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What’s Your Customer’s Context?

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

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

Back To Basics Marketing

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Our neighbours are having the outside of their house painted. It’s an old Victorian property, built in the 1800s with period features and delicate ironwork. I’ve watched the decorators come and go over the past couple of weeks. Seen them taking care to cover the original tiles on the porch, that could so easily be damaged. They’ve arrived on time and worked diligently. Several of the neighbours who’ve passed by have admired their work and asked for their business card.

I’m sure the decorators have a website, and I’m also pretty confident that they convert more enquires from the top of their ladders than they do from the contact form on their site. Sometimes the opportunity to tell the right story to the right people is hidden in plain sight.

Image by Peter Miller

The Tyranny Of Checking

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

There are jobs, and there is work that relies on the professionals checking. We want our surgeons, pilots and firefighters to check and double check. That isn’t the kind of checking most of us do now. It seems that we’ve unintentionally made a career out of checking. We spend many hours a day checking notifications, newsfeeds, incoming and emails, retweets, likes and comment threads.

What’s the point of all this checking? What are we looking for? What are we measuring? How is it helping us? How many times has checking uncovered a genuine emergency that needed an immediate response? We all know the answer.

While these micro-moments of distraction may seem inconsequential, we do pay the price for choosing to check. Our progress, contribution, and impact will always be measured by what we said and did, not by knowing exactly who said and did what. We differentiate ourselves by doing.

We didn’t get to where we are today by looking over our digital shoulder. We got here by paying attention to where we wanted to go.

Image byIvan Rigamonti

Better By Degrees

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation

The track and field coach Bill Bowerman spent twenty-four years training athletes at the University of Oregon to optimise their performance. Bowerman was also the co-founder of Nike, and most famously the inventor of the waffle sole running shoe (which he prototyped by pouring rubber into the family’s waffle iron). Bowerman’s innovation made the shoe lighter and increased its grip. A tiny tweak that changed everything for the athletes who wore them and the company that made them.

Throughout history, what look like giant leaps were a result of tiny adjustments. Incremental shifts. Slight gaps that were filled. Something once thought trivial understood to be essential. The untapped and unseen, newly revealed.

The people who change the world pay attention to the seemingly insignificant. They’re always on the lookout for a way to make things better by degrees. What we see when we look at an athlete is someone running fast. What Bowerman saw was someone who could run faster.

Image by Happy Rower

The Ready And Willing

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

The sandwich boards positioned on the footpath. Posters pasted inside the bus shelter. A pair of charity fundraisers stationed outside the university. All marketing tactics designed with one goal in mind—to make the product, business or cause more visible.

The reason our marketing falls flat is that the people we want to serve are not interested in our need to be seen or sell. Customers are motivated by their need to be seen and understood. We all are.

The good news is it’s easier to make things people want than it is to make people want things. When you stop trying to get the attention of the casual passer-by, you have more resources to tell your story to the people who are ready to hear it. What do they want from your product or service?

Image by Judy Dean

In Time

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

You don’t know for sure that the broccoli at the local organic store was grown sustainably or without pesticides, but you trust that it was and you’re happy to pay more for it.  You have no proof that like the label says the bread gluten-free until long after you’ve eaten it, but you don’t question that it is. You haven’t seen beyond the cover of your favourite author’s new book, but that doesn’t stop you pre-ordering it months in advance.

In the absence of all the facts, you have to make a judgement call about trustworthiness.

You believe a story built on promises because you trust that the person or the business is honest, competent and reliable. Trust creates the connection between buyer and seller. And that connection requires patience.

We don’t hustle our way quickly to success—we earn our way there in time.

Image by Zug Zwag

A Stop Start Guide To (Business) Success

filed in Brand Strategy

Stop worrying about how to get attention.
Start paying attention.

Stop obsessing about creating awareness.
Start being more aware.

Stop making people want things.
Start making things people want.

Stop analysing the data.
Start seeing the people it represents.

Stop trying to be more interesting.
Start being interested.

Stop thinking about their advantage.
Start with your agency.

Stop keeping score.
Start sharing.

Stop competing.
Start contributing.

Stop comparing.
Start noticing.

Stop doubting.
Start doing.

Stop striving.
Start caring.

Stop wondering about what’s next.
Start here and now.

Image by Micah Camara

The Value Of Goals And Outcomes

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

We tend to think of goals and outcomes as one and the same. They’re not.

Let’s say your goal is to run a marathon. Crossing the line at the end of the twenty-sixth mile is your goal. But the effect of the actions you take by trying to achieve that goal is worth more than having run the race.

Getting ‘there’ feels good. But never discount the value of what you’re learning as you go.

Image by Shutter Runner

Effort, Performance And Joy

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

The indoor bikes at my gym have a display monitor on the front. The monitor is designed to show you how much effort you’re putting into your workout. In theory the monitor helps you to get better results. You can see how the combination of your speed and resistance increases your power output. You can measure the distance you’ve travelled and the calories you’ve burned.

A constant awareness of the numbers is supposed to help you improve your performance. But I’ve found that it sometimes has the opposite effect. It’s hard not to just stare at those numbers for the whole time you’re on the bike. When you focus mainly on the numbers, you tell yourself a story about how well you’re doing compared to yesterday. You’re not thinking about the aggregate measurement of your performance over time or about the benefits of showing up day after day—week in, week out. You’re simply trying to increase your effort. You’re thin-slicing in the most unhelpful way. And you’re taking all of the joy out of working out.

Something surprising happens when you cover the monitor, avoid looking at the numbers. Suddenly you’re more aware of your body and how it’s capable of responding. You’re not limited by your perception of yesterday’s performance. You don’t have a mental ceiling about what’s possible. And so you not only achieve better results, you enjoy the ride.

We tend to believe the secret to improving performance is to pay attention to our output—that prioritising the numbers is what makes them go up. The numbers are just one sign that you’re on the right track. There are a hundred different ways you can improve them over time. But staring straight at the numbers and lamenting about what you’re not achieving right this second isn’t one of them.

Journeying is the act of travelling from one place to another—not a moment of arrival.
You get there by being committed to the journey.

Image by R Reeve

Priorities And Metrics

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

We often default to using narrow parameters to qualify worthiness or quantify excellence. We focus on a company’s revenue or an entrepreneur’s net worth, count the number of books an author sells or followers an influencer amasses.

What we choose to measure has a direct impact on what we then prioritise. And of course, what we prioritise determines the kind of companies and communities we build.

Better then, to set our priorities first and metrics later.

Image by Andrew

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