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The Art Of Making Progress

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

If only your business had more media exposure.
If only you could get the materials cheaper.
If only all the reviews were positive.
If only the website had more traffic.
If only your colleagues responded.
If only every employee listened.
If only more browsers bought.

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to change things that are often out of our control, instead of taking action on the things we can influence and impact. We only begin to make progress when we stop trying to control the outcome.

The people who change the world start walking the path—they don’t waste time waiting for others to catch up.

Image by Joelene Knapp

Is Your Business Reacting Or Responding?

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

It was impossible to walk down any high street in June without running into a notice informing you fidget spinners were BACK IN STOCK. The fidget spinner was clearly ‘the thing’ of the moment. A month later we’re already beginning to witness its decline. Another fad bites the dust.

A fad by definition is transient. It’s success hinges on what people are talking about today and is not backed by a genuine need that will require to be fulfilled tomorrow. It takes effort and courage to respond to everyday needs instead of following the crowd that’s reacting to what’s top of mind. It’s impossible to do both—which is why a good business strategy is always intentional.

Is your business reacting to the fickle market or responding to a customer’s unmet needs?

Image by Mario Adalid

The Value Of Subtraction

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation

The call centre operator’s power is limited. He can’t bypass the company’s systems and processes. He is employed to apply a band-aid to the wound—buying the company some time until someone in another department (who he has no direct access to) can solve the problem. He should be empowered to delight and when he’s not the call centre becomes a point of friction. This is exactly the opposite of what the leaders in the company intended to happen when they invested in customer phone support.

Value is traditionally measured by what is added—giving the customer more for less. When we only view our products and services through that lens, we’re ignoring opportunities to add value by taking something away. What customers want now more than ever is a frictionless experience. Our job then is to remove as many obstacles as we can. When we begin thinking about how we could add value by subtraction everything changes.

Warby Parker’s home try-on service, subscription razors, digital accounting software, online check-in, free trials and same-day dental appointments, are all a result of thinking about how to remove a step in the customer’s journey while still helping her to get where she wants to go.

How can you give your customer more with less?

Image by Daliophoto



What’s Your Failure Strategy?

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing, Success

Everything runs like clockwork when all staff members show up for the hectic Sunday morning shift at the cafe. Customers are greeted at the door, informed about delays and offered a drink while they wait for a table. The whole system falls apart when one team member calls in sick. Waitstaff double as greeters and coffee runners. People forget to prioritise, service is compromised, and customers get disgruntled.

Every business has a success strategy. We set targets and create plans to achieve them. We imagine how we will perform and serve customers on our best days when staff show up on time and everything is going according to plan. It’s much harder to plan for failure. We don’t devote the same time and resources to imagining our next move for those times when we have to deviate from our original plan. We’re unprepared for failure because we don’t always think about what could go wrong and what we will do when it does.

The server might crash.
The package may get lost.
The email might offend.
The salesperson could have a bad day.
The marketing campaign might not perform as you hoped.

What then?

The difference between an exceptional performer and an average one is that they prepare for their ‘off’ days. It turns out that we do our best work when we plan for failure and success in equal measure.

Image by Garry Knight

Noticed Vs. Remembered

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing, Success

For every ten things we do today to get noticed we will do one thing worthy of being remembered. The irony, of course, is what we want deep down is to do work that’s remembered—not just noticed. We only achieve that goal by redressing this imbalance—forsaking the desire for attention today, to double down on doing something that will still matter tomorrow.

Image by Ant

How Much Do The Answers Matter?

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation

Asking questions is a big part of our job whatever our role. We know we can enhance our products and services and improve client outcomes by asking the right ones and acting on the answers.
So we send surveys.
We listen to what people say and watch what they do.
We go to the trouble of gathering data and then often fail to act on it.
We’ve become very good at digging holes to peer into.

Learning to ask great questions is a crucial skill both in business and in life. What’s even more important than asking the right questions though, is having a genuine interest in the answers you get back. We need to be more honest with ourselves about why we’re questioning something at all.
It’s just as critical to know how you’re likely to respond to the answer.

Image by Trygve Utstumo

The Transformation Business

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

When a woman wears heels her posture shifts. How she moves and carries herself changes—not just because of the physics and her altered centre of gravity, but often because of how wearing the heels makes her feel. Both her gait and her behaviour are transformed. Similarly, once the coffee drinker pays $4 for a cup of barista coffee, he’s unlikely to see the value in the $1 cup available at the corner deli. His behaviour reinforces the story he tells himself. He makes new assumptions about quality and price. His worldview changes.

We have a limiting belief about commerce, which is commonly viewed as a series of transactional exchanges. The truth is sales and marketing are less about oiling the wheels of transactions, and much more about enabling behaviour change than we realise.

As entrepreneurs and business leaders, we’re in the transformation business. If we’re doing a good job, we’re not simply convincing people to part with money in exchange for goods and services—we’re enabling them to make sometimes imperceptible shifts in their posture. Our role is to help customers take steps towards the change they’re seeking.

Where does your customer want to go next? Who does she want to be when she gets there?

Image by Rawle C. Jackman

Four Stories Every Business Needs

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

Every marketer knows he needs to tell his customers a story about what he’s creating—one he hopes will help them buy into his idea or buy his product.

The second story is that of his existing customer and her relationship with his product or service. The best business leaders reflect on how using their product impacts customers’ lives and look for opportunities to engage, improve and build loyalty.

The third story it’s important to understand is that of the next customer he hopes to serve—her challenges, hopes, dreams and worldviews.

The fourth, and most overlooked is the story of the customer he shouldn’t serve. The potential customer who falls into his target demographic, but who doesn’t share his company’s values or is unlikely to be the kind of client who will enable him to do his best work.

Many businesses devote a disproportionate amount of time trying to woo and please people who will never become their ideal customers. It stands to reason that it’s better to devote the bulk of your resources to those you really want to matter to. And yet, we often fall into the trap of structuring our businesses to placate the naysayers instead of doubling down on delighting the believers. It pays to know which is which.

Image by Lisa Dusseault

The Power Of A Shared Brand Narrative

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

The doors of the department store are barely open and Chris is setting up for a busy day ahead at Mecca. Most of the sales assistants at the other beauty counters don’t glance up as a customer walks through. They’re expecting tyre kickers this early in the day. Chris is different. He’s aware and attentive, without being pushy. I discover he’s been with the company for ten years—moving from Saturday boy to manager and fragrance specialist. He clearly loves what he does. When I ask Chris the secret to the brand’s success, he doesn’t miss a beat before responding. It’s the founder’s consistent vision which hasn’t changed from day one. She always aspired to become Australasia’s number one beauty destination, delivering a bespoke, high touch customer experience.

How many of us, (or those who work with us) could so clearly articulate what it is that differentiates our brand with such conviction and without hesitation? This is the power of having a shared narrative—of knowing the reason your brand exists and what change you aspire to make in the world, then living that in everything your brand does. It’s not easy to plot the impact of having a clear purpose and vision on a spreadsheet—which is why deliberately designing a business around them is often overlooked. And yet, when we dig deeper, we find that beloved brands that are successful by every measure do exactly that.

Chris is empowered to deliver the best service because he, like everyone else who works for the company knows where they’re headed and how they will get there. Your brand’s story has the power to be a map, mirror and magnet—keeping you on track and attracting like-minded people who want to create the future with you.

Where are you headed and how exactly are you planning to get there?

Image by Heather Katsoulis.

Why We Need To Redefine Greatness

filed in Success

By most conventional measures of success Uber is a great company. From a standing start in 2009 to a valuation of $70 billion early in 2017, the ride-hailing app has become the most valuable private technology company in the world. Uber has achieved the kind of growth many companies dream of and yet the recent string of scandals tell the story of a company culture that’s broken. We frequently witness similar missteps like the Volkswagen emissions scandal and United Airlines passenger abuse in companies that are striving for our current narrow definition of greatness.

In our Western world of abundance and privilege greatness is a game of comparison that drives us to achieve more. Bigger wins, more sales, rising revenue, increased market share, growth, scale, power and influence. Permanently higher highs that inevitably end in compromise. We have created a culture where we’re not winning unless someone else is less than or losing. It’s time for a change.

While it seems like a daunting task, it’s possible for us as individuals to redefine greatness by changing how we measure success—by replacing our winner-takes-all worldview with one that requires us to question if we’re doing work we’re proud of. We each get to choose what it means to be great again. Moment-to-moment and day-by-day we can deliberately decide only to do the things we’ll be proud to have done and to create the future we want to see.

What did you measure today?

Image by Pablo Ricco.