardest things about a testimonial is getting your client to admit the pile of steaming poop they were in when you met them.

But if you can get them to admit this, the results are way more powerful.

Which of these testimonials is more powerful?

 “Stephen put in a new webinar funnel and made us $3 million in 2 years.”


“Stephen arrived just as our marketplace course tanked and we’d dropped from $20k months to $6k months. He put in a new webinar funnel and made us $3million in the next 2 years.”

With the calamity at the start I think we can agree it’s way stronger?

If you talk abut the calamity first, you’ll find you’ll make a radical difference to how interested people are in your solution.

So, go back over your last few pieces of content and see if you can unearth the conflict they overcame. Re-publish them and let me know what difference it makes