Welcome to the e-Commerce Marketing Podcast everyone. My name is Arlan Robinson and I am your host. And today we have a very special guest, Anthony Butler, who is the founder of the digital marketing agency Can-Do Ideas and the author of Primal Storytelling, Marketing for Humans. A highly regarded expert in brand storytelling and digital marketing, Anthony graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and the US Army Ranger School. He is a combat veteran and commanded an infantry company in Iraq during the invasion of Baghdad. He is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt and currently resides in Montana with his wife and two sons. Welcome to the podcast.

Oh, thanks Arlen. I appreciate it. 

Yeah, thank you for joining me. And that’s a pretty impressive background that you have there, you know, as far as, uh, you know, your military, military service. And first off, you know, thank you for your service, in our US military. We appreciate that and everything that you’ve done and all people know, but you know, you, you kind of came from two elite areas, you know, west Point is an elite military academy.

Of course they’re in the US and, uh, the US Army Ranger, I mean, those. Really, that’s the real deal. You know, if you get through that, then you know, I, I’d be scared to, to pick a fight with you, put it that way. Let’s leave it at that. So, yeah, so definitely an impressive background and you know, Uh, today, of course, I’m sure a lot of what you’ve done in the past has probably led you to, you know, where you are today.

But of course, today we’re gonna be talking about the concept and the topic of using primal storytelling to grow an e-commerce business. And so you’re gonna be enlightening us a bit about what that is. But before we do get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your back and specifically how you got into what you’re doing today.

Yeah, sure. So, you know, I had a, a typical military career where, you know, you, you serve in your country, you’re doing the things that you have to do. You know, I serve. Enormous amount of time in combat zones and danger areas around the world. And one of the things that happens during that kind of an experience is that you experience the extremes of emotion.

You know, extreme highs, extreme lows, maybe some anger, some fear, you know, all those things. And later on when I, I transitioned out, And I got into, you know, one job led to another. I ended up at a startup in New York City that I was early, an early employee, and the company blew up over a few years. And when I left, you know, it sold for hundreds of millions of dollars and, you know, had hundreds of employees.

Yeah. From there. When I was there, I started to dabble in marketing and learn about, Hey, you know, I’m on the sales team. I wanna get leads, I wanna grow my business. And that led me into eventually starting my own marketing company as Can do Ideas is when I’ve been running for the last nine years. Yes. And one of the things that happened was a couple of years in.

I was working with this big SaaS company and we were creating content for them, you know, so blogs and email marketing and doing some social media stuff. And you know, about six, nine months into the engagement, I did a call from their ceo and he is like, Hey, Tony, you know, we love you guys.The work is great.

You’re professional. We’re we’re, we’re gonna let you go. I’m like, what? What’s happening? Right? He’s like, well, The work is just not moving the needle. We’re not getting enough leads from the spend. Hmm. And. That was just this big wake up call for me. And I, I was really nervous because if you’re an agency and you can’t deliver results, like you’re getting fired, like you’re going outta business.

Right. Right. And so I’m, I’m searching, I’m searching and I’m trying to figure out like what was different with this client versus all the rest of them. Mm-hmm. Because some clients were like, we’re gangbusters, like delivering results and like people are happy. Yeah. And I end up going to this conference down in San, down in San Diego.

Yeah, there’s guest speaker and he’s talking and he’s like, people buy emotionally and then they rationalize their decision with logic. Ding. It was like this epiphany. It’s something I’d heard before, but it didn’t really deeply like analyze it and think about it and. I started thinking about like my military experiences, like when you had these highs of emotion and these lows and like you have this, like this gradient of how you feel about something.

Like you’re really happy something happened, but you’re also sad and you know, it’s just, it’s this weird thing. Yeah. And that led me to a discovery of a whole body of work around evolutionary psychology. And how evolutionary psychology and what makes us who we are is related to emotions. Mm-hmm. Which led me to another discovery, which was emotional stories.

They ring with people like you have little kids. I don’t know if you have any children. No, I don’t. My, my boys, when they were really young, they wanted to watch Shrek and we watched Shrek 16,000 times. Right. Why is that? Mm-hmm. It’s because we primarily communicate with others through stories. Mm-hmm. The next time you go to a story to sit in the back and it’s kind of listened.

You know what, what next time you go to a party, like listen to what people are saying. Yeah. They’re telling stories like, Hey, I got this bad boss at work and he’s crazy and he’s doing this and that, or mm-hmm. I was at the, I was at the store and I saw this guy Rob the place. You know, it’s just this, all these stories.

Mm-hmm. When you, you can bring storytelling into your business, into your social media, into your blogs, into everything that you’re doing to generate leads. And then map the marketing stories to your sales process, that’s when everything will change. Mm-hmm. You know, so if you’ve got an e-commerce product you wanna look for, like what are the stories that you can tell that will connect with your audience?

Yeah. You know, and so in the book I outline a three-part process. To create a, a content marketing system for a business. So every business is a little bit different. You wanna, you wanna customize that system for you. And what I did is I broke it down into three parts. So tribe, Primal story, primal urges and primal emotions plus stories.

And that’s the primal story, okay? And what that does is it gives you a framework to build your content marketing around, and it can get you more leads and generate more audience followers. Does that make sense?

Yeah, yeah. It definitely does. And yeah, thank you for explaining that, that concept and you, you’re totally right.

You don’t really realize it, but that PR storytelling is, is the, you’re really, you’re right. It’s the, it’s the primary way we communicate. If you’re ever somewhere, somebody’s telling you something that happened and they experience, maybe they’re telling you the story of, you know, Or they’re telling another story.

Maybe they watched the show, they’re telling you that story, or they’re, they’re saying, like you said, I had a bad experience at work. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s something, it’s, it’s these exchange of stories and that’s, I think it’s just kind of in our core, uh, how we. Or tend to communicate with each other.

And I, I guess what you’re saying is, you know, translating that, communicating your story to your in customer or per perspective customer because Yeah, it, it, it’s a similar form of communication right there.

That’s exactly, that’s exactly it. And you know, every business is, it’s faced with a dilemma. 

Yeah. Yeah. There’s. There’s a billion and a half websites in the world. Wow. You know, every minute. If you spent the next 50 years just watching YouTube, you wouldn’t even finish. A single hour of content was uploaded on YouTube. Okay. Wow. Yeah. You know? So how do you differentiate your brand from everyone else?

Mm-hmm. And I can tell you in the next couple years, the brands that tell the best stories, those are the brands that are gonna win. Yeah. The brands that are able to connect with their audience in an authentic way, okay. Using storytelling structures, those are the ones that are really going to generate an out enough leads that they can outperform competition.

Okay. You know, in, in is an example in the e-commerce space there, there’s a lot of brands that are selling similar products or you know, may, maybe there’s some slight differentiation, but there’s not like a really large difference. And when you wanna get outside of price, what you’re really left with is the stories that you tell and how you tell them and how you connect with an.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. 

Definitely. Definitely. I think when you were thinking about story and you’re communicating your, you know, your brand’s story, I think cause you know, it’s, We, we always hear it. I think amongst the marketing circles and the digital marketing world where, you know, whether it’s podcasts or restraining seminars, brands are always hearing this.

They’re, they’re hearing the fact that, you know, it’s, it’s stories that sell. It’s not facts and figures and, and stats about your product. It’s stories that are telling and so it makes sense. But I think what a lot of brands may struggle with is really. You know, they know this, but then how do they identify, you know, what are what, what are the core, the core elements of their own brand story that’s then gonna resonate with, you know, the primal instincts of their, their target audience.

You know, how do they pull out, as I’m sure as a business, they, you know, there’s a whole story behind the creation of the products, the services, and who they’re trying to reach. But, you know, how do you pull out the right elements of that?

Yeah. So the first. Is you go in to look at your audience, start with them.

Mm-hmm. And we’re looking at, okay, what are the demographics? What are the psychographics of the audience that’s most likely to buy from us that we love working with? And once you understand who they are as people, you know, that opens up a lot of understanding. Then you can start looking at, okay, why might that be afraid to buy from us?

You know, what drives them? What, what are their hopes and fears and dreams? Like how, how can we help them? Help themselves. Mm-hmm. Because once we understand their motivations, then we can start to look at, and I, I outline. A number of different story structures in the book is that then we can identify what stories do we wanna tell, what stories will connect with them once we know who they are as people.

Yeah. The other thing that I do in the book is I outline four primary stories that every business can tell. So the first one is the origin story. So you start with, Hey, where do we come from? Why are we in business? Like, how do, what’s that? How do we start? Because here’s the thing, everyone asks you, Hey, just you and I when we were first getting on the podcast, you’re like, Hey, where are you located?

Where are you from? How’d you get started? Yeah. Like those are questions we always ask cuz that’s part of what makes us human. Those are the stories we really care about. Mm-hmm. Okay. Then the second story you’re gonna focus on is the vision. What. We’re trying to do, how are we trying to change the world?

Okay. If you listen to Elon Musk and how he started up with, you know, Hey, I’m gonna start a rocket company. Okay, I’m gonna start a a, an, you know, electric car company. Well, he’s got these big vision stories. We’re gonna put another, we’re gonna put another. A, a base on Mars, we’re gonna start, you know, being interplanetary species.

Well those are giant stories, you know, not of all of us are trying to get to Mars, but Right. There’s something about your business that you’re trying to do that is related to helping people Sure. To helping the world because, cause what do entrepreneurs do? We solve problems, right? Mm-hmm. And that’s the second story.

The third story is transformation. Yes. How did we help someone before they saw us? What was the problems they were having? What were the fears they had? What was it like when they worked with us or they bought a product from us? And then what was that, that transformation? Like how did they, was it afterwards?

Mm-hmm. You know? And even if you were just selling something that’s a commodity. It’s still there to help and solve someone’s problem. Yeah. Okay. And then the fourth category of stories, and this is the one that I think most businesses get wrong. You know, like if you. If you go and look at a cross section of really large corporate blogs, they’re all written for search engines.

Like no one wants to read that. You, you, you, you open up the blog and you’re reading like, who would read this? Like, right. This is the Cure for Insomnia. Like, right. And what, what I, my best advice, and this is why the book has the subtitle, it’s Marketing for Humans. Mm-hmm. Okay. I actually think that chat, G P T and some of the AI out there is going to hurt some businesses.

Mm-hmm. Because everyone’s rushing on this train and, and I don’t know if you know this, but when you look at a subject and you try to use AI to create a blog Yeah. They’re all the same structure. Yeah. Yeah. That, that, that’s how, that’s how the colleges are fighting back against students writing essays using chat, g p t, cuz it’s all the same.

The same, same. So if we all type in, Hey, summarize Romeo and Juliet, for me, it’s gonna pop out 50 summaries that are all the same, guess what? Same, same structure. They’re gonna figure it out. Yep. What it doesn’t do is it doesn’t provide insight. Mm-hmm. It doesn’t provide an authentic connection to what makes us human.

Right. Okay. When you bring that into a blog, you bring some heart, you bring some soul, you bring a little bit of art mixed with some science. Mm-hmm. I think in the future, Google is going to continue to really reward those blogs and those websites that have unique content that people love. Mm-hmm. That was written for people and not for the search.

Okay, because here’s what we know about marketers. Marketers ruin everything, right? Yeah. Every time, like all the marketers rush in, oh, we gotta get back links. And so you got people going to third world countries and you know, getting 5,000 back links to all these fake websites, and then Google figures it out and they smack down, you know, if that’s what happened back in the day, right?

Yeah. You know, or Q word density, that’s how you get, that’s how you get all the traffic. Mm-hmm. In modern times when Google is one of the smartest, most sophisticated companies in the. Like it’s not just one thing that they reward with domain authority. Hey, how do people love our content? Yeah. How many people are, are backlinking to this content?

You come to our website, how long do you stay? How many pages do you read? You can only do that if you’re marketing for humans and you’re writing in a way that people want to hear. You have to write for your audience. Yeah, and and my, my one piece of advice Sure. Everyone who’s listening to this is stop thinking about yourselves.

And think deeper about your clients. Think how you can help them. If, if you want to use content marketing to promote a brand, promote a brand by delivering value for your audience way before they buy anything from you. Just be kind, go, go the extra mile. Like what can you do that would be helpful? Mm-hmm.

You know, and I like, I like to use this podcast as, as an example, like you Arlen Robinson, you have a brand, you have things that you sell as a business, right? Right? Yes. This podcast is a, is is a gift to the world that you do, like anybody paying you to do this? No. You’re not getting paid for this. Like this is for free.

Like this is a, it’s, it’s a passion project that you do for your clients. Cause you’re trying to give them something and you know what the karma of the business world is. You give enough and eventually people come back and they find. And they come back and they buy from you and they’re like, man, that guy is really insane.

He, I’ve been listening to this podcast. What is it he does? Oh, when you look it up and, oh, oh wait, affiliate software. You know what? I should check that out. Yeah. And then they buy. Yeah. And maybe, maybe they’re a client. And this is just one more ad. It’s like, gosh, these guys are so good. And the podcast is so good.

You know, I, it, it, it just, it buys karma from them. It, it, it gives you goodwill. Right. Okay. It helps build trust before there’s ever a. Yeah, for sure. That’s, that’s, that’s what content does. Yeah, for sure, for sure. 

Now, as, as far as taking this, these primal story elements and, you know, it makes sense how you can connect, how do you translate that?

Or is there a specific strategy to just, or is it just. You know, being authentic across all of these platforms or these channels, your content marketing, your website, social media, email marketing. Do you just need to implore that same tactic? Is there anything special that you need to do when you are, you know, I guess you could say, translating these stories across those mediums, 

is there?

Yeah, so this is a great question. So, so think of it. Your favorite Netflix special. So think of Game of Thrones, okay? Yep. You got season after season. Each season has an overall theme, and then each episode has the adventures, okay? Mm-hmm. In a business, think of a, you’re gonna prove you’re gonna publish a year’s worth of content.

So what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna lay out an entire calendar, and we’re gonna think of those themes that we’re gonna deliver on a quarterly. And we’re gonna think, okay, each quarter, what’s the main theme? So think of that as the season, and then you’re gonna break down the episodes within the season.

And it, I’m not talking about fiction. That’s not what we’re doing is okay. For the first quarter, maybe. Maybe. So for my own business, you know, maybe I’m focused on, all right. I’m gonna show case studies where primal storytelling helped grow. The organic traffic of a website. And then second quarter, I’m gonna, I’m gonna focus on, okay, how do we use primal storytelling in email marketing?

How do we use primal storytelling on our social media? Yeah. And I think people are shocked when they start to look. It’s like there is a science side of marketing. Mm-hmm. And, and storytelling. And there’s also the art side. And it’s, it’s, it’s not just one, it’s both. Mm-hmm. And then the, the. On the science side, we need to know, and we need to be able to collect data.

Like data matters. Like you need to understand what it is. And so I have some tools that I recommend in the book. I’m a HubSpot Gold partner, right? And you know, on the backend, you know, we’re collecting data in S C R M, we’re mapping that to sales teams and what sales teams are doing. So that. The leadership team can understand what stories are working, what themes are working, what kinds of blogs are working, not just with our social media, but with our organic traffic, our, our pages.

Like what, what blogs are working, what, what do our clients really need to hear from us? 

Yeah, for sure. And it’s, it’s really all about just that, analyzing that data once you’ve exactly, you know, got it from your customers or your, your prospects. Yeah. It, it all makes sense. What I wanna see though is do you see any potential, or what are the potential challenges that a business is gonna face or they might face while they’re, you know, implementing primal storytelling?

Or, and if so, what? How would they overcome them? 

I think the biggest challenge. They think too narrowly about the kinds of content that they can produce. Okay? So if you look like on, you look on Twitter, you look on Instagram. And let’s say we look at a, an industry, everyone’s producing the exact same stuff.

Yeah. They’re all sharing industry news. They all have some pithy quote that they’re trying to share. You know, it’s like whatever theme is on the calendar. Oh, it’s, oh, it’s, it’s National Women’s Day. And so everyone’s got the exact same post about National Women’s Day. Okay, true. Well, me too, comment. Me too.

Content doesn’t really move the needle. Mm-hmm. Okay. So what we’re looking for is content that is insightful. And one of the things in the book that you’ll see is I break out different story structures that they can use and then start to think, okay, how could I apply this story structure for in a way that may or may not have direct relationship to my business?

Okay, now. Now what does that mean? So I’ll give you an example. I was working with this large manufacturing company out in Long Island, New York, one of the biggest manufacturers in the whole country. And they, they make all kinds of whiz bank stuff, you know, stuff on the space shuttle. They got stuff on the Mars Rover and you know, oh, this kind of thing.

Yeah. Well, Their target market are these giant aerospace companies and airplane companies and mm-hmm Sci, you know, scientific robotic companies. But then when we started to dig into their data, we realized that the people who were referring their products into the end product, We’re all engineers. 

Mm-hmm. old engineers, like 60 to 70 years old, and they were like, you know what? We really would love to have a program for young engineers to kind of learn who we are. Mm-hmm. And so we started thinking about it. We start brainstorming and they start, they decided to create a leadership development program for engineers in their first five years outta.

Go ahead. Okay. Cuz when you graduate college from an engineering school, you’re not a professional engineer. You gotta go through this kind of apprenticeship thing and you gotta learn to be a professional engineer and then you gotta take a test at the end. Right? Right. And they’re like, well, hey, so we produce content for these young engineers.

Like, hey, how to, how to run a meeting, how to be a better leader. How to be a good team member as part of a big project, you know, soft skill kind of thing that would be helpful to them. I see. Has nothing to do with a manufacturing business and was helpful to their target market. Okay. Okay. And so once you start to think of the kinds of relevancy of the content, have you ever heard of a company called u s.

Yes, they are, uh, an insurance company, I think. Insurance company. Yep. Yeah. And they, they focus on military members. I, I’ve been a member of U S A A for 30 years. I like to use them as examples. Okay. Okay. They produce all kinds of content for their target market. Mm-hmm. Okay. And their target market are military members in their families, right?

Right, right. They’re producing blogs that are, Hey, if you ever thought about joining the. They’ve got all this content on, Hey, if you want to join, this is, this is a way you could pass your physical fitness test. Here’s how to study for the exams to get into the military and get a good job. Like, you know, it’s kind of interesting.

So they’re marketing to people who could someday become a client of theirs. Mm-hmm. Very, very clever. Yeah. And then the amount of content they produce for them, that’s so well done and professionally done. They’ll go out and they’re hiring personal trainers to help you get fit before you go in the military to.

Work on your mental toughness before you go in. It’s, it’s really clever and smart. Very well done. Yeah. Yeah. They, and they have an a plus in the Provo storytelling for me. Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. 

That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s a great example. I appreciate that. Yeah. That’s When you ready to wrap things up, I wanted to see.

Can you, could you share any examples of any other brands or in the e-commerce space that have successfully implemented storytelling of attacks and primal storytelling in their market marketing efforts in you? What kind of impact did that have on their growth? From what you know?

Yeah, so just a few.

During the pandemic, I worked with an e-commerce brand in Montana that they were organic food brand. That had put a food coalition together. And what we started to do was tell the story of where the food came from, how was it produced, like what does, what does organic actually mean? Like, like what do those farmers go through?

And then we would, what? Then what we did was we would highlight farmers that were producing the actual product for the brand and we put that on social media and we told their stories. And that increased sales, like right in the middle of the pandemic when no one was buying. Okay. Wow. And I, I mean, I, in the first month we rolled out their program.

They did an extra $30,000 Wow. In a single month. Okay. In brand new sales, in markets. They never have been. They had never entered before. Yeah. And we started linking their ads. To their primal storytelling content. Mm-hmm. And the ad started to produce more than they ever had before, so, okay. Just, just one small example.

Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. Thanks for sharing that. Yeah. It’s, you know what it also seems like to you telling that that story is. As a brand, you don’t have to think too hard about it to, to really pull out these, these stories. Cause you know, it’s what you talked about there with that particular organic foods brand.

You know, just something as simple as, you know, what is organic foods, you know? How did we come up with this kind, this particular product line? What are the elements and ingredients in the food? You know, all of those things are things that are gonna be relevant and, and important to that end customer because, you know, that’s, they’re def differentiating factor in the food space is the, the organic nature of it.

So obviously people that are buying their items, Are very conscious about organic foods and the differences between organic food and non-organic food. And so, you know, to, to clarify that, to spell that out. Yeah, I can see how that, you know, will go a long way with them connecting to the, you know, to the right end stories.

So, makes a lot of sense. And then, and then secondly, I mean, at Kingdom kind of work, twofold. Warner a brand shares their story and informs. Their audience, especially in this world of all of this information, a lot of people have probably had misconceptions about this particular subject, let’s say organic foods in it.

For instance. Some people may have a total misunderstanding of what it is, what certified organic means, and you know, that whole, that whole process. And then to be able, absolutely. To clarify, you’re coming off as a, you know, as an authority on it, and you can definitely. You know, gain, gain your customers loyalty there and you know their trust there.

And then that’s when you know, if they lo they trust you, you, you know, you have them loyal customer, potential customer, then they’re gonna be comfortable purchasing from you.  

So yeah, that’s absolutely, that’s great. All purchases start with trust. Yeah. Yeah. They start with trust. They just do. Yeah. That’s, that’s the bottom line.

Yeah. So, Anthony, it’s been awesome talking to you. I think this whole primal storytelling concept, it, it, it makes total sense. So yeah. I’m definitely gonna check out your book for sure. I’ve, you know, like I said, it’s something that you hear, but storytelling and how a brand needs to incorporate that into everything they do as far.

You know, their content, social media, it, it makes us, makes a lot of sense. And then you, those testimonials, those case studies can definitely, you know, definitely speak to that for sure. So, you know, I definitely have learned a lot and I know our listeners have as well. But yeah, I always like to close things out here with one kind of closing question just so our audience can get to know you a little bit better.

If you don’t mind sharing one closing fun fact about yourself that you think would be interested to know.

A fun fact about me. Yes. I love to do backcountry hiking. Okay. And during the summertime, I, I go back country where, you know, the only contact you have with civilization is, you know, satellite. 

Gotcha, gotcha. so, yeah, I’ve done a lot of backcountry hiking and some really rugged, beautiful areas in Montana. That’s why I live here. 

Okay, awesome. Yeah, that’s awesome. That sounds like a lot of fun. I mean, that’s, that’s when you, like you said, uh, the only connection you have is via satellite. I guess if you have a satellite phone, of course, for emergency purposes only, that’s your only link.

Other than that, you’re, yeah, I, I, I would guess so. You’re, Ima, I would imagine you’re, You’re totally off the grid. You know, you’re, you’re off the grid. Exactly. Yeah. So you’re, you’re living off the land or whatever supplies that you brought when you were, you know, when you packed your bag. So yeah. Sounds like some fun stuff.

Yeah, that’s something I would like to do at one point in my life. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, for sure. Well, hey, thanks for sharing that. Definitely appreciate that. And uh, lastly, before we do let you go, if you, if you don’t mind sharing the best way for our listeners to contact you if they’d like to pick your brain anymore about primal storytelling or, you know, anything under the Yeah, sure.

You can find [email protected] and we actually have a, a podcast. For all your listeners, you know? Okay, great. Promise storytelling.com/podcast. Okay. And you can get a digital copy of the book for free, seven bonuses and Okay. My promise I won’t spam you with a bunch of upsells. Gotcha. Gotcha. 

Well, well thank you for that offering.

We really appreciate that. We’ll definitely be sure to include that link in the show notes so people can download that free digital version of your book. I, I definitely gonna check that out myself for sure. And share that with others that I know, so really appreciate that. And yeah. Anthony, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.

We really appreciate you coming on to the e-Commerce 

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Podcast Guest Info

Anthony Butler
Founder of Can-Do Ideas and Author of Primal Storytelling