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Articles filed in: Strategy

On Being Valued

A graphic designer works for decades to master the tools of her trade. Not just the design programs and fonts she uses, but her discernment, her eye and her empathy—the intangibles that clients value in the end result. Things the designer doesn’t add as line items on her invoice.

Value creation isn’t only about what’s exchanged in a transaction—the logo, the sandwich or the software. Value is more than the usefulness of things. Value is about utility and desirability.

If we want to be valued for both the skills that differentiate us and the work that brings us joy, then we must find ways to articulate that value to our customers. Better stories create value.

Image by Ionut Coman

Message Before Medium


One of my favourite activities in art class was poster design. I loved the constraint of having a single medium and limited space, with which to deliver the message.

Today, there have never been more ways to reach an audience.

Just as we master one medium, another channel presents a new opportunity to distribute our message.

It’s tempting to try to master every new medium that could enable us to reach more people.

But since our objective must always be resonance over reach, it isn’t the medium that should dictate our communication strategy—it’s the message.

The more time we spend mastering the message, the clearer we are about what we have to say, who our message is for and why it matters.

Image by Gary Knight

Competence AND Character


Our family moved to Melbourne almost five years ago. By some happy accident, we ended up finding the perfect home—an 1850’s terrace, one of the first houses to be built in the city.

The house next door has been empty since we moved in. The elderly couple who raised their family in it had hardly updated it in seventy years. We knew it would be sold one day and the new owners would renovate. We looked forward to seeing the old home restored to its former glory. But we were dreading the day the builders arrived with their jackhammers.

The house sold last winter and the builders arrived a few weeks ago. They are still at the demolition phase, and I have no idea about the quality of their workmanship yet. But we’re more at ease about how the building work next door might affect us—not because it won’t, but because of how the builders are going about it.

It turns out that the builders are wonderful. They do everything they can not to disturb us and reassure us that they will make good on things that affect our property. It’s their character, not their competence that makes them stand out.

Character is what we choose to do.

As individuals and brands, we’re judged by our character, not just our competence.

How does your character differentiate you?

Image by Pictr73

Earned Loyalty


Have you ever contemplated changing banks? Even if you have thought of switching if you’re like most people you haven’t followed through.

40% of Australians still bank with the institution where their parents opened their childhood account. 20% of us have either never thought about switching banks or think it’s too much effort. This is the reason school banking programs exist. Banks get us while we’re young. They know we’ll think it’s too much hassle to change in years to come.

Customer inertia is the reason most banks don’t need to reward loyalty.

Thankfully, in a world of infinite choices, most companies can’t rely on customer apathy to stay in business.

We have the privilege of working to be indispensable to customers and making them feel like they belong—instead of stuck.

True loyalty is earned, not rewarded.

Image by Claudio Schwarz

Better Than Maybe

The leaflet that dropped through my letterbox with the sleep clinic’s business card stapled to the front asked two questions.

Do you snore? Are you always tired during the day?

Inside, I’m told, sleep apnea, a disorder I may have, affects 20% of women. I might be one of them.

And therein lies this marketer’s problem. They know nothing about me, apart from the colour of my front door. Which means they have no idea if they should speak to me, nevermind what to say to me.

As marketers, if the best use of our resources is to only speak to the people who want to hear from us, then targeting every ‘maybe’ is not a great marketing strategy.

We can do better than maybe.

Image by Timothy Krause.

Memorable Marketing


In winter, when the real estate market is flat, and new listings are thin on the ground, Craig’s agency does letterbox drops offering free appraisals. Craig has no idea if this marketing tactic will work. But it’s worth a try. What has he got to lose?

And yet, when spring comes round, and he finally lists a property for sale, Craig barely makes eye contact with the people who come to view it. His job is to get enough people through to close the sale on auction day, then collect his commission.

What Craig’s overlooked is what he stands to gain by being remembered for the way he engaged with buyers, while advocating for his clients.

Memorable marketing isn’t just about what you say when—it’s about how you act at every moment.

Image by Paul Wilkinson

One Chance


If you could tell your ideal customer just one thing about your product, what would you tell them?

What would you change about your service if you knew you only had one chance to woo that customer?

How would things be different and better if we acted as if every chance to do the right thing was our first, last or only one?

Image by Jonalyn

Why Next?


My uncle Larry taught me to play chess when I was eight or nine. I learned just enough rules to get started because he said I’d learn how to play, by playing. The thing I’ll always remember is the way he taught me to make better moves. Every time I picked up a piece to move it he’d ask, ‘Why is this your next, best move?’

We’re all good at asking the question, ‘What next?’

In our impatience to make progress, we’ve become experts at looking for the next, new thing that will bring us more of whatever we’re after — more opportunity or more influence, more joy or more money—not necessarily in that order.

But we’re not so good and questioning, ‘Why next?’

We make more right moves when we reflect on how the next thing we’re about to do aligns with our values, and if it’s helping us to get to where we ultimately want to go.

Image by Kurt Bauschardt

Soft Metrics


Traditionally, we measure performance through the narrow lens of hard data.

Sales, profit and cash flow are seen as reliable indicators of how well we’re doing.
But hard data alone paint a two-dimensional picture of success.
There’s nothing to stop us prioritising outcomes we care about, but can’t reliably measure.

We don’t have to forsake ethics for profitability.
We can simultaneously pursue growth and generosity.

What we measure gets managed. And what we manage is the making of us.

Image by neonbrand

The Value Shift


Sally studied Film and TV at college. She wants to be a director one day. But that’s a distant goal. In the meantime, she’s decided to put the skills she learned in college to work. Sally built a website and started working for friends of friends on their promotional business videos.

Sally is building her portfolio and has clients who are thrilled with the results. But she is less than thrilled with the filming and editing process. Over time, Sally’s realised the thing she loves best about her work is everything she does before she picks up the camera.

Her gift is getting her clients to open up about why they do what they do, not what they do. The reason Sally’s films are so good is because of the unbilled hours she spends with the client before filming begins. It’s hard to explain that to most people and it’s just as hard to charge for it.

What most clients pay Sally for—the deliverable, is that five minutes of video footage. But what Sally dreams of doing and being paid for is finding stories worth telling.

It’s easier for Sally to sell the outcome—the video, than it is to market her process and the impact of her work. So, she defaults to doing what’s easy and ends up selling videos in one-minute increments to clients who don’t understand or pay for her genius.

People happily pay for the tangible. But if the tangible—the logo, the report or the cup of coffee, is a fraction of the value we create, then we need to get better at selling the intangible.

It’s not unusual to wake up one day and find that the work people pay us for isn’t the work we intended to do. It’s our job to fix that, by telling the right story to the right people.

Is the work people pay you for the work you want to do?

Image by Vanilla Bear Films

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