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Worth Vs. Worthy

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

As business leaders and entrepreneurs, much of our energy and resources are spent understanding how best to communicate our value to customers. Many of the most successful companies flip this thinking on its head.

If we create things that are worthy of the time, attention and money of the people we hope to serve, we don’t need to spend so much time, attention and money trying to prove their worth.

Image by Susan Frazier.

Metrics For A Job Well Done

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Every business has metrics for a job well done. We know when our sales are up and complaints are down. We can measure our organisation’s performance and success in a myriad of ways.

For many businesses, success is measured in efficiencies and financial targets. Others choose to pay attention to customer’s success stories. The old axiom that ‘what’s measured improves’ holds true. When we clearly define the path we want to take we have a better chance of following it.

Three Success Assessment Questions For You

What do our customers expect from us?
How can we help our customers to reach their goals?
How exactly will we know when we’ve succeeded?

Your customer’s success story is your story too.

Image by Brandon Binkwilder Santana.

Acts Of Differentiation

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

One reason we market to customers, beyond our desire to create brand awareness, is to communicate how and why our products are different and better than those of the competition. Of course, how products are created and experiences are designed can be differentiators. But we sometimes overlook opportunities to differentiate and add value—especially when it comes to our marketing tactics.

At the food market, fruit vendors vie for the attention of passers-by. The tactic adopted by most is to discount and holler. The people who use this tactic change their pitch according to the time of day or how much stock is left, so that it appeals to whatever the bargain hunter seems to be looking for. The result feels like an inconsistent, erratic, emergency (which no doubt it often is).

Contrast that with the trader who shows up with a small range of quality, seasonal produce. There is no discounting, shouting or touting at his stall. His patient, predictable, consistent approach means the same people return each week. Some send their friends, and so his loyal customer base grows over time—no hollering required. His marketing strategy is an intentional act of differentiation.

Our marketing can be as deliberate, differentiated and aligned with our values as the products we choose to make, serve and sell.

Image by CIAT.

The Genuine Article

filed in Brand Story

When I was a child growing up in Dublin the biggest compliment you could pay someone was to say they were ‘the genuine article’. Sincerity was something to aspire to, and we witnessed it daily in people’s actions and words.

In our carefully curated, photoshopped and filtered world, we are more drawn to the genuine than ever. It’s the quality we most want our institutions, our communities and our leaders to embody. And yet we sometimes forget, that like most things we want to influence or change, it starts with us.

Our challenge is to go beyond saying it like we mean it.
We need to practice being it so that others can feel it.

Image by Jody Sticca.

A Common Sense Approach To Customer Insights

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation, Marketing

Joanne is a small business owner. She operates a catering van that travels to local industrial estates, serving workers who don’t have easy access to high street cafes and fast food restaurants closer to town. Joanne’s business lives and dies on what she knows about her customers. So she makes it her business to know a lot about them.

She knows that Darren leaves home without breakfast before his kids are up. There is no time to pack lunch because he has to be on the road before rush hour traffic hits. Joanne knows that most days Darren stops at the convenience store for a Red Bull which he drinks in his truck before beginning a day of sawing, sanding and heavy lifting. Unlike the office workers in the city who work from 9-5 and lunch at midday, Darren will be famished by 10–which is why her van makes its rounds before 11. She knows he needs something he can eat with one hand while standing in his workshop between jobs, and that he won’t be looking for sushi or a paleo salad bowl. Joanne knows that Darren will knock off early on Friday and head to the pub for a few beers with his mates. He will do the garden on Saturday and take his boys to footie on Sunday.

These insights are invaluable to Joanne’s business. They influence her hours of operation, the products she stocks and the customer experience she provides. And she didn’t need a data analyst or an algorithm to uncover them.

We can learn as much from spending time with our customers as we can by looking for clues among surveys, demographics and data sets. It turns out that understanding comes from looking beyond data points that can be easily measured or plotted on a graph. How much do you know about how your customers behave or what they think about, prioritise, value and believe in?

Image by Michelle Ress.

When To Fall In Love With Your Idea

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation

Every business is founded on an assumption. We see a problem and propose a solution (maybe a new product or service), that we assume will be embraced with open arms. Before long we’ve fallen headlong for our idea, often without challenging our assumptions.

Even with all the data in the world, it’s not possible to know for sure how the people we hope to serve will respond until we give them the opportunity to do just that. When we skip this step, we get caught in the trap of trying to show people why they can’t live without the thing we created. Our ideas succeed when we do exactly the opposite.

Don’t fall in love with your idea without first giving those who will adopt it a chance to show you why it’s one worth pursuing.

Image by Kat.

How To Tell A Brand Story Customers Believe In

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

It was a slow Wednesday morning, and the smell of freshly baked croissants wafted from the new French bakery. The store was almost empty, as were the display cabinets that should have been teeming with tempting pastries at this hour. The rock music blared. The bakery assistant who wore yesterday’s apron and a half-hearted smile, dropped the croissant she was bagging while remarking to a colleague that running out of croissants was ‘not a good look for a French bakery’. She haphazardly sealed the bag by scrunching the top with her fist. The customer paid $4.90 for the croissant. His coffee was half price because of a special promotion the bakery was running to attract more customers before 9.30am. What should have been a story about an exceptional croissant worth paying almost $5 for was broken because of the mediocre experience.

Where did the bakery go wrong and how could they tell a better brand story? The biggest problem is the disconnect between their desire to pitch their product as a premium offering and supporting that story with nothing more than quality ingredients and high prices. The service design and delivery tells a different story. The empty display cabinets, discounting, poorly trained and presented staff and music that doesn’t enhance the mood, create a disconnect.

Our brand stories are not merely a way to get customers to come through the door and hand over cash—we want them to feel glad that they did. Every choice we make and everything we do must align with the story we want our brand to embody. Our actions have to support the message we want customers to believe.

The product, environment, service, and design each play a part in taking our customers on a journey we hope they’ll want to repeat. It’s our job to make sure the story is consistent from start to finish. We do that by being clear about exactly what our brand stands for and by making deliberate decisions that align with and support that vision.

Image by Emanuele Toscano.

Success Is…

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Not surprisingly there’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about winning. It’s a subject that’s never far from our minds, especially if we’re leading or building a business. Conventional wisdom dictates that someone has to come out on top, and if we believe this is true we want it to be us and not the other guy. We don’t want to be caught short, overtaken or left behind—so we allocate resources (both material and emotional) to make sure we win. Sometimes we do this without articulating why winning is important and what it looks like. We seldom calculate what the real cost of pursuing a win above all else will be—not just on our balance sheets, but to our values, reputations, legacies, and well-being beforehand.

If we play to win is our goal to make sure that others lose, or is it something bigger? When we forsake traditionally, narrow metrics of success—things that can easily be weighed, measured and carefully graphed, we are free to embrace a much broader definition.

As business leaders, entrepreneurs and creators, we have a choice to make. We can aim to dominate and defeat, or we can choose to build and serve.

You might remember the 70s comic strip ‘love is…’ by Kim Casali. Even as a young child, long before boyfriends and broken hearts, I adored that comic strip. It showed me that there was no one way to define love—that there was more to it than a single long-stemmed red rose version of the truth. It taught me that we each get to choose what’s important and what’s worth working towards.

The same goes for success. We get to choose how to contribute and serve, how to achieve and lead.

Winning means different things to different people. It pays to be clear about exactly what your (and your team’s) definition of success is, and to know what you’re prepared to do to achieve your goals. Because unlike loving, winning for winning’s sake is overrated.

Image by Simon.

The Forgotten Power And Purpose Of Story

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

As business leaders and entrepreneurs, our motivations for understanding the power of story are clear—we want to create compelling narratives so more people will hear, believe and buy into our stories. We know we can use story to inform, educate, entertain, inspire and importantly, persuade people. We leverage story to perform valuable sales and marketing functions in our businesses.

According to Bloomberg, in the dying days of the recent U.S. Presidential election, the two campaigns spent a combined total of $44.5 million on TV advertising in battleground states attempting to persuade voters to believe their story. Overall the Clinton campaign spent $137 million more than the Trump campaign on TV advertising during the 21 weeks leading up to the election. As we know, it wasn’t enough to ensure victory.

As marketers, we understand that now more than ever our potential audience can tune out when they want to, and so we leverage every channel we have to find new ways to make them listen. The irony is that while we’ve doubled down on ‘telling’ we’ve neglected the opportunity to use story as a discovery tool—we’ve forgotten the importance of actually listening to the stories of the people we want to serve.

If we deeply understand the stories of the people we hope to convince we have a better chance of telling a story they want to hear. But more important than that—we get the opportunity to put their interests at the heart of everything we do. Imagine the difference we could create if we invested as much in trying to understand as we do on trying to be heard.

Image by Francis McKee.

The Power Of A Value Strategy

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The city centre 7-Eleven fulfils the need of a particular customer. It’s a place for the every day, unplanned or forgotten last-minute purchases, where the worker returning home from late shift might grab headache tablets or a pint of milk. Convenience stores are not trying to deliver a premium customer experience. The business is designed to provide value by taking into account the context in which the customer will use its services. If accessibility and convenience are the pillars of the value strategy, then every business decision the company makes is filtered through that lens.

When a manager questions if stores should stock teddy bears or expensive perfume the answer is obvious. Everything the business does must align with the customer’s perception of the part it plays in his life.

It’s only when we are clear about how we best fulfil our customers’ needs that we can tell a story that resonates with them. In a world of the shiny, new next thing the power of consistently delivering on customers’ expectations is underrated.

Image by rpavich.