In this week’s episode of the Impact Unltd Podcast, we sit down with Tony Award winning film producer Nick Demos and talk all things story.
Nick has built a successful career from telling powerful stories. In our discussion, he shared thoughts around topics such as:
Why stories are so powerful and telling yours is the key to real impactful success
What makes a story relatable and connects with your audience
How to structure your content in order to reach more people and generate more revenue
And so much more.
👉 To learn more about Nick, head to: https://www.thenickdemos.com
👉 If you’d like to explore any further training, then feel free to check out our range of free courses here: https://www.impactunltd.com/training
Ben Donovan 0:01
Awesome. Well, welcome to the show today, guys. It's a real privilege of mine to have my friend Nick here on with us. Nick, welcome to the show.
Nick Demos 0:09
Thank you so much for having me.
Ben Donovan 0:11
It's a pleasure. You're all the way over in LA, right?
Nick Demos 0:13
Yeah, I'm in Los Angeles, sunny Los Angeles, California.
Ben Donovan 0:17
You must be really struggling out there. Yeah. Great to have you on. Why don't you? Yeah. Before you tell us a bit about yourself, actually, what I love to do is ask a couple of off the cuff icebreaker questions. I haven't prepped you for this. So you know, it's gonna test you out a little bit. But one of my favorite questions to ask just to help the audience get to know people, a bit of a fun one is I like to ask about time travel. You know, if you could go forwards or backward to any period in future history, where do you think you would go and why?
Nick Demos 0:48
I would go forward because I feel like, first of all, let me say this. I believe that all time happens at the same time. Right? That we're actually in the now, and the past, and the future all in once. If you know quantum physics at all, if you've studied that at all, the idea is that there's no time continuum. So consequently, I would go forward so that I could have some wisdom to bring back with me to right now.
Ben Donovan 1:17
No, it's good. You're one of the few people. Most people say back. I think a lot of people are too scared to go forward because they don't know what's going to be here for us. But I like it because I'll go forward too. So I'm glad to hear.
Nick Demos 1:27
I would want to, you know, like in your life, you look back on a certain period of your life, maybe when you were younger, in your teens or early 20s. I'm almost 50 now. So when I look back on that part of my life, I'm like, "Oh if I could only go back with the wisdom I have now". So if I could go forward in the future and bring back a whole bunch of wisdom to right now. I would be so happy.
Ben Donovan 1:51
Yeah. So good, man. Awesome answers, that's great! So tell us a bit about what you do, Nick.
Nick Demos 1:57
So sure. I tell stories. I'm a storyteller first and foremost. And I help entrepreneurs connect to their creativity and their intuition, ultimately, so that they can tell their stories, they can convert to sales, they can connect with their audience and they can have an impact in the world.
Ben Donovan 2:19
Yeah, so good man, so good at this. You know, the idea of telling stories is I feel like becoming more and more popular in the world of marketing, because people are putting it onto this idea that actually, your product needs to tell a story, your brand needs to tell a story. Have you noticed that's become more prominent recently?
Nick Demos 2:38
Well, I have and it's really an interesting phenomenon to me. It's like, okay, marketers are catching up. It's how I feel about it because we have been telling stories since the beginning of time. I mean, we were cave people that sat around and told stories around the fire. And interestingly, the influencers of that day, of that time, were the great storytellers. They were like the first influencers, right? So we talked and we saw a lot about influencing, your brand being an influencer. But it was through story, originally, that these people became important within the tribe, within the sense of community.
So while it is something that we have been doing forever, marketing is really catching up and finding its value the further that recently it feels like, doesn't it? It's just so interesting. I mean, I think some of the corporate brands have been doing it for quite some time. If you look at some great campaigns from the past, even a campaign like Nike, which is, you know, has this "just do it" campaign. It's fairly old now, in our terms, but it tells a great aspirational story. And I think that's really what marketers are tapping into, is this idea of inspiring people to action.
Ben Donovan 4:00
Yeah, so true. So true. What would you say is like the power of a story like because I know there will be, you know, for me, business owners, entrepreneurs that I've discussed with, and it's like, it seems like a lot of effort to build out this whole narrative of the brand of the product. They just want to kind of sell trinkets, make money, whatever. Can you talk to us a bit about the importance of story, - what it actually produces in a brand?
Nick Demos 4:24
Absolutely. What it produces is a connection to you because people buy from you. So they want to know about you. There's a lot of noise out there. There's a lot of people selling products and there's likely a lot of people selling exactly what you're selling. Right? But what happens when they understand your story is they begin to connect to you. And then they associate the brand to you, your story. And that makes them want to invest with and in you.
Ben Donovan 5:03
And what about for people that don't want to be the face of a brand? So for instance, physical product brands or anything like that, how do we sort of instill those same thoughts and belief systems into a brand without being that persona five face of it?
Nick Demos 5:20
Well, I'll go back to that Nike example, right? That's an aspirational brand idea. Do I know who is the CEO of Nike? No, I really don't. But do I know that swoosh and do I know just do it? And does that make me feel something for the brands? Or a brand like Apple has a certain identity, right? You feel a certain way because of that product, and they have worked. And that's the story that they're telling, right? Yeah, that when it began, Apple was like for the cool kids, right? So anybody who has an Apple product is cool, right? That's what they created. And now over time, obviously, that brand is so large that it's kind of like "you don't have an iPhone?" You know what I mean? That's where they've gone with it. But it gives you a certain sense, a story to connect to that story, or that identity of being cool, of being with it, of being on the right side of history, however, you want to look at it.
Ben Donovan 6:27
And I think, you know, a lot of the audience may see it and say, well, you know, it's easy for you, Nick. I mean, they don't know because you've been very modest about your background in your history, but you've been involved in lots of creativity and done some amazing things and been involved in film and theater and stuff like that, right? And so you would have a history of storytelling. What about for the startup entrepreneurs that never encountered this idea of telling a story with their brand or with their products? Can you give us some starting point where someone can begin on this journey?
Nick Demos 6:58
Absolutely. The first thing to know is that your story does not need to be dramatic. It doesn't need to be about "I've been homeless" or "I'm bankrupt" or "I was abused". In fact, sometimes those stories are turn-offs, right? Yes, we want to see a transition where you've come as a person, as a human being, as a brand. But in the day to day, the most relatable stories are the ones that are the smallest, actually. You know, I could talk to you about how I went to Starbucks today and stood in line and how I so needed to have patience, or the line because the line was incredibly long and I found myself beginning to well up with anxiety and anger. Well, now I can come and tell my audience that story and connect it to something in my brand. Now depending on what I sell, how I would connect it, but the idea that everyone can relate to impatience. Everyone can relate to that idea of having to stand in line. And so that's a story that you can then connect to whatever it is that you are selling. And in my case, it's storytelling. So it's pretty easy for me to connect the story to storytelling. But whatever it is, you can connect it to it in some way. Let's say I sold.. Well, let's go back to shoes. Let's say I sold shoes, running shoes. And I could say, just like standing in line for coffee and having that patience, I know that putting these shoes on each day and going for a run, I have to learn to build patience. I mean, it's that kind of simple storytelling but you connect it to you, to your brand. And the simpler it is, the better. Simple stories are better. When you get too complicated, people tune out.
Ben Donovan 9:02
That's a great thought, great takeaway for people to write that one down, you know, simple stories, it's so better and connects better.
Nick Demos 9:09
And I would say the biggest mistake that I see people making in their storytelling is that they make it about them all the time. And it isn't about you. It's about your hero. It is about which is your customer, make the story about your customer. Yes, you know, I told this story of standing in line at Starbucks, and I use myself in it. However, ultimately, it was a story about you putting those shoes on, right? So really make it about your customer.
Ben Donovan 9:44
And that's good. It's really good. It's very true, isn't it? You know, as marketers, we so easily fall into that trap of thinking about from our perspective - I, we, me. But you're so right, putting it on the actual audience, and the customer is so, so important. When you started out, because this intrigued me because I'm always trying to get better at telling stories with products, I think it's such an essential skill that any business owner whether you're a marketer, whatever kind of business owner you are, you need to be a marketer, whatever way you look at it, right? So if you're working with a new brand or a new product, when you sit down at the very outset of that journey, do you have any kind of, like framework? Are you looking for boxes, I'm looking to fill with certain things or from beginning to end, this is how it's gonna look, did you have anything like that, that you kind of repeat each time? Or is it like a new process each time?
Nick Demos 10:40
You know, I have both. I have a framework that I use that's very simple. But what I have found is that depending on what the brand or the personality is, will determine whether or not it fully fits. It's not a "one size fits all". Because if you do a "one size fits all" story, people can tell, right? You know you feel like you're marketed too. And there's nothing that's a bigger turnoff and feeling like you've been marketed too or you feel like it's a past story or one you've heard so many times, right? And the best stories are the original stories. The idea of original is taking two old ideas and bringing them together to create something new. That's all originality is. And so yes, there is a structure to storytelling that you can definitely learn and you should learn it because you always know what the rules are and then break the rules, do you know what I mean?
So learning the story of the structure is important, but I also give my students and clients I asked them to do what I call flow writing, which is really just sitting down and writing with absolutely no agenda, which sounds crazy. But what happens is that you sit and you'll write. And eventually, ideas start to spark for stories over time. And then I have them go back and circle things that could potentially be stories. And then we create what I call an idea download. And we just put them into a sheet of paper. And then from there, we start looking at, well, which of these stories really fits best with the brand? Which stories here could potentially be something that will inspire their hero? And then we put it into the framework. You see what I'm saying? So because otherwise if you just start with a framework and don't know your why, you don't know your why, then you're gonna just have a story that doesn't really connect.
Ben Donovan 12:53
Yeah, absolutely. No, I think it is super essential. You know, I'm just working with someone on a new brand at the moment, a product brand. And the first thing we're doing is really defining our why, shaping that story, what do we want, the story, the heart? What do we want to communicate with that really is absolutely essential.
When it comes to, like, say paid advertising, right? When we're trying to connect with more people, we're trying to grow the reach of our brand, how do you integrate that story with that kind of thing? You know, like maybe Facebook ads or Google ads or anything like that. Have any of your clients seen success with that and how is sort of the story aspect of that really integrated there?
Nick Demos 13:34
It's not dissimilar to any email blog. And you know, I say this a lot to my clients that it doesn't really matter. The way in which you're doing it - yes, social needs to be shorter; yes, it can be a longer form on an email, even on a Facebook Live. You know, it doesn't matter what the avenue is, the vehicle is. The story will still connect and work. It doesn't matter just like we've been telling stories since the beginning of time, basically seven stories. There are only seven stories in the world we've been telling them over and over again that they work because the basics, the ideas of storytelling, that connection work no matter what. And think about it this way, when we first started telling stories, it was only verbally, right? We only had one way to tell them. Now we have an infinite possibility, a number of ways. And in your advertising,the same story can be reused, repurposed. It's just you'll take different parts of it, or say, a Facebook ad than you would if you're doing an email blast, but the same story works.
Ben Donovan 14:53
Yeah, and that's the great thing about repurposing content as well. You know, something we teach all the time. It's like if you're gonna create content, create some really good content. But then if you create it really well, then you can use it multiple times. And that's, you know, something that really plays in well there.
Nick Demos 15:08
And your audience needs to hear it multiple times from different directions and in different ways. And you know, people process and learn differently. Some people are visual, some people are auditory, some people need to connect better with an email blast so it really is important to not only is it important to repurpose for the sake of saving time, money and energy, but it's also important for your audience to hear it over and over and over again. That's one of the things about branding or telling your story is that A - the more you tell your story, the better you get at it. But B - the more you tell your story, the more people hook into it, and begin to come to almost feel like they're a part of you and a part of your story. Because they keep hearing it.
Ben Donovan 15:58
Yeah, so good. It's really, you know, I love that idea, you know just about how different people are going to connect with different things. And, you know, different people need to hear things in different ways. And that's why even now Facebook ads will give you the chance to have this single dynamic creative. So you can split it all up and feed it to the people in the right way. It's kind of scary how that works. But, you know, different people receive things in different ways, different learning modalities. Yeah. All feeds into this, which is really, really powerful. Do you see like, you're saying five-years time, ten-years time, the world of marketing brands, products, storytelling? Do you see that changing at all? I mean, it feels like the world changes at such an incredibly fast rate right now. What do you see for the future?
Nick Demos 16:47
That goes back to that first question. Can you take me there so I can let you? Nick, If I can come back here and let you know.
Ben Donovan 16:55
Get your crystal ball out for me.
Nick Demos 16:57
Hold on. I will say this, we don't know what it's going to bring, right? But we didn't know with the advent of the internet either. But the fundamentals of storytelling have never changed. So learn the fundamentals of storytelling so that no matter what the way, whatever the vehicle is, whatever, whether it, you know, things come and go. Myspace came and left, right? So we thought we'd all be on that forever. No, it came in last, and maybe streaming services will too, and maybe you know what I mean? So you don't know we don't know what the future is going to bring. But the way in which we told stories has never changed.
Ben Donovan 17:45
So true. Great thoughts. Do you see any like when people are just starting on this journey? Do you see them making consistent mistakes? Are there any common mistakes people would make on this journey?
Nick Demos 17:57
The biggest two or one that they don't do it, that they don't use story, that they put out content that is dry and they don't bring enough of themselves whether it'd be humor or their own and their and their personal story and that's number one and number two is really like I had said about making it all about them, that they don't make it about their hero. Because you are, no matter what, if you are a physical product or not, or selling courses or whatever it is that you sell, you are the guide. right? Nike's just do it is about you just doing it. But Nike is the guy to show you how by using their product. That's the positioning that's super, super important for everyone to remember.
Ben Donovan 18:58
I don't want to say, especially, because it's probably equally important for everything but you know, you mentioned like online courses. The online education industry is obviously such a key thing to tell that story, isn't it? Because, you know, you want to communicate with people not just the basics of the steps and the lessons and you know, those aspects of it, you want to communicate that story, that journey that they're going to go on. Yes, speaking to that industry for a minute, because again, that's something that we teach here and you're really excited by the online education industry and where it's going, how does storytelling fit into that industry?
Nick Demos 19:34
Well, that is my industry now. So this is my jam. Yeah, you are the personal brand, right? That is the thing that you have to wrap around and you are that guy, you are their guide. Whoever your ideal customer client avatar, however, you want to call it, you have to stand for them. And so they need to know, like and trust you. Because as you're saying it's a growing market, it's expanding and more and more and more people are coming in daily which scares people that are already in it, but it's actually a really good thing. But what you have to do then is you have to stand out as yourself. You have to be willing to be what you were talking about the face of the brand, you have to be willing to step forward and stand for something. Here is who I am, here is my story so that you can really connect to me, because, you know, putting out the bullet points of what you teach isn't going to work anymore. There are too many people that do it. And that's a trap that many new online entrepreneurs start. But look at this, I've got this great course, look, I teach it this and this and then I'll give you this, I'm gonna give you this and give you this and nobody cares. Nobody even reads it. I always say that if you are depending on your sales page, you're in trouble. They need to know they want to purchase from you before they get to the sales page.
Ben Donovan 21:27
And how do you create that?
Nick Demos 21:29
And you create that through connection. You create that by whether it is going on live, and if that's not for you, that's fine, whether it is through your emails, whatever your nurturing sequences, whatever it is that you do to get them to that page knowing who you are. Because the people again buy from people they like and they feel can help them and so it's your job to create the authority that you are the authority for them, but it's also an authority that they know, that they're gonna be in safe hands with, and that they're gonna enjoy spending time with. Because if you're going to take an online course with somebody, you're going to spend quite a few hours with them. Right? And so they want to connect with you. And the best way, the best way for them to connect with you is through your stories. And I don't say story, you know, because we all have multiple stories, right? Whether it's my big story of how I, you know, talking about my background, how I went from being an actor and a dancer to a Tony and Olivier Award-winning producer to an online marketing expert, right? That's my big story. But the little stories are actually equally as interesting about how I spend my day and who I spend it with and how I go to Starbucks and you know, all those little things actually add up to really knowing you, and it takes some vulnerability.
Ben Donovan 23:04
Yeah, you're so right. And I think as communicators, as people that are brand owners selling products, we do need to look for the stories in the everyday things that really you know, and as a, you know, story I'm telling the moment is just about how I was chopping up some vegetables the other day. And the first thing I did before I did that was I sharpen the knife, you know, and it's like, well, that's how we talk about our training is, you can either do this on your own or actually, you can be involved in a community that sharpens you so that you can do it a lot more effectively. Once that's happened. And, you know, it's a trivial example, right? But it's just seeing the story in the daily things.
Nick Demos 23:40
But that's perfect, but it's trivial because it's relatable. We all have sharpened a knife. We all chop vegetables.
Ben Donovan 23:50
Yeah, for sure. It's been really, really helpful. In terms of like, if you could leave the audience with one key takeaway, I know you cover lots of stuff. And if that's like recapping one we've already talked about, what would be the key takeaway that you'd love the audience to go away with from this time today?
Nick Demos 24:10
I think the big key takeaway really, it goes back to the two things that I must see. One is that people aren't using stories. So the key takeaway is to start small. Don't worry about the big stories. Don't worry about the most vulnerable things in your life, right? Like the stories that you don't want to share, don't worry about that. Start with little teeny stories, like you were talking about, about chopping vegetables, you know, start small. And then you can grow into the bigger stories and don't worry about "I need to have my big signature story or my big story, my brand story". Don't worry about that when you first start, just start by telling some small stories because those will lead to bigger stories. Those will lead you to the path of finding your brand story. And then the second one is really that I've harped on a bit actually is your hero, your ideal customer, make it about them. Even take whatever story it is that from your personal life and turn it around and make it about them.
Ben Donovan 25:17
So good. So good. Also, just to come back on that first thing you were saying as well, I think it's worth saying I don't know if you would agree, but if people are thinking or I don't have too many stories in my life, that relatable and trying to come up with a story, you know, I found it doesn't always have to be stories about my life stories about other people's lives can be just as powerful.
Nick Demos 25:37
Absolutely. You know, I, oftentimes, use stories about clients of people friends in my life, you know, I can change the name. Nobody needs to know that needs to you know, you don't need to use somebody's story, but yeah, it doesn't have to be about youth-specific.
Ben Donovan 25:54
Yeah, that's so true. Yeah. I did an email a while ago about goals, and I used a friend of mine that contacted me. I’m doing some coaching with him. And he basically listed out these goals and like the last one was that the business was going to pay for his rent each month and all this kind of stuff and, and so yeah, I use that story to talk about goals and like you say it was super powerful to use someone in my world changed the name, you know. So yeah, it's a great thought. Really good idea. Good stuff, man. Well, thanks so much for coming on. If people do want to reach out or connect with what you do find out more about what you do potentially, you know, get some help from you. Where can they do that?
Nick Demos 26:30
Sure. You can go to my website, which is thenickdemos.com or on Instagram or Facebook, also @thenickdemos.
Ben Donovan 26:43
Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show today. We really appreciate it.
Nick Demos 26:47
Thank you. Awesome.
Ben Donovan 26:50
Amazing. Thank you.