Unlock the Magic in Your Story Now

Get the Free 20 questions to Ask Before Launching Your Idea workbook when you sign up for updates.

Get the Free 20 questions to Ask Before Launching Your Idea workbook when you sign up for updates.

Articles filed in: Brand Story

Everything Speaks


Business is picking up at the new restaurant I told you about a couple of weeks ago. Passers-by are poking their heads around the door. They like the look of the venue, the menu and the prices—so they’re giving it a try. I can confirm that the food is good! The owner, Sam, has got the basics right.

But here’s the thing, people don’t come back for the basics, whatever they say. If they did, $20 hamburgers wouldn’t exist. People come for the experience. People don’t just buy what we serve—they buy how it makes them feel. The fundamentals alone don’t garner loyalty.

So, it’s not good enough for the waitstaff to plonk a $50 bottle of wine in the middle of the table and walk away. It’s not good enough that the sharing dishes come without serving spoons. It’s not okay for the bill to arrive as a rolled up till receipt in somebody’s hand.

If Sam wants people to keep coming back, he must work on the experience—the theatre, the rituals and the way he and his team will commit to showing up to serve. They need to start by considering the ‘hows’ of the customer journey because it isn’t just the food in a restaurant that speaks for the brand.

It is:

How the customers are greeted.
How menus are offered.
How the wine is poured.
How orders are taken.
How the food is served.
How plates are cleared.
How the bill is presented.
How customers are farewelled.

Sam needs to design for the outcome he wants, by aligning the experience he creates with the story he wants customers to tell.

What speaks for your brand?

Image by Roman Arkhipov

Small Acts Matter

It was still dark when a dishevelled man wearing a hoodie walked into the city centre convenience store at 6 am. He seemed agitated. He swore loudly when he realised he didn’t have enough money for a big bottle of Fanta.

The sales assistant asked if she could help him. The man explained that he had $2.50 and couldn’t afford the drink he wanted. Without missing a beat, the assistant came from behind the counter and showed him where the small, more affordable cans were stacked. As he was paying, she looked him in the eye and asked if he’d like a straw.

It took a moment for her question to register. The man looked puzzled for a second, pausing before accepting.

‘Yes, please,’ he whispered as if she’d offered him the world. Which of course, by treating him with dignity, she had.

How we serve matters. Our smallest acts have the power to make the biggest difference.

What are your small acts?

Image by Tina Leggio

What’s The Story The Customer Is Telling Himself?

For a long time, our family’s favourite salt came in either 125g or 250g boxes. Last week I noticed the supermarket now stocks it in a 55g refillable mill. It’s the same product in different packaging—except for the price that is. It costs 37 cents per 10g when you buy the salt boxed, and $1.45 for 10g when you buy it in the mill.

Most people would argue that nobody in their right mind will pay almost four times as much for the same product in different packaging. And yet they do. We do! All the time.

We pay more money for convenience and status. We go out of our way to buy products that align with our sense of identity. We place just as much value, if not more, on how something feels than on how well it works.

Often, the key question when it comes to pricing and value isn’t how much is it worth, or what will people pay. It’s, what’s the story the customer is telling himself about what the product is worth to him, and why?

Once we know that, we’ll tell a better story.

Image by Aaron Thomas

The Forgotten Purpose Of Marketing

We tend to think of marketing as the way we promote and sell our services. Marketing is partly what we do to take a potential customer on a journey from awareness to a sale. But that isn’t the only thing marketing is for.

Great marketing isn’t just the way we communicate our message—it’s also the means of ensuring we attract and devote our resources to serving our right clients.

What’s worse than not attracting enough customers is attracting the wrong customers, people who will divert time and energy away from your ability to delight your best customers.

Your message has four jobs to do for your ideal customer:

1. Demonstrate that you understand her problem or unmet need.
2. Address her unanswered (and sometimes unasked) questions.
3. Allay her doubts and fears.
4. Give her the confidence that your solution will work for her.

Your marketing only has one job to do for your wrong customer—to make them seek an alternative.

Image by Garry Knight

A Word About Value


How much is an avocado worth?

The answer is, it depends.

It depends on the season, the stock levels, how much the customer wants it and the context in which they are buying or consuming it. Buy an avocado from the market, and it might be as little as $2.50. Mash it up, serve it with egg on sourdough toast, and it can be worth ten times that amount to some people.

And that’s the point. Value is contextual and in the eye of the beholder.

If we’re going to get better at creating and communicating our value, we need to know who our beholder is and what she cares about.

Image by Clem Onojeghuo

On The Face Of It


Our neighbours are selling their house. The selling agent said if they want to get the best price, they should give it a lick of paint. And so the decorators are outside today painting the railings.

There’s no doubt that a fresh coat of paint will brighten the place up ready for auction day. But it won’t be long before the rust begins to show through the paint on those railings again. Painting the exterior might revamp the face of the building, but it won’t improve the fabric. If the owner was planning to stay, my guess is he’d invest in the fabric of the building—not just a facelift.

As business owners, we’re presented with a similar choice every day. Should we do that hard work of investing in the fabric of our business, or should we go for the shortcut of the facelift?

It’s easy to tell a story that on the surface of it will attract people’s attention. But attention is fleeting—it’s not a solid foundation upon which to build a sustainable business or a lasting legacy. It’s wise to work as hard on the fabric of your story as you do on the face of it.

Image by Henry & Co

Marketing Advice


We’re on our way to buy that forgotten pint of milk late one weekday evening when we spot a brand new restaurant. So, we stop to take a look at the menu in the window.

Inside the place is deserted, apart from two smiling waitresses, stationed behind the double glass doors and one anxious owner polishing unused glasses behind the bar. Before we know it, Sam, the owner, is standing outside the door next to my husband and me, asking us if we’ve had dinner yet.

We can see the fear in his eyes. He looks like an expectant father pacing the floor of the delivery room. It’s been two weeks since they opened and apart from weekends, the place is deserted most nights. Sam tells us how proud he is of the food and how hard they’ve all been working on getting the restaurant open. But we can see that his optimism is waning. He’s beginning to think this might not work. He was convinced if he built it, people would come. But now he’s not so sure, and he doesn’t know what to do next.

What would you do if you were Sam?
What’s the best marketing advice you can give him?
How are you following this advice in your own business?

Image by Garry Knight

Message Received


How much time will you spend today trying to persuade the people you hope to serve?

How much effort will you devote to understanding how your message was received?

Your job is to do more than to ask for feedback—it’s to test for resonance.

You must pay attention to both what your customers say and what they do.

Marketing is more than broadcasting. It’s the nurturing of a relationship.

Image by Garry Knight

Words And Deeds


When we moved to our neighbourhood, the independent organic grocer was a community hub. The sales staff knew locals by name. The fruit and vegetables were plentiful and fresh. And customers were offered food tastings every day.

And then bit by bit things started to change. The owner opened a store in a neighbouring suburb, and it was clear that his focus shifted. The first thing to go were the food tastings. The vegetables didn’t get restocked as often, and the cafe closed early. One-by-one, the regular staff began to leave. Customers no longer experienced the joy of shopping there, and so they left too.

The store was in the same building, using the same suppliers.
The name over the door hadn’t changed, but the story had.

Our story isn’t just what we tell people. Our story is everything we do.

Image by Garry Knight

A Word About Product Market Fit

product-market fit
Value creation is the backbone of a viable business. Value is created when the right people, launch the right product, using the right business model, at the right time, for the right people. We call this product-market fit. We have the best chance of succeeding in the marketplace when all of these factors are aligned. Each one plays an equally important part in the viability of a business.

It’s no good making an incredible product that nobody wants to buy. But it’s equally important to discern who you can deliver value to and serve best. Just because someone has the money to pay for your product doesn’t mean they are your right customer.

Thriving businesses are the result of product-market fit. Happy founders and fulfilled teams are the result client-business fit. Successful businesses do great work for good customers. The pickier you are about the work you do and the clients you serve the better.

Image by Garry Knight

Send this to a friend