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Don’t Manipulate Me, Move Me

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing


There’s a difference between a good story and a great story.
A good story gets our attention. A great story changes us.

Successful marketing campaigns and brand stories don’t convince us.
They move us.

A good leader gets our vote, and sometimes, our respect.
A great leader gains our loyalty, and often, our love.

We don’t have to be smart enough to manipulate people to act.
We have to be sincere enough to move them to act.

Image by Nevada Halbert

Build A Trust Engine

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing, Success


In the golden age of the advertising businesses of all sizes relied on ads to promote and sell their products. Giant corporations reached us via TV and whole page newspaper ads. Small businesses got our attention by placing small ads in the local newspaper. In the past advertising allowed average products to gain traction. Now we block and ignore.

When conventional advertising became less effective, many businesses migrated to social media platforms. The promise was that targeted promotion would enable us to reach more customers for close to free. While it’s easier to target and reach prospective customers, there is no guarantee that more people will be won over. That doesn’t stop us spending the majority of our resources trying to reach potential customers, and relatively few to convert or retain them. According to Econsultancy, for every $92 we allocate to creating awareness, we spend $1 on converting the customer.

How could we invest our resources wisely?

As is often the case the clues lie in understanding what’s unchanging about people. We still buy things the people we trust are buying. We eat in the places our friends tell us serve good food. We know where to get the best coffee because our neighbours tell us. We do things we see others doing. We always have done. We always will do.

Lasting success isn’t built around launching one PR campaign after another. It’s powered by trust. Whenever you see a business that’s endured look for the trust engine that’s driving its success.

How To Build A Trust Engine

1. Care more than the competition.
2. Make the best product.
3. Give your customers a story to tell.
4. Make it easy for them to tell that story.

In the quest to do work we’re proud of trust trumps awareness every time.

Image by Spyros Papaspyropoulos

The Opportunity Cost Of Pursuing New Opportunities

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Time. We can sell it. We can buy it. But we can’t get it back. And yet when it comes to resourcing opportunities, we sometimes believe we can have it all. All we need is to be disciplined about how we spend our time. When we choose to pursue a new project or goal we’re investing more than time—we’re also devoting energy to that new opportunity. And the energy required to do work we’re proud of is as finite as time.

Questions for you

If you decide to do this what are you deciding not to do?
How well can you keep doing this if you start that?
What additional resources will you need?
Which of these projects is getting you closer to your goals?

It’s not an opportunity if it isn’t helping you to get to where you want to go.

Image by Jason Tester

What’s At Stake For Your Customer?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing


We often use customer insights to inform product and service development. Throughout the process, our goal is always to empathise with the customer. But sometimes the language we use stops us from achieving that goal. For example, it’s harder to imagine a particular person with a problem by making a list of customer ‘pain points’, than it is to think about what’s wearing a customer down.

For example, we might list the pain points of someone (like my mum), who has trouble opening jars with her arthritic hands, as impaired grip, limited mobility and so on. But we form a more complete picture when we do the work of understanding the impact of those pain points. We get a sense of the emotional cost of living with those pain points when we think about what’s at stake for the person we want to serve.

Here’s how this works in practice.

Two Customer Insights Exercises

Exercise A. Make a list of your customers’ frustrations.

Exercise B. Stand in one customer’s shoes and fill in the blanks in the following sentences.

I’m tired of doing [X] and not achieving [Y].
I’m tired of feeling [X] and never being [Y].
I’m tired of being [X] and not doing [Y].
I’m tired of saying [X] and never getting to [Y].

When we do exercise B, instead of a list of pain points, we get an understanding of the customer’s story and her internal narrative. “I’m tired of having to ask for help and not being able to cook properly because I can’t open jars. When I can’t open a jar I feel like I’m getting weaker and losing my independence.”

What’s your customer’s story?
How does your product or service help your customer do less of X and experience more of Y?
That’s the story your customer wants and needs to hear.

Image by Kirsty Andrews

The Power Of Assumptions

filed in Brand Strategy, Success


It was standing room only on the 109 tram, as it always is at five o’ clock on a Monday evening.

As more passengers boarded the crowded carriage, a man holding a briefcase got up from his seat to let the woman standing in the aisle next to him sit down. She declined. He persisted. She flatly refused. He insisted. There was a standoff. The man didn’t want to lose face. The woman didn’t want to appear weak.

The man assumed he was doing the right thing. And in ninety-nine out of a hundred situations, he was—just not this time for this woman. Once he committed to a course of action it was difficult for him to change tack. It’s never as easy to back down in the moment as we think it will be.

Our assumptions drive many of our business decisions. Those beliefs shape our business development, influencing strategy and tactics. It’s wise to check if those assumptions align with our customers’ desires before we commit to acting on them.

Image by Mr. Benben

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