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Reaching Resonance

Many of us spend the majority of our time thinking about what people want to hear.

And while it’s important to understand your audience, it’s equally important to remember what you have to say, as only you can say it.

Of course, you want to make a bigger impact and reach more people.

But the impact you make will depend on your ideas resonating with the right people—not just reaching the most people. The people who believe in you and your message will enable you to do your best work. You will draw those people to you by clearly making your assertion and stating your intention.

It’s a lot easier to tell true stories over time than it is to keep coming up with new and interesting angles.

What’s the truth you want your audience to know?

Image by Jeremy Bishop

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The Power Of Describing The Problem

Four hundred Barnes & Noble bookstores have closed since 1997. In the last five years, the chain has lost a billion dollars in market value. But it seems hope is on the horizon. The private equity firm that owns the UK bookseller Waterstones recently bought the company. Waterstones CEO, James Daunt, will move to New York to begin his new role as chief executive of the struggling bookseller.

Mr Daunt has a challenging—some might say, daunting task ahead of him. Where should he begin? Well, it turns out that he chose to begin by describing the problem.
Daunt was quoted in the New York Times as framing the problem like this:

“Frankly, at the moment you want to love Barnes & Noble, but when you leave the store you feel mildly betrayed. Not massively, but mildly. It’s a bit ugly — there’s piles of crap around the place. It all feels a bit unloved, the booksellers look a bit miserable,
it’s all a bit run down.”

We often dwell on the symptoms of the problem, instead of the possible causes. Booksellers could lament that people prefer to shop online or that they browse and don’t buy instore. Symptoms, not causes.

It’s tempting to jump ahead to creating solutions before describing the root of the problem. But we can’t we begin to have honest conversations about how to solve problems before we own them.

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The Role Of Rules

You don’t need to produce photo ID in Australia to vote. But the manager at our local post office will never, and I mean never, under any circumstances, give you the parcel you’ve come to collect unless you have photo ID. The result is he turns away more disgruntled customers than he serves happy ones.

The guy is just doing his job. The rules are the rules. But the question is, why these rules? Who do these rules best serve? What proportion of parcels awaiting collection are handed over to an imposter?

It’s worth checking if the rules we hold dear, and fast to are helping the people we serve.

Rules Checklist

  • Why does this rule exist?
  • Does this rule benefit the majority of our customers? How?
  • Do we have difficulty looking people in the eye when we explain this rule? Why?
  • What story does this rule tell the customer about our values?
  • How does this rule make us better?
  • What would happen if we scrapped this rule?

Doing what’s accepted or expected isn’t necessarily the right thing to do.

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Who Do You Want To Be To Whom?

Our local organic shop is dying. When it first opened, it stocked things health-conscious shoppers couldn’t get anywhere else. Organic vegetables, vegan and gluten-free products weren’t readily available in supermarkets. There wasn’t enough demand for coconut oil and buckwheat flour for supermarkets to stock them. But as we all know, a shift in awareness and worldviews about health and wellbeing has changed that.

As the shelves of organic produce in the big supermarkets expanded, the range of products at the local organic shop contracted. The first things to go when customers started to defect to supermarkets were things that seemed non-essential— the things that differentiated the local store and gave people a reason to come. Knowledgeable staff, free product tastings and community events. Flowers and plants for sale out front. All that went by the wayside. The in-house cafe hours were cut too.

Locals want to support the little guy. But it’s hard to justify a price difference of three dollars on a single item. The local shop isn’t more convenient than the big supermarkets, and it can’t compete on price, but it can provide an experience that’s head and shoulders above the big supermarket. If people don’t have a reason to come, then they’ll pick up their organic oats in the cereal aisle next to the Cheerios at one of the big supermarkets. The customer experience was that reason.

The key question for the owner is not how to compete—but who do we want to be to whom?

That’s the key question for all of us, no matter what business we’re in. When we lose sight of who we’re in business to serve, and why, we lose more than our competitive advantage. We lose the heart and soul of our business.

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How Obstacles Create Value

As humans, we are hardwired to solve problems. As marketers or sales professionals, innovators, or product designers, we tend to be solutions focused. We like talking about the things we make, sell, or serve. We love discussing how what we do helps people.

We’re good at that.

We’re not so good at articulating the obstacle our product or service helps people to overcome. Of course, we need to know the result our customers want. But we can’t help them to get there unless we know exactly what’s standing in their way.

The better we understand the obstacle, the better we are at solving the problem. And the better we can describe the obstacle, the better we become at selling the solution.

The reason the founders of Dollar Shave Club could so successfully implore men to stop paying for shave tech they didn’t need, was because they understood exactly the problem to solve. The reason the Uber app launched with interactive maps and taxi tracking, was that the founders knew what frustrated us about booking a taxi.

The features, benefits, and marketing resulted from focusing on what stood in the customer’s way.

What’s getting in your customers’ way? Are you demonstrating that you understand the obstacles they face, before showing them your solution?

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Shame About The Weather

Some people have no choice but to pay attention to the weather. Pilots, fishers and farmers must make allowances for the state of the atmosphere on any given day. But for most of us, the weather isn’t a problem, unless we believe and declare it to be. And yet, we allow our thoughts about the weather to constrain us in ways we don’t always realise.

Our limiting beliefs about circumstances beyond our control don’t just apply to how hard it’s raining outside. We use often use metaphorical ‘bad weather’ days to justify our actions or inaction.

What if instead of looking for excuses not to do the thing we planned to do, we found reasons to do that, or more and better? How would that change the quality of our work and the impact we could make?

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When Marketing Works

Marketing works when:

  • Unmet needs are recognised and satisfied.
  • Unspoken desires are understood and met.
  • Companies tell true stories that align their customers’ worldview.
  • Customers want to buy into and share those stories.

Marketing works best when it’s in service of the customer.

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The Bounds Of Possibility

Just twenty years ago, it wasn’t probable that you would launch a successful company, publish a best-selling book or get your idea funded by people you didn’t know. Twenty years ago, we operated within the laws of probability. We knew our limits. We lived, sometimes frustrated by, but mostly contentedly within pre-determined educational, geographical or societal boundaries.

And then the internet changed what was possible. The internet enabled us to share ideas. But more importantly, the internet helped us to find more of the people who believed what we believed and believed in. This changed the bounds of possibility, inviting us to think beyond the probable.

Now that we are no longer bound by the constraints of probability, we must face the fact that we have a responsibility to own what’s possible. Opportunity abounds. And that’s both a scary and empowering thought.

The onus to create the future we want to see for ourselves and others is on us. We get to own the story we want to live and tell.

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What’s Your Customer Acquisition Strategy?

The owner of the new gym that’s opening down our street stands outside armed with helium balloons to attract attention, and a clipboard to sign up new members.  Anyone who happens to be passing is fair game. At this stage, beggars can’t be choosers. The gym needs three hundred members to break even.

Every fledgling business feels the pressure to market to everyone. So we make compromises to get runs on the board. But it’s not until we find the courage and conviction to start serving our ideal customers that we get to do our best work. There are two ways to approach customer acquisition.

We can make something generic that we think most people want and do it faster and cheaper than our competitors. Or we can understand the unmet needs of a particular group of people we are keen to serve and intentionally create products, services and marketing messages for those people.

Successful brands and businesses don’t simply open the door to everyone and hope for the best. They know why they do what they do the way they do it, they understand who they serve best, and they tell that story to those people.

Successful selling is as much about customer discernment as it is about brand differentiation.

If you’d like to have a clearer understanding of your ideal customer, The Story Strategy Course can show you how.

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10 Benefits Of Strategic Storytelling

We humans have long recognised that stories are a great way to transfer knowledge and wisdom. We know that better stories result in more resonant messages. But we’re selling storytelling short by putting it in the ‘communications’ box. This limiting belief that story is simply how we impart information means we don’t harness its full potential.

A good story well told helps you to:

1. Communicate with clarity and confidence.
2. Achieve emotional resonance with your audience.
3. Be more persuasive and influential.
4. Consistently act in alignment with your mission.
5. Attract the right people, whether they be customers, employees, volunteers or donors.
6. Inspire people to buy into your mission or get behind your cause.
7. Execute plans as you work towards your vision for the future.
8. Add value to your products, services and company
9. Spread your ideas.
10. Change the culture and create the future you want to see.

Stories do more than help us to tell and sell. Shared narratives are powerful catalysts for change and the building blocks of our culture.

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