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Should You Simplify Your Sales Script?

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

There’s a shop half-way down Smith Street that sells just about everything. Whatever you might need from a hammer to a cigarette lighter, a birthday card to an egg slicer they’ve got it. It’s the kind of shop that usually encourages browsing more than buying, where people wander around aimlessly ‘just looking’. But in this shop, an unusually high percentage of people are converted from browsers to buyers.

The shop owner stands behind the checkout at the entrance to the shop making a point of greeting every customer. This is nothing new. We see that happening every day in retailers around the world. What’s different in this situation is what happens next, partly by accident, rather than by design. Because English is her second language, the owner has to choose her words carefully so she can get a response that helps her to understand how to help prospective customers. The indirect approach typically used in other retail environments won’t work for her. She simplifies her script using a more direct approach, asking every person the same question as they enter the shop.

‘Are you looking for something?’

The question elicits a more useful response than the typical, ‘How can I help you?’  It focuses the customer on his original intention and enables the shop owner to help him navigate the Aladdin’s cave of products.

Good salespeople help customers to do the thing they wanted to do. Often in our desire to empower the customer to make the right choice we prevent them from choosing at all. In some situations, the direct approach is the right one.

Image by Brian Yap

The Downside Of Competing For Customers

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The boardroom was ready. We each had a bottle of French sparkling water, a notebook and pen next to our seat. Delicious herbal tea and snacks were served on our arrival. We were meeting to discuss how best to tell a story that resonated with the client’s customers before the launch of a new marketing campaign next season. The marketing team’s carefully prepared presentation was locked and loaded, and examples of their past promotions had been laid out down the middle of the long boardroom table, alongside those of their competitors.

The team presented data about the previous campaign’s performance relative the competition. They knew exactly what their competitors’ strategy had been and how much revenue each company had generated. They compared the different strategies in great detail. They outlined the targets they wanted to hit. But not once throughout the entire presentation did they question what their customer wanted. The customer barely got a mention. This company is not alone in neglecting to make room for customers at the table.

In our race to compete for a slice of the market, we have become fearfully reactive to the marketplace, instead of being bravely responsive to the people we intended to serve. We may have forgotten our customers, but it’s not too late to fix this. We can’t begin to be something to our customers without first understanding who we are and who we intend to become.

Image by freeimage4life

Everything Starts With Something

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

When we’re starting a project or working towards a business development goal we typically have a laundry list of everything we want to do. From developing a new product to filing our tax returns, it’s in our nature to want to make immediate and visible progress all at once. That desire to do everything often results in paralysis. Everything seems overwhelming. Everything is daunting. Everything is impossible. So we end up doing nothing.

When we’re in a state of indecision or overwhelm about the next step to take there’s a magic question we can ask ourselves to clarify our options and create momentum.

‘If you could do anything, what would that be?’

The simplicity of some of the things on your ‘anything’ list will surprise you. Suddenly everything you could do becomes the things you should do. From there the trick is to pick one thing you will do. Everything starts with something. But only if you begin.

Image by Simon Q

The Empathy Profession

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

When I was growing up (and maybe when you were too), careers like medicine, nursing and teaching, were regarded as being part of the ’empathy profession’.

Today, every one of us, from accountants to designers, CEOs to Astronauts, are in the ’empathy profession’. No business or brand can thrive without understanding what it is their customer wants. No leader can create meaningful change without seeing the world through the eyes of her colleagues. No innovator can create relevant solutions unless he understands the challenge his invention helps someone to overcome.

It’s hard to empathise with someone unless you know their story. That’s why the software that gets used and the cafes that stay open were created by people who started with their customer’s story.

Whether you’re a designer at Google or a chocolate maker at Pana—it’s only possible to make things that people want by figuring out how those people want to feel in the presence of your product. You tell better stories by understanding the story the customer wants to tell herself. Caring is part of every job description now.

Download and use this Empathy Map PDF to help you get started.

Image by Hernán Piñera

A World Built On Promises

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Scott and Joanna are planning to open a two-hundred-seater restaurant along a small shopping strip that backs onto a residential area in their local suburb. They know the neighbours will be concerned about the prospect of increased traffic and noise from the venue, especially at the weekend when they open until 1 am. So they draw up a plan to mitigate the negative impact their business might have on the people who live in the area. They commit on paper to limiting the number of patrons allowed in the rooftop bar and to monitoring late-night noise levels. The trouble with the plan is that the restauranteurs’ intentions are at odds with the commercial reality of running a viable business. Their success depends on having a restaurant and bar full of happy customers spending money late into the evening. They will find it almost impossible to make the business profitable while simultaneously keeping the neighbours happy. Their goals are at odds with each other.

We sometimes make promises we know in our hearts won’t be easy to keep. There will inevitably be times when we must balance good intentions with commercial imperatives. But saying one thing then doing another is the surest way to erode, not only the trust of others but our sense of integrity. The alternative is to make more honest promises, to focus on why we’re committed to keeping that promise and how exactly we’re going to do it, rather than just simply on what’s being promised.

We live in a world built on promises.
The people who keep them are the ones who win in every sense of the word.

Image by Elisa Dudnikova


Who Trusts You?

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

We spend a lot of time wondering who we can trust. We are careful to work out who is worthy of our friendship, business or time. And yet, we often fail to make the connection between trust and success when it comes to ourselves.

You don’t become trusted by being more successful.
You become successful by being more trusted.
Start there.

Image by Zi Krostag

The Hallmarks Of Good Marketing

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

A real estate agent can generate more interest in a property by listing it well below the expected selling price. Underquoting is sometimes used as a marketing tactic to create a heightened sense of urgency in prospective buyers who don’t want to miss out. When the property sells for 30% above the quoted price range, the agent can fool himself (and his vendors) into thinking that this was simply the result of a good marketing campaign. Disappointed buyers don’t see it that way.

Good marketing attempts to inform, not deceive. A good marketer sets out to help buyers, not to confuse them. Good marketers add value. They don’t just close the sale. Good marketing is not a short-term sales tactic, it’s part of a long-term business building strategy.

Our job is to leave people feeling better for having worked with us. Good marketing starts with the intention to do just that.

Image by Robert Bell

In Praise Of Intangibles

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Think about all the things you didn’t charge your customers for today, those things that don’t appear as line items in your budget. The care with which you choose ingredients. The way you treat your employees. The time you spend listening to a prospective customer’s problems, so you can excel at anticipating your future customer’s needs.

The intangibles that differentiate your business may not be visible on the balance sheet today, but they might just be the reason it endures.

Image by Creative Industries

Marketing Forwards

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

Lachie was a half-decent painter and decorator, but what he really had going for him was his youth and enthusiasm. He’d been in business long enough to reap some reward for his efforts, but not so long that he’d experienced the bust that inevitably followed the boom in Western Australia. Lachie had an easygoing nature. When other tradies ominously shook their heads and pursed their lips, Lachie just smiled and said nothing was a problem. It was no wonder that he’d talked himself into building a thriving business.

It wasn’t until Lachie started work painting our kitchen that I realised just how much he loved to talk. I quickly learned working from my home office was a bad idea if we wanted the job finished on time. Before the smartphone, Lachie had talkback radio for company while he worked, but the iPhone opened up a whole new world. Now he could simultaneously paint a ceiling and chat with a friend on his phone. I will never forget the morning when he spent an entire hour telling a friend about the new accounting software he was using. He waxed lyrical about how much time it saved him on invoicing. But not only that, he’d increased his customer conversion rate by using this new software for quoting. He was getting better at following up on overdue accounts, and his cashflow had improved as a result. Lachie had become a walking, talking advert for Xero overnight. He even made sure his friend noted the correct spelling. ‘Zero with an ‘x’, not a ‘z’.

As marketers, we spend a lot of time on the story we tell. We obsess about what we can say to convince more people to buy our products and services, often forgetting that the best marketing is about giving the customer a story to tell. Your marketing doesn’t happen once the product is ready to stack on the shelf. It can start by being clear about the story you want a prospective customer to tell and then working backwards to create that result.

What will your future customer tell his friend about how your product or service changed his life or worldview tomorrow? Design for that today.

Image by David Meurin


A Measure Of Progress

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

In the animal kingdom ‘more’ is often the best measure of success. Herds and hoarders have a better chance of survival. But ‘more’ isn’t always the best measure of human progress.

The longest queue isn’t always a sign of better quality.
The most sales don’t always lead to a more sustainable business.
The greatest number of Facebook likes isn’t always an indication of the deepest impact.
The biggest accolade doesn’t always lead to the greatest fulfilment.

A lot of what we do every day is done in the blind pursuit of attaining more without making a direct connection to the benefit we hope to reap. But the largest number isn’t always a measure of progress. Is accumulating more followers on social media the best way to grow your business? Can you continue to produce more products with the same sense of integrity? Will you be able to give the additional customers the experience they deserve? Why is this growth strategy right for you?

It’s just as important to be intentional about the reasons we desire growth as it is to grow.
Grow because you must, not because you think you should.

Image by Jamie McCaffrey

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