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Who Cares?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

It’s easy to assume that a delicious meal is about the magic that happens when the chef, who we think has the most skin in the game, directly influences the end product. Is the perfect plate of pasta a result of the quality of the ingredients or the skill of the chef? How much does the ambience of the restaurant or the waiter’s service influence our perception of how good the food tastes?

In any well-oiled restaurant or company, every individual understands their role in the value chain. But efficiency is only one element of a great product or experience. We know that meeting an expectation is an end to end process, which begins before the customer arrives and finishes as she leaves. But we have the opportunity to make it more of a virtuous cycle by caring.

The things that delight us are born in moments when people who care bring their skills together to create a future they want to see. Care first. Strategise later.

Image by Bruno Cordioli

Marketing 101

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The queue outside Chinatown’s Golden Gate Bakery extends all the way down the street. More people join as customers are served, so the line never gets shorter. Sometimes people show up hoping to buy the famous egg custard tarts through the front door even when the bakery is closed. Locals know to come early and bring cash. Puzzled tourists wonder what they’re missing out on when they see the lines and delighted customers clutching bright pink boxes. Many join the queue and come away with a dozen egg tarts too.
The Golden Gate Bakery is an example of marketing 101.

Marketing 101

1. Make something people want.
2. Consistently deliver on your promise to your customers.
3. Give them a way to spread the story about the thing you made.

If you tick all three boxes, then you’ve got a marketing plan.

Image by Gary Stevens

Meaning And Work

filed in Success

Yesterday I met James on a bitterly cold day in San Francisco. He is employed by the City and works close to the magnificent City Hall. It’s hard to describe James’ enthusiasm as he guides each visitor through the facility he manages. He is empathetic and professional—intructing people on how to use the facilities and diligently recording the time and duration of visits. James is proud that the City will be using this data to improve how it serves people. He explains that he interviewed for the position and moved to San Francisco to take the job he now loves as a Pit Stop Monitor.

‘I used to be in jail, you see, and now I get to learn and contribute and meet all kinds of interesting people each day.’ he says, producing hand sanitiser with a flourish. ‘You might as well make the visit worth your while.’

As I walk away I can’t help wondering what the world would be like if every one of us shared James’ worldview about our work and our contribution.

Image by Paul Sableman

How’s Business?

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

When Mr Ryan, the Dublin greengrocer, was asked how business was forty years ago he would likely have counted the day’s takings. But that wasn’t his only measure of success. The connection with loyal customers was the lifeblood of his business. Mr Ryan relied on repeat business. His survival depended on his ability to create enough value for customers to stop them walking the extra five minutes to the supermarket up the road in Terenure village.  He couldn’t compete on range and price, but he could compete on connection.

In an increasingly competitive and globalised world, we often forget that the amount of money in the register at the end of the day isn’t the only metric of success. More isn’t the only means by which to measure greatness.

A great company—whatever its size, respects and nurtures the people it employs and the customers it serves. A great company doesn’t just thrive because it’s profitable, it’s profitable because it helps people to thrive. Great companies leave the world better than they found it—which is why those of us responsible for creating and building businesses must be as clear about the way we get to our destination, as we are about what that destination is.

So, what does this mean in practice? We need to give our customers reasons to stay connected to us and not just reasons to buy from us today. Like Ryan’s, the businesses that are doing good and doing well are the ones that are closest to their customers. How’s your business?

Image by Garry Knight

Storytellers Create Value

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

Melbourne’s newest bean to bar chocolate maker’s glass-walled factory and bright, airy cafe is stunning. Their packaging is beautiful, and their small-batch chocolate bars are delicious. The stage is set to deliver an incredible customer experience. And yet that experience promised on the roaster’s website falls flat—for want of training their staff in the art of engagement and storytelling.

The chocolate roaster is a destination brand. Most customer’s who visit are not simply passing by—they come intentionally for an experience, not just to make a purchase. It’s vital that the founder invests in training her staff to understand that their job is not about completing transactions, swiping credit cards and wiping down tables.

When you pay $5 for 27g of chocolate, you’re not only buying the quality of the ingredients, and the manufacturing process—you’re buying a story. The manufacturing and sales teams are the glue that connects the customer to founder’s intention and the brand’s story. If they’re not passionate about the story and excited to share it with the customer, then they’re not creating the value they could be for the business.

Why go to the trouble of sourcing and hand sorting single origin beans in a ten-step process to make the best chocolate bar you can make, without finding the right people to share that story? There’s no point in setting the stage if the actors don’t understand the importance of the script.
A good story can’t save a bad product, but it can make a good product great.

Image by Stuart

Why You Should Choose Your Customers

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

Marketing tactics often centre around finding customers for our products. We devote as much (sometimes more) time to generating enthusiasm for what we make, sell or serve as we do to making, selling and serving. It’s important to tell a story that resonates with the right customer. We do that by being clear about the worldview of the customer we want to attract.

Choosing Your Customers:

  • Allows you to be clear about the value you create.
  • Gives you the opportunity to excel at serving the right people.
  • Improves your marketing, sales and customer experience.
  • Means you spend less time convincing customers and more time fulfilling their needs.
  • Makes you more innovative because you see opportunities the generalist misses.
  • Empowers you to build customer intimacy and loyalty.
  • Helps you to become an expert in your field.
  • Enables you to do your best work.

It’s as important to know who you’re not for as it is to understand the clients you would walk over hot coals to serve.

Image by Lennart Tange

What’s More Important Than Noticing Trends?

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Enlightened entrepreneurs and visionary leaders don’t simply try to predict the next hit. They spend less time wondering about what people are interested in and more time caring about why people are drawn to it.

Yes, it’s important to notice trends, but it’s far more valuable to understand what’s driving them. When we know what motivates our prospective customers, we can spend more time making things that people want and less time trying to make people want the things we make.

Image by Maria Ekland

What Do Your Customers Thank You For?

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

As vulnerable humans, we’re brilliant at paying attention to threats in our midst. We are experts at mitigating against failure, which we trick ourselves into believing is the way to optimising for success. This tendency might explain our willingness to devote our resources to averting risk, solving problems and fixing mistakes.

When we focus on getting a near perfect score we sometimes overlook the opportunity to do more of what we already do well. It’s possible that regularly amplifying delight can produce better results than trying to avoid the random missteps that inevitably happen.

It’s just as important to pay attention to what makes your customers happy as it is to get to the bottom of complaints. What do you customers thank you for? Make a list. Then do more of that.

Image by Jeff Meyer

The Responsive Vs. Reactive Business Conundrum

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

Every sustainable business was built in response to an unmet need. These responsive businesses endure because they evolve with the customer they intended to serve. The likes of fidget spinner manufacturers don’t count. You can rattle off a dozen responsive companies that have launched in the past two decades, particularly in the digital space. Brands like Airbnb, Alibaba, Amazon, Uber, Warby Parker and Zendesk have thrived because they solved real problems and built products and services people wanted and came to love.

As startups and disruptors, responsive businesses begin on a level playing field strategically, what happens next depends on the path they take to achieve growth and scale. The companies that lose ground following some success are the ones that become reactive to the marketplace. Now, instead of staying true to their original intention to meet the needs of a customer with a particular worldview, the focus shifts to the competition. And bit-by-bit their priorities change and the strategy subtly shifts. Their ethos gets watered down. They start thinking, then behaving like their competitors, and they lose the edge that made them authentic, exciting and innovative—those qualities that attracted customers to them in the first place.

The business failures we witness at both local and global levels from Billabong to Kodak, are a result of a responsive business becoming reactive. Ironically the growth and scale we seek (no matter what size of company we run), happens when we remain true to our intention to do work we’re proud of in the service of people whose needs and desires are not being fulfilled. We’re witnessing a shift where incumbents like the big banks and chain stores also realise whoever gets (and stays) closest to their customer wins. Now more than ever, remembering and acting on that has got to be the number one priority for every business.

Image by Alan Levine

You Can’t Mimic Your Way To Success

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

The Louvre is the most visited art museum in the world. It welcomes more than seven million visitors each year. Six million of those visitors are there to see the world’s most famous work of art, the Mona Lisa. An estimated 16,000 visitors a day jostle in front of the 77 cm x 53 cm painting of Lisa Gherardini, many ignoring the other magnificent Venetian Renaissance masterpieces in the museum’s Salle des Etats.

We live in a culture of comparison. This is an era where it’s not only possible to see what everyone else is thinking, saying and doing—it’s almost impossible to avoid exposing yourself to other people’s game plans. Doing what worked for someone that’s gone before you feels less risky. While mimicry can feel like the safe option, I’d argue that it’s not going to help you to do the work you’re most proud to have done.

In a world of comparison, originality is underrated. Breakthroughs depend on a person or group of people with a particular set of skills and perspectives, at a unique moment in time, turning left when everyone else is going right. It’s impossible to replicate those circumstances. People are not craving the next Mona Lisa, and they’re not waiting for the new Banksy. They are looking for someone who can lead with their unique voice and vision to create the future we want to see.

It’s better to aim for doing work that matters to you for the people you care about serving than to invest your time retracing someone else’s path to success. So apply your blinkers and reflect on what it is that you can change in your way instead. Your time and your gifts are too precious to waste on becoming a carbon copy.

Thomas Ricker and Brett Davis

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