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The Thing That’s Worth Measuring

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Josh is a sales assistant at a sports store in the city. He proactively solves customer’s problems while they browse, taking the time to answer questions about the equipment they’re considering buying. If one of those interactions results in a sale Josh adds a new barcode containing his employee ID to the product. This is how Josh’s performance is tracked.

Every sales assistant then is only as good as the number of sales he can prove he’s facilitated. This is the performance metric the store manager pays attention to because it’s the thing she can easily measure. Josh can spend twenty minutes with a shopper exchanging valuable information about golf clubs. This might result in a sale next week or an online purchase at a later date. Josh’s efforts will likely go unnoticed and unacknowledged by management.

An uptick in a metric of any kind can feel like progress which of course is fun to measure, but much of what adds value to our businesses (lives, families, and cultures too) is intangible. When we limit ourselves to believing that hard data tells the whole story we’re missing opportunities to improve those things we can’t put a number on.

Just because data is easy to collect doesn’t mean it’s the thing that’s worth measuring. It’s important to question exactly how the data we gather is helping us to achieve our goals before obsessing over what the numbers look like.

Image by Antoine Robiez.

Lessons From The Best In B2B Brand Storytelling

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

maersk line B2B storytellingIt’s easy to think of great examples of B2C (business-to-consumer) brand storytelling. The list of B2C companies that leverage storytelling to engage with their customers’ grows daily. The perception in many B2B (business-to-business) companies is that it’s easier to engage with customers through story when you’re selling running shoes with a dose of ‘Just Do It’ motivation. Then there is the concern in B2B about justifying the resources and measuring the return on investment (ROI) in brand storytelling to stakeholders.

These are some of the reasons I’m frequently asked for examples of B2B companies who use storytelling to build their brands. I believe the reason B2B storytelling examples are harder to find is that many B2B companies don’t understand how storytelling creates value for their customers and shareholders, or ultimately how it benefits the bottom line. The following examples not only show you great B2B brand storytelling at work, but they also demonstrate why it’s effective and how B2B companies are leveraging storytelling to impact their businesses in different ways.

5 Leading B2B Brand Storytellers

Maersk Line
It would be easy to lead with an example of a technology company, instead I want to show you how Maersk Line, the world’s largest shipping container company uses visual storytelling to build its brand. Maersk has multiple Instagram accounts that tell the compelling story of the company’s capability, impact and global reach. Maersk is also active on Facebook. The company’s page has over a million likes. Not only does Maersk use social media to build brand awareness, they have a panel of internal experts who create informative content for the company blog. Maersk also uses infographics and data journalism to commuicate the company’s innovative ideas.

We sometimes forget the impact Google has on the business community. The company uses video content and brand storytelling to inform its small business customers about how to use products and services and to inspire business owners by making the business customer the hero of the story. Google also has a dedicated small business blog and Twitter account.

General Electric (GE)
The work GE does is technical and complex. In the Unimpossible Missions video series the company gives us a window into what they do and how they do, while cleverly communicating a sense of their tenacity, ingenuity, pride in their people and company values. My favourite is ‘Catching Lightning in a Bottle’. GE has also built a significant Instagram following. Storytelling can help you to do more than simply educate or sell to customers. It can also give them clues about the kind of company you are and get them excited about doing business with you.

What better way to demonstrate the value your business creates than to celebrate the business owners who use your services. PayPal shares small business customer stories on ‘National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day’ on the company’s stories platform.

Microsoft demonstrated its understanding about the importance of brand storytelling by appointing a Chief Storyteller in 2010. He and his team are responsible for collecting and curating stories from all corners of the company. These are shared on the Microsoft Stories platform and social channels. My favourite is the long-form story 88 Acres and the must watch All Aboard the Brilliant Bus on the company’s YouTube channel. Storytelling isn’t simply a mechanism to inform, persuade, convince and convert. It can be used to bring people within the company together around their common purpose. There is an overlooked opportunity to use brand storytelling to shape company culture and increase employee engagement.

While the return on investment in brand storytelling may not always be easy for a B2B business to measure, I think we can agree that story in all its forms has the power to change our perception of a company for the better. How could your company leverage the power of storytelling?

Image by Maersk Line.

Why Are Your Customers Here?

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The city centre bookstore manager complains to her colleague on the phone about people wandering in on their lunch break to browse because they have nothing else to do.

“They’re not coming in for anything in particular.” she sighs.

She’s right, for two hours every day hundreds of office workers with nothing else to do pass by her door. Contrast her story to that of Powell’s bookstore—a Portland institution. Powell’s is a destination, a treat for locals and visitors alike. The management at Powell’s understands that people don’t visit bookstores just because they’re short of something to read.

There isn’t a single beloved brand that relies on stacking the shelves and opening the door as its killer marketing strategy. That’s not how marketing works in the twenty-first-century.

Every store you visit, app you use or podcast you listen to, has given you a reason to come. The owners and creators know why you’re there and what you want deep down.

Why are your customers here?

Image by Florent Lamoureux.

The First Step To Overcoming Any Business Challenge

filed in Brand Strategy

Six months ago Melissa invested her life savings in establishing an online store. Sales are not going as well as she’d hoped. When Melissa isn’t making or photographing products and uploading them to her store, she’s worrying about generating more sales. The time she spends worrying and reacting to her anxiety in the moment doesn’t result in a plan that will change things. While she’s focusing on the result of the problem, Melissa isn’t getting to the root of it—she’s not sure who her products are for and what unmet need her business is fulfilling.

Everyday problems become major challenges when we don’t take the time to understand why they have arisen. Without that understanding, there is no way to create a plan to overcome them.

5 Questions For You

1. What’s the number one challenge facing your business right now?

2. Why is this your biggest problem?

3. What’s at the root of the problem?

4. What’s the first step you need to take to resolve it?

5. What resources (time, energy, money) will you devote to solving the problem?

Insight (which is available for free), is one of the most underrated business advantages we have.

Image by Gregor Fischer.

Talk When Your Customers Are Listening

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The Content Marketing Institute recently reported that Fortune 500 brands were missing an opportunity to increase engagement with Instagram followers because of the timing of their posts. It stands to reason that we have a better chance of being heard by our customers at times when they are listening—not when it’s most convenient for us to talk.

It’s not just what we say and how we say it that counts. We need to meet our customers and clients where they are when they’re present. Our best opportunities to communicate, engage and delight might be at times when we’ve failed to meet expectations. We always have the customer’s eyes and ears in a crisis.

When are your customers listening?

Image by Serge Seva.

True Advantages

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

If I asked you to list the advantages any global brand has over its competitors you’d likely think of things like access to capital, distribution networks, and other resources that the average business doesn’t have. But these brands are the outliers.

When it comes down to it, most businesses have access to similar resources, raw materials, and human capital. Every pizza is made with flour, cheese, and tomato. So why do queues form at this place and not that one? What drives the demand that’s responsible for success?

The one true advantage we all have at our fingertips is how we make people feel, and the story they leave with. Sometimes that story is a two-hour wait, a $5 price tag for a single slice, or a hand-made pizza crafted by a man who has been making them for 50 years.

Understanding how people will tell the story to others is an advantage every business can own.

Image by Lucas Richarz.

The Difference Between Average And Exceptional

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The service at the restaurant is only as good as the investment the manager makes in staff training.

The quality of the website’s user experience is a reflection of how many hours the developer spends testing and tweaking.

The hours of research the journalist conducts before writing a single word shines through in the genius of the article.

We tend to focus the majority of our thinking on the moment of the performance, forgetting that it’s the work we do leading up to it that makes all the difference. The things we do when the customer isn’t looking is what creates moments of delight.

What differentiates the average from the exceptional is not performance, it’s preparation.

Image by Hernán Piñera.

Responsive Marketing

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

There are two approaches to selling memberships at the local gym. The first is to show the prospective member the facilities—highlighting the abundance of equipment and classes, and then to offer a ‘limited time only’ joining discount. The second is to spend time listening to the reasons why he wants to join in the first place and then to tailor the sales conversation to those needs.

Two Things Your Marketing Messages Must Do

1. Communicate to the customer that you have understood his unmet needs or unspoken desires.

2. Paint a picture of the customer as the hero of the story in the presence of your product (a lot of marketing messages have this backward).

Average marketing is filled with statements of fact. Great marketing is a response to the customer’s problems and desires. It’s the difference between, ‘this is better’ and ‘this is how we can help you to be better’.

Image by midwestnerd

Everything To Everyone

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

While I was consulting with a client last week we got talking about people who had built powerful personal brands and the reasons for their success. When we stopped at one in particular, her reaction was immediate.

“I don’t like him.” she said, as her nose wrinkled.

Of course, she has never met this person, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t formed a strong opinion about his values, ethics, and intentions.

It’s tempting to believe that success, influence or impact means winning over everyone. It doesn’t.
You can never know who everyone is and what everyone thinks, but you can know what your right people care about and want to align themselves with.

Don’t aim to be everything to everyone. Aim to be something to someone.

Image by Pabak Sarkar

The First Rule Of Increasing Brand Awareness

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Sustainable growth is the goal of every business and conventional wisdom tells us that in order to grow we need to command more attention. Ironically, when we begin thinking about how to increase brand awareness we often shift our gaze internally.

We work on differentiating from our competitors. We articulate whatever we believe our edge to be. We get just a little louder, all the while forgetting that if we want people to notice us we need to get better at noticing them first.

The first rule of increasing brand awareness is to improve your customer awareness.
What three things could you do today that will help you do that?

Image by Ashley Ringrose.