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Articles filed in: Storytelling

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

What Stories Are You Forgetting To Tell?

Often our best stories are the ones that seem insignificant to us. We take the things we do well for granted. We forget that what’s simple to us might be insightful for others. We become accustomed to doing the work without celebrating or showing the results. And that’s a problem.

If we don’t articulate and share our strengths, how will our right people know?
If we don’t show people how we can help them, how will they know to ask for our help?
If we don’t communicate our value, how will our work become valued?
And if we don’t practice understanding our strengths, how will we build on them?

Where can you start?

Tell us a story about the work you’re most proud of.
Tell us a story about the results you helped a client achieve.
Tells us a story about something you did well and what you learned from it.

Your stories are more powerful than you think.

Image by Kevin Grieve

The Power Of A Shared Narrative

Many shoppers wandering the department store on Saturday are browsing. Some are buying. Most people the menswear assistant offers to help, decline. But one or two ask if a particular shirt or jumper is available in their size. The response depends. It depends on three things—the stock levels, the training the sales team received, and how the individual assistant shows up to work.

Often the assistant on duty will apologise, announcing that stock levels are low. Sometimes she will offer to check if another store has the item in the customer’s size. Rarely will she ask the customer when for and why he needs the shirt so that she can suggest an alternative or order one in his size.

It depends isn’t a recipe for great customer service. The best brands know the customer experience shouldn’t depend on who happens to be working that day. They intentionally design experiences and create scripts that match the outcome they want. And they hire people who share the company’s values and ideals—people who are intent on embodying the brand’s story.

Consistent service is a result of common goals and a shared narrative.
A good strategy depends on a great story.

Image by Garry Knight

Your Company Needs A Strong Strategic Narrative

A strategic narrative is the story that drives the choices a company makes. That narrative is the thread from which the company’s fabric—its culture and strategy are woven. Sometimes the story accidentally informs the strategy with unintended positive or sometimes, negative consequences.

It stands to reason then that we can and should intentionally leverage our narrative to achieve greater alignment and success.

The elements of a strong strategic narrative

1. Mission
Having a strong sense of purpose.
2. Values & Vision
Knowing who you are, what you stand for, who your best work is for and where you’re headed.
3. Value Creation
Understanding who your customers want to become in the presence of your product.
4. Capability
The ability to align and deliver on 1, 2 and 3.

A strong strategic narrative enables us to prioritise the opportunities, plans and behaviours that align our vision and values with our customer’s unmet needs.
Yes, we tell our story, but the story also tells us.

*Want to explore your company’s strategic narrative in more depth?
My book Story Driven will show you where to begin.

Image by Joris Louwes