April 19, 2016

Plot 1: Overcoming The Monster

Imran burst up out of his seat, furious.

“I am your manager! You do as I say!” he quivered at me in rage.

In 2007 I decided to take a year out of my studies and work what is now called a ‘placement year’. After a little digging found an opportunity with a small CRM (Customer Relationship Management) company near London.

During the recruitment process I was introduced to the marketing manager JB. JB explained how the marketing team put significant effort into tracking where each and every enquiry came from, down to the mailing letter variation. This, as you can imagine, was music to my young direct marketing ears.

Nine months later I started the placement year. JB had moved over into sales and dark clouds had gathered. We were told that a new marketing manager was starting in two weeks.

Two weeks later a dented clapped up Toyota Corolla pulled up at the office and Imran* stepped out. He introduced himself with a limp handshake, and we walked around the office.

“Where have you come from, Imran?” I asked.

“Oh, from Microshof,” he replied. “I was marketing manager for EMEA.”

“Where was that, Microsoft?”

“Microshof, in London.”

Getting specific from Imran was like nailing jelly to the wall. Much later on we got hold of a copy of his bullshit-rich CV and discovered the company had never even checked his references. My marketing colleague at the time was PK, another placement student.

“I don’t like him man, he gives me a bad feeling,” complained PK that night.

“It’ll be okay,” I reassured. “It’s only day one…”

We quickly realised that the only work Imran was capable of accomplishing was nervously watching the shared email inbox where the leads would arrive in to. Whenever he was nervous or didn’t understand something, which was all the time, he would shake his legs.

I remember that week I was talking to one of our print designers. We had a few designers we worked with, but they knew us quite well. Sometimes we would press them for a better price, sometimes not.

Imran wasn’t interested in any of this.

“We get three qwotes, three qwotes every time!” he shouted. “And we choose the cheapest!”

Things came to a head two weeks in. I had a proposal from a printer I wanted to move ahead with, and told the printer as much, ignoring Imran’s whisperings from behind me. He flew off the handle, screaming “I am your manager! You do as I say!”

Shortly afterwards Imran asked me to BCC him in to every email I sent. (I did not). He also insisted that every marketing email we sent out went via him for ‘proofreading’.

I would draft a perfectly good email (or ‘eshot’, as he called it). Imran would read it for a while, shaking his legs in confusion. Eventually he would pull out a red pen and delete random essential passages.

I’m sure he did this just to piss me off, because in my book he wasn’t qualified to shine my shoes, let alone hack about with my emails.

A whole year later after I had finished my placement Imran was fired. JB told me later that Imran had tried to pin the blame on him, and had told the directors they should fire JB instead.

He also tried (unsuccessfully) to sue the company for commissions owed from leads generated. He thought he was on a £100 per lead commission, which looking back explains his daily paranoia about the leads count.

Story archetype number 1 is ‘overcoming the monster’. I’ve started with ‘overcoming the monster’ because I think it has wide application in business use if you are willing to open up a little. Popular examples of the ‘overcoming the monster’ plot include Perseus, Dracula, James Bond, Star Wars, and even Shrek.

Business examples might include a nightmare boss, a nightmare situation, a nightmare customer. The ‘monster’ doesn’t always have to be a physical person. Perry Marshall tells a lot of overcoming the monster stories from his days in Amway.

The monster could also be you in the ‘bad old days’, or it could be a previous ‘bad’ or flawed incarnation of your product.

As long as your reader can relate in some way to the monster you are describing I find these stories perform well in terms of getting attention and generating responses.


*Imran wasn’t his real name, for obvious reasons.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.