Monthly Archives: July 2018

pigs head with pineapple rings and cherries

How’s Your Sensory Appeal?

Sensory appeal is another functional element of value.  It applies to both products and services.

What is It?

Traditionally there are five senses, although there are occasional claims there are others.  Sensory appeal is using one or more of the senses to make the product or service more attractive.

We are talking about sensory appeal incidental to the product or service.  For example, good taste is integral to food.  We expect food to taste good, especially in a restaurant.  Certainly, a restaurant’s reputation for great tasting food helps but we arrive at any restaurant expecting the food to taste good.

Sensory appeal maybe a garnish that makes a dish visually attractive or the decor of the restaurant.  It is something that appeals to one or more senses, over and above the customer’s expectations.

Value to the Customer

This depends on the customer’s sensitivity and appreciation.  Some people don’t know what to expect and may not appreciate the deal is special.  Others may not be in the mood: those comfort eating following a relationship breakdown or a bereavement may be unmoved.  Others may be highly sensitive and appreciative through favourable circumstance.

Where service is personal, discerning the mood and desires of the customer is important.  Simply asking what they like may be all you need.

How to Get There

Review your offer.  It matters little whether you offer a product or service.  There is little scope with a boxed product that is shipped straight away.  It may be possible to slip a little extra in or if you sell from a shop, you can enhance the sales environment.

Where the customer consumes the product on the premises, there are more opportunities.  Coffee shops that sell food with a salad garnish are rare.  These days you’re lucky to get a napkin or a knife.   Some services are easier, massage or hairdressing includes opportunities for small extras such as refreshments or magazines.

What about coaching?  Consider the environment in which your coaching takes place.  You can choose a public place.  Is it quiet and pleasant, with good coffee?  Who pays?  Might an occasional change of venue help?  Maybe a walk in a park or countryside?

Another thing to consider is bonuses.  A small gift to say thank you to the customer may be appreciated.  Paying for coffee or meals is possible, especially for high-end offers.

Your Offer

If you have a sense of style, offer a service with a unifying sensual theme.  This could start with publicity materials, the story you tell and your approach to sales.

Continue in your working environment and in the bonuses you offer your clients.  These may be simple things like tea and biscuits.

Take care to manage expectations.  Don’t raise them and then disappoint.  Surprise bonuses mean you exceed expectations, without making promises you later find you cannot keep.

This is the thirtieth of 31 posts about elements of value.  Make sure you don’t miss any by signing up for the offer below.  The posts in this sequence can be accessed below:

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Basic Plots 2: Rags to Riches

The last time I saw the TV programme Top of the Pops, was in 1975.  It featured the Bay City Rollers and a man in a flat hat singing the Ugly Duckling!  He was Mike Reid and this is his song!

The Ugly Duckling is a Rags to Riches story pared down to its basics.  Rags to Riches is always about growing up and achieving inner potential.  The Ugly Duckling has to experience a lonely winter before he discovers his true nature.

At first glance, the Rags to Riches story seems a perfect fit for business.  It certainly is for some businesses.  But not necessarily the businesses you might think.  Riches do not of themselves bring about maturity.  The story is not complete until the hero or heroine proves worthy.

Relationship with Overcoming the Monster

There are parallels with overcoming the monster but the emphasis is different.  Here the protagonist may overcome several monsters as the story progresses.

Overcoming the Monster focuses on good versus evil.  Rags to Riches focuses on perfection and completeness.  Just as good versus evil is unrealistic, we rarely encounter complete evil or good in real life, so perfection and completeness is incomplete.  The point is to remind us what is important.

The hero in a Rags to Riches story encounters several barriers and increasingly draws on their own resources to overcome them.  This leads to growing maturity.  Perhaps this story-type fits closer to life coaches than to marketers.  But if it is about growing to maturity, perhaps it applies mostly to younger people.

5 Stages of the Rags to Riches Story

Just as overcoming the monster typically has five stages, so does Rags to Riches:

  1. Initial wretchedness and the call. Note the threat this time is local.  The hero leaves home in the overcoming the monster story to find the monster, in rags to riches they leave home to escape a monster.
  2. Out into the world and initial success. Sometimes this is significant, the hero, with significant help, has good fortune and grows in wealth.
  3. The hero’s hubris precipitates the central crisis. Their initial success goes to their head. At this stage despair sets in.  If the hero does not overcome despair, there is no story!
  4. Independence and the final ordeal – this time around they have to rely on their own resources.
  5. Final union, completion and fulfilment. The rewards are similar to those from overcoming the monster but there is a strong sense that now the hero deserves her or his riches.   They are proven worthy.

Longer stories naturally move on to all five stages.  The temptation is to break off the story at stage 2.  A moment’s reflection shows why this is a mistake.  There are many stories of people finding a fortune and squandering it in a few years. Or early business success is followed by a disaster that takes everything away.  Illness or falling out with a partner are common reasons.

Promises of a 6 (or 7!) figure business are common and are sometimes described as Rags to Riches.  This basic plot underlines the reasons these promises do not become true.

Hidden Potential

The hero often starts in wretched circumstances.  Cinderella for example, lives as a servant at the beck and call of her ugly sisters.  We compare her generous nature their self-centredness.  The sisters don’t just represent a threat, they are also a contrast.

When transformed, Cinderella’s apparent wealth represents her inner nature.  At the end of the story, the Prince recognises her even though she is dressed in rags.

Whatever the failings of the hero, we see she or he is worthy from the beginning.  They have a lot to learn and if that were not so, we would have no story.

Growth from Childhood to Maturity

We see inner potential manifest through the obstacles the hero overcomes.  Frequently initial wealth is itself a barrier to maturity.  It is as much a test as the various monsters the hero encounters.

Typically, initial wealth is found with help.  Cinderella has her fairy godmother and Aladdin his genies.  At this stage they learn they have inner strength to meet adversity without help.

If we focus solely on making money, the Rags to Riches story does not work.  The hero is tested and found worthy.  The real riches are within the hero, not in whatever material fortune comes her way.

The story is about how people become their true selves.  Everything else, wealth and adversity, is there to help them find out what they are capable of.

Moment of Crisis

The hero proves her maturity when she has to face her biggest threat ever without help. The temptation is to give into despair.  Everything that goes before prepares the hero for her final test, where she has to rely on ingenuity and experience to pass it.

In passing the test she shows she is worthy of the external trappings; her prince, her fortune, a kingdom to rule.  But the real riches are the qualities she discovers as she works through her final ordeal.

Perhaps the right ending for this story is “they lived happily ever after”.  Real life goes on and there are more challenges.  The point is this story is over.  The hero has attained maturity.  There are immature elders, of course.  But they feature in a different story-type.

Looking Forwards

This is the second of Booker’s seven plot types.  The aim is not to put your story into a straitjacket but to help structure a marketing story that resonates with your market.

Next time we’ll look at a plot perhaps more relevant to marketers and businesses that help make money, the Quest.  This plot is the first of two about journeying and business owners may find one or the other a good fit.

bright blue ice cream!

How Does Variety Sell?

Variety is a mixed blessing.  If you advertise a massive variety of products or services, is this attractive to more customers?

What is It?

Politicians go on about choice as if it is a good thing.  If I have an acute medical crisis, I am happy to allow my doctor make choices for me.  I trust my doctor.  I could choose between several hospitals but I’m going to ask which is the best one.

Variety works in two ways.  You cater for customers with many needs.  So, if you sell sports equipment, the beginner has different needs to the champion.  The experienced sportsperson knows exactly what they need and pays for it.  The beginner needs the basics and won’t spend a fortune in case they decide not to pursue the sport.

The other type of variety is a range of options with no particular reason a customer would choose one or another.  For example, ice cream flavours are a matter of personal preference.  They are similarly priced and the customer chooses their favourite or sometimes fancies something new.

Value to the Customer

It doesn’t follow the customer knows what they want.  Someone who needs coaching may have specific needs but does not always know enough to make their choice.  To offer a range of options may be counter-productive.

Alternatively, whilst a variety of ice cream flavours may attract the eye, how beneficial are they to the business?  Customers restrict their purchases to a small variety of flavours.  The business owner must consider the cost of producing so many flavours; wastage where some flavours are less popular.  Even queues that move slowly because customers take more time choosing.

How to Get There

For ice creams and similar products, there are diminishing returns to offering more options.  How much more inviting is “30 delicious flavours” to 15?  There are few advantages to offering in a supermarket more than 2 or 3 types of tinned tomatoes.

For the specialist, a lot depends on their customers’ awareness.  A knowledgeable customer wants to see everything on offer or specifies exactly what they seek.  For the less knowledgeable customer, exposure to all 15 options may be counter-productive.  Far better to find out what they need and offer a couple of options.

Offer two options because it gives the customer a choice and it is easier to opt for the cheapest than it is to say no outright.  If they are not happy with either, find out why and offer something more suitable.  With services, the issue may be one of trust.  The customer tries something low-priced before they opt for more expensive options.  They are unlikely to tell you this, so be ready with a low-priced option.  Once they become a customer, they are more likely to buy again.

The customer who says yes may be interested in an upsell.  Offer more until they say no, then seal the deal.

Your Offer

To what extent does variety increase the likelihood of people using your services?  To some degree variety is neutral, especially where customers want one specific thing.  They may come to you because they believe you have what they seek.  “We have what you seek” may be a better slogan than “View our extensive stock”.

They say variety is the spice of life but not all at once.

This is the twenty-ninth of 31 posts about elements of value.  Make sure you don’t miss any by signing up for the offer below.  The posts in this sequence can be accessed below:

Next: Sensory Appeal + 1 more

dragon

Basic Plots 1: Overcoming the Monster

Introduction

The purpose of choosing a traditional story is to hold a conversation between it and your personal keynote story.  Whether you tell anyone about your traditional story, let alone tell it in public, is your choice but it is not essential.

Just like any conversation, aim to interrogate your own story, experiment with new ideas, and structure your story to emotionally satisfy your audience.  A traditional story that resonates with your story, deepens its impact on your business.

How do you find the right story?  A lot depends on the stories you know. It may take a while to find the right one.  I recommend you seek amongst myths, legends and fairy stories.  Why?  These stories are better known and so offer common ground to your audience. Even where you don’t tell your chosen story, it helps you find a structure that will feel right to your audience.

Another reason to favour traditional stories is they are relatively short.  If you choose a novel, film or TV series, you may find you have far too much material.  Longer works can help and feel free to borrow ideas from them but if you want an overall shape to your story, stay short!

Basic Outline of Any Story

These posts are loosely based on Christopher Booker’s “The Seven Basic Plots”.  This long work is worth reading to learn more about stories.  Booker does not consider business applications for storytelling or discuss combination with real life plots as I recommend.  His focus is on the stories themselves, where mine is on storytelling.

There is, according to Booker, a 5-stage basic structure to most successful stories.  Not all stories follow this pattern and the seven basic plots each have their own take on it.   Remember this is a model and guide, to help you structure your story.  You do not have to follow every detail.

Overcoming the Monster

Here is the basic 5-stage plot for Overcoming the Monster

  1. The call or anticipation stage establishes a threat from some monster. The hero (male or female), sometimes with companions, set out to defeat the monster.  Sometimes they take special weapons.
  2. The dream stage is where things go well at first and they find their way to the monster’s lair.
  3. The confrontation or frustration stage is where they experience a major setback, often involving capture or discovery the monster is more powerful than they thought.
  4. This leads to the final ordeal or nightmare stage, where the monster unleashes its full power on them or the wider community.
  5. Finally, the miraculous escape stage, where usually something seeded earlier in the story turns up and saves the day at the last minute. The benefits of the victory are briefly mentioned.

This is possibly the most common story type.  It is simple, exciting and everyone is familiar with it.  It is found in almost every genre, eg science fiction, westerns, thrillers, war stories.

Business owners should approach this plot with caution.  Opposing good and evil is not always helpful.  The swashbuckling hero seller of lavatory brushes may be able to pull it off.  But the danger of coming over as an idiot or megalomaniac is real.

However, don’t reject this plot out of hand.  You might not have a monster to fight but your customers might.

External Threat

The monster is an external threat.  If you need a story about struggles within your own psyche, eg with depression or stress, this is probably not the best plot.  External threats turn up out of the blue and they are not your fault.  You or your community are under attack.

In these stories, there is polarisation between good and evil.  There is not much room for nuance.  Real life is not like this, evil is not so easy to identify.  Neither is good!

The monster has several characteristics.  In appearance it is hideous.  If human, it is likely to be deformed.  It is dangerous, can’t be left to its own devices because it will harm you or your people.  It is deceitful and so may first appear to be friendly.  It’s true purpose and abilities are likely to be concealed at first.  And it is mysterious.  Who it is and what it wants is not immediately obvious.  The hero often sets out with little idea what it is they are actually fighting.

David Tennant, when he played Dr Who, in an interview claimed they no longer call them monsters but creatures.  He made the point, just because something looks scary, doesn’t mean it is evil.  If there are other worlds with their own sentient beings, they won’t necessarily be enemies.  That’s true but not relevant to this plot.

Who Benefits?

Don’t forget two main groups benefit from defeating the monster.  First, there is the hero and his or her allies.  They hone their skills and grow in experience to defeat the monster.  Usually, they set off ill-equipped for the task.  They are the best person for the job, however ill-equipped they appear to be.  Sometimes they become more mature.  They show themselves worthy of whatever benefits accrue to them for their victory.

The other beneficiary is the wider community who suffer from the monster and despair of ridding themselves from its terror.  It is easy to forget this dimension to the story because usually the focus is on the hero.  However, it is always important because it is about who is worthy to rule, some monster or someone with proven prowess and character.

Equipment

One aspect easy overlook but relevant to some businesses is equipment.  Think of any James Bond film.  Towards the beginning, Bond receives instructions from M and then meets with Q who provides him with equipment.  Bond often finds some unexpected way to use the devices he is given during the adventure.

Perhaps this is one major application of this plot to business.  Customers often have a problem and need some way to fight it.  You can provide practical help or advice and guidance.

The Monster

The monster often evolves in a specific way.  It starts as a predator, picking off seemingly random people as it follows its plan.  At first this doesn’t make sense but as the monster becomes better-known its activities become easier to understand.

When the hero penetrates the monster’s lair, we see the monster in its second mode, holdfast.  Here we see the monster has accumulated treasure or weapons, as a result of its predatory activities.  This stance is primarily defensive.

Finally, when the heroes have a measure of success, they  provoke the monster into its avenger state.   Here it reveals its true powers and is most dangerous because it is angry.

Defeat

Its defeat comes about through some blind spot, where the monster overlooks something that makes it vulnerable.

Remember this is the plot where the hero defeats monster.  There are stories where the hero converts the monster.  That’s not a problem but it is not an overcoming the monster story!  If you sell equipment for overcoming some problem, customers want something that works.  They will be less attracted by something that enables them to live with the problem.  It depends what you sell.  Competitors might befriend the problem, you deal with it.

Rewards

There are three main rewards the hero receives for overcoming the monster.

The love of a princess (or prince) and their hand in marriage.  Consider what this means.  The relationship is usually either a result of rescuing the beloved from the monster’s holdfast or a reward from the community.  Whatever your take on sexuality, don’t lose sight of the point of this.

Marriage at the end of the story stands for maturity.  Male and female coming together balances both people.  You can experiment with this but reflect on how you feel when the hero and heroine get together, there is something deeper here than simply getting the girl (or boy!).

The two together are often deemed worthy to rule over the kingdom, community or household.  This preoccupies most traditional stories.  What makes a good leader?  It is never solely the male hero’s strength and courage but includes characteristics associated with the feminine, such as seeing the whole picture and flexibility.

The point is not whether some characteristics are male and others female, both sexes exhibit both.  Both are needed to rule a kingdom.  Marriage puts both in charge. Problems start when we over-associate with one or the other.

Finally, they inherit treasure taken from the monster’s holdfast or as a reward for defeating the monster.  They become wealthy and much the same applies to wealth as to political power.  I’ll explore this in more detail next time when I consider rags to riches stories.

From a business perspective, these outcomes may be important as the promise you make to your customers.  Note all are awards for those proved worthy through defeating the monster.  This helps us think about our offers on a deeper level.

Looking Forwards

This is the first of Booker’s seven plot types.  Remember the aim is to help you structure your marketing story in a way that resonates with your market.

Next time we’ll look at a plot that on first glance seems much more relevant to business, the Rags to Riches story.  This is an interesting plot that is a good fit for some businesses but possibly not the ones you might think.  If you think your business is about creating wealth, read the next post to find out whether it is!

Quality Control Approved

Delivering Quality to Your Customers

The problem with this functional element of value is credibility.  No business claims to deliver poor quality goods or services.  So how can you market quality credibly?

What is It?

You claim a quality service where you deliver a product or service to the highest possible standard.  Leaving aside the question of how you provide evidence, there is another factor to consider.

Quality is multi-factorial.  Your Crunchy Bites may be the crunchiest but that is no evidence of quality.  What do they taste like?  Nutritional value?  Environmental impact?  Are they fresh?  How do you treat your workers?  You can add many more.

They may be the crunchiest on the market but you cannot claim quality on one criterion alone.

Value to the Customer

Consider possible factors.  Not all customers care about all of these.  Some customers rate some factors as important.  Perhaps they all want a crunchy snack but after that vary about what is important.

If your packaging does not meet environmental standards some people, who would otherwise buy your snack, will not.  If your packaging meets minimal standards, your competitors may do better.

It is easy to see how you can get lost in a maze of regulations over a wide range of issues.

Maybe you can get by with customers who care only about crunch but that way you lose many potential customers.  What to do?

How to Get There

Customers expect minimum standards and maybe that is all you have capacity for.  Perhaps it is best not to broadcast quality as one of your elements of value.

Instead, use evidence you provide a good service.  Use things like awards, qualifications, endorsements and testimonials as evidence you provide a quality product or service.  If you provide a niche service or product, you may find you need go no further.

To go further, you need to build capacity.  I had experience of this during the 1990s, when we applied for funding for community enterprises.  Funding bodies insisted we met quality standards by providing evidence of compliance. This made us think deeply about what we were doing in all aspects of our work.  It was not easy but mostly improved performance.

The key to quality is accountability to an external authority.  This gets you beyond minimum legal requirements.  There is a point in the growth of your business, where quality becomes more important.  Addressing it too early absorbs a lot of time, with little financial benefit.

There are several quality standards available. Consultants can help you find the best for your business.  These include packages such as Investors in People or ISO standards.

Your Offer

Don’t misunderstand me.  A business that demonstrates it meets quality standards has an advantage in the marketplace.

However, you must juggle advantages with capacity.  In the early stages of business development, when you have not finally settled on your exact business, you develop new products and services and learn to market and sell them, quality may be premature.

Quality requires significant investment of time and finance.  Do it only once secure foundations are in place and you want to grow your business.

Some customers care about some aspects of quality.  Be ready for their questions but don’t worry too much about it.

This is the twenty-eighth of 31 posts about elements of value.  Make sure you don’t miss any by signing up for the offer below.  The posts in this sequence can be accessed below:

Next: Variety + 2 more

woman at desk surrounded by images from stories

Telling Your Traditional Story

You tell a better story if you understanding traditional stories.  Therefore this bottom layer of the storytelling cake is something different.  Many businesses offer help with storytelling to businesses but few use traditional stories.

What is a Traditional Story?

Traditional stories are rooted in oral traditions.  They may be published and so you find them in print.  They are myths and legends, fairy stories, sagas and other accounts of adventure and tragedy.  Some are presented as for children but most assume an adult audience.  They can be bawdy, cruel, violent and devastating but almost always resolve in a positive ending.

Jokes and Anecdotes

Jokes can be stories.  Consider the shaggy dog story.  A long meandering story, often invoking the rule of three to the point of tedium.  Eventually we get to a punch line, which elicits a laugh or a groan.  The punch line is the point of telling this story.

An anecdote is in some ways similar.   Maybe less likely to depend on the rule of three but it has a punch line.  There is a reason for telling it and it results in recognition.  Ah, yes now I see!  If you remember the anecdote, it might remind you of the main point.  The anecdote does not converse with the main point, it serves to illustrate it.  You choose or create it for that purpose.  If it challenges the main point in some way, it is more likely you change the anecdote, not the main point.

Imagination and Fantasy

A traditional story is an imagined story with certain structural and functional attributes.  Imagination is important.  There is a difference between imagination and fantasy.

An imagined narrative comes from within what the psychologist Jung called the collective unconscious.  It is collective in the sense we all have access to it.  People recognise traditional stories as somehow satisfactory.  It makes sense at a deep level.  I shall return to this in future posts.

A fantasy aims to satisfy egotistical desire.  Whether the desire is for money, sex, food, violence; the fantasy attempts to articulate and fulfil them.  Fantasies generally fail because they are not the thing they depict.  Frequently mistaken for reality, they confuse and mislead.

The story of Ignatius of Loyola illustrates this distinction.  He was a knight wounded in battle and convalesced in a castle with a limited library.  He had two books to read, an account of the daring escapades of knights and the lives of the saints.  Ignatius decided to make up stories based on those books.  On the one hand, winning in battle great treasures and the hand in marriage of a beautiful woman.  On the other a life of contemplation.  He found the latter was far more satisfying and so was born Ignatian spirituality.

Structure and Function

A traditional story has a specific structure, basically a beginning, middle and end.  Let’s focus on the end for now.  By the end, things are put right and nothing is out-of-place.  “They married, inherited the kingdom and everyone lived happily ever after” is important.  It ties up the loose ends.  Of course there are other possible endings but after all the vicissitudes the hero and heroine pass through it is a relief to get there.  Tragedies are an exception.  Here the endings are negative but still make sense as a story.

The beginning middle and end tell us something about how the story evolves through time.  Another aspect of the story’s structure is its geography.  Where it takes place and the people and objects the protagonists encounter.  Without these the story is somehow incomplete.  Many personal stories focus solely on the protagonists, and exclude others.

What is traditional storytelling’s function?  First, it is to grasp and hold attention.  This is something all business people need to do.  A well-crafted story can do that.

It tells us something about the storyteller.  Through their choice of story and the way they tell it, they help their audience know, like and trust them.

Finally, it helps the audience understand something of themselves.  Usually, they lack something and need a remedy.  The aim is to move the audience and so bring about a wider transformation of relationships within or between businesses or with the wider world.

Finding Your Traditional Story

We all swim in a sea of stories.  The challenge we have is to find our signature or keynote story.  One step towards this is to find a traditional story that resonates with our personal story and our market’s story.

Oral Tradition

Most of the stories we encounter are published.  You find them in books, magazines, comics and games; on TV, radio and the cinema.  These are all good places to look for your story but remember these are stories set in stone.

Even traditional stories are published.  You might occasionally hear a storyteller or remember stories told many years ago.  Chances are you take recourse to a published version to check your memory.

The challenge is to return to the oral tradition.  Even if you plan to publish, you need to make the story your own before you do.

Orientation for Businesses

Overcome your prejudice.  “This has nothing to do with business”, may be your first thought.  I’ve shown there are real potential benefits and here’s one more.  Choosing the right story helps you understand your business.  Your offer, market and brand all become clearer as you work with the right story.

“There are far too many stories.  How can I choose the right one?”  You don’t need to study every story.  Find a story that resonates, study and understand it.  How do you know you’re chosen the right one?  You don’t.  Do your best with the one you have and be aware other stories might help.

“Aren’t these stories for children?”  Adults told traditional stories for adults.  Children’s stories may be just as useful.  Watch the ending because the outcome is often they find their way home to mother, not something we want our markets to do!

There is no app or technique to help you find your traditional story.  The temptation may be to buy a book of stories and read them all.  Life is too short.

Finding Your Story

Finding the right story is intuitive and so trust your intuition.  Focus on your personal story and market’s stories and ask whether they remind you of a traditional story.

Whatever comes up is likely to evoke a response like, “Oh no, that can’t be it”.  Ignore that and spend time with the story that has come up.  Is it a traditional story?  If it isn’t, why did it come up, can it work as an inspiration or is it a dead-end?

Find a published version and read it, taking note of everything you had forgotten.  Then stand up and retell the story from memory.  Do this several times and note how you begin to change and inhabit the story.

Telling Your Traditional Story

You have chosen a traditional story and now you tell it.  You have four options to consider.

On the Book

You could stand up and read the story as published.  Read it well and hold the audience’s attention as an actor would.  You put some of yourself into the story this way but does this work in a business environment?

This is reading a story in public, it is not telling the story.  The place where this happens regularly is in church.  Every week lessons are read and then the preacher interprets them.  The preacher rarely tells them or retells them.  This is a pity.  The reading is for reassurance, the foundational writings are still there.  Now we hear the preacher’s interpretation for this place and time.

It is difficult to imagine a business context where this has utility.

Telling Your Version

Better and more fun is to tell your version of the story.  This is in the oral storytelling tradition.  You tell the story here and now, for these people in this place.

Emphasise what you believe is important in the story.  Add or subtract incidents, characters and tweak them to convey the message you want to communicate.  As you become adept, you draw elements of your story and your market’s story into it.

This is worth experimenting with for marketing.  You are on a spectrum and as more elements from your story move into your traditional story, you see greater success with this approach.  It leads on to the next possibility.

Structuring Your Story

Perhaps the most helpful approach is to use the traditional story to structure your story.  Think of the two stories in conversation.  Your story asks the traditional story for help.  How can I tell this story better?  What is missing from it?  What does it mean?

Your personal story need not ape your traditional story.  It need not have the same meaning.  Your traditional story helps you find meaning in your own story.  For example, many traditional stories have a communal dimension; the success of the hero or heroine benefits everyone.  Personal stories often show the protagonist overcoming some problem.  The communal dimension can be overlooked.  It does not follow the communal benefits of your personal story are the same as those in the traditional story.

Key is understanding how elements in traditional stories stand in for things in real life.  If there is a magic sword in the story, what role does it play?  Does something in my story play a parallel role?

This is an intuitive exercise.  Work on your own storytelling, no-one else can tell you how to do it.  However, storytelling is a conversation between you and your audience.  The more you tell it, the more you find images and ideas from your subconscious.  Not all are helpful, test everything.  Finding and testing your story is never complete until the grave closes the final chapter!

Telling Fragments

Another approach to your traditional story is to use fragments in your marketing.  Two or three words that evoke a well-known image from a tale saves a lot of words.

This associates your business with a vivid image.  But make sure you are familiar with the traditional story, so the image you use is congruent with your business.  If you choose the wrong image to associate with your business, you can mislead your market.

Looking Forwards

I’ve walked you through the three layer cake, including icing and decorations.  Your marketing story is the icing, then your market’s story, your personal story and finally your foundational traditional story.

This last is perhaps least familiar as a business approach and so the next posts look at the structure and function of seven common plot types.  Most stories follow one or more of these common types.  Knowing them helps you see them in the stories businesses tell, intentionally or unintentionally.

So, next time we’ll look at one of the simplest plots, Overcoming the Monster.  This lays the groundwork for more complex plot types.  If you think your business is about overcoming monsters, read my next post and find out whether it is!

Till receipt

How to Offer Reduced Costs for Your Clients

This element of value offers reduced costs for clients.  Reduced costs may be incidental but can attract some clients.

What is It?

Reduced costs are significant but always lag behind making money.  The size of the business determines costs and overheads.  Income is not constrained in the same way.  It’s never easy but in principle you can increase income 10-fold or 100-fold or 1000-fold.  Even if you somehow abolish all costs, you limit savings to the original size of the costs.

What are costs?  They are often divided into costs and overheads.  Overheads are regular and paid whatever the turnover of the business, eg rent or utilities.  Costs increase as business increases, eg raw materials.

Value to the Customer

This is likely to appeal to a customer with a sizeable business and substantial turnover.  A coach working from home is likely to have low overheads.  Heat and light is unlikely to increase significantly, as they would still live there if not in business.  But remember (1) there may be tax advantages to the business and (2) reductions in domestic expenditure may cut drawings on the business.

Common overheads include fees, subscriptions and the like, eg your ISP, mobile phone, website host and subscriptions to online packages.  There may be substantial bills for training and coaching.  These increase as the business develops and the business owner can afford more expensive packages.

Costs increase as the business grows, eg raw materials or products the business uses.  Expenditure on utilities may increase as the business grows.

Finally, there is capital expenditure, occasional expenditure on equipment, eg computers and vehicles.  Buying outright reduces outgoings over time.  If your client flexes payments over months or years, they are likely to pay high interest rates on the loan.

How to Get There

There is a long list of possible costs.  Even reductions in domestic costs may be of value to smaller businesses.

You could offer to look at outgoings and suggest how to make savings.  This works well with packages that help make savings on domestic or business utilities.  Utility Warehouse is one example of this type of offer.

Another possibility, is to bundle together a range of services yourself.  A website designer might offer a package so the website owner does not need to make their own purchases.

And the obvious approach is to provide something cheaper.  Take care!  If you do this so that you receive the income you need for your business all well and good.   If you undercut your competitors you could trigger a race to the bottom, so you end up charging below the rate you need to survive.

Your Offer

Is this offer your main element of value, eg for a distributor for utility warehouse?  If so, be upfront about possible reduced costs.  You may have other lesser elements, eg Utility Warehouse issues one bill for several utilities, thus reducing bureaucracy, leading to a single monthly payment that assists with budgeting.

If reduction of costs is a beneficial side effect of your main offer, then add this element to your marketing lower down the page.  Focus on marketing your main offer and present savings as a benefit of that offer.

This is the twenty-seventh of 31 posts about elements of value.  Make sure you don’t miss any by signing up for the offer below.  The posts in this sequence can be accessed below:

Next: Quality + 3 more

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Why Tell Your Keynote Story?

Now we reach the middle layer of the storytelling cake.  In business you take on the role of leader for your market.  If you want people to follow you, they need to know you and why you are in business.  Telling your personal or keynote story is the best way to establish leadership in your field.

I’ve already covered the different types of personal story you might tell.  Your story must engage your market’s interest, be structured for emotional impact and resonate with your market’s values.

In this post, I focus on why storytelling is essential and how to get your message across.  Every story is different and you must find your personal approach to telling your story.  What do you need to bear in mind as you build your story?

Building Your Story

Trial and Error

It’s tempting to think of your story as something to polish off over an hour’s work at your desk.  You may come up with an outline but it is a starting point for a lifetime’s work.  The telling of the story to audiences is important.  Each time you tell your story, you tell it different.  You can write down the story but the story’s essence is in its telling; telling stories implies a relationship with your audience.

So, think of storytelling as trial and error.  Each time you tell it, you get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t, what is superfluous and what is necessary.  There is no final perfect version of the story you tell.

Your Story is Not Yours

Don’t confuse your story with your life.  Your story is not the same as the story you tell.  Is your story a lifetime’s task because you need to live your life to have a complete story to tell?  Think of the story you tell as drawing inspiration from your life.  No-one can live through what you have been through but they can be inspired by it!

Your story is not yours.  It is a gift to your listeners and it is your responsibility to tell the story they want to hear, that in some way makes them better people.  It doesn’t matter whether you are talking a big or a small change, your story is for them and for their benefit.

And yes there are always some for whom this is not their story.  They might enjoy it but they reject your message.  And that’s fine.  They are not your market.  They are free agents and have no obligation to you.

But it’s Embarrassing!

If it’s not embarrassing, why is it worth telling?  Your embarrassment shows you emotionally engage with your story.  Many people have hang-ups like yours.  They need to hear whatever it is, is OK.  If you offer services as a coach, as a guide for your market, what does it mean if you cannot tell your story?

Only you know your full story, you control what you tell.  The more realistic your story is, the more it builds trust and interest.  You don’t have to say everything, if some aspect is too hard to speak, maybe you’re not ready to speak it.  Say what you can now and leave the rest for later.

So Much to Remember!

Yes, these posts taken together are a lot to remember.  How can you possibly pull something together that meets all these criteria?  You can’t and you don’t have to.

Find a story that might work and start to tell it.  Each time you tell it, review it.  From time to time, read these posts and ask yourself where your story meets these suggestions.  Maybe there are aspects you don’t need to meet.  Maybe at this stage you can’t see how to include something you want.

Remember telling a better story is not incremental.  You are more likely to make big changes when inspiration strikes.  Reviewing your story helps you work out where you need inspiration.  Remember, inspiration strikes in unexpected ways.

Keep it Simple

Your aim is to tell a simple, compelling story.  Adding bits on to meet some aspect of good storytelling is unlikely to work.  You may find it helps to take aspects away!  Does the story work without this incident?  The less material, the more chance you have of sensing the shape of your story.  As you become clearer about what the story is about, you can add material for longer versions of the story.

Don’t lose material you cut from the story.  You need several stories apart from your keynote.  So long as they support the keynote story, use them when the keynote is not appropriate.

Your Personal Story

In telling your personal story, you seek to establish yourself as a leader in your field. Your story is more important than your business message.  When people appreciate your story, they want to hear your message.

To do this, focus on two aspects of your story: authenticity and inspiration.

Show people what you are really like.  If you are honest telling your story, you are likely to be trusted in business.  Sometimes people find it difficult to be at the mercy of strangers (friends might be worse!).  It is daunting and even embarrassing (worse in retrospect!) but at the same time effective.  You seek people with a problem.  To hear someone speak about a problem that is rarely spoken about is very effective.

And inspiration is important because if you inspire your audience to take up the battle you took up, you have keen potential customers.  With inspiration, your market can identify with a story about you.  Your story of triumph over adversity becomes their story.  If they identify with you, they become the hero of your story.  You need time and experience to work out how to do this but it is worth the effort.

Your Story / Their Story

Here are some things to consider when telling your story in the hope it becomes their story:

  • Are they able to join you on your journey and make it theirs? Too many businesses sell a product or service as a given, sometimes people want to journey with us, for a short or long period,
  • You have had successes and these may be achievements your market likes to share,
  • Your failures help you prove authenticity. If your market experiences similar issues, they know you understand their problem,
  • In recounting the lessons you learned, you share real value with your audience,
  • Can you show how your philosophy changed? How did your understanding of life or business, change as your story progressed?
  • Show how your values changed. What didn’t?  Not everyone shares your values but those who do engage as a result,
  • Perhaps share goals and vision. This is not something I would put up front but as an outcome from a story.  Just don’t ram them down peoples’ throats, especially near the beginning!

Telling Your Business Story

Your personal and business stories might be the same or distinct.  Decide which is your keynote, if they are different.  If you major on the personal, there may be aspects of your business story you can include.

Your Why and Your Values

Your business story should be more than an account of what you do and how you got started.  Explain why you do it through your story.  I’m in business because I believe business has a role building community.  I want to work with people in sympathy with my why.

Also share your values.  Together with your why, they help draw your potential market’s attention.

Values in What You Do

Values make sense where they contribute to what you do and the way you do it.  In the first of this sequence of posts, I wrote about the need for consistency between all aspects of marketing.  This must extend to how you deliver your business obligations.

To what extent do you look after your customers?  Do you exceed expectations?  Can you see the values you claim expressed throughout your business?  If they are, you will find in your business itself means to extend your marketing.

Your customers commit to similar values and so help promote your business.  If they know your story, they pass on recommendations with reliability and conviction.

You are Your Business Culture

Larger businesses develop their own culture and once developed it is hard to shift.  Habits shared by large groups, are incredibly hard to change.

You see this even in small businesses.  You employ 3 people to work 8 hours a day, while you do important stuff for 3 hours a day.  Your staff takes their cue not from their contract of employment but from you.  You set the culture of your business.

Seek congruence between how you behave and the stories you tell.  But if you are self-employed with no staff, you have a degree of flexibility.  You can set the tone through the stories you tell.

Finally

Here are three questions to ask of your personal or business story.

  • Who are you and why do you do what you do?
  • What does your business stand for and what difference does it make?
  • What is going on for your customer and where does your business fit into their story?

Tell your story and then compare it with these questions.  Can you make changes to improve the story and move it closer to your marketing needs?

Looking Forwards

My next post reaches the bottom layer of the cake, where we access the power of traditional storytelling. It opens up seven more posts that explores traditional stories.  Your traditional story – how do you structure a story to resonate with your audience’s emotions and values?

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How to Offer Something that Avoids Hassles

This element of value is elusive but important.  How do you offer something that avoids hassles?

What is It?

Hassles are integral to your product or service.  You offer something that combats hassles that originate elsewhere?  Fine but they most likely come under some other element of value.

Let’s say you offer a solution to a complex problem and so inevitably the solution is complex too.  Your customers may be concerned the solution will create more problems.  Your aim is to reassure them.

This is a hard value to sell.  The customer expects your shipping to be hassle-free.  They expect you to have a returns policy that works.  It is far easier to get a bad reputation in this area when you get it wrong.  When you get it right, you’re just doing what everyone expects you to do anyway.

Value to the Customer

You can do more where you have a complex offer and more can potentially go wrong.  Going wrong need not necessarily mean there’s something wrong with the offer.  Customers may have difficulty using it properly.

In these circumstances you need to offer support.

How to Get There

Here are a few possibilities to consider for complex offers.  You may need more than one of these.

  • Offer Instructions for common issues, eg installation instructions for hardware and software. Get these right and it saves you hassle, where you receive many similar enquiries.  It also saves customers the hassle of contacting you.
  • Training is another way to save hassle for you and the customer. This can be done live but these days online training is common.  Blog posts and / or videos are accessible at all hours and so long as customers find the right training they are likely to be happy.
  • Troubleshooting through a knowledge base, FAQs and customer forums are all good ways to offer support.
  • And high quality responsive support is a powerful selling point. Do this through IM or by phone.  This is so popular some businesses do nothing but offer support.
  • DFY solutions are perhaps a last resort but sending someone round to help you is a possibility and of course there are remote access services for online products.

Your Offer

Quality of support is something I look for when I buy anything online.  There will be hassles and I want to know I’ll get a prompt response.  Whilst I am willing to solve problems myself, I don’t always have time and sometimes the causes are hard for me to track down.

My website host offers excellent support service.  When I have a problem with my website, I usually receive a response within 30 minutes of reporting it.  This is in marked contrast to my ISP who uses telephone lines and people who insist on ploughing through a complex script before they get to the point.  I also don’t want to be asked to buy something when I have a problem.  I’m stuck with them because the hassle of changing is likely to be greater the hassle of staying.

Another positive example is Thrive Themes (affiliate link) who provide excellent online training material and a responsive support service.

If the support service is good I’ll put up with other drawbacks, for example my website host’s sites are not always easy to navigate.

This is the twenty-sixth of 31 posts about elements of value.  Make sure you don’t miss any by signing up for the offer below.  The posts in this sequence can be accessed below:

Next: Reduced Costs + 4 more