Unlock the magic in your story now.

Get the free 20 Questions to ask before launching your Idea Workbook when you sign up for updates.

Because We Can

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

It’s a brisk Autumn Monday. The city’s lunchtime trams are busy. As we turn into Collins Street the tram driver begins an unscripted dialogue.

He tells us that we’re at “the Paris end” of Collins street in the world’s most liveable city, reminding us that this is “no flash in the pan” because Melbourne has been awarded the accolade five times. At each stop he mentions landmarks and points of interest. He draws our attention to the “blue sky, fluffy white clouds, birds singing and trams dinging”.

“It doesn’t get much better than this ladies and gentlemen.” he says.
“If only Essendon had won on the weekend.”

And the day is brightened for tens of people in that ordinary moment.

Here is a guy without a script, a rulebook, or permission of any kind doing meaningful work.
Not because it’s in his job description, his boss is watching, or for a financial incentive—but because he can.

It’s an oppotunity most of us are lucky to have. We should take it.

Image by Stephen Beaumont.

5 Questions To Consider Before Spending Your Marketing Budget

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

A colleague recently asked my advice about a five-figure advertising spend he was contemplating. Should he or shouldn’t he?
We mapped out the risks vs. the rewards and also discussed alternatives.

It turned out that he needed to ask a different set of questions entirely.

5 Questions To Ask Before Allocating Marketing Resources

1. What’s the best outcome you can hope to achieve as a result of employing this strategy?
2. What does failure look like?
3. Why this medium and not that one?
4. Why do you believe this is the best use of your marketing resources?
5. How could you delight existing customers by devoting these resources to deepening connections with them instead?

Just because it looks and feels like marketing doesn’t mean it’s the best option.

And 3 Action Items

1. If you’re going to read just one post about marketing from Seth Godin, read First ten.

2. Then read Kevin Kelly’s post 1,000 True Fans—still relevant today.

3. Your About Page is probably the most overlooked marketing opportunity you have.
The About Page Guide will help you to write an About Me Page that works for you.

The opportunities for growth are closer than you think.

Image by Angelo Antonelli.

The Powerful Sales Question We Forget To Ask

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

It was a busy Saturday morning in the department store. Lucy, the kitchen appliance sales assistant didn’t have a lot of time on her hands. She needed to work as efficiently as possible while ensuring that customers felt seen and heard. Lucy’s first customer was shopping for an electric blender. Like many customers, she felt so overwhelmed by the array of choices she was unlikely to buy anything—until Lucy expertly helped her to narrow them down with one simple question.

“What do you want to do with it?”

The ability to understand what a customer wants to do next has spawned countless successful business ideas from Facebook to the Dyson vacuum cleaner. When you are aware of the context shaping the story the customer tells herself, you put yourself in the best possible position to serve her and grow your business.

What does your customer want to do next?
What must you do next to help her get to where she wants to go?

Image by Yassan.

The Three Steps To Articulating Value

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

It’s tempting to begin with product and service descriptions when you are communicating the value your business creates. Of course, it’s easier to start with what we know for sure. We list features, benefits and specifications—telling the customer as much as we can about ‘the what’.
And all the while we’re doing it backwards.

Intead of starting with our ‘what’ we need to begin with the customer’s ‘why’.

How To Articulate Value

1. Why does the customer need your product?
Reflect the customer’s challenges or desires back to him.

2. How will it work?
Describe the change the product will create.

3. What is it?
Finish with the facts.

Very few of our buying decisions are led by reason and logic, so why seek to persuade by starting there?

Image by Mike Melrose.

Beyond The Point Of Sale

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Many marketing strategies focus on the point of sale.
Most great brand stories focus on what happens before and after the point of sale.
We win by considering who the customer is, and helping him to become who he wants to be.
This happens by understanding his story beyond the point of sale.

Image by Linh Nguyen.

Optimising For Customer Delight And The Peak-End Rule

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Jody and Jim (not their real names) run a small web design studio. Their initial pricing strategy was to keep base prices low, putting time caps on every deliverable during the website design and build. New clients were informed about this policy up front. Things like design time and content population were included in the original quote. If the project became more complex or the client wanted changes, the design team let them know that they would incur an extra charge and got their approval to go ahead.

Despite this, when clients were presented with a ‘higher than expected’ bill at the end of the project they were very annoyed. They were thrilled with their website but not at all happy with Jody and Jim. The result was unhappy clients, negative reviews and fewer word of mouth referrals.

Something had to change. The priority was to leave every client delighted at the end of the experience. A smart move on Jody and Jim’s part when you consider peak-end rule.

The team decided to simply increase prices to reflect the fact that every single web design project goes out of scope. Now at the end of a job, the client is delighted with both their website and the company—all as a direct result of this firm pricing strategy.

The ability to truly empathise with the customer along every step of their experience is what separates great businesses from good ones. How are you doing that?

Image by Leo Hidalgo..

The Importance Of Happy Endings

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

When we’re serving customers we tend to front-load our effort. Hotel reception staff are well-versed in making a great impression when the guest checks in. Good waiters quickly seat new diners and take orders promptly. Retailers station greeters at the store entrance to welcome and orient new customers.

The same is also true for marketing. We expend a lot of effort to attract customers, committing a significant chunk of our resources to getting them through the door.

The trouble is that customers don’t rate the quality of their overall experience by what happens moment to moment, they judge it by what happened at its peak and at the end. This is why as business leaders and marketers we need to pay attention to the peak-end rule.

How you say goodbye is just, if not more important, as how you said hello.

Image by Stijn Nieuwendijk.

The Facts Are Overrated

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Since the new Model 3 Tesla was unveiled just over two weeks ago 400,000 people (who have never test driven or sat in one) have paid $1000 to place an order. And while the price of this latest model makes it accessible to more people it’s clearly not what’s driving these organic sales.

Think about the last significant purchase you made—a car, kitchen appliance or mobile phone. How deeply did you dive into the details about the features and functionality before you decided which product to buy? When were you last persuaded by facts?

Now think about how you differentiate your products and services. Do you default to competing on features, benefits and price alone? What’s at the heart of your story?
Yes, the facts had better stack up, but they’re not what’s driving your customer’s decisions.

Image by Wendell.

Your Story Drives Behaviour

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

Jackie is a gifted web designer. Her inbox is full of enquiries from people who want to work with her. She loves what she does, but she gets worn down by clients asking for a discount on her already reasonable rates. This behaviour not only affects Jackie’s bottom line and the number of clients she must take on to make a living, it also leaves her feeling demoralised.

When clients repeatedly ask for discounts.
When your boss emails every weekend.
When staff continually show up late for meetings.
When you don’t feel valued, it’s tempting to blame the people who don’t value you.

Start by looking at your actions and responses—the things that might be giving this behaviour oxygen. Think about what could be triggering the behaviour, then own the way you want people to respond. You have a responsibility to create the story that elicits the reactions and responses you want. How are you framing your scarcity?

Image by dawolf.

From Awareness To Loyalty

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

The purpose of your brand story and of every piece of marketing material is to move a prospective customer from awareness to loyalty.

When we imagine the customer decision journey as a timeline it’s clear that we need to treat customers differently according to where they are on that journey.


1. Awareness -> 2. Familiarity -> 3. Consideration -> 4. Purchase -> 5. Affinity -> 6. Loyalty

It jars when we get an overseas call offering web design services for a domain purchased a week ago out of the blue. That’s because the web design company failed to see the need to start at the beginning of the customer decision journey. They don’t take us any further along that journey because they’ve skipped the first three steps. Our loyalty is forever lost to them.

It turns out that marketing isn’t just about being seen and understood.
It’s about seeing in order to understand. That takes time and care and skill.
You have the opportunity to devote all of that.
How are you making sure you don’t skip any of the important steps?

Image by Jon Baglo.