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Ten Benefits Of Backstorytelling

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

Since the explosive growth of the advertising industry that began on Madison Avenue in the 1920s, marketing has been about creating a story to make people want something. Conventional wisdom dictated that if you wanted to sell more of a thing, you appealed to a customer’s desire to improve his situation in the moment. Then when you needed to sell the next thing you did it again. Marketing became a game of rinse and repeat.

On the way to competing for attention and building brand awareness, companies neglected the opportunity to develop an affinity with their customers. A hundred years on we’re re-discovering the benefits of truthtelling and building deeper relationships with our customers. That journey to prioritising resonance begins by embracing and sharing our backstory.

Embracing And Sharing Our Backstory….

1. Connects us to our purpose and vision for our career or business.

2. Allows us to celebrate our strengths by remembering how we got from there to here.

3. Deepens our understanding of our unique value and what differentiates us in the marketplace.

4. Reinforces our core values.

5. Helps us to act in alignment and make values-based decisions.

6. Encourages us to be responsive to customers instead of being reactive to the marketplace.

7. Attracts customers who want to support businesses that reflect or represent their values.

8. Builds brand loyalty and gives customers a story to tell.

9. Attracts the kind of like-minded employees we want.

10.Helps us to stay motivated and continue to do work we’re proud of.

One of our most effective career and business development resources is hiding in plain sight. History, heritage and hindsight are powerful teachers. But we’re in too much of a hurry to reach higher ground to learn from them. Don’t be so busy trying to get from here to there, that you forget to embrace how you got from there to here. If you want to get better at connecting the dots between your past and your future, start with your backstory. My new book Story Driven shows you how.

Image by Marcel Schewe

Start Setting Your Brand Storytelling Goals

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

We expect brand storytelling to do a lot of heavy lifting for our business. We want our story to engage prospective customers and communicate the value we create. We rely on storytelling to create a sense of belonging and encourage people to believe in our brand. Ultimately we expect that our story will convince and convert people from browsers to buyers and then later compel them to become raving fans. We embark on the storytelling journey with this huge set of expectations often without having clearly defined goals for our story strategy. Where should we begin?

Start by choosing a single, simple outcome that you can test and measure. Begin with that outcome and work backwards.

What’s the story you need to tell if your goal is to encourage people to sign up to receive more information? What message will resonate with existing customers you want to inform about your new product line? What’s the internal narrative of the new customers you’re trying to attract and how will you ensure your story aligns with what they care about?

A story is only as effective as the insight we have about the audience and our intention about where we hope to take them.

Image by Krystal K

The Measure Of Greatness

filed in Success

I will never forget the first assembly at my children’s school in Australia. Our family had newly migrated to Perth, Western Australia. We wanted to settle our boys as quickly as possible into their new life. So, much to our ten-year-old’s disgust, they were in new schools within two weeks of our arrival. There we were on a sunny, but brisk August morning (still trying to get our heads around that fact that it was not summer, but winter in Australia), at our local primary school. We were invited to stand and sing the national anthem by the year six student hosting the assembly. This was new to us. In the countries where we were born and raised we sang the national anthem at big public events or on more officious occasions.

When I was growing up in Ireland we learned the national anthem is Irish and to my shame, I still struggle to recall what all the words mean today. In the UK where our sons were born, we had to sing ‘God Save the Queen’ once or twice in fifteen years. And yet here we were, two weeks into our new life learning what it meant to be Australian. Every child from the age five up knew the words to the national anthem. They were not just mouthing those words. They were singing them with gusto—like they meant them. It brought tears to my eyes. Hearing it still does to this day. Our family never takes the sense of belonging to a country that welcomes people and to a culture that values generosity and fairness for granted.

In the scheme of things going on the world today, sportsmen attempting to cheat in a cricket match seems trivial. But the incident involving Australian cricketers playing in South Africa at the weekend has caused more than a stir back home. It has gotten under our skin and into our hearts—challenging our sense of who we think we are.

The way the most respected members of our sporting community have represented us on the world stage is not how we as a nation see ourselves. We pride ourselves on being fair and playing fair, on doing the right thing for the collective good over gaining a short-term advantage. Our sportspeople are admired and acknowledged for what it takes, not just to get to the top of their game, but to stay there. We are proud when we win, but we are more proud of the way we win. We understand that above all it’s a privilege to have a place on the field. The backlash is a sign of our strong culture and beliefs about what’s fair and right.

A culture with a strong set of values is the backbone of every country, community and company. The shared identity and common goals of any group are what enables it to thrive when we identify more with being winners than contributors our focus shifts. We are driven by short-term goals to create a near-term advantage. We lose sight of what’s important for the prosperity of the group in the long run. We forget that ‘greatness’ is three dimensional and throw our legacy under the bus.

We’ve all seen how a legacy can be damaged or destroyed in the business arena too. Great leaders in any arena are great not just because they hit more runs out of the park, but because they give us something to believe in and belong to. They show us the best of us, reflecting that what we do when no one is watching is who we are.

As James Carse alludes to in his brilliant book, Finite and Infinite Games. The match might be finite, but the game is infinite. It’s our job to do everything in our power to earn the privilege to play again tomorrow.

Image by cmrlee

The Difference Between A Weak Brand And A Strong Brand

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

The biggest mistake a brand can make is to try being all things to everyone. Weak brands settle for doing what’s easy or obvious. They appeal to the market of everyone, avoid the edges and thus become interchangeable with their competitors.

Strong brands know they are this and not that. They intentionally aspire to be something to someone and so become irreplaceable to their customers.

Who’s your someone? What do you want to be to them?

Image by Nathan Makan

The Choice

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

We know how the trip will pan out even before we get on the tram. The driver is agitated. He uses his bell accordingly. He repeatedly ‘dings’ three times, announcing his tram’s presence on the road. His bell is warning system—reflecting his mood. Everything becomes an emergency. How the driver operates the bell changes his attitude and the way he drives the tram. It also changes the posture of the passengers on board. We collectively become jumpier.

Contrast the ‘treble ring’ warning system with the way most Melbourne tram drivers use the bell. They ‘ding’ in a potentially dangerous situation—to alert a cyclist and distracted pedestrians or to let passengers know the tram is about to start moving. Often their bell signals a friendly greeting to other tram drivers as they pass each other on the road. I can empathise with the ‘treble ring’ tram driver. Perhaps he’d just had one of those days? But he has more power than he realises.

We each get the chance to, as author Neil Gaiman says, ‘make the world better for our having been here.’ How we show up to do that is a choice.

Image by Edward Blake

How To Fill The Gap That’s Yours To Fill

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

No bookstore can stock more books than Amazon. No local clothing designer can launch a new range faster than Zara. No artisan chocolatier can sell chocolate cheaper than Cadbury.

If there’s nothing your bigger, faster, cheaper competitors can’t do, how will your business keep up? How will you survive, let alone thrive?

Your sustainable advantage comes, not by obsessing over what your competitors can’t do, but by doing what they won’t do to delight customers. That gap is yours to fill.

That’s how Amazon became Amazon—by investing in and doing the things other retailers didn’t do. And it’s how you will build a business you’re proud of as you create the future you want to see.

Image by Shinya Suzuki

Squaring The Marketing Circle

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The ‘60% OFF’ signs had attracted shoppers to the empty stall. Sales assistants tried to turn browsers into buyers by offering to help. One prospective customer asked if they had any circular rugs in the sale. The assistant showed her a square rug instead. “These are only $100,” she said.

In the past, we’ve relied on the notion that marketing and sales are about making people want something. In a digital world of infinite choices, we’re coming to realise that it’s easier to make something people want.

A sale happens in two stages. Stage one is a deep understanding of the customer we want to serve. Stage two is the act of engaging with that customer.

Successful marketers do both.

Image by eatswords

Big Enough

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Conventional business wisdom suggests that success is dependent on achieving scale. We’ve come to equate fulfilling our potential with being number one—having the biggest piece of the pie. In our quest for success, we sometimes forget to question how much pie is enough.

Exceeding the optimal amount of pie has consequences. We fail to deliver on expectations when we bite off more than we can chew. We become preoccupied with the acquisition of customers instead of working to keep the customers we have. We obsess about sustaining an advantage and forget to celebrate what we’ve accomplished. We move too fast or too soon. We don’t reflect on the difference we’re making. And we stop enjoying the journey because we’re always chasing a bigger piece of the pie.

You don’t need every customer. You don’t have to go after every single opportunity. You don’t need to be bound by traditional metrics of success. You can choose to be big enough.

Image by srietzke

What The Best Marketers Do

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

I’m not sure when our attitude to marketing shifted. But it’s likely that it coincided with our ability to buy attention. The price of reaching more eyes and ears on flyers and billboards, radio and TV, seemed cheap compared to the effort of earning customer loyalty day after day.

The great marketers of two generations ago knew a reputation could not be easily bought—but it could be quickly destroyed. They didn’t try to be seen. They devoted the majority of their time helping their customers to feel seen.

That’s what the best marketers still do. They don’t shout, ‘look at me’. They whisper, ‘I see you’.

Image by Jeff Stvan

Create The Future You Want To See

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

The best investment I ever made in myself and my business was buying a copy of Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow. Seth taught me that remarkability was a choice. Just as business owners don’t work just to pay the bills, writers don’t write just so they can eat. They write to create the change they want to see in the world. That’s what we’re all here to do.

My new book, Story Driven: You don’t need to compete when you know who you are, published a few days ago. It’s my most important work. That’s why I’m launching the Kindle eBook edition at the special price of 99 cents this week. I’m not only inviting you to invest in yourself by buying a copy. I’m encouraging you to invest in your friends and colleagues by gifting the book to them.

You can buy and gift Story Driven today on Amazon.com, or if you’re in Australia, Amazon.com.au and the UK, Amazon.co.uk
(It’s available in all international Amazon stores. Search your local Amazon store by title and author).

We get to choose the future we want to see and the chance to create it together.
Thanks for giving me a reason to write.

Image by Kieran Jiwa

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