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Articles filed in: Storytelling

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

Get Specific To Get More Customers

When your idea fails to resonate, it’s easy to assume that the product or service, the pitch or the pricing are flawed. Before you go back to the drawing board, you must challenge those assumptions. The first assumption to test is if you’re reaching the right people.

One of the biggest marketing challenges we face is understanding our audience. It’s hard to know where to start. Begin by describing your ideal customer, just one person your product has helped or can help.

Who is that person?
What’s her backstory?
What does she want or need?
Who will she become in the presence of your product?

If you were opening a vegan tattoo studio, you’d know exactly where to open it, what inks to stock and what story to tell, because you’d be crystal clear about the worldview of the specific customer you’re serving.

Successful ideas gain traction because they draw on the existing values and beliefs of people they’re designed to serve. The more specific you can be about who your work is for and who it’s not for, the better your chances of gaining traction with more people.

Act like a vegan tattooist. The Story Strategy Course can help.

Image by DeMorris Byrd

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