“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you’re willing to do.” — Bobby Maximus
One of the most important — and difficult — skills we need to master as marketers, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals is the ability to move an audience.
Clicking on an ad, consuming content, opting in, buying a product or service, and using the value from those purchases all require our audience to move continuously closer to us, our ideas, and the value we have to offer.
Today’s email will show you one of the most effective, ethical, and natural ways to move your audience.
The secret is contrast.
“We always have a something and a something else, and that relationship creates the tension that has to resolve.” — Robert Fritz
The difference between the something and something else is meaningful, and the contrast between the two creates tension that pulls our audience forward in a direction we want.
For example, your audience wants something — that desire is point B. Their current reality relative to that desire is point A.
Our marketing messages and other content draw attention to that relationship (the something they have vs. the something they want).
Between those two points is tension. Imagine the relationship like this:
A >> tension >> B
Let’s look at an example to demonstrate the idea.
Here’s an excerpt from The Traffic Engine Manifesto:
“Let’s be very clear about what we all really want. As business owners, creative professionals, and marketers, we need to create awareness, generate leads, make sales, fulfill our obligations to our clients and customers, and make a profit that keeps us in business.
That’s what we need.
But, what we really want — more than anything — is a sense of control. We want to know that our business results (and our income) are stable, predictable, and scalable. That next month will be better than this month. That there’s opportunity to increase the value we contribute to the world, expand our horizons, our relationships, and our income.
Just for a moment I want you to imagine what it would feel like to experience that. What if you knew — really knew — that you could thrive month after month, year after year? Later I’m going to explain what it takes to get there.”
This example has two types of contrast…
The first is obvious in the text — it’s the difference between what a prospect needs vs. what s/he really wants.
The less obvious contrast is implied…
The Traffic Engine teaches students how to create dependable, scalable business results using paid traffic. That’s the point B the ideal audience wants.
Point A is their current reality — unreliable traffic sources, sporadic business results, difficulty scaling, etc.
The tension between a desired future (point B) and current reality (point A) pulls readers forward into our world. If we do it right, the attraction is magnetic.
Contrast can be used in many other ways too. Broadly speaking, contrast can be explicit (this vs. that) or implicit (where the focus is on one thing and the other unspoken thing is implied).
Chefs vs. Cooks is an example of explicit contrast between two marketing worldviews.
“The cook-marketer seeks out ‘recipes’ to copy or clone…
The shiny objects…
The silver bullets…
The tactical loopholes to game a platform until the door is shut. Then they seek the next hack and the cycle begins again.
Because why reinvent the wheel, right?”
(Contrast that with…)
“The chef-marketer, however, starts with principles — foundational truths that informs better decision-making. Chef-marketers pay attention to the ways ingredients combine, interact, from which extraordinary flavors and experiences emerge.
Chef-marketers don’t rely on recipes; they create their own in service of their systemic goal. They know they are playing the long-game on a journey that has no endpoint. Their goal isn’t to ‘win’ against some imaginary competitor — it’s to keep playing the game, improving day by day over a lifetime.”
Here’s another example of explicit contrast…
Frank & Matt are characters André created to represent common internet marketing archetypes. They’re a case study in using contrast effectively.
(BTW, Shawn wrote that last sentence — André is much too humble to say that about his work. But seriously — go study Frank & Matt — it’s that good.)
Part I of our Durable Business series, on the other hand, uses implicit contrast — we wrote about the characteristics of a durable business, but not in relationship to a fragile business (that was implied).
Both types of contrast can be effective. In general, explicit is easier (so start there).
Once you get comfortable using contrast in your marketing messages and other content, start to play with contrast within contrast.
There can be A to B tension within a larger A to B structure (that’s what makes fiction so compelling).
For example, Luke Skywalker was a humble farmer on his way to becoming a Jedi master (A to B), but first he had to find R2D2, rescue Princess Leia, join the Rebel Alliance, and blow up the Death Star (contrast within contrast within contrast)…
Each one is an A to B within the larger A to B.
That’s also the framework we used for our Momentum Builder Workshop (Lean Edition)…
We start by identifying the overarching tension that begins with a Facebook Ad and is resolved eventually — many days later — by the purchase of a product.
In between, contrast creates micro-tensions to move someone along the journey from Facebook ad to landing page, opt-in, relationship-building emails, and promotional emails.
If you’re interested in a specific topic for an upcoming EM Newsletter, let us know (just reply to this email).
Enjoy your weekend.
We’ll share more insights from Fritz in future emails.
Our essay, The ‘One Ring’ To Rule Them All (Structural Thinking), unpacks another perspective of structural tension. Reading the two will deepen your mental toolbox around contrast and tension.