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Articles filed in: Marketing

Reaching Resonance

Many of us spend the majority of our time thinking about what people want to hear.

And while it’s important to understand your audience, it’s equally important to remember what you have to say, as only you can say it.

Of course, you want to make a bigger impact and reach more people.

But the impact you make will depend on your ideas resonating with the right people—not just reaching the most people. The people who believe in you and your message will enable you to do your best work. You will draw those people to you by clearly making your assertion and stating your intention.

It’s a lot easier to tell true stories over time than it is to keep coming up with new and interesting angles.

What’s the truth you want your audience to know?

Image by Jeremy Bishop

Who Do You Want To Be To Whom?

Our local organic shop is dying. When it first opened, it stocked things health-conscious shoppers couldn’t get anywhere else. Organic vegetables, vegan and gluten-free products weren’t readily available in supermarkets. There wasn’t enough demand for coconut oil and buckwheat flour for supermarkets to stock them. But as we all know, a shift in awareness and worldviews about health and wellbeing has changed that.

As the shelves of organic produce in the big supermarkets expanded, the range of products at the local organic shop contracted. The first things to go when customers started to defect to supermarkets were things that seemed non-essential— the things that differentiated the local store and gave people a reason to come. Knowledgeable staff, free product tastings and community events. Flowers and plants for sale out front. All that went by the wayside. The in-house cafe hours were cut too.

Locals want to support the little guy. But it’s hard to justify a price difference of three dollars on a single item. The local shop isn’t more convenient than the big supermarkets, and it can’t compete on price, but it can provide an experience that’s head and shoulders above the big supermarket. If people don’t have a reason to come, then they’ll pick up their organic oats in the cereal aisle next to the Cheerios at one of the big supermarkets. The customer experience was that reason.

The key question for the owner is not how to compete—but who do we want to be to whom?

That’s the key question for all of us, no matter what business we’re in. When we lose sight of who we’re in business to serve, and why, we lose more than our competitive advantage. We lose the heart and soul of our business.

Image by Dan DeAlmeida

How Obstacles Create Value

As humans, we are hardwired to solve problems. As marketers or sales professionals, innovators, or product designers, we tend to be solutions focused. We like talking about the things we make, sell, or serve. We love discussing how what we do helps people.

We’re good at that.

We’re not so good at articulating the obstacle our product or service helps people to overcome. Of course, we need to know the result our customers want. But we can’t help them to get there unless we know exactly what’s standing in their way.

The better we understand the obstacle, the better we are at solving the problem. And the better we can describe the obstacle, the better we become at selling the solution.

The reason the founders of Dollar Shave Club could so successfully implore men to stop paying for shave tech they didn’t need, was because they understood exactly the problem to solve. The reason the Uber app launched with interactive maps and taxi tracking, was that the founders knew what frustrated us about booking a taxi.

The features, benefits, and marketing resulted from focusing on what stood in the customer’s way.

What’s getting in your customers’ way? Are you demonstrating that you understand the obstacles they face, before showing them your solution?

Image by Ivan Olenkevich

When Marketing Works

Marketing works when:

  • Unmet needs are recognised and satisfied.
  • Unspoken desires are understood and met.
  • Companies tell true stories that align their customers’ worldview.
  • Customers want to buy into and share those stories.

Marketing works best when it’s in service of the customer.

Image by Samuel Dixon

What’s Your Customer Acquisition Strategy?

The owner of the new gym that’s opening down our street stands outside armed with helium balloons to attract attention, and a clipboard to sign up new members.  Anyone who happens to be passing is fair game. At this stage, beggars can’t be choosers. The gym needs three hundred members to break even.

Every fledgling business feels the pressure to market to everyone. So we make compromises to get runs on the board. But it’s not until we find the courage and conviction to start serving our ideal customers that we get to do our best work. There are two ways to approach customer acquisition.

We can make something generic that we think most people want and do it faster and cheaper than our competitors. Or we can understand the unmet needs of a particular group of people we are keen to serve and intentionally create products, services and marketing messages for those people.

Successful brands and businesses don’t simply open the door to everyone and hope for the best. They know why they do what they do the way they do it, they understand who they serve best, and they tell that story to those people.

Successful selling is as much about customer discernment as it is about brand differentiation.

If you’d like to have a clearer understanding of your ideal customer, The Story Strategy Course can show you how.

Image by Anupam Mahapatra

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

Begin With Wants and Needs

All successful businesses do two things.
They fulfil the unmet needs and unspoken desires of their ideal customer.

The businesses that find it challenging to market their products and services are the ones that fail to begin with this end in mind. They start with their needs, instead of a clear insight about what the customer wants.

So the artisan lamp maker who loves working with wood fails to find enough customers to keep his dream alive, because he makes a product that not enough people want. The business coach’s pitch falls flat, or the yoga studio opens in the wrong part of town.

When we see our customers, it shows. When we understand them, they know.

Image by Michael Prewett

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