“No one cares what you do!”
I often say this to brand new clients. Does it surprise you? It might. When I do say it, I’m often met, of course, with looks of disbelief or even anger. I hear responses like: “We sell millions of dollars’ in product—obviously people care what we do!” But, no, I reply, they do not. And it doesn’t matter whether the client in question sells tennis shoes, industrial fasteners, financial services or some other product—really, no one cares. And I mean that sincerely. They really don’t.
Because what they do care about is themselves.
They care about how they look, how they feel, how they’re perceived, and how they see themselves, So, to successfully capture their attention, you must speak to their human needs and clearly define what it is they get from what you do. Too many brands spend time talking about themselves, how wonderful the attributes of their products are, etc. I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked at a company’s mission or positioning statement and it starts with the word “We …” and leaves the customer out in the cold. What’s lost in this is the connection the brand has with the customer, the functional or emotional need that’s satisfied by what they offer. Without that connection, you end up in a transactional relationship that diminishes your potential to convert one-time buyers into lifelong brand advocates.
Does this mean a company can’t be successful without defining what value they create for the customer? Sure, it happens all the time, actually. But companies that are successful without defining the customer need tend to endup with customers that are able to figure out what’s in it for them on their own. And for every customer who’s figured that out, there are many others who haven’t yet—and therein lies the real opportunity.
So, how can you cultivate those lost customers? How can you successfully casting your customer as the hero of your brand story? Here are three steps you can take.
Start with the Why
Always start with the Why.
Why should the customer care about what you do? Why will they be better off with you in the world? These questions, lead to complex deep-dive territory where brands start to understand things from the audience’s perspective. To build a sturdy house, you have to start with a strong foundation, and asking Why is how brands pour their cement. What you’re seeking to understand, in fact, is the strength of your underlying brand purpose. Once you find it, you can start casting that purpose into the lives of your customers.
Too often, though, brands start by answering “What” question—“”What do we do?”“What do we offer?”—but this tends to lead to internally focused “Inside-Out” thinking. Asking Why naturally requires an “Outside-In” perspective—an approach that successfully starts with the customer and works its way back to the brand.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
This is a deceptively easy thing to do, but something that can be hard to maintain over time: always replace the word “We” with the word “You.”
Especially when you tell your brand story and corresponding brand position, you want that story to literally involve the customer, and applying the word You is the most effective way to do this. It also prevents you from falling back onto old habits—it’s difficult for a brand story to be inwardly focused when it starts with You.
Often with a new client, we will pick through some of their collateral to point out the places where they have gone on and on about themselves. By simply replacing all that “I” thinking with “You” thinking, they experience a kind of revelation, as they’re suddenly able to see how they’ve been shutting out their own customers. It’s a simple trick with big payoff.
One of the difficult challenges when transitioning to a customer-centric approach is figuring out how to emphasize to the highest-order benefit of your customer. For example, in the financial services business it would be easy to build your brand story around generating high returns. That would be “customer facing.” It would focus on what the customer gets. But to really uncover the opportunity, you’d have to dig deeper.
What do higher returns get the customers? How does it change their life? For some, it creates freedom to live their best lives, for others it creates a legacy, or allows the opportunity to give to charity. It’s not about the growth, but the impact that growth enables.
Building a financial service brand around “impact” resonates better than “high return on your money.” But you’ll only discover this if you dig deeper to find what ‘s important to your finance customers and made them the hero of the brand story.
“No one cares what you do. They care about what they get from what you do.”—Chris Weissman
By carrying out just these few steps, you can begin to create opportunities for increasing your number of prospective customers, who will better understand the value they derive from what you offer. Increased consideration, of course, leads to increased and ongoing sales. If you forget everything else I’ve written here today, just remember this simple point: as a brand, talk less about yourself, and more about everyone else.
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