When was the last time you had to pitch your business? Was it face-to-face? In an email? Or maybe last weekend you went to a party and someone asked you: “So, what do you do?”
Being able to talk about what you do effectively is one your most powerful weapons, and it comes down to knowing exactly what your customers want form you.
Whatever it is that you do, there is ONE THING that every single customer is buying from you, every single time.
You see, the thing that you actually sell is never the reason why customers choose you instead of your competition. It isn’t even the reason they decided to buy in the first place.
Whether you’re an insurance broker, a personal trainer, a gardener or you sell heavy machinery, all customers are buying the same one thing.
To understand what that is, we need to look at story. Story is the most powerful language we humans know, and at Brand Lighthouse we use story to help our customers communicate clearly and effectively, and ultimately create the results they want.
You’ve probably heard of the character arc. It’s the inner journey of a character over the course of the story. Characters must evolve, grow, learn, or change as the plot unfolds, or the story won’t work. When we first encounter the hero, he or she is a certain kind of person, and gradually they transform into a different kind of person. And by the time the story ends we expect them to be in a higher position than when they started .
This is unavoidable for the hero, but it’s actually true for most characters (in fact, have you ever noticed that the characters that don’t change often end up dying in stories?).
The hero must change, evolve and grow, because that is what we expect from our own lives.
This “arc”, or transformation is what we look for in all the decisions we make, and buying decisions are certainly no exception.
And that is why the one thing that all customers, invariably, are buying from you is a transformation.
All customers buy the same thing: transformation
They find themselves in a less than ideal situation and are hoping that by interacting with you they will be able to improve it.
This is true for everyone: from the woman who goes to a chiropractor to the exec who wants to buy machinery for his company’s plant.
Whatever you do, don’t think for a minute that this doesn’t apply to your business. If you work in health and fitness this is self evident, but say you sell B2B services to big corporations: the manager who is considering placing an order, hiring your company or in any way giving you some of their company’s money, is looking to improve something. Maybe they’re hoping to increase productivity, or improve some process, and on a personal level they might be hoping that this is going to make them look good to their superiors, help them gain a promotion, become more visible, etc.
If you run a nonprofit, that’s even more true: when someone clicks on that Donate Now button, they are very much looking for a transformation (a change in the issue they are donating towards, obviously, but also in the way they feel).
Each customer has a current “before” state and is hoping you’ll help them achieve a positive “after” state.
This is the stuff of good stories, and it’s what moves progress. It’s the reason we have cities, iPhones, motorways, ball-point pens, healthcare, the light bulb and human rights.
A desire for improvement is what makes the world move forward, and what lies behind every purchase.
All we have to do is tap into this desire with our message.
Great power is unlocked when we discover what the “before” and “after” states of our customers are: the power to transform our customers into heroes and our brands into their mentors, in a great powerful story.
So, how do you use this great power?
Articulate the “before” and “after” states when you communicate.
If you articulate a problem that your customers have, and offer a solution, your messaging will be more engaging. But when you also tap into their aspirations and desires, then your messaging will be truly powerful.
Compare these three statements for a financial advisor:
- Do you have a problem with your finances? Is money a cause of worry? Hire me.
- I’m going to put you on a path to financial freedom. Hire me.
- When you’re constantly worrying about money it can seem there’s nothing else to life. What would it mean for you if that worry completely disappeared? Hire me and I’ll show you how you can be the type of person who never worries about money, confident in your progress towards financial freedom.
The first two statements do something right: the first one focuses on a problem (a “before” state), while the second focuses on a positive outcome (an “after” state).
The third one, however, clearly communicates a transformation. You can transform from someone who has financial problems and worries about money into someone who has financial freedom, is confident, and never worries about money.
And did you notice how the call-to-action (Hire me) is placed exactly at the intersection between before and after? It’s almost like we’ve offered our potential customer a switch to activate that transformation. There can be no doubt that Hire me is all you have to do if you want that transformation.
“Hire me” is like the scene in a film where the whole story finds its resolution.
Acknowledge the emotional states of your customer.
Let’s use our financial advisor as an example, and let’s say that you’re considering using his services. Before you approach him, how do you feel?
Maybe you feel worried. You might have a sense of uncertainty, and you might even suspect you’ll never be able to get out of your financial troubles (that’s how I felt a few years ago). Or maybe things are not that bad and you just have some goals. Still, you may feel frustrated or confused by the many options out there, or maybe you don’t even think that you have what it takes to achieve your financial goals.
Now let’s imagine the financial advisor makes good his promise and actually does help you. What does this new you feel like?
You’re not worried any longer, you feel confident, you feel like you’re “one of the few”. You feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.
Whatever you do or sell, you can always dig a little deeper and find out how your customers really feel before and after they’ve done business with you. Obviously I’m assuming that your product or service actually helps someone, in some capacity, but of all the businesses that have come to our workshops I’ve yet to find one where we couldn’t uncover –with some work•– the emotional states of their customers
Offer your customers an identity they can aspire to
Let’s go back to the third statement for our financial advisor. Notice how I didn’t just say “What would it mean to not worry about money?”. Instead, I said “What would it mean to be the type of person who never worries about money?”
As we said, the hero of a story needs to become a better, stronger type of person. The transformation needs to be irreversible if we are to leave the cinema or close a book with a sense of resolution. If the hero’s new reality is precarious we won’t be satisfied by the story. We need to know that the problem has been solved and it isn’t coming back.
Which is why it’s not enough for Frodo to destroy the ring, for Luke to blow up the Death Star or for King George to give a speech. Each of these characters must also overcome their fears and insecurities, and become stronger, more confident people (or hobbits).
In branding we talk about “aspirational identity”, which is a very powerful concept: If you can help your customers not only solve a problem, or reach a positive outcome, but become the kind of person they want to be, then you’re helping them create the ultimate transformation, and they will love you for it!
Two great examples of this concept in action
The images you use on your website, especially your header image, are a hugely impactful “touchpoint” for your customers.
Your images should communicate the transformation you offer your customers. In particular you want you images to portray the “after” state your customers will experience.
This weekend you may be going to a barbecue, or to a friend’s house for a party. You meet a few people –some of them could even be potential customers– and someone asks the inevitable “So, what do you do?”
What’s your answer? Do you even have one? If you don’t, then you’re missing an opportunity.
Next time you’re telling someone about your business, try this: instead of just stating the thing that your business does, try and articulate: 1: a problem that you solve, 2: how that problem makes your customers feel, and 3: a positive outcome they’ll experience after interacting with your brand.
“You know how stressful and all-consuming it is to worry about money? We offer a customised plan to get you out of debt quickly and start building your financial stability. So you can live your life stress-free, without ever worrying about money again.”
What? You’re saying that the people you meet at parties don’t have money worries? Ok, how about this one?
“You know how confusing and frustrating it to figure out how to invest your savings? I know! There seem to be a million contradicting offers, doesn’t it? Well, we have a customised plan that is guaranteed to fit your unique situation, so you can sleep better at night knowing that you capital is safe, and actually growing”
What’s the transformation you provide for you clients?