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Articles filed in: Storytelling

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

10 Benefits Of Strategic Storytelling


We humans have long recognised that stories are a great way to transfer knowledge and wisdom. We know that better stories result in more resonant messages. But we’re selling storytelling short by putting it in the ‘communications’ box. This limiting belief that story is simply how we impart information means we don’t harness its full potential.

A good story well told helps you to:

1. Communicate with clarity and confidence.
2. Achieve emotional resonance with your audience.
3. Be more persuasive and influential.
4. Consistently act in alignment with your mission.
5. Attract the right people, whether they be customers, employees, volunteers or donors.
6. Inspire people to buy into your mission or get behind your cause.
7. Execute plans as you work towards your vision for the future.
8. Add value to your products, services and company
9. Spread your ideas.
10. Change the culture and create the future you want to see.

Stories do more than help us to tell and sell. Shared narratives are powerful catalysts for change and the building blocks of our culture.

Image by Scooter Lowrimore

Planned Progress


You will do things today that you hadn’t planned to do. You will react and respond to someone else’s agenda and put the things you’d prioritised on the back burner. You will find yourself entering digital rabbit holes that distract you from doing the work that matters. Maybe you’ll get a lot done, but will those things you accomplish be moving you closer to your goals?

If you’re going to build the business or create the impact you want, then you must be intentional about how you’re going to do it. You have two choices. You can wait for the next opportunity to present itself, or you can purposely plan for the progress you want to make.

There is no such thing as accidental momentum.

What’s your planned progress strategy?

Image by Dan DeAlmeida

Invest in Second Contact

How many times have you bought something once from a business, and never returned?

How much time, energy and money did that business owner, or any company, devote to getting that first point of contact with a customer? The doughnut shop that attracts a passer-by with its signage, the hotel that pays for placement in the travel magazine, the artist who spends hours grooming her Instagram account.

Having done the hard work of attracting people, how much do we invest in ensuring we get another chance to serve that customer tomorrow?

We have come to believe that attention and awareness are the currency of success. They’re not. What matters more than getting someone’s attention is what you do to change how they feel once you’ve got it. Successful businesses are built on earning the second interaction, and the one after that.

Both the business and the customer win when we prioritise affinity over attention.

Image by Garry Knight

What’s Your Promise To Your Customers?


It’s easy to revert to long-winded descriptions about what differentiates your products and services from those of your competitors, as you market your business.

A better place to start is by clearly stating your promise to your customers.

Are you the dentist who listens or that marketing agency the cares? The cafe that sources local ingredients or the gelato maker that’s on a mission to impact employment and business practices and consumer happiness.

There are a thousand ways to stand out with a better story. And you get to pick one.

What are you promising your customers?

Image by Patricia Prudente

When Subjectivity Wins

Does Nike make the best running shoes in the world?
Does Starbucks serve the best coffee?
Does Warby Parker design the best reading glasses?
Does Dollar Shave Club sell the best razors?
Does IKEA sell the best furniture?

Objectively, the answer is no. But ‘best’ is rarely objective.

Successful brands craft and tell stories for their ideal customers—the people who are ready to hear and believe them.

The more subjective we can be in our sales and marketing, the better.

Image by Banter Snaps