It’s natural

Understand that it is normal to want to make things complex.

To want to add just one more feature. To want to make a clause for that particular case. To want to split the price to make it more flexible. To want to tell exactly how it works. To want to cover all the needs of all possible audiences. To want to factor in all the preferences of all possible stakeholders.

Understand that it is normal to want all of this.

And understand also that customers want simple. You yourself want simple when you are the customer.

Complexity is natural. It is also not what is going to make your business grow.

When coffee and kale compete

Every person wants progress, and when we design or market products and services we should focus on the progress we are enabling customers to make.

This is the foundation of Jobs To Be Done (JTBD).

With this approach, two things happen.

First, value is no longer seen as a transaction. It does not run out the moment a purchase is done or a service is delivered. Progress extends over time. The best way for a company to serve their customers is to understand the system of progress they are in – a good example being Weber, that does not stop at producing high-quality grills, and completes the offer with tools and resources to make the customer the grill master they want to be.

Design your product to deliver customers an ongoing feeling of progress – Alan Klement

Second, competition is no longer restricted to products or services that have a similar functionality or physical appearance. Anything that helps the customer achieve the progress they have envisioned (or might envision) for themselves is competition.

A Job To Be Done is the process a consumer goes through whenever she aims to transform her existing life-situation into a preferred one, but cannot because there are constraints that stop her

Alan Klement, When Coffee and Kale Compete
When Coffee and Kale Compete – Book Cover

Building a StoryBrand

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.

Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand

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.

Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand book cover

A practice of research

What you create is not going to be consumed the way you thought it would.

There is no education. There is no explaining. There is no walkthrough. The only way you address this is by committing to a practice of research.

Ask.

Listen.

Aggregate.

Adjust.

Ask.

Listen.

Aggregate.

Adjust.

It might be that at some point what you create is no longer what you want to create. It is not likely, but it is a possibility.

In that case, move a step away and start over.

Ask.

Listen.

Aggregate.

Adjust.