What's the story? Tell me more...
Every business has a story to tell. How your business tells its story will have a critical impact on the success of your company. But what is even more important is discovering what that story will be. This can seem very obvious but I am astounded by the number of companies who did not know what their company’s story is. They tell us in our meetings that they know what their story is and they just want to get on with telling it but usually they completely miss the essence of the story and thus miss an important opportunity to connect deeply with their customers.
A company’s story is not made up of product names, past successes and corporate colours. The story is or should be more visceral, more emotional, more customer-focused. The company story should answer the question “What can this company and its products and services do to make the customer’s day easier?” It’s as simple as that.
Why do companies make this common mistake? It’s usually because they are not seeing the world through their customers’ eyes. They don’t see the problems that their customers see every day, at least not in the detail that the customer encounters them. They are not under the same pressures that their customers are and never will be. They might be having their own issues but they will not be the same issues.
So how can you find out what kinds of challenges your customers are facing? You can ask them. As simple as that sounds it is not done often enough and not in the way that delivers deep insights. We use a method called “Customer R&D” where we go out and videotape candid conversations with customers on their own turf and at their convenience. We are good listeners but more importantly good questioners and we have no preconceived opinions or axes to grind. We are third party gatherers who often uncover surprising nuggets of customer insight. We then bring the video back to the boardroom where we watch the video with the goal of getting a much deeper understanding of what the customer wants from us. This understanding then becomes the beginning of our company story. It’s powerful because it speaks directly to the customer and it resonates because it speaks the customers’ language and reflects their reality.
Even a well-established company with a mature product line can benefit from refreshing the company story. It will make the marketplace look at them in a new and hopefully more relevant way. It will make the company look responsive and forward-looking. And of course it can be the foundation for a new direction, a new product line or an initiative. And it will highlight the concerns of the customer because that’s where the story will start, with the customer.
So, talk to your customers, listen well and think about what your company really does for your customers. Then tell your story and if you tell it well you will create the demand to participate.
And that’s the holy grail of customer relations in my opinion.