The reason why your value prop is full of “and”, your product is full of features, and your strategy is full of verticals and use cases (and exceptions to both), is that we are biased towards additive solutions.
We think that adding is better than subtracting when we look for solutions.
People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.
If you work in marketing, you have certainly heard this quote by professor Levitt. But that is not true, because nobody wants a quarter-inch hole in their wall. They might want to install some shelves to keep things organized, or perhaps they want to fix the furniture to the wall to prevent it from falling, or they might want a tool that makes them feel more comfortable and ready when there is some work to do around the house.
The point is that you should never stop at your product, nor you should stop at the first thing people do with your product.
Go further, understand their motivations, accompany them on the journey they are taking, and you will be with them all their lives.
Be concise when you write. Do not make sentences and paragraphs longer than they should be, make your point as fast and clearly as possible. Respect your reader, respect their time, respect their ability to understand.
An example of how not to do this.
There seems to be a disproportionately high number of employers who feel that their entry-level Millennial employees are making unreasonable demands. Across companies big and small, employers share tales not just about requests for unjustified pay increases, but also things like premature promotions, customized schedules and open access to senior executives.
But I have also spoken with countless Millennials, and things look a little different from their point of view. Many of them admit that not all the stereotypes about them are completely off base, at least in comparative terms. In a Pew survey, for example, the majority of younger people credited older generations with having a stronger work ethic, higher moral values and greater respect for others. The Millennials I have talked to also cop to getting bored easily and say that they don’t have a desire to stay with one organization for the whole of their careers. Yet most of them say that they want to work hard and are willing to work hard. This is most evident in their entrepreneurial spirit. Millennials are founding their own businesses at much younger ages than older generations. Boomers started their companies at an average age of thirty-five, whereas the average age at which a Millennial takes the plunge is twenty-seven.
When they are accused of lacking work ethic, many Millennials will respond that their bosses don’t share their conception of time as it relates to productivity. They don’t need to work specific hours in the office – technology allows them to work remotely whenever they feel like it. Unlike older generations who are missing out on life because they are chained to their desks, Millennials have found a way to do both. And why shouldn’t they be entitled? Why shouldn’t they expect to earn more, have greater responsibility and advance up the ranks quickly? Almost everyone agrees that they are, generally speaking, more connected and technologically savvy than their Boomer bosses. Millennials are also poised to be the most educated generation in history.
Rare are the meetings or events that I attend, however, that someone doesn’t ask a question about Millennials. There seem to be a huge number of employers, including many Millennial employers, who struggle when it comes to leading their youngest workers. They express frustration about the generation’s lack of resourcefulness, poor writing skills and demands for early promotions. They also express exasperation that if their Millennial employees don’t get what they want when they want it, many simply quit.
But the knife cuts both ways. I hear just as many complaints from Millennials about their frustration with their employers. They express dismay that their bosses don’t understand them or their lifestyles, give them enough feedback, take full advantage of their skills or show enough appreciation for their work. They would also like the companies they work for to have a greater sense of purpose and offer them a work environment in which they can find fulfillment and feel like they are making an impact in the world.
Any debate over which side is “right” could go on forever. If I were to describe my observations about Millennials in entirely negative terms, for example, a good number of Gen Xers and Boomers would nod their heads in agreement, while Millennials would lash out at me for making broad generalizations. However, if I were only to shower Millennials with praise and frame everything they do as a strength or advantage, I expect a lot fewer Millennials would accuse me of making gross generalizations about them. Though I would expect more Gen Xers and Boomers would scowl and think me an apologist. Both sides have valid points based on their own experiences. Regardless of the lens through which we choose to see things, it seems to me that the only responsible thing for us to do is try to understand what’s going on and use any insights as the basis for a course of action. What both sides of the argument must appreciate is the mutual value of trying to understand the factors that make Millennials who they are. If for no other reason than it will help employers better lead their Millennial employees and it will help Millennials find that sense of career fulfillment that seems so elusive.
There appear to be three dominant factors that impacted, and continue to impact, Millennials most significantly as they grew up: […]
The same exact idea could have been expressed as follows.
Employers across different generations complain that Millennials are difficult to manage: they request salary increases and promotions without justification, they want flexible working hours, they want access to senior executives. And that is often accompanied by a lower than average performance, for example when it comes to writing skills and resourcefulness.
On the other end, Millennials – while acknowledging some of these shortages *resources in footnote* – find their bosses simply don’t get them. Millennials don’t need to work long hours or to be in the office. They want (and don’t get) thorough feedback, challenges that match their skills, and more recognition of their work.
Both sides have valid points and pitting one generation against the others would allow for little progress. Instead, it is better to try and understand what makes Millennials who they are and how to leverage their strengths.
There are three factors that impacted, and continue to impact, Millennials as they grew up: […]
Personal revision by the author of the post
When writing, there is never a reason why longer should be preferred to shorter.
Despite thousands of years of evolution, we are still pretty primitive in our behavior. We seek what makes us survive and thrive, and we stay away from what puts our lives through any kind of hassle.
And so, companies do two big mistakes when they talk about what they do. First, they forget that they are not the hero. Second, they ask prospects to burn too many calories to understand why they should become customers.
The result is that people run.
The way companies tell their story can follow a consolidated way of storytelling.
A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.
The character is the customer. And the engine of the story (the story gap) is the thing the customer wants. Of course, you need to know your customer very well to start from here. In particular, you need to know:
What do they want to become?
What kind of person do they want to be?
What is their aspirational identity? (i.e., How do they want their friends to talk about them?)
Once this research is done, it should become clear that what they want is something relevant for them. They do care deeply about closing the gap and joining with the object of their desire (if they do not, there is no story).
The problem is both external (e.g., a bomb, skyrocketing costs, increased competition) and internal (e.g., failed detective, inability to grow, staff leaving). In fact, companies should strive to frame their product as a resolution for both the external and the internal problem.
The guide is you (finally!). For your product to be a reliable guide, it needs to communicate empathy – we understand how it feels ..; like you, we are frustrated by .. – and competence – we know what we are doing (testimonials, logos, statistics).
The plan can either be a process plan, that describes the steps the hero needs to take to buy the product (and achieve success), or an agreement plan, that lists the major concerns of the hero and counters them with agreements that alleviate the fear – if you buy our product, we will do this; in case you need help, we offer 24/7 service.
The call to action can either be direct – buy now, schedule an appointment – or transitional – download the whitepaper, get started with the free trial.
The dodged failure needs to be expressed. Many refrain from doing this, because they feel they might be perceived as negative guides. Yet people are motivated by loss aversion: if there is no loss your product helps them avoid, they will avoid the loss (i.e. expenditure) represented by buying your product.
And finally, the success. Just be very clear what it looks like, how it feels like, what the end vision is. You can’t get too specific.