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Articles filed in: Storytelling
It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m visiting the smallest branch of my favourite chocolate shop. It’s a fourth-generation, family-owned and operated business, and it shows.
The enthusiasm of the assistants is palpable.
‘I’ve never worked for a company like this,’ the woman behind the counter says. ‘I’ve been here for five years, and I love it!’
When I ask why she talks about how much the owners care.
‘They’d do anything for us. They even get up on a ladder to change our lightbulbs. They remember our birthdays. They want the best for our customers and us.’
As the conversation progresses, ‘they’ becomes ‘we’.
‘We don’t export. We’re just proud to sell a beautiful Australian product at home.’
Storytelling is more than clever copy. It’s the act of showing up, with intention.
Your story is more than a tagline or a positioning statement—it’s not only what you say—it’s what you do.
The best stories are not just told, they are lived.
Image by Avant
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
Building a sustainable and fulfilling business isn’t just about finding enough customers—it’s about finding enough of the right customers.
Here are ten questions you can ask yourself to guide your thinking about what kind of customers will enable you to do your best work.
10 Questions For Finding The Right Customers
1. If you could only work with a handful of customers, which would you choose?
2. Why are these customers ideal for you?
3. What do your ideal customers want from a service provider?
4. What do you want from your customers?
5. What story will you tell customers about why you are the best fit for them?
6. What story will you tell customers about why they are the best fit for you?
7. How will you price your products and services to attract only those ideal clients?
8. How many of these ‘right customers’ do you need to build a viable business?
9. Where will you find your ideal customers?
10. How will your ideal customers find you?
Customer-company fit is underrated.
Image by Cristina
The one thing all successful ideas have in common is that they spread. But why?
The essential ingredient for making ideas spread is trust.
We must trust something before we can believe in it.
When we believe in something, we stick with it and share it.
So the first question we must ask ourselves isn’t how to get our idea to spread—it’s how can we do or say something worth believing in.
*If you’d like to get your message believed, not just noticed, consider joining us for
The Story Skills Workshop today at the discounted rate for my blog subscribers. I’m looking forward to helping you to tell better stories.
Here is your link to join.
Image by Mike
How can we get more attention for our idea?
How can we increase brand awareness?
How can we make people notice our work?
These are the questions I am often asked by the people and companies in search of a message that will give them a competitive advantage.
I don’t need to tell you that getting more eyeballs on your work won’t get any easier. Every day new businesses are launched and more videos, podcasts, articles and books are published. There will never be less competition for people’s attention than there is today.
But I’d argue that getting attention and building awareness are misguided goals. Fulfilling careers and thriving businesses are built on more than being noticed. And that’s good news for all of us.
We don’t need to go in search of some elusive message that might gain fleeting awareness. We already have an inherent competitive advantage—our unique, true stories about our life and our work. Those stories, well told, enable us to share messages that build strong ties with the people we hope to serve.
Our goal must always be to do what it takes, not just to be seen—but to matter. We don’t have to manufacture a message to get more attention, we have to create more affinity by getting better at saying what’s true.
If you want to get better at telling your stories, please consider joining us for the upcoming Story Skills Workshop.
Image by Clem Onojeghuo
Most marketing makes the company the hero.
Most companies go to great lengths to prove that their product is better.
Most marketer’s main aim is to close the sale.
The most effective marketing makes the customer the hero.
Beloved brands show people who they can become in the presence of their product.
The best marketers give people something to believe in, not just something to buy.
Image by Monica Leonardi
‘There’s nothing remarkable about what we do here,’ my hairstylist Leanne says, as I take a sip of the iced water, flavoured with fresh lime, placed next to a pile of new magazines and the coffee menu, by the receptionist who shows me to my seat.
‘It’s just what we do.’
And that’s the point. It’s what they consistently do—every time, without fail, that differentiates this business from the twenty others in the same suburb, where I could get my hair cut faster and cheaper.
The kind of people they consistently employ.
The type of products they consistently use.
The service they consistently deliver.
The promises they consistently make and keep.
Choices greater than the sum of their parts, that combined create a brand clients are loyal to, and a story they want to tell.
Image by Guilherme Petri
In my work with entrepreneurs and companies who want to get better at telling their story, I see patterns emerging. The companies who have a mechanism for finding, owning and sharing their stories, build strong cultures. I believe there are parallels between what I’ve witnessed in organisations and research into how stories make individuals stronger.
Almost a decade ago, researchers from Emory University published the findings of a study about the impact of knowing family history on children. Up until then, the effect of intergenerational stories on children’s wellbeing had not been measured.
The Emory researchers set out to do that, using what they called, the ‘Do You Know Scale’—a list of twenty questions about family history.
Unsurprisingly, they discovered that; ‘teens who knew more stories about their extended family showed ‘higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement, even when controlling for general level of family functioning.’
Following the publication of a New York Times article that mentioned the study, the researchers were inundated with requests for the twenty questions. Many readers assumed they’d make their children resilient by simply teaching them the answers to the questions.
But as Marshall P Duke, one of the researchers pointed out. ‘Correlation is not causation. Simply knowing the answers to questions will not produce the good outcomes. It is not what is known that is the critical factor, but how the children came to know it. The researchers believe the process of making time to sit with each other and share stories is the causational factor.’
The bottom line is we build more resilient families, companies and communities when we know who we are. We get stronger together when we prioritise finding, owning and sharing our stories.
If you’d like to work on your story, find out more about The Story Skills Workshop I’m launching in collaboration with Seth Godin soon.
Image by Marissa Price
All marketing begins by being curious about why people do what they do.
What drew that woman to the beautifully packaged candles?
Are customers who ask for assistance more likely to buy than those who don’t?
Why did the mother put that box of cereal back on the shelf after reading the label?
What stories do parents tell their children about money when they ask for something?
Why is the chocolate aisle the busiest spot in the supermarket on a winter evening?
Sales and marketing are as much about understanding, as they are about persuading.
Marketing works best when we care enough to empathise with the people we hope to serve.
Image by Tristan Colangelo
If you could tell your ideal customer just one thing about your product, what would you tell them?
What would you change about your service if you knew you only had one chance to woo that customer?
How would things be different and better if we acted as if every chance to do the right thing was our first, last or only one?
Image by Jonalyn