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Impression Vs. Intention

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The ladies changing room at the gym first thing in the morning can feel like a mean environment. It’s every woman for herself as we each carve out a floor tile’s worth of space to change. Spots in front of mirrors are gold. Hairdryers and straighteners as tightly held as premium real estate. The amount of time we spend fussing over our appearance seems longer these days. Let’s blame it on ‘the Instagram factor’. We now prime our faces before applying makeup and iron our hair after drying. We stare, unseeing at our reflections. We are all sharp elbows and hard edges.
Beautiful and ugly at once.

We work on our appearance to make an impression, forgetting that lasting impressions are more than skin deep. People don’t only judge us by our appearance. They get a sense of who we are from the way we move through the world. And so it goes at work and in business too.

There was a little tasting table at our local organic shop. Every day there was something different and delicious to try. On Saturdays and Sundays, the table created a party atmosphere. It was laid out as if to welcome guests with dips and vegetables, olives and gluten-free bread, dark chocolate and raw slices. Then one weekend, without warning things changed. Cutbacks. Since there was no measurable return on investment, the generosity would have to be scaled back. When the table changed the energy in the shop changed too. There was a little less joy and community. People became shoppers, more business-like, quieter, efficient. They didn’t linger.

We get to choose how we show up every day. We can be all sharp elbows, jockeying for position in front of the mirror or we can intentionally bring the kind of energy that changes everything into the room. Things like clean shopfronts, great design and beautiful packaging can attract customers, enhance credibility and build trust. But they’re not the reason people keep coming back.

Image by Alex Naanou

How To Get Better At Pitching

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

Every day we fail to convince people about the value we can deliver. For every yes, we get ten no’s. Why? We’re quick to blame the quality of our ideas or our storytelling when we don’t succeed. But sometimes we fail because we’re speaking to the wrong person at the wrong time. Rejections often happen because we haven’t qualified the buyer before trying to close the sale, so we need to get better at doing the groundwork.

Five Questions To Answer Before Pitching

1. Am I pitching to the right person?
Often you’re pitching to someone who doesn’t have the authority to make the decision. Check.

2. What’s the underlying need (read fear) of the person I’m speaking to?
You must understand the client’s primary pain point before explaining how you can solve their problem. Question.

3. Is the prospective client ready to buy?
Sometimes the person wants to have a conversation about their challenge. They may not be in the market for a solution. Query.

4. Does your prospective customer’s budget align with your fee?
Make sure the numbers stack up before you have a conversation. Ask.

5. Why you (in particular)?
It’s important to know how the prospective client heard about you and why they felt compelled to contact you. A recommendation is different from a Google search. A reputation that proceeds you trumps stumbling on your LinkedIn profile. Enquire.

We spend a lot of time telling our story to people who have no intention of buying. As my friend James Victore says, your work is a gift. Make sure you’re devoting your energy to the people who do want your help.

Image by Steven Zwerink

A Thousand Times

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

The young mother explains the dangers of running across the road to her toddler for what seems like the thousandth time. The Japanese furniture maker begins sanding the chair his customer in Sydney ordered six months ago. The app developer reads every review of his beta looking for ways to make it better. The barista pulls his thousandth shot of the week as it if were his first.

What do you care enough about to do it for the thousandth time?

This is my 1000th blog post. Thank you a thousand times for giving me a reason to write.

Image by Jonathan Grado

Keeping Score

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Kill rivals, don’t collaborate. That’s what “fire-in-the-belly visionaries” do. The recent article in the Financial Review was reporting remarks from a speaker at their innovation summit. In his opinion, Australian businesses are too friendly. If we are to survive, we need to behave more like Amazon and Uber—”hyper-competitive, Darwinian killing machines.”

A reminder of how far astray the way we keep score has led us. Yes, our species survived because we gained physical advantages over our predecessors. But we thrived because of our ability to cooperate within our tribe. We would never have become what we are today if we hadn’t built camps and begun living and collaborating in clans. We evolved as a species to both survive and belong. We succeed when we strive to become better and look out for each other—when we find purpose and meaning without always keeping score.

What kind of world do you want to wake up in tomorrow? Because that’s the world, you’ll create with the intention you set today. You can obsess over your competition or focus on creating the future you want to see.

Image by Zona

The Value Of An Internal Brand Narrative

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

In a commercial world, we use stories tactically to convince and convert prospective customers. We work hard to change minds and capture hearts, with persuasive words and evocative images in an attempt to make an emotional connection with the people we want to reach. The stories we tell our customers form our external narrative.

We’re less aware of how the stories we tell ourselves shape our sense of meaning, purpose and agency about the journey we’re on. Our internal narrative creates value by helping us to make sense of the difference we’re here to create. It develops our brand’s identity, influences our behaviour and ultimately helps us to differentiate and realise our potential.

It’s easy to describe features and benefits and far harder to demonstrate what you stand for and why. Your goal should never be to invite a like-for-like comparison. It should always be to affirm the truth about what makes your brand incomparable and worthy of the customers you hope to serve.

Image by Arjun. V

Marketing Discernment

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

Much of our marketing is designed to convince or convert a customer in the moment. A particular colour applied to a ‘buy now’ button, the timely Instagram post or product placement at the checkout—tactics to get the lukewarm prospect over the line.

Our customer’s path to her decision is convoluted. It’s influenced by the story she tells herself. Her choices are shaped by regrets about the past, her challenges in the present and fears for the future. And yet, we market to her like she’s only considering the merits of what’s right in front of her eyes this second.

We mistakenly believe we always have the power to manipulate the decision to our advantage with a tactical nudge, forgetting that sometimes the factors influencing the decision are in motion long before we encounter the customer.

You will win some and lose some. Sometimes the losses happen long before you show up. The job of your marketing isn’t simply to help people to make up their minds. It’s to discern which people you can genuinely help.

Image by Thomas Hawk

More And Better

filed in Success

We make more friends by being a better friend.

We do better work by putting more of ourselves into the work.

We find more solutions when we pay better attention.

We ask better questions by doing more listening.

We become more fulfilled when we get better at discerning what matters.

We get better at the big things by doing the small things with more care.

Endeavour is a verb.

Image by carnagenyc

Choosing The Customers You Want

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

More cafes in Melbourne have begun offering a 10% discount to customers who bring a reusable cup. It’s an intentional choice that says something about their values and those of their customers. Theses cafes are attracting the kind of customers they want to serve.

The clothing store manager gets disgruntled when people rarely buy full priced items, forgetting she conditioned her customers to look for red sale stickers by consistently offering discounts on Fridays to entice weekend shoppers. Sustainability stories and premium pricing are deliberate strategies designed to attract the kind of customers a particular business wants to serve.

We get the customers we want by speaking to the customers we want. You’re choosing your customers and clients, partners and employees by telling the story you tell. You might as well tell a story that gets you the right ones.

Image by Angel Ganev

What Do You Want Your Brand Story To Do?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

What’s the role of storytelling in your business? What are you expecting your brand story to do? Most of us tell stories to describe the value we create. Storytelling is a tactic used to convince or convert prospects to customers—a way to close the sale. We’re selling the power of story short.

Before they had words our ancestors told each other stories in paint and pictures on uneven stone walls. Storytelling has forever been the way we related to one another—how we connected, informed and inspired. Stories created a sense of belonging. They brought us closer.

That’s also the job of the brand stories we tell. Our stories signal belonging to the people who believe what we believe. It’s important to remember how the stories we live and breathe are shaped by the outcomes we pursue. You might make the sale by focusing relentlessly on tactics that support near-term goals. But in doing so you may miss the opportunity to forge lasting connections with the customers who will sustain your business over time. Significance scales.

Image by Bryn Pinzgauer

Why Not Make Something Great?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Success

Like his grandfather, before him, Shane was in the textiles business. He made good socks for a living until the day he realised that pretty soon there would be no living to be made in a product that was good enough. His company was struggling to differentiate from and compete with big retailers who could manufacture and sell socks faster and cheaper. Shane realised their survival depended not on competing to make a comparable product only cheaper, but on understanding the customer who would be delighted by and pay more for the warmest socks in the world. Ten years on his business is thriving because he dared to rethink his business model.

Without exception, whoever you are and wherever you’re reading this there’s one thing you have in common with every other person who is reading it too. You want your business or idea to succeed. You may not know exactly the path to that success, but you’re clear about the destination you want to reach.

Two things trip us up on the way to making our ideas matter. The first is our love affair with those ideas. The second is the fear of failure. In many cases, we’d rather press on uninformed and unenlightened than face the truth about the changes we may need to make to get to where we want to go. Because we invest so much of ourselves in our projects and businesses, the prospect of failure is painful. So we apply blinkers or look the other way hoping against hope that we were right all along. Blissful ignorance won’t help you to take your ideas from good enough to great.

The single biggest difference between a good product and a great one is the worldview and the posture of the person who created it. Instead of falling in love with their ideas they fall in love with their potential customers and users. They wonder what their customer cares about most. They look for problems to solve and unmet needs to fulfil. They strive to become indispensable by creating products and services that are not just useful, but meaningful. They’re not afraid to get it wrong because they know their missteps take them one step closer to getting it right.

We all have the potential to be that person if only we can lean into the doubts and dig deeper. That’s what I’m inviting you to do today. You can join me and other like-minded peers who are making their ideas matter by registering for The Story Strategy Course which starts on October 2nd. The course is self-paced, but you will have access to the platform and content as soon as you sign up, so you can get a head start. Be the exception. Take your idea from good to great.

Image of Fearless Girl by Shinya Suzuki