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Articles filed in: Storytelling

Make Your Customer The Hero

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

Your Brand Is What You Consistently Do


‘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

Stories Make Us Stronger


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

The Flipside Of Persuasion


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

One Chance


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

The Value Shift


Sally studied Film and TV at college. She wants to be a director one day. But that’s a distant goal. In the meantime, she’s decided to put the skills she learned in college to work. Sally built a website and started working for friends of friends on their promotional business videos.

Sally is building her portfolio and has clients who are thrilled with the results. But she is less than thrilled with the filming and editing process. Over time, Sally’s realised the thing she loves best about her work is everything she does before she picks up the camera.

Her gift is getting her clients to open up about why they do what they do, not what they do. The reason Sally’s films are so good is because of the unbilled hours she spends with the client before filming begins. It’s hard to explain that to most people and it’s just as hard to charge for it.

What most clients pay Sally for—the deliverable, is that five minutes of video footage. But what Sally dreams of doing and being paid for is finding stories worth telling.

It’s easier for Sally to sell the outcome—the video, than it is to market her process and the impact of her work. So, she defaults to doing what’s easy and ends up selling videos in one-minute increments to clients who don’t understand or pay for her genius.

People happily pay for the tangible. But if the tangible—the logo, the report or the cup of coffee, is a fraction of the value we create, then we need to get better at selling the intangible.

It’s not unusual to wake up one day and find that the work people pay us for isn’t the work we intended to do. It’s our job to fix that, by telling the right story to the right people.

Is the work people pay you for the work you want to do?

Image by Vanilla Bear Films

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

How Obstacles Create Value


As humans, we are hardwired to solve problems. As marketers or sales professionals, innovators, or product designers, we tend to be solutions focused. We like talking about the things we make, sell, or serve. We love discussing how what we do helps people.

We’re good at that.

We’re not so good at articulating the obstacle our product or service helps people to overcome. Of course, we need to know the result our customers want. But we can’t help them to get there unless we know exactly what’s standing in their way.

The better we understand the obstacle, the better we are at solving the problem. And the better we can describe the obstacle, the better we become at selling the solution.

The reason the founders of Dollar Shave Club could so successfully implore men to stop paying for shave tech they didn’t need, was because they understood exactly the problem to solve. The reason the Uber app launched with interactive maps and taxi tracking, was that the founders knew what frustrated us about booking a taxi.

The features, benefits, and marketing resulted from focusing on what stood in the customer’s way.

What’s getting in your customers’ way? Are you demonstrating that you understand the obstacles they face, before showing them your solution?

Image by Ivan Olenkevich

When Marketing Works


Marketing works when:

  • Unmet needs are recognised and satisfied.
  • Unspoken desires are understood and met.
  • Companies tell true stories that align their customers’ worldview.
  • Customers want to buy into and share those stories.

Marketing works best when it’s in service of the customer.

Image by Samuel Dixon

The Bounds Of Possibility


Just twenty years ago, it wasn’t probable that you would launch a successful company, publish a best-selling book or get your idea funded by people you didn’t know. Twenty years ago, we operated within the laws of probability. We knew our limits. We lived, sometimes frustrated by, but mostly contentedly within pre-determined educational, geographical or societal boundaries.

And then the internet changed what was possible. The internet enabled us to share ideas. But more importantly, the internet helped us to find more of the people who believed what we believed and believed in. This changed the bounds of possibility, inviting us to think beyond the probable.

Now that we are no longer bound by the constraints of probability, we must face the fact that we have a responsibility to own what’s possible. Opportunity abounds. And that’s both a scary and empowering thought.

The onus to create the future we want to see for ourselves and others is on us. We get to own the story we want to live and tell.

 Image by several seconds