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Design Your Business For The Outcome You Want

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

Think about a delighted customer and the ten people she will interact with today.

What’s the story you want that customer to share with someone about you, your product or service?
How do you want them to describe the change you enabled?
What words do you want them to use?
How do you want them to feel?

Now think about all of the things you spent your time on today.

Are the things you’re working on helping you to get to the place you described above?
What needs to change for you to get to where you want to go?

Image by Andrey

A Simple Way To Think About The Value You Create

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

When it comes to communicating our value, we begin by describing the features and benefits of what we make, serve or sell. That’s why we often end up with a laundry list of claims that our competitors could make.

There is an alternative. Flip this thinking on its head and reflect on what would happen if your product or service didn’t exist. What would the customer’s world look like without you and your particular way of working or serving?

Try telling that story.

Image by Daniel Lee

The Exponential Value Of Being More Human

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Everyone was surprised to hear the longer than usual customer service announcement as we were preparing to land in Los Angeles. Many people on board were catching connecting flights to different cities in Australia, and there’s always a little anxiety amongst passengers who are trying to make those connections. The typical announcement informs passengers to check the departures board or see the ground crew on arrival at the gate. This one was different.

The Qantas Customer Service Manager directed us to turn left at the top of the airbridge. He let us know that the aircraft for our connecting flights were in bays close by and told us exactly how far we’d have to walk. He gave us gate numbers and approximate time from our landing to the next flights departing.

The effect of his thoughtful service was magic. Passengers relaxed, their anxiety immediately dissipated. The atmosphere on board was happy and calm. Now instead of having to repeat the same message to different passengers twenty times over, the crew was free to prepare for landing. All because people were seen and understood and their unmet needs were anticipated and fulfilled.

We spent an estimated $600 billion on marketing and advertising in 2017. An Airbus A380 costs half a billion dollars. The cost of this announcement to Qantas is zero. The return on a five-minute investment in happy passengers who remain loyal to the airline is exponential.

Not all marketing investment has a price tag. There’s a lot we can do to help our businesses to be more successful that costs nothing but the willingness to be more human.

Image by Bernard Oh

The Two Questions At The Heart Of Great Marketing

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

The kind of marketing we practice is a result of what we’re most curious to know about our customers. Many marketing campaigns are created by asking the following questions:

A. What will they buy?
B. How can we get them to buy?

The resulting tactics become about near-term targets, buying more attention and competing on price. The brands that succeed in telling stories that resonate start by asking different questions:

A. Why do they buy?
B. How do they buy?

Successful brands like IKEA and ZARA started with the right questions. Their marketing strategy centres around long-term goals, creating loyalty and building brand equity. They care enough to do the hard work of anticipating the customer’s needs and fulfilling her sometimes unspoken desires.

We get to decide what questions are worth asking.

Image by Marcus Linder

We Are The Culture

filed in Brand Strategy, Worldview

Culture is all around us. Our shared values and beliefs are palpable in the places we visit and the people we meet. We absorb those values from the media we consume and the ideas we expose ourselves to. One of the best ways I know to witness how we can shape our culture is to take a taxi ride in a new city.

Every vehicle has a distinct culture that’s created by the driver’s posture. It starts with how the driver dresses and the conversation he or she makes. It’s heavily influenced by the cleanliness of the car and the kind of music the driver plays. And of course, it’s dependent upon his or her attitude to other motorists and how each driver finds meaning in their work. The environment can soothe or agitate, demotivate or inspire.

In taxis on every continent around the world, you can encouter zen and mala beads, negative news channels on the radio accompanied by rude hand gestures out the window. You will meet people who find dealing with passengers a chore and many more who are grateful for work and the feeling of autonomy.

In our communities and businesses, we often lament over our lack of control. We get despondent about what can’t be done to change things—all the while overlooking the endless opportunities we have to change everything. We are the community, the business and the culture. We are the makers and the making of the entities and places that shape our world.

We are more powerful than we think.

Image by MF Poon

A Tale Of Two Managers

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

My local bank manager, at the branch five minutes walk from my home, works hard to help customers navigate the bank’s new automated systems and services. He’s on hand to show everyone depositing cash how to bypass a teller and make a deposit using the machine in the foyer.

The bank manager at the branch where I choose to bank (three suburbs and a thirty-minute tram ride away), works hard to get to know his customers. He chooses to man the customer service desk so that he can hear his customer’s stories. He knows his customers by name and prioritises understanding their goals before serving them. He prides himself on making sure they are paying less interest and incurring fewer fees.

Both managers care, but there’s a subtle distinction in how they choose to serve. The second bank manager wins because he cares less about finding customers for his products and more about finding the right products for his customers. And he goes home knowing that he’s done work he’s proud to have done.

Image by Spixey

How Matters

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Worldview

The woman clearing tables in the Qantas airport lounge is almost invisible to the many preoccupied travellers she cleans up after. People are anxious to charge their devices, grab a bite to eat and catch their flights. The lounge attendant scrapes plates of half-eaten food and piles them on a trolley to take back to the kitchen. Sometimes people stop to ask her where they can get a drink or an extra spoon, but they don’t really see her.

Out of the corner of her eye, she notices a passenger, his feet awkwardly perched on the table, balancing a Macbook on his knee. It’s a bad angle to work at, but at least he’s got a socket and WiFi. Two minutes later, the attendant appears in front of him with a low stool to rest his feet on. She helps him to turn his chair, so he’s not straining his back while he works. Then she silently returns to wiping tables and clearing plates as the travellers busy themselves all around her.

You may not always get to choose the work, but how you do it is always a choice.

Image by Ian

The Power Of Scarcity

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Demand for anything is always greater when supply is limited. People want what they can’t have, and so scarcity creates value. Scarcity is not just about managing the availability of resources and limiting supply—it can be the foundation of a successful business model.

When Howard Schultz expanded Starbucks, he knew that it was the feeling of community and connection, not just a decent coffee that was scarce. Boutique hotels changed the definition of luxury by understanding that people craved delight, not only a comfortable bed and fresh towels.

As the world around us evolves what’s in short supply changes too. When everything is automated, personal service becomes more valuable. When commodities are plentiful, artisans flourish. When we can buy the factory-made on every street corner, we covet the thing that’s made by hand.

Every successful organisation and entrepreneur thrives not by knowing what’s selling—but by understanding what people want more of and don’t yet have.

Image by Thomas H

The Number That Matters

filed in Brand Strategy, Success, Worldview

Every so often I look at the list of readers who have subscribed to my blog but have stopped opening the emails they signed up to receive. When I see that they’re no longer interested, I unsubscribe them. I’ve personally done this almost 10,000 times over the past seven years. It’s harder than you think at first because we’ve been conditioned to believe that the only number that matters is the biggest one. What’s more important to me, and I’m guessing you too, is to reach and serve the people I can make the most difference to. That means respecting the choice of the people who are no longer engaged.

What would our world look like if we doubled down on only making work for the people we can move and only paid attention to the things that have the power to change us?

Image by Karina Yeznaian

Understanding The Arc Of Your Customer’s Story

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

The plot of every story begins with an inciting incident—the revelation of a problem the hero must overcome. Harry Potter’s offer of a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Cinderella’s invitation to the ball. Buzz Lightyear’s arrival on Andy’s birthday. Everything we know about the hero’s circumstances up until that moment is the backstory. The inciting incident compels the hero to act until the problem is resolved.

As entrepreneurs and organisations with products and services to sell we spend a lot of time collecting data and insights about customer demographics—their backstory. But it’s equally, if not more important to understand the inciting incidents of their story—the events or circumstances that drive your customers to act. What has sent them off on a quest to solve their problem? And what’s your role in helping them to resolve it?

Sometimes marketers use this powerful information simply to sell more of their product to people who don’t need it. Only today, I saw a picture of a giant chocolate bar on a billboard right outside the gym. The caption asked passers-by if they were ‘craving something’. Traditional chocolate manufacturers know the problem we’re trying to solve every January. The last thing they want is for those New Year’s resolutions to stick.

Our job is never to exploit the customer’s circumstances. It’s to help improve them where we can. No matter what we’re selling, we can’t serve the people we want to engage with or create change for the better unless we know what kind of quest those people are on.

Image by David Werner

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