How to market systematically

Storytelling tips from the Nielsen Norman Group

As an analytical thinker, storytelling has always been a struggle for me. I tend to organize information differently than storytellers. But throughout my career it has become increasingly important. Anytime I find a good teaching tool for storytelling, I try to work with it and incorporate its lessons. 

I especially value the reminder here to pair our stories with artifacts. If we handle it correctly, a very complex story can be embedded in a single image or token. 

Nielsen Norman Group: 6 Rules for Persuasive Storytelling, 2019-Apr-28 by Rachel Krause

Stories help us explain difficult concepts.

Giving additional context helps our audience connect with a concept. This additional context can be in the form of behaviors, emotions, reactions, motivations, or goals. Unlike a flow chart or artifact, a narrative allows the audience to understand the reasons behind users’ actions; they remind our audience members that they are not the user.... 

Stories allow us to form a shared understanding.

Thinking about how to build a product usually involves feature lists and backlogs. Stories bring user pain points and goals to the forefront of the conversation and help teams create a shared language of why they’re building a product or feature and whom it benefits. These stories can also be used to rally around a product vision, painting an image of how life could be better with that product.

6 Rules for Persuasive Storytelling

    1. Adapt your vocabulary to match your audience.
    2. Appeal to the needs of your audience.
    3. Back up your points with real data. 
    4. Focus on the entire omnichannel experience, inside and outside the interface. 
    5. Pair your story with an artifact for memorability and alignment.
    6. Follow up with a summary. 

Qv190510ab


Look at ways to influence the buying process instead of the buyer

Gartner has found three steps universal in the business buying process. They usually occur in the following order, but not always. 

  • Interest is aroused by discussions with colleagues
  • Research is done using independent experts
  • Vendor information is gathered. 

Advertising doesn't make much of a difference unless it's newsworthy and spurs discussion. 

Gartner Blog Network: The First Three Steps in B2B Buying, 2019-Feb-26 by Hank Barnes

As a vendor, you can not control the buying process. Even if you generate the initial interest, the buying team will be doing lots of other activities, independent of you. But there are things you can do:

  1. Provide ways to facilitate sharing information among the buying team. And look at your content from the perspective of the ease of sharing (and really conveying the information) across the buying team.
  2. Help teams discover influencers that follow your space. And encourage them to seek them out (and yes, you should guide them to independent influencers that have a favorable view of your company and your products/services–when the customer situation fits.
  3. Finally, provide a mix of ways for prospects to discover you to kick off their process. Provide compelling insights that get them to think about things in new ways. Then encourage them to validate with an influencer or discuss internally. 

Qv190312bp


When sales people have to create change

When launching a new product or service, the selling organization must have the time and incentive to go slowly and learn as much about the prospects and their challenges as they do about the new offering. 

Harvard Business Review: How to Sell New Products, 2018-Nov/Dec, by Michael Ahearne and Thomas Steenburgh

Early in the cycle, not only must the salesperson provide the right product information, but customers must feel they have the right information. That involves establishing trust and demonstrating a deep understanding of the customer’s challenges. Later in the cycle, the salesperson must help the customer understand, assess, and manage the risks and the people issues associated with change. Too few companies help salespeople learn to do this.

Sales teams would be better off spending their time developing a psychological profile of the ideal customer. What traits suggest that a prospect might be willing to adopt a new way of doing business? What behavioral clues signal that he or she is serious about making a purchase rather than simply learning about a new technology? Does the prospect’s organizational culture support learning and change? For prospects who best fit the profile, the sales team should map out all the steps that will need to be taken—and all the people who will need to be met. This exercise is creative in nature, because the goal is to envision what should be new and different in the sales process. 

Qv190118sb


Unlearning marketing

I see a lot of problems in marketing, but I hadn't been seeing them as problems of "unlearning." Now I will.  

Harvard Business Review: Why the Problem with Learning Is Unlearning, 2016-Nov-3 by Mark Bonchek

We need to unlearn the push model of marketing and explore alternative models. For example, instead of using relationships to drive transactions, we could be building brand orbits and embedding transactions in relationships. Instead of customers being consumers, we could have relationships with them in a variety of roles and social facets. Beyond delivering a value proposition, we could be fulfilling a shared purpose.

Tq170207gw


Observation: Being competitive means using 'irrational focus'

When you trying to build your own business, everyone who supports you will try and drag you off your target audience. We have to resist!

Seth's Blog: When your marketplace shifts, 2016-Dec by Seth Godin

The marketplace disruption puts huge pressure on any merchant who merely created a commodity. This means vineyards, graphic designers, photographers, etc.

When you see it coming, there are only two choices:

Run like hell to a new market, or,

Move up, faster and more boldly than anyone thinks is rational.

Tq161218tb


Why we can't think our way through a pricing challenge--we have to experiment

While I find it easy to remember that pricing is part of the product, I forget that you probably can't reach the correct price without some experimentation. So the best way is to produce various configurations of the product and see which one appeals to your target audience. 

It is impossible to demonstrate the value of your product without a clear communication of its price. 

Tq160520qd

Fluxx Studio Notes: The first rule of pricing is: you do not talk about pricing, 2016-Apr-18 by Tom Whitwell 

[Whitwell's excerpts have been slightly edited and emphasized to make them easier to read. The full article is highly recommended.]

  1. It's tempting to talk to customers about price. Your customers—real or potential—will certainly have views about prices that they are keen to share. Ignore them. 

  2. As human beings find it almost impossible to think rationally around pricing. Because of this, as human beings, our own thoughts about pricing are likely to be almost useless.

  3. Experiments are the only way to make sense of it all.

Price is the crudest, and most subtle, message you can send about your product, so it’s worth getting it right.

Whitwell also points to this excellent blog post about pricing:

LeanBlogs: Why You Should Never Ask Customers What They'll Pay, 2013-Sep-10 by Ash Maurya

Principle 1: Pricing is Part of the Product
Suppose I place two bottles of water in front of you and tell you that one is $0.50 and the other $2.00. Despite the fact, that you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart in a blind taste test (same enough product), you might be inclined to believe (or at least wonder) whether the more expensive water is of higher quality.

Here, the price can change your perception of the product.

Principle 2: Pricing Determines Your Customers
Pricing doesn’t just define the product but also your customers. Building on the bottled water example, we know there are viable markets at both price points. The bottle you end up picking defines the customer segment you fall in.

Principle 3: Pricing is Relative
In their seminal book on Positioning – The Battle for the Mind, Al Ries and Jack Trout describe the concept of a product ladder which is how customers organize products into a mental hierarchy. Your job is understanding what alternative products occupy the top 3 spots in their mind. These alternatives provide reference price anchors against which your offering will be measured.

Alternatives can be real or extrapolated. In both cases, they help when applying the relativity principle.


To find your first customers, don't spray and pray... interact

Sc140621c1
Advertising is not an efficient way to find customers. When businesses like Apple and Verizon are throwing off a ton of cash, it makes sense to use that cash to cement awareness of their products and services. 

For the rest of the world, acquiring customers is a dialogue. You need just enough attention to get a conversation going. And you can't converse with 100 people, so why spray thousands of messages out there? Yes, we need to promote our businesses, but start where you live, and make sure your friends and family understand your business. Once they can explain it to others, then you've begun advertising. 

This article from Kontny offers sound advice on many issues confronting an entrepreneur.

Signal v. Noise: Tips for getting clients? Sell cake. 2015-Dec-15 by Nathan Kontny

I remember sitting across from the owner of a bar in my neighborhood. He didn’t have a need for the product I was selling, but in that conversation he outlined exactly what he had a need for that he would buy from me. That conversation was great feedback to help me mold who I was trying to help, and if I had given up on that idea, this guy had just given me the next thing to work on and he would have been my first customer.