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The Power of Stories

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Nov, 02, 2018 @ 15:11 PM

storytelling

 

Great hearing Jennifer Aaker, Author and Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business share her thoughts on "Harnessing the Power of Stories" at Gartner's Sales and Marketing conference.

Over the course of my career in marketing, I've had the opportunity to see the power of stories on many occasions. About ten years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Don Pausback to produce a series of emotionally powerful consumer testimonials, a.k.a., stories, about how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC had made a tremendous impact on their lives in very difficult circumstances.

These stories helped reverse negative perceptions of the brand brought on by negative PR events and doubled inbound leads from their direct to consumer advertising.

Ms. Aaker's presentation explains why.

People buy but hate to be sold to. Persuasion sources have shifted. The trust gap is significant. People trust people they know first and foremost. They trust people they don't know more than they trust companies. How you lead is predicated on knowing your story.

Story is why you’re doing what you’re doing and there's a science of stories. It’s fundamental to live a life based on stories. What people remember when you die are stories about how you made them feel.

Stories help us decide what to believe in separating the noise from the signal. Stories are meaningful, impactful, and memorable. We tend to feel an emotional connection to the storyteller and we know emotion drives decisions that we rationalize after the decision is made.

If we share a story people remember it, we are connected and moved. Stories are powerful because they are meaningful.

So, what’s a story? An arc with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Try writing a six word story about yourself. Here's what I came up with:

  • Marketing professional becomes IT research analyst.
  • Double Dookie, Huge Tar Heel fan.

Those two six-word stories tell people a lot about me

Stories work because they are emotional, evocative. Your team story is the strategy. Think about the credibility triangle: point of view, story, data. Context matters. Order matters between POV, story, data.

What's the ROI of a story? Bonobos launched bull denim renaming it the travel jean – destination jeans, ideal for excursions near and far. The

How to harness stories? Think about stories that lead, stories as assets, and stories as life. Most stories are tactical. Signature stories are strategic - an asset to manage. Intriguing, authentic, involving stories with a strategic message.

Three signature stories:

  • Purpose storiesToms shoes' mission of providing shoes for those in need. Adobe unlocking creativity in the world with a goal of reaching $5 billion in 5 years. They reached it in 3.5 years with an inspired mission.
  • Empathy story – with the user as hero. LinkedIn has banked user stories. Google Chrome showcased Daniel Lee with his annual message to his daughter "Dear Sophie."
  • Growth story – elevates value and increase pipeline. Salesforce reached out to find signature stories. Learned that their 25% highest performing sales people all used stories. Worked to identify and scale the best stories. Had 1,000 submitted, produced the top 100, used the top 10. UCHealth found and activated patient stories. In six months garnered 17,000 press mentions and became a top 15 hospital with patients coming from all over the world.

Stories outperform features. So how do you build a story culture? Identify a story ambassador. Build story habits - get people telling six-word stories about themselves, then about the organization. Identify signature stories. What's your growth story? Bank your stories, they are assets. Look for true, bold, and distinct stories that are relevant to different audiences offering something bigger and meaningful.

Happiness is feeling positive, not negative. By thinking in stories you live a life that’s much more meaningful, creates truer and deeper connections.

Tell me a fact, and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth, and I’ll believe, but tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. -- Indian Proverb  

Tags: story, Trustworthiness, transparency, integrity, be real

Does Honest Branding Really Win in the End?

Posted by Kayleigh Alexandra on Fri, Oct, 26, 2018 @ 17:10 PM

Honesty

Image credit: Nick Youngson

Growing up, there’s a good chance that you were taught to be your best. To treat others with respect. To tell the truth. To show kindness and compassion toward others. And to go out of your way to help where you can and make the world a better place.

And right now, there’s a movement in the business world that asks you to do the same. It’s called honest branding. And much like the lessons you might have learned during childhood and throughout your formative years, it preaches honesty and transparency in business.

Now here’s a cynical question. Do you believe it to be true? Or do you believe that your company should adhere to what some believe in their own lives — that “nice guys finish last”?

Today, we’re going to take a look at honest branding. And we’re going to show you why it’s a worthy endeavor. One your business should take seriously.

People want authenticity from brands

Here’s the stone cold truth: people would rather do business with the brands they feel are open about who they are and what they do. Money doesn’t grow on trees, after all. And no one wants to hand their hard-earned cash to a business and feel bad about it afterward.

They want good juju from the transaction. They want to feel that they’re not just buying a product or service, but that they’re supporting a business that’s being real with them.

Which leads us into our next point.

People want to do business with brands that have good intentions

Consumers often seek out companies they vibe with. It’s why a lot of artists flock to Apple products. It’s not because you can’t find comparable software on a Windows machine, but because Apple developed a reputation over time as being a great platform for artists.

But that’s not always enough for consumers. They also want to know that a company is operating with the best of intentions, whether that’s toward that company’s customers or the world at large. So they’ll eat at restaurants that are farm-to-table, because they appreciate that restaurant’s support of local farmers. Or they’ll buy a certain type of shampoo because a particular company doesn’t test on animals.

Being open and authentic is good. But wearing all the ways you’re doing good on your sleeve? That’s even better.

People want to feel like a business is on their side

One of the best things you can do as a business is treat your customers as individuals and peers. Pretend that you’re not serving loads of customers. Pretend you’re serving just one. And pretend you get where they’re coming from.

Dove, for example, really nailed this with its Real Beauty campaign. So many beauty products feature television stars and models. People who look consistently flawless on film. And sometimes it can seem like those products aren’t made at all for everyday people. But Dove went in a different direction with its campaign. It showed that, sometimes, women have less-than-flattering feelings about their appearances, and it empowered them to let those feelings go.

Dove gained a lot of goodwill by telling women, “Hey. It’s okay if you have wrinkles. You’re you and that’s all that matters.” Almost as a good friend would. Look for ways your company can do something similar.

People appreciate those who go above and beyond to be open

Are you familiar with Buffer? It’s a social media tool that enables you to schedule updates, letting you automate some of the more mundane tasks of managing a Twitter or Facebook account. The company itself is already well known for its stellar customer service, but there’s another area Buffer really shines in. It doesn’t just pay lip service to being transparent. It relishes in it.

Buffer posts an incredible amount of information about the company on its website. If you go there, you’re not just going to find sales pages and help files. You’ll learn exactly how much every employee makes. And you can read up on every metric the company uses to determine its success.

It isn’t about releasing every last scrap of information, because that’s neither wanted nor justifiable. There’s no reason to talk about how much revenue you made last year (not unless you’re aiming to sell your business in the near future) or what brand of notepad you use in meetings. It’s more about scrapping the compulsion to hide things from people.

When a company is that open, it’s hard not to trust them. Vulnerability is compelling. Which is why a lot of customers trust Buffer enough to pay them for the company’s social media tool.

So, how can you be more honest in your branding?

We’ve told you why it’s important that your company takes honest branding seriously. And we’ve shown you that, yes, honest branding does win in the end. Businesses all over are putting an emphasis on it — even those you may interact with on a daily basis.

Now it’s your turn.

Start by being willing to answer questions. If a customer wants to know something, tell them. If Buffer can publish employee salaries, why can’t you? Perhaps that’s a stretch for your own business — privacy and such — but look at that company as an example of one that does something out of the ordinary. The Buffer team are answering questions most companies wouldn’t be willing to. That’s important.

Also, call yourself out on mistakes. And if you can, try to be proactive about it. There’s a good chance that you’ll know you’ve made a mistake before a whole bunch of people are pointing it out. The faster you acknowledge your error, and the faster you handle it yourself, the more customers will be willing to let it slide.

Finally, listen to feedback and act on it. Don’t just pretend to lend an ear to customers. Don’t provide them with an empty “I hear you” that results in zero action. Take their words to heart. Look at ways you can implement their feedback into bettering your company. Because there’s a good chance that if one customer feels a certain way, others do, too.

And please — don’t let anyone tell you that honest branding doesn’t win. It’s been thriving for a long time now, and it’s still rising in importance. Less transparent and less honest companies may prosper in the short term. But if you’re after long term success?

Well, you know which path you should take.

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Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups, a site dedicated to supporting startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for entrepreneurial tips, and follow along on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

Tags: do what you say you will do, Ethics, Trustworthiness, honesty, values, integrity, transparency

President Obama's Views Post Presidency

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, May, 28, 2018 @ 16:05 PM

Unknown

Thanks to Okta for inviting me to Oktane18 and giving me the opportunity to hear President Barack Obama - truly a "life experience."

Todd McKinnon, CEO and Co-founder of Okta hosted the hour-long question and answer session.

Following are the points made by the President with the parenthetical notes my own:

  • We live in culture today where everybody feels the crush of information and collision of world’s in a way previous generation. haven’t felt.
  • Previous generations knew 100 or 150 people.
  • How many people do you know today? (Thousands thanks to social media and CRM systems).
  • Today, there are rural villages in Africa in which everyone has a phone.
  • We have the ability to absorb information in ways that can be confusing.
  • While there are a lot of questions around technology and social media, the U.S. had a head start in trying to figure it out because we’re a people that came from everywhere else.
  • We've had to figure out how to work together since the country was founded.
  • The challenge today is how to maintain sense of common purpose, how to join together as opposed to splinter and divide.
  • If we don’t figure it out it will be hard for our democracy to survive (just what the Russians are fomenting in social media).
  • There is a misperception that government doesn’t work, and people don’t work hard based on their experience of getting their driver’s license renewed (everyone laughed knowingly).
  • The public sector has extraordinary talent and does a lot of things really well.
  • There is a big gap in technology, especially with responsiveness and nimbleness. A lot of this has to do with government's antiquated procurement requirements.
  • In a host of areas, like taking government data and putting it out there so organizations can use to improve people's lives, we made real progress during my term.
  • We tried to create, re-architecture and replace legacy systems in the FDA.
  • There is a need for big data sets to achieve the promise of personalized medicine.
  • We made inroads in a few of those areas; however, the political system is not being as responsive as it could be (because we are divided rather than united).
  • Creating a framework that’s agreed upon and transparent, most people understand is a challenge we should welcome and approach it in a systematic and transparent way (however, little in Washington is transparent).
  • We need to be proactive identifying the questions we have to grapple, with the tools we have to protect information, and be transparent about what consumers are giving up (Google, Facebook, et al).
  • There is a big lag between how we’re thinking about the social organization and technology.
  • We underinvest in the IRS because no one likes it; however, it can be a great deal more efficient.
  • As a consequence of no one wanting to give up their write-offs, we discovered the basic IT infrastructure of the IRS is held together by string and bubble gum.
  • If you made no changes to the tax structure you could make interaction with the IRS more user-friendly, but it requires front end investment no one is willing to make.
  • Business identifies the essential problem and hires good people to solve business problem.
  • Government procurement requires you to identify the problem and allocate a budget up front. That's not how a successful business works.
  • We need a good conversation between the tech community and people in Washington for ongoing deliberation and exchange.
  • There should be bias towards making voting easier not harder, there’s a legacy that dates back to Jim Crow to disenfranchise voters and it is being perpetuated.
  • If we can secure the voting process, and there’s a paper record generated along side the electronic vote, I believe it will come to pass but it will take awhile.
  • Laws are structured to make it hard for people to vote.

 

How did you instigate change?

  • Change is hard in personal live, it's hard for groups, it's hard for institutions.
  • The U.S. evolved from an agricultural-based economy to manufacturing-based economy over a period of 120 years.
  • Today we're evolving to a technology-based economy in just 20 to 30 years and that's hard for everyone to accept.
  • Principles for effective change:
    • Talk to people whose lives will be disrupted so you appreciate who they are and insure they are heard before you instigate change.
      • Listening is a good starting point for change.
    • Every issue you are dealing has probabilities.
      • Get the best info available.
      • Have, and listen to, diverse voices around the table.
      • Understand the different perspectives.
      • Have people who can argue all of the sides of the issue.
    • I set up processes so that by the time I made the decision I could say, with confidence, I heard all the voices, had all of the information, and made the best decision I could.
    • Initiating change requires enough situations like that, even when there are disruptions. where you can anticipate the disruptions and be prepared to address them.
    • There will be disruptions with technology (There already has been and there will be a lot more).
    • People are going to be resistant if their jobs are threatened.
    • Anticipate this and be prepared to address the change.
    • Ask people “What do you think?”
      • I would catch people by surprise and they would tell me what they really thought, rather than a prepared answer.
      • Deliberately reach outside the bubble of obvious decision makers.
    • I had a good b.s. detector, if a question wasn’t answered with confidence I’d drill in until I learned what the person was really thinking.
    • Insist on people delivering on bad news quickly.
      • Part of the culture we tried to build, these are human enterprises, they’re going to be flawed when you do screw up or you can’t solve something bring it to me and let’s solve it together

 

How did you go about vetting and hiring people?

  • The government has two million employees or so, only 3,000 are political appointments.
    • The entire process during transition, gathering names, going through folks who have the qualifications we were looking for, as well as interest in the position.
    • Tech is where we had a problem because tech pays much better than the US government.
    • So, we set up US digital services – a SWAT team of amazing tech folks who, like the Peace Corps, would come into the US government for six months to two years to work on a particular problem – example of the need for more creativity of how we staff government and non-profits.
  • Think of creative ways for people to take leave and make an incredible contribution.

 

What advice did you receive going into office that was useful and what wasn't?

  • Advice not useful and slowed us down and hurt effectiveness early on was the sense that somehow now that you are president there are certain ways you should do things that had to do with traditions but were not effective.
    • During the campaign, we communicated in a way that was fresh and accessible. That changed when we moved into the White House – it made the team feel more conventional than we should have. We corrected this near the end of the first term. There were a lot of fires to put out immediately when we got to the White House..
  • The best advice a number of people gave us was to maintain your humanity. Michele and I, partly because we didn’t want our girls to get weird from being in a weird environment, were very focused on this. It was important to make sure we did not lose ourselves, that we stayed intact in what we believed in and how we treated people, expectations of ourselves, kindness, honesty, being useful, and taking responsibility
    • People given great responsibility, power, and wealth begin losing a sense of what’s important, who they are, and holding on to what they have rather than responding authentically. We did not lose that, we came out intact.

 

What are your greatest observations post presidency?

  • I don’t miss the trappings of the presidency.
  • I get more sleep now versus five hours a sleep each night for eight years.
    • That's what's required if you are going to stay up to speed on all of the issues and consider different points of view.
  • There is a physical and mental element to being president if you are serious about the job.
  • Everything now seems to move in slow motion.
    • Today it takes two weeks to set up a meeting rather than two hours.
What are you and Michele going to be doing with Netflix?
  • I would not have been president if I had not learned early on the importance of stories.
  • As a community organizer I learned instead of telling people what they should think, I needed to ask people about themselves and their stories.
  • If you listen, people will tell you their story.
  • Discovering those stories creates relationships and committed people.
  • I continue to believe if we are hearing each other’s stories and recognize ourselves in each other that our democracy works, if we don’t then our democracy doesn’t work.
  • We want to identify people doing amazing work and create platforms for them to tell their stories.
  • We have all these amazing story tellers and we want them to continue to tell the stories we think are important, lifting up talent to identify the connections that we have between all of us.
  • We want to train leaders around the world to tell their stories.
  • We’re all human and have basic needs, wants, and desires for our families, for our children.
  • The country can go in one of two ways: 
    • We can go tribal, go ethnic, pull in, push off, think "us versus them," think power-first, view life as a zero-sum game, and have a need to dominate.
    • Or, the other narrative is a more fragile, newer notion that we can think, reason, connect, and set up institutions based of the rule of law, dignity, and the worth of every individual based on science and facts. This narrative is one the human race has pursued, and America has been at the forefront of, since World War II.
  • We’ve made progress in all of these areas in "fits and starts." Now there’s a clash in the two alternative ways of seeing the world.
  • Part of the political polarization is if you watch Fox News and read the New York Times you are viewing two different realities (this is divisive rather than inclusive and not in the best interest of democracy).
  • Obviously, I believe the second of the two ways is we need to proceed if we are going to be united.

Tags: big data, customer insights, community, Ethics, Trustworthiness, inspiration, empathy, listen intensely, authenticity, integrity, trust, transparency

Trustability, Trustworthiness, Integrity and Ethics

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Oct, 23, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

Trustability, Trustworthiness, Integrity and Ethics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great webinar by Don Peppers, founding partner of the Peppers & Rogers Group, entitled "Transparency, Trust and Customer Feedback."

Some interesting technology factoids:

  • 25 million+ Google searches are taking place every hour -- 24 x 7
  • Supply of technical information is doubling every two years
  • Younger generation consider email old-fashioned
  • One of every eight couples (12.5%) getting married in the U.S. first met online

To be successful in today's marketplace, you must have a relationship, based on trust, with your customer.  You achieve this by:

  • Addressing customers as individuals
  • Providing value and meeting the individuals' needs
  • Interacting and serving them in a cost and time-efficient way
  • Customizing your behavior, offerings and communications so they are relevant to the individual
  • Obtaining feedback that provides customer insights based on customer experience

We are in an age of transparency.  According to a survey by Forrestor:

  • 83% of consumers trust the recommendations of their friends; as such, referrals continue to be critical to business success
  • >50% trust online recommendation from complete strangers -- no hidden agendas
  • 14% trust advertising

The most important quality in any human interaction is trust.  If the relationship is going to flourish, trust is a key element of the relationship.

Trust must be based on empathy, not just profits.  Empathy means taking the customer's point of view and doing what's right by them, not taking advantage of them.

Don provided a great example when he went to order a book from Amazon and the website asked him if he was sure he wanted to buy the book since he had already purchased a copy.

Amazon.com gave up short-term revenue and profit to gain long-term trust.

When will banks begin warning you before they charge you an outrageous overdraft fee?

How about phone and cable companies that keep you in a rate plan that is not in your best interest based on a known history of use?

Not to mention pharmaceutical companies making inconsequential changes in medications to keep your doctor prescribing the ethical (oxymoron?) product versus the generic with a 10x price difference.

The list of companies who take advantage of customers rather than helping them make the right decision for their particular situation is very long.

What are you and your company doing to enhance the trust your customers have in you, your products and your services?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: Trustworthiness, Ethics, integrity, earn your customers trust, Trustability