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Articles filed in: Strategy

Effective Change

Even though nine of her children emigrated to England in the 1960s to find work, my grandmother never travelled outside Ireland.

She refused to taste cucumber, even though my English aunt insisted on making cucumber sandwiches whenever she came to visit.

Even after her doctor told her cigarettes were bad for her angina. Granny still smoked forty cigarettes a day, until the day she died of a massive heart attack.

My Granny didn’t see herself as the kind of person who would get on a boat or try food she’d never eaten. And her enjoyment of smoking outweighed the downsides in her eyes.

Changemaking isn’t as simple as taking someone on a journey to something different. Effective change engages someone in the act of being the kind of person they want to be.

When you know who your people want to become, you can tell a more relevant and resonant story.

Image by Tiago Murano

On Persuasion

Why are travellers paying to offset carbon emissions of their flights in record numbers?

Is it guilt that’s fueling this carbon offset boom?

It’s hard to persuade anyone to change their beliefs or behaviour.

But we all like to act in ways that feel consistent.

If we find ourselves liking a climate crisis Instagram post, or nodding when we hear Greta Thunberg speak, we’re more likely to pay to offset our emissions next time we fly.

Persuasion is less about making people have a complete change of heart and more about finding common ground.

The most persuasive people convince us incrementally—not by trying to change us, but by reminding us who we are.

Image by Li-An Lim

Faith Vs. Proof

In a digital world, where customers have infinite choices, and loyalty is precarious, it’s easy to believe the more information we give people, the better.

It turns out that the opposite is true. We’re more likely to retain customers, get repeat sales and be recommended by simplifying the decision process.

What people want is the quickest way to discern if they can trust us and our offering.

Our customers don’t always want more proof—often what they need from us is more faith—not just in us, but in themselves.

Image by Sam Wheeler

Better Marketers Show And Tell

Every day, we sell ourselves in adjectives that sell us short.
Leader, expert, communicator, specialist, efficient, experienced, better, faster, cheaper.

We’ve forsaken the effort of showing, for the convenience of telling.
There is a better way.

Don’t just tell us about the features and benefits of your product.
Show us how that product changed the lives of the people who used it.

Don’t just tell us about the services you offer.
Show us how you helped your client achieve the outcome they dreamed of.

Don’t just tell us about your skills and expertise.
Show us the impact those skills had on someone or something.

Your work matters. Show us why.

Image by Susan Jane Golding

Do’s AND Don’t Do’s

Clare’s accountancy clients tell her she’s like a breath of fresh air.

When she started her company, she took time to onboard her clients— walking them through how she could help them, taking a pile of paperwork and other mental clutter with her as she left. Nothing was too much trouble. Clients valued her approach, and her business thrived.

But as Clare’s business grew, her posture started to shift. She was too busy to serve people in the way that had originally differentiated her company. Small mistakes were made, and apologies overlooked. She stopped picking up the phone. As her business scaled, Clare continued to do her job, but she’d forgotten to show she cared. And that made all the difference.

The day came when her very first client decided they should part ways. Clare understood immediately that she’d lost this client because of the one small thing she could have done, but didn’t do.

It’s worth remembering that it isn’t only what we do that people notice— sometimes it’s what we don’t do that determines our results.

Image by Cowomen.

Purposeful Connection

Our new neighbour Bob is renovating the old terrace house next door. Well, when I say renovating, what I mean is rebuilding the entire house from the top down. The roof is off, and there’s not much left but a shell of the existing property.

It’s not the first time Bob has taken on a project like this, and it shows—not just in how he organises the team of builders, but in how he communicates with the people who will be affected by the work. Namely us.

Before work began, Bob’s first move was to invite us onsite to walk us through his plans. His second was to show us the common wall that needs to be rebuilt and to explain how he will fix it for our mutual benefit. The third was to give us his phone number, with instructions to call if we’re concerned about anything.

Bob has taken the time to empathise with us, his new neighbours. He’s anticipated our fears and our questions. He’s made us feel like we’re in good hands. And even though we barely know him, we trust him.

It turns out that we don’t have to build connection and trust on the fly.
We can do it on purpose.

Image by David Siglin

Being Heard Is Overrated

It’s easier to be heard when we shout. But being heard needn’t be our ultimate goal.

What if we aspired to be listened to instead?

To be embraced rather than just noticed.

To be valued rather than used.

To be sought out and remembered.

To be recommended and treasured.

To be loved.

Image by Felix Koutchinski

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

The Unfair Exchange


‘That will be eight dollars,’ the woman, who is carefully weighing and wrapping two serves of freshly made fettuccine for us to take home, says.

As my husband is about to hand her the cash, she takes another handful of the pasta from behind the glass and adds it to our package.

She doesn’t announce that she’s giving us twenty per cent extra for free.
She doesn’t even invite us to notice the gesture at all.
It’s enough for her that she knows she has added value.

We think of value as a hard metric—the anticipated fair exchange of this for that.

But value can be a surprising, generous, unfair exchange.

Something that is given because we can, not because we must.

Image by Maria Molinero

Better Customers


A young friend of mine who moved to a new city was having trouble making friends.
She lamented about not meeting the right people.
‘How can I make good friends?’ she wondered.

Her question reminded me of something my grandmother used to say.
‘You get good friends by being a good friend.’

What would happen if we applied this advice to business?
What if we doubled down on delivering good service as a strategy to get good customers?

There are two questions we’d need to ask at the outset.

1. What’s our definition of a good customer?
2. What are our customers’ ideals about the companies they want to support?

When we know who we’re building for and what they care about, we get better.

The Story Strategy Course shows you where to begin.

Image by Jenny Marvin

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