THE Art of Persuasion – The power of stories and narratives
We live in uncertain times. Gone are the days when features would rule the consumers’ psyche and differentiate your product and offerings from others. Gone are the days of production craze and industrial revolution. Today almost all products look, feel and perform in almost equivalent terms- same specs, same output, same functions and same cosmetic feel and touch. So how do customers decide on what to buy? – It’s easy. They go for that product that helps them decide WHY they should buy that product. Brand Wars are no longer being fought in the real world – it’s being fought IN THE CUSTOMERS’ MINDS, in their consciousness and on their social profiles.
The best products today are those that help the customers identify with themselves- Branding is no longer a mass affiliation – it’s an individual progeny of thought and social identity. Nowadays any brand that has the best following is also the one which has a story that their loyal consumers align with. The ‘WHY’ we buy is perhaps more important than ‘WHAT’ we buy and ‘HOW’ we buy it.
So, ready to learn how to sell with stories?
To tell your STORY is as important to the success of your product as creating an exemplary product itself. An iPhone is exclusive also partly due to the ideology of exclusivity that Steve Jobs created around it. Mentioned below are some pointers that may help you craft a story that carves a unique identity for yourself that remains in the mind of your customers.
Answer the WHY even before you start thinking of the WHAT and the HOW.
Often while talking to friends, customers, potential clients and probable investors, we pour our hearts and resources out to talk about a product and service in terms of its features, scalability and potential. However, we never ever give much thought to expressing or even defining WHY are we offering such a product and WHY is it worth investing as a thought? Most importantly WHY are you in it and WHY should people buy your product? Does it help someone become more efficient, more effective or simply more aware of their potential? The HOW and WHAT answers the reason for your product to exist and it is extrinsic– the WHY simply answers to the reason of purchase on behalf of the customer, satisfies a deep inner need and address that is intrinsic.
Walk the talk and talk about your walk in your shoes only and not anyone else’s.
When you talk about the product /services – address what your product can do to help satisfy your customer/client’s requirements and expectations. Bring out your product story which creates a symbiotic relationship between the customer’s need and your offering. Never bring your competitor in between your customer and you to try and show how you are filling in the gap your competitor has left. You are then just reminding THEM of the options they can have. Always remember you are responsible for your own actions and not other’s reactions. Engage the customer in what, how and, most importantly, WHY you have bettered yourself over a period of time. DO NOT BECOME YOUR COMPETITORS’ ADVERTISEMENT.
[Thanks to Alok Kejriwal (CEO & Co-Founder, Games2Win) for sharing this picture from Amazon Web Services]
Create an identity connect based on emotions and positivity.
Customers want a face that can be trusted even if the services aren’t always positive- products may succeed or fail, but a relationship sustains for a longer period of time. If your customers can identify with you, there are fewer chances of them moving away. Remember there are other fish in the ocean and then there was the Kraken, Moby Dick and a Captain AHAB as well.
There will always be someone who is like you or better than you – pricing or features wise.
Instead of fighting over price and features, create an ecosystem of compliance, belongingness and values. HARLEY DAVIDSON Motorcycles haven’t changed its basic identity of engineering excellence in the past 50 years .Yet the “thump” of the bike’s characteristic sound makes people identify themselves as THUMPERS. In terms of technology it’s basically a motorcycle- but in the eyes of its customers and fans, the Harley Thump is a lifestyle – a way of Life. You should be a story people identify with and cherish.
Nothing that Apple offered was new, but the way they offered it, was!!!
The way you interact and treat your customers is what they will remember. The difference between all Chinese restaurants in India is largely about not how tasty the food is, but how well the stewards and waiters treat you and your food preferences. It’s the experience that counts more than the product itself – which is often homogeneous in offering across geographies.
Remember the story you weave should never be about yourself.
It should be about your client, his life and lifestyle.
Sometimes a customer may not know what they want. Your story should help them rediscover themselves.
Steve jobs revolutionized the world of touch screen and touch interface with iPhone and also the way people interact and utilize lifestyle technology. However we need to remember that touch screens existed in the late 1980’s- early 1990’s era with PDA’s with stylus. However it took the ingenuity of Steve Jobs to change it from a non-ergonomic luxury to a standard social interactive technology which revolutionized the way people use and view and utilize their telephonic devices.
Personal stories build trust.
It provides reference points for personal connection. When real stories are used to exemplify connection, customer satisfaction and recommendation, adverts become testimonials of goodwill. Always know that money can buy affiliation and preferences but never goodwill and loyalty. In fact no money can buy goodwill and goodwill is nothing but the story of your offerings retold by satisfied and loyal customers multiple times which, ideally, results in multiple points of purchase and interaction.
Make your story yours, theirs and ours.
Your story should also be first internalised and owned by your own employees. They need to believe in it, breathe it and live it. Make people who face your customers, your FIRST CUSTOMER. Sell your story to them and ensure they are sold on your idea/story. Your employees, contractors and vendors need to believe in the power, potential and ethics of your story and product. A story becomes stronger and more powerful with ownership. Make your employees a part of your story and offering. Make it personal for them to narrate. Allow them to contribute to the same. Transfer ownership of storytelling to them – make them believe in your vision. If you don’t, then no matter how strong or potential your mission, vision and offering is, it will never get off the first stage of its product life cycle and get transferred to your customers.
It is good to always remember that purchasers nowadays have the choice between what you offer and what your competitor has to offer. What will eventually decide which side they tip over to is how well are you able to convince them of a culture that is consistent with their need and value systems.
An APPLE loyalist never looked for a music player or a computer or a phone alone. They looked for a synergy of Identity and classiness of Experience, and while Steve Jobs gave them both, Jonathan I’ve gave them the cleanliness of Design that was by far the best design of this century.
So what’s your story?