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Why You Need An If-Then Storytelling Strategy

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

It was a slow Thursday evening at the iconic sportswear store. There were more sales assistants than customers silently wandering through the displays across polished black tiles. Alan decided to approach a customer who had just picked up a premium shoe, turning it over to check out the price.

‘Can I help you?’ he said.
‘No, I’m just looking, thanks.’ she replied.
‘It would be good to get out of those Nikes. Have your tried our SuperBOOST shoes?’ said Alan.
‘No.’ said the customer, as she hastily put the shoe back.
‘They’re really comfortable and last longer.’ Alan said to the customer as she started to walk away.

We would never say half of the things we say or ask many of the questions we ask if we stopped for a second to think how the customer was likely to respond. What if instead of following a script that leads us to a dead end, we anticipated where our questions would lead the customer? We know that 99% of the time the response to, ‘Can I help you?’, will be, ‘No.’ So how can we do better?

An if-then storytelling strategy invites us to be more empathetic towards the customer and more discerning with our questions.

If the customer is browsing for more than a few minutes, then I will ask how I can help.
If the customer is looking at running shoes, then I will ask her what kind of training she does.
If the customer picks up an item, then I will ask her if she’d like to try her size.
If the customer asks for her size, then I will try getting to know more about what she needs from her shoes.

Better brand stories, marketing and sales conversations always start with understanding what unmet need or unspoken desire brought the customer to us, rather than with our need to say something when it’s convenient.

Image by Amira A.

The Relationship Between Metrics And Progress

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

There are many things we can and do measure in our quest for progress. We measure revenue and how many units we sold. We measure footfall and customer conversions. Numbers of followers and how this marketing campaign performed compared to that one. The irony is what looks like progress in the moment does not always lead to long-term results. Progress is often made and sustained by things we can’t or don’t measure.

We don’t measure how the customer felt an hour after she bought the expensive body lotion. We can’t determine the last thought she had before she clicked on the link. We will never know what she hasn’t told us about a bad experience as she leaves the restaurant vowing never to return. We don’t often question how our employees feel at 7 am on Monday morning or the significance of their weary smiles at the end of the week. We forget to question the effect of a toxic organisational culture or unnecessary and unproductive meetings.

On the flipside, we can’t always know the impact our product had on the life of a single customer. We often don’t hear the stories about what happened once the thing we made left the factory or the words that someone needed to hear left our lips. Progress is not always to be found under the spotlight—sometimes it’s hidden in the shadows. We get to choose where we shine the light.

Image by Gina..

Shouting To Be Heard

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

If we want our ideas to be embraced, we have two choices.

We can shout to be heard, or we can listen to understand. When we shout, we’re not even sure who is listening. When we understand we know what the listener is ready to hear next.

We all know which strategy has the best chance of succeeding.

Image by Masayuki Takaku.

More Powerful Than Tactics

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing, Success

Marketing tactics change weekly. It’s not hard to get thrown off course by the sense you’re being left behind. What should you devote your energy and resources to next? Which new social media platform is worth investigating and why? Is it worth attending networking events? What will your return on investment be?

The new tools and tactics are easy to learn and automate, what’s harder, scarcer and more valuable is the intention that guides the work we do, the service we deliver, the attitude we adopt and the meaning we hope to create. Value is increasingly created by experiences and interactions that are not easily replicated. The cookie cutter approach to innovation, storytelling and marketing is overrated. The more deliberate we can be about carving out our difference the better.

What’s the difference you want to make?
Why is this important to you?

You need to know this before you write a line of code or a word of copy and before you send that sales email or plan your next marketing campaign.

Image by Danel Solabarrieta.

The Best Kind Of Self-Promotion

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

A new group fitness instructor arrives to teach a class at the gym. He’s an unknown quantity, but a few people give him a shot. Within a month his class is either packed or half-empty. The instructor who is struggling to get the numbers announces details of his upcoming classes at the end of each session. The one with a full house doesn’t need to utter a word.

The difference isn’t that the most popular instructors are more professional or technically proficient—it’s that the people who take part in their classes leave feeling glad that they came.

The feeling we leave our clients and customers with (about themselves and not us) as they walk out the door is the best self-promotion money can’t buy. No amount of pleading and persuading beats the delivery of an exceptional experience that the customer wants to repeat.

Image by Edson Hong.