Search Results: one of the few
Few organisations look past the data to see the humanity of the client behind the numbers.
Few companies act as if it’s a privilege to serve their customers.
Few people take time to listen twice as much as they speak.
Few products are made with love.
In a world where we are doing our best to fit in, it’s easy to fall into the trap of emulating what most people are doing. We make our biggest contribution when we dare to do what only a handful will do. Being one of the few is underrated.
Image by Garry Knight
When I got my first job, I cycled to work and back every day. On a fine summer day in Dublin, cycling is a joy, it’s a different story in winter. The worst part was always that last hill on the way home. I’d try to stay on the bike for as long as possible, not wanting the gradient to beat me. But when the frost was thick and the road slick with ice, there was nothing for it but to get off and walk up the hill alongside the bike.
As my progress up the hill slowed, I’d curse the wasted momentum, calculating how much earlier I would have arrived if I’d managed to stay on the bike. And yet, I still got home anyway. Maybe a few minutes later, with a bit less patience, I reached my destination all the same.
Whenever I feel like I’m not moving fast enough, I remember that hill and that I arrived one way or another. If you’re feeling like you’re not moving fast enough today, feel free to borrow my hill if it helps you to keep moving.
Image By Paolo Chiabrando
It’s a Saturday night. Jeff, the on-call Planning Enforcement Officer for the local council, is just about to sit down to a takeaway meal and a movie with his wife when his phone rings. Residents close to a new nightclub want him to come and assess the noise levels at the venue. Even before the conversation starts, Jeff is not primed to listen. What he thinks is a good outcome—getting the caller off the line in the quickest time possible, doesn’t align with what the caller thinks is a good outcome—Jeff dropping everything and getting around to the nightclub in the next thirty minutes.
Misaligned expectations are the greatest source of dissatisfaction in any service interaction. You can’t begin to satisfy or delight your customer unless you are prepared to meet his expectations. Two things need to be in place to make that happen. Firstly, you need to understand the customer’s desired outcome. And secondly, you need to have the resources and the willingness to meet it.
If the last thing Jeff wants to do when he’s on call is get in his car to investigate complaints, then it’s unlikely he’ll satisfy ratepayers. The way he handles incoming calls is affected by his desire to enjoy a quiet night at home. His tone will be defensive and his manner abrupt. The organisation does more harm than good by having a 24-hour hotline that sets the expectation that an officer might visit in an emergency if that’s unlikely to happen.
Excellence is about making fewer promises that you always keep.
Image by Nathan Rupert
The blackboard on the pavement outside the florist reads; ‘Flowers for ALL.’
It’s a busy spot with plenty of foot traffic, behind a tram stop, a few doors down from the hospital. Maybe that’s why they’re marketing to everyone, instead of trying to resonate with someone. The marketing speaks to passers-by. But it doesn’t consider why they’re passing by, where they’re going, at what time, on which day. The message doesn’t invite the prospective customer to see how the act of buying flowers could change their day or even their week.
What would happen if the florist altered the message on the blackboard every day or even three times a day? There’s no doubt Monday morning’s marketing would be different from Friday afternoon’s. Perhaps, inspiring the office worker to brighten her desk for the week, or inviting the tired junior doctor to get his weekend off to a good start by surprising his partner.
As marketers, we have two choices, we can say something for the sake of saying something, or we can say the thing that will change something.
What would you write on your blackboard?
Image by Florian Lehmuth
I recently got an email that began….
I didn’t make it past the second word and your customers won’t either.
We are too busy, distracted, tired, wary, focused, selfish, savvy or [fill in your blank here], to care about something that’s for everyone. The only messages that get through are the ones that are intentionally created for you.
1970s TV adverts were for everyone. This was a time when a few big brand players garnered mass audiences, saturated the market and dominated. And while some brands are still playing that game, many more have carved out profitable niches by doing exactly the opposite and talking to ‘someone’ instead.
This thinking is not new of course, but it’s not been leveraged half as much as it should be.
One of the most renowned copywriters in advertising history Bob Levenson, who began his career at New York agency DDB in 1959 shared a little about his process:
“I always started by writing Dear Charlie, like writing to a friend. And then I would say what I had to say, and at the end I would cross out Dear Charlie, and I was all right.”
Today Beardbrand generates $120,000 a month in sales by talking to someone.
Black Milk Clothing has built a community of evangelists and global brand by talking to someone.
The indie innovators of Flow Hive have raised $5 million and counting by telling a story to someone.
They didn’t start with the advantage of a huge marketing budget that enabled them to reach everyone. Where they each began was with a story that resonated deeply with the people who mattered. It worked because they were speaking just to them. And the flip side is you have to take time to know that someone before you can craft a meaningful message.
Image by David Phan.
When you were ten years old all any marketer needed to know about you, or the people in your street was that you owned a TV. In a world of limited choices big companies could afford to cast the net wide across the masses. No depth required. This tactic doesn’t work so well now that the masses have the power to choose, they have formed collectives and niches of all kinds. The market of everyone just disappeared overnight and that’s scary for big companies. But not for you, because your business can go ‘narrow and deep’.
The term ‘narrow and deep’ was originally applied to a retailing strategy where stores sold a few types of items across a wide variety of brands. A technological shift has enabled us to broaden that construct and to apply it to a marketing strategy that means less can be more. In other words, you don’t need the biggest market share, the largest product line or the most customers to win.
Size and ubiquity isn’t what’s important for brands any longer.
Significance trumps recognition now.
Hiut Denim doesn’t sell the most jeans. Good & Proper Tea serves leaf evangelists on the road and Silvano Lattanzi is doing just fine selling custom shoes that start at $7,000 a pair to the few. Even Apple doesn’t matter to everyone, the company’s smartphone market share has fluctuated between 13% and 22% in the past two years.
The power to ignore the masses and to touch one person at a time is not the short end of the stick. ‘Narrow and deep’ might not be as scary as you think.
Image by MTSOfan.
We should have known as soon as we walked in. The place was empty, not a soul in sight apart from two lone waiters who pounced. Every other breakfast place in the city was teeming with life and overflowing with plates of over easy eggs. This place was dead.
We stayed because we didn’t have the heart to back out, but instantly regretted the decision when the food and the bill arrived. The waiters having fewer customers to keep the place afloat upsold and charged handsomely for sides of fruit and freshly squeezed juices (which weren’t).
We left feeling sorry for them (it must be soul destroying to work there), and more than a little ripped off.
It might be easy to nab a one-off table of rookie tourists but that’s hardly a brilliant marketing strategy.
If nobody shows up or something is not working then there’s a reason. It’s your job to find out what that reason is and fix it. If you keep doing the same thing you did yesterday and expecting a different result, or even a miracle tomorrow you’re going to be both disappointing and disappointed.
Image by Tom Ellefsen.
Back in the 80’s when U2 were starting out they knew they were singing for me, and the 520 other girls at my school. It didn’t matter that they wrote songs that didn’t resonate with my mother. They knew that we drew their album graphics with a Bic Biro on our canvas school bags and scribbled their name on our exercise books during boring history lessons.
Who are you creating for?
Who will kill for your designs? Who is going to buy your book or schedule a consultation. Who will understand your message? Hand on heart, do you really know?
It’s so easy to overlook this when you’re building your business and crafting your brand.
The creation part, building the thing, scoping out the spec and writing the sales page is hard enough. So with blind faith we sometimes believe that because we perceive a need and work of filling it, that if we build it they will come. Maybe they will, but the thing is if you create something with a specific audience in mind then even laying the foundations of your idea becomes so much easier.
Start by knowing your audience, then build the idea just for them
Call it what you will, target audience, niche market or client avatar. The label is irrelevant, the purpose is to understand the human being(s) behind that label. That understanding of your audience turns needs into wants and means that you no longer have to use the megaphone to reach them. They will begin to hear you from whispering distance.
One of the best target audience descriptions I’ve ever read was written by John Locke. He’s the guy who sold over a million ebooks in five months, so I guess knowing who he’s talking to hasn’t worked so badly for him. Here’s some of what he wrote:
“The people who love my books love everyday heroes. They are compassionate people who root for the underdog, but are drawn to the outrageous and have a dry sense of humour. They are all ages but a surprising number are professional men and women above the age of 50. More than 70% are women. My readers are much more intelligent than you might think, many are doctors nurses and business leaders.
Those who like my books tend to be busy people who are frazzled and stressed out beyond the point of no return. They’ve read their share of high brow books, but these days they mostly read to relax with a fast paced easy read that makes them laugh out loud. My readers are smarter than my heroes and they know it. They like the small bit of research I do. They don’t want to be educated but they love to learn one or two unusual facts along the way they can pass on in conversations at dinner.
My readers are renegades they like things editors hate, light character descriptions and almost no detail about settings. They know I’m not trying to save the world or write meaningful literature that kids might have to study in school someday. They know the sole purpose of my writing is to make them smile or laugh for a few hours on a day when they need it most, and they like that about me.”
How would your products be different if you sat down and created a client avatar like this? Often the hardest thing isn’t finding the problem to solve, but finding the people to solve that problem for.
Image by Danny Hammontree.
“Ideas that spread win.” Seth Godin
Seth is one of my heros, he’s probably one of yours too. But I’ve been itching to qualify this quote for some time now. Here’s what I believe.
Ideas that matter spread.
If you want anything you conceive, launch, or care about to ‘win’ then you’ve got to make it matter first. I’m not talking about mattering for a day while your offer is on Groupon, or during your opening week buzz. I mean ‘really’ mattering. The kind of mattering that makes people cross the road (or town), passing your competitors on the way, to buy from you. The sort of mattering that touches people in a place way deeper than their pockets.
This might be the cue to throw your hands in the air and give up, because you wonder how your thing can ever matter that much. But wait… I haven’t gotten to the best bit.
You don’t need to matter to everyone.
In fact you positively don’t want to matter to the whole universe. Quite the opposite. You can succeed by simply mattering more to the few.
Apple has 5% of the global mobile phone market share. They’re doing okay just mattering to the few. Make your market tiny. Create significance for the outnumbered on the sidelines. Investigate the edges. Quit trying to please everyone and woo a handful.
Whisper softly to the people who want to hear from you. Then you’ll matter.
Image by Something from Nancy
“The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is but that you can see the world as it isn’t.” Kathryn Schultz
You can probably picture the scene. Over a quiet dinner and a few drinks early in 1984 Richard Branson announces his plans to a few close friends. He explains that he is going to cream some of the profits from his successful Virgin Records business and use it to lease a second hand Boeing 747. His intention is to start a commercial airline and take on mighty British Airways in the process.
Some would have thought it was a joke and actually laughed aloud. Others, their forks suspended in mid air, might have looked him dead in the eye to work out if he really was joking, or if he had finally gone mad.
How many times in his business career do you think that Richard Branson was laughed at? From being the dyslexic teen editor of a magazine to his vision of galactic missions and changing the face of every industry from money to health care; I’m guessing quite a few.
People will probably laugh at you too.
They will laugh at your ideas both big and small. Those devil’s advocates will challenge your vision of the world as it could be. They will tell you it can’t be done. Just like they told Muhammad Yunus that the poor wouldn’t pay back their micro loans. They will urge you to be careful.
People will call on you to realistic and sensible. Just like them. They will urge you to wait for the ‘right time’. And maybe you will.
You might wait to work on the idea that simply can’t fail. Why? Because you don’t want to feel like you are six years old again. Because you can’t bear the thought of putting something imperfect out into the world. Something that might fail.
That would-be failure you’re working on, like Virgin Airlines, will never become something that has a chance to succeed unless you get over the fear of having ideas that people will laugh. And begin having enough faith in them (and you) to put them to work.
Image by David Vo.