Search Results: why this, why you, why now

Why This? Why You? Why Now?

Why This? Why You? Why Now?

Three simple questions we are often reluctant to answer.

When you sit with the discomfort of reflecting on them before you embark on a project, you’ll be clearer about what the world needs from you and why. You’ll also have the beginnings of the story your audience wants to hear.

Why do the people you want to serve need your product or service?

Why are you the person or the company to bring this project to life for this audience?

Why is now the ideal time to begin?

And the bonus question.

What’s the story only you can tell the people you want to matter to?

Image by Lilibeth Bustos Linares

The Difference Between Strategy And Tactics And Why You Need To Know

Imagine your business mission and vision as a mountain in the distance.
Your strategy is the route map—the path you choose that’s going to take you to that mountain.
Tactics are the steps you take on the journey to advance your way along that chosen path towards the mountain—thus realising your vision.

MISSION AND VISION—Where you’re going and why.
STRATEGY—How you’re going to get there.
TACTICS—What you do along the way.

Let’s say your mission and vision is to create a cafe that builds a sense of community, one that becomes ‘a third place’ between work and home, inspiring and nurturing the human spirit.

The strategy is to open beautifully designed cafes that support this vision—serving great coffee in strategic neighbourhood locations. (You may not know in the beginning that this will eventually become 15,000 stores in 50 countries).

The tactics are many and varied. You need to source the best coffee beans, install comfortable seating and provide world-class training programs for your staff, in order to deliver the best customer experience.

When it comes to business we spend a lot of our time working on the tactics.
We agonise for weeks over perfect taglines, choosing logo designs and installing fixtures, often without fully understanding if and how those tactics (the things we spend most of our time doing), are helping us to get where we want to go.

You can’t start buying the ergonomic chairs until you know why you need them.

Image by David Nutter.

Why People Buy And Why You Need To Know

We spend a great deal of our time and energy trying to convince people to choose us—often without giving enough consideration to why they might. It turns out that there are only three reasons people buy anything and every product or service falls somewhere on this buying hierarchy.


1. Utility
If you lose your house key, you want to replace it at the most reasonable price with the minimum of fuss. Products and services at the base of the pyramid are replaceable commodities.

2. Convenience

We will often pay a premium to save time or money for things like next day delivery and pre-prepared meals. Brands that consistently solve our convenience problem can become meaningful.

3. Meaning
Some products and services become meaningful and create value in our lives beyond their utility. They change how we feel or what we believe about ourselves when we use them. All beloved brands live at this point on the buying hierarchy. Starbucks, Lululemon, Apple, Nike, Disney, Zappos, Airbnb and the brands in your life that there are no substitute for.

The goal of every business is to be at the tip of the pyramid, creating both meaning and value.
Where does your brand live on the buying hierarchy and how can you make it more meaningful to your customers?

Image by Susan Frazier.

Simple Questions To Ask When Your Marketing Isn’t Working

My marketing isn’t working.

This sweeping declaration leads us to draw (sometimes incorrect), conclusions that influence our future marketing plans and business strategy. We can’t fix our marketing when we don’t know why it’s broken. But where do we start?
Here are seven questions to ask when your marketing isn’t working as well as you’d like.

7 Questions To Ask And Answer When Your Marketing Isn’t Working

1. Why isn’t this marketing working?
Not necessarily why, in fact, but why do you think—what’s your best guess as to the reasons you’re not achieving the results you want?

2. Did we reach enough of the right people?
How many people do you need to resonate with to achieve the numbers of sales or attract the clients you want?

3. How clear is the message?
Does your message clarify how exactly you solve your prospective customer’s problems, unmet needs or unspoken desires?

4. How well does the message resonate?
Do you know enough about your ideal customers to craft a message that resonates with them and calls them to act?

5. Are you meeting our prospective customers where they are?
Did you use the right medium, in the right place at the right time?

6. Did you give it enough time?
Is the marketing broken, or are you impatient to see results?

7. What would you change given your response to the first six questions?
What one thing can you do today to improve your marketing?

All marketing is testing. Rinse and repeat.

Image by Tim Mossholder

Exactly Who Do You Serve?

The most successful restaurant on the shopping strip close to where I live is a vegan taco restaurant. Other restaurants come and go, but the taco place endures. Rain or shine, day in and day out they’re always busy.

As you can imagine, every time I walk past I wonder why. Why has the taco place succeeded where so many others with bigger marketing budgets, fancier fit-outs, and more extensive menus have failed?

I think it comes down to the fact that they know who they’re for.

They can describe their customer with such clarity that they don’t have to second guess their menu, decor and pricing.

It’s easier to make room at the table for the right people when you know who those people are.

Who, exactly are you in business to serve?

If you’re not sure, my Story Strategy Course will help you to answer that question.

Image by Vince Fleming

Who Do You Want To Be To Whom?

Our local organic shop is dying. When it first opened, it stocked things health-conscious shoppers couldn’t get anywhere else. Organic vegetables, vegan and gluten-free products weren’t readily available in supermarkets. There wasn’t enough demand for coconut oil and buckwheat flour for supermarkets to stock them. But as we all know, a shift in awareness and worldviews about health and wellbeing has changed that.

As the shelves of organic produce in the big supermarkets expanded, the range of products at the local organic shop contracted. The first things to go when customers started to defect to supermarkets were things that seemed non-essential— the things that differentiated the local store and gave people a reason to come. Knowledgeable staff, free product tastings and community events. Flowers and plants for sale out front. All that went by the wayside. The in-house cafe hours were cut too.

Locals want to support the little guy. But it’s hard to justify a price difference of three dollars on a single item. The local shop isn’t more convenient than the big supermarkets, and it can’t compete on price, but it can provide an experience that’s head and shoulders above the big supermarket. If people don’t have a reason to come, then they’ll pick up their organic oats in the cereal aisle next to the Cheerios at one of the big supermarkets. The customer experience was that reason.

The key question for the owner is not how to compete—but who do we want to be to whom?

That’s the key question for all of us, no matter what business we’re in. When we lose sight of who we’re in business to serve, and why, we lose more than our competitive advantage. We lose the heart and soul of our business.

Image by Dan DeAlmeida

What’s Your Customer Acquisition Strategy?

The owner of the new gym that’s opening down our street stands outside armed with helium balloons to attract attention, and a clipboard to sign up new members.  Anyone who happens to be passing is fair game. At this stage, beggars can’t be choosers. The gym needs three hundred members to break even.

Every fledgling business feels the pressure to market to everyone. So we make compromises to get runs on the board. But it’s not until we find the courage and conviction to start serving our ideal customers that we get to do our best work. There are two ways to approach customer acquisition.

We can make something generic that we think most people want and do it faster and cheaper than our competitors. Or we can understand the unmet needs of a particular group of people we are keen to serve and intentionally create products, services and marketing messages for those people.

Successful brands and businesses don’t simply open the door to everyone and hope for the best. They know why they do what they do the way they do it, they understand who they serve best, and they tell that story to those people.

Successful selling is as much about customer discernment as it is about brand differentiation.

If you’d like to have a clearer understanding of your ideal customer, The Story Strategy Course can show you how.

Image by Anupam Mahapatra

How Good Is Your Story?

There’s a reason why this post about how to write a compelling about page is the most visited page on my website and has been since I wrote it almost eight years ago. It’s an ironic and universal truth, that the story we know best is the story we have the least confidence telling—at least when we sit down to write.

We fear saying the thing that nobody cares to listen to. But our fear of saying things that people hear and reject is even greater. So we play it safe and end up looking and sounding like everyone else. It’s not that we can’t tell better stories. It’s that we resist doing it for fear of not being good enough, or worse, right enough.

What’s the difference between a good story and a great story?

A good story tells.
A great story engages.

A good story informs.
A great story moves people.

A good story chronicles events.
A great story invests people in the outcome.

A good story changes how we think.
A great story changes how we feel and what we do.

You already have a good story to tell. It’s how you tell it that makes it great.

Image by x1klima

Do You Have A Customer Awareness Strategy?

The Friday evening tram was jam-packed with commuters, our bodies so closely pressed together you could feel the heat from the passenger standing next to you. As the tram made its way up Collins Street, the people travelling alone avoided eye contact.  Two women next to me were chatting about the black jacket the younger one was wearing.

She mentioned the brand name and the store where she’d bought it, then went on to describe why it was ‘worth the investment’. ‘I’m a junior lawyer. I work long hours. I always feel put together when I’m wearing this jacket, even when I’m leaving the office after a twelve-hour-day.’ Sold.

If only the brand’s designer and marketing team had been there to overhear the conversation.

Of course, it’s not always possible to be in the room or on the tram, when our customers have something valuable to share. But it is possible to create a mechanism for hearing and acting on what they tell us. The stories our customers tell—the words they use and the feelings they express are part of our story. We should know and use them. What’s your customer awareness strategy?

Image by Matthew Henry

What’s Your Customer’s Context?

Yesterday I got chatting to Sarah in the street about the sofa she didn’t buy. Sarah, who has three daughters under the age of seven had been looking for the perfect sofa for ages. When she finally found the perfect one she put down a deposit on it and waited for it to arrive a few weeks later.
This sofa was $8,000.

The following morning she began to question her decision. ‘What on earth am I doing? I must be crazy to spend this kind of money on a sofa, especially when I have three small children.’ Sarah decided to cancel her order and keep looking. Which is why she was leaning on her gate telling me the story yesterday about the sofa she did buy. The sofa that was $2,200, with linen covers that can all be removed and chucked in the washing machine. The sofa that’s perfect for now.

We get caught up in the story we want our customers to believe. We obsess about finding the perfect words to express the value we create—often forgetting to consider the story the customer tells about what’s right for her.

What’s the story your customer is telling herself?

Image by Donnie Ray Jones