Recently, I was asked to write a 200 write-up about a hotel that I’ve never been to, in a city I’ve never breathed, in a country I’ve never set foot in. My tools: other content written about it, a few photographs, a couple of reviews.
So often, marketers are asked to perform miracles. Not in so many words, but certainly in as much expectation. “Build my brand,” the client says – when there isn’t an agreement on what that brand represents. “Help me engage with my audience,” when there is no audience to start with. “Develop my sales funnel,” when they aren’t even clear on what their value proposition actually is.
And it’s more common than you think.
In this day and age where everyone is encouraged to have an opinion, unfortunately, quite often, one finds the mouldy fuzziness start to appear around the line that separates uninformed and expert opinion. One becomes the other, and (often) one even drives the other. A dangerous territory. And unfortunately, very often, we find that it’s this same opinion that drives strategy – upon which targets are set, goals are made and visions created.
But lets pause for a second.
What is the purpose of storytelling? Well, storytelling describes the “social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment.”
So, if we look at that within a professional environment – marketing tactics is simply about telling a story (your message) through a series of actions which support it (social media, content, advertising, PPC, SEO, event marketing, partner marketing, email campaigns).
What’s the point?
I am often surprised by businesses who unconsciously blur the line between achievement and customer benefit. “We’ve been in business for over 30 years”. “We have the best technology and very accessible offices”. “We won the award for the best manufacturer in Britain”.
I say, “So what?”
The art of storytelling is uncovering and communicating benefit.
Here’s an example:
Client: “We have been in business for over 30 years”.
Me: “So what?”
Client: “Well, it means that we know how the market has changed over the years”
Me: “So what?”
Client: “Well, we have built up expertise that can forecast how things are going to go.”
Me: “So what?”
Client: “Well, it means that our clients get the best expertise to help them navigate their fields”.
Using the “So What” exercise in storytelling is probably one of my favourite things to do. Many of us get stuck in the all-about-us paradigm that we forget the relevance it holds to our customers. And that’s when things go awry. Sometimes it means that it really doesn’t matter what you’ve done. And sometimes it’s just a case of flipping the story – for it to resonate with your client.
I work with clients to identify and uncover their stories. It could be 1, it could be many. We identify the story, which then forms the fundamental basis for everything you do. Your sales team use the same story, your social media communicates the same story, your corporate culture emanates the same story – you are consistent, you are clear, and your customers understand the benefits they get when they work with you.
If you’d like help uncovering your story, I’d love to work with you.
Test. Test. Is this thing on?
It’s been a while since my last blog on Fresh Brew Marketing’s site. And for good reason, too. The world of engaging content has absorbed me into delivering some awesome bits and pieces for my clients – and with readership figures up, demand is big – and they reap the rewards of successful campaigns that deliver.
But scroll around to content of a different nature. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham. One of the most well-attended transport-related trade shows in the UK, the NEC was home to vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, service delivery, workshop innovators and more.
And strolling around on those carpeted concrete floors, it took my thoughts back to my own exhibition days; the frantic preparation of a stand that delivers the most impact, on a sustainable budget, equipped with the dream team of traders; armed with clear targets, missions and mayhem – acutely tuned in to potential opportunity.
Fast-forward to my visit last week. Representing one of my clients, I was there for a very specific mission – to get information. I had a job to do, and I was going to get it done. No amount of insecurity or industry-uncertainty was going to get in my way – and as event auto-pilot engaged, I strategically made my way through the passages of exhibitors, from hall to hall, to successfully make my way down my checklist of targets. But what I found was enough to unshackle my event autopilot.
The Commercial Vehicle Show, and in fact, probably any large-scale exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham, is hardly a cheap event to exhibit at. When I last checked, a simple 2m x 2m shell-scheme setup would cost you in the region of £700, as a start. That’s before any marketing material, before any stand decor, before any transport and overnight costs, before any production costs, before any staff-related transport / overnight / sustenance costs. So, as a start, your ROI is set. That’s, of course, if you take a small 2 x 2 stand. Most of the exhibitors at the show appeared to occupy stand sizes in excess of, say, 16 square meters. We won’t talk about the vehicle manufacturers who occupied massive open spaces to display all their vehicles, and latest innovations in. We’re talking big money here.
And yet, what shook the core of my Clarks was the number of stands I visited where I had to take a walk up to the exhibitors seated on chairs, interrupting their mobile phone activity or munching through a bag of Hula Hoops, to ask them whether they could help with a query.
At first, I assumed that perhaps in this this very male dominated environment, they simply didn’t think I suited the occasion – but as I stood in the middle of Hall 4, and looked around, I noticed that even the stands that appeared to be busy, were all occupied with the same exhibitor behaviour – a distinct lack of interest, a pre-occupation with the latest email (and dare I say it, Facebook profile update), and a general apathy to a) recoup the costs of being there and b) actually fulfil the purpose of being at the show in the first place – to generate new business.
And it dawned on me.
We are plagued by the “But Surely” assumptions. “But surely people should know how to behave on a stand”, “But surely if it’s a sales person who works on commission, they’ll be driven to talk to as many people as they can”, “But surely they know how much I’m paying to be at this show?”.
Trade Shows have evolved, most certainly. Technology and innovation, as with all other industries, drives the latest cool news story, and product placement – you just need to check out the Event Tech event – which, by definition, is all about technology developments for, and within, the event industry.
But one thing that doesn’t seem to have evolved – is our basic ability to interact and engage. That, I’m afraid, still appears to be stuck in the stone age – and given the pressure on making each penny count – astounds me that we find ourselves having walked a full circle – and we still haven’t learnt.
And that’s why I believe in Event and Exhibition Training. It’s not to get you to try and buy the latest glittery shiny piece of technology that is magically going to transform your stand. Nope – it’s about something far more simple. It’s about interaction and personal behaviour that either makes, or breaks, your stand as a place where your visitors (and potential buyers) would want to visit, or simply walk past.
Your people represent you – let alone building your bottom line. Wouldn’t it be in your best interest to make sure they do that?
If you want to know more about how I can help, get in touch.
An online and printed newspaper for global expat South Africans featuring news articles, humorous stories, recipes, advertising and other newsworthy articles relevant to South Africans around the world. Published and printed within the UK and other major cities around the world.
|Personal experience as a South African living abroad. Articles included anything from stories to recipes, travel tips to anecdotes.||Click Here|
Beaminster.net was a Community website started by Katy Roberts and fellow Beaminster-residents and aimed to promote the town, its businesses, its activities and the beautiful Dorset countryside as a destination town to visit. It played host to blogs, events, gardening tips for the areas, and became the number one search result for anyone searching for the town, or any of the neighbouring areas. After this was handed over to the local information office to continue running, sadly, they were unable to maintain the website and it was unpublished.
|Content included restaurant reviews, news articles, advertorial articles, web-based content and more.||Click Here|
|The South African Magazine||
The South African Magazine was another online magazine dedicated to expat South Africans living around the world. Similar to the SouthAfrican.com, this publication also aimed to raise awareness of South African issues facing expats and aimed to create a global community and link back to South Africa.
|Content included general news articles, recipes, anecdotes, personal experience blogs.||Click Here|
|Eat Balanced Food Blog||
I was invited to contribute towards the Eat Balanced food blog following my passion for cooking and experimenting with new flavours and combinations. This blog aimed to demonstrate seasonal food options for those who had a passion for healthy alternatives.
|A personal twist on a family-favourite recipe||Click Here|
Talmix is the Home of Independent Talent. A marketplace that matches the right independent consultant to the right organisation requiring assistance, Talmix, previously MBA&Company, makes it possible for independent consultants all over the world to find new work opportunities. My job was to develop a community content plan that touched on key industry topics including Change Management, Strategic Workforce Planning, the Future of Work and more.
|Consultant Interviews, Prediction articles, Tips and Advice on developing a freelancer profile, general How To articles and more.||Click Here|
CFPro Ventures is a business that bridges the gap between businesses who are looking to grow, and the investment community through providing the right business support and resource
|All Web content, entire marketing and content strategy, business blog, press releases, marketing collateral,
white paper development and more
Let’s talk openly for a second. Over the past few months, I’ve been faced with several experiences which have formed, and led to this blog being written. So, in the spirit of local business support, and a sense of community – here are just 4 ways to shatter your credibility – and kill the rest of us in the process.
1. When you pretend to be something you’re not.
For many smaller businesses and freelancers who are just starting out on the new business road, establishing credibility as an individual is probably one of the most important tasks you’ll undertake, and continue to focus on for pretty much the rest of your life. Although many have the luxury of instantly being granted business finance, and growing into a team of people who deliver together – many do not and instead, rely on their own drive to deliver what their customers and clients need. And often, in that drive to establish credibility, many businesses lose focus on a transparent, honest approach, and instead – try so incredibly hard to demonstrate just how worthy they are – they furiously sign up to be this one’s associate, and that one’s mentor, they offer you the moon, the sun and the international space station, because they can – and because they think that’s what you need (but they neglect to think just quite how they intend to deliver that), accreditations become the sugar in their tea and are so well-versed at demonstrating just how much good they’re doing that instead of leaving their prospective customers thinking that they’re the perfect match, they are simply left feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Credibility is through the doing – not through demonstrating and telling everyone just how much you know. It’s annoying.
2. When your inner circle lets you down
I witnessed a somewhat embarrassing experience this past week in a local supermarket – the ridicule by some should-have-known-better kids who decided it would be appropriate to fat-shame. And while I was ready to do what I usually do, and politely help correct their intolerable behaviour, I stood a little dumbfounded and watched. And then it dawned on me. What they didn’t realise is that I knew their parents – one of which was the leader of one of the local dieting groups in the area.
Here’s the irony – where this particular leader has been working so hard to counteract the stereotypes and encourage acceptance, her very own internal circle of trust, betrayed her, without her even knowing or realising. In an instance – all credibility lost because “Surely, they should know better having grown up in the same encouraging environment?” I don’t question it – but what I do question is how safe do we feel that our inner circle – and I’m talking about the people you least expect to – truly understand what we are trying to achieve, and are equipped (whether consciously or not), to act as champions on our behalves?
3. When you say one thing, but do another.
I’m a lead by example kind of person – and, perhaps sometimes too passionately, instinctively lose interest when I see anyone saying one thing, but doing another. And unfortunately, once that bubble is burst – it’s very difficult for me to recognise any further credibility in their action. And although as much as this annoys, I recognise that there have been times in my own career where exactly the same has happened as a result of my own ambiguous actions. And I suppose that one of the biggest ambiguities that exist for small businesses is the old “I do so much for my clients, that I never have time to work on my own business” chestnut. That is especially true for Marketing types who day-in and day-out focus on their clients’ social strategies, content pipelines and marketing campaigns that a fortnight passes without a single peep or tweet. (Yes – I’m at fault here). All the more reason why us independent workers need to schedule time for ourselves – and although you may now be calculating the directions to your nearest Spa or Retreat Centre, I’m talking about doing some house work – on your own website, or blog, or books, or social profiles.
4. When you knowingly omit information
A lack of credibility comes in all shapes and sizes – and nothing is truer than discovering a vital piece of information that has been knowingly ommitted from a story which you were led to believe to be true. Yes, omitting information is a sure-fire way to break credibility. Note: I said “omitting information”, and not “being found out”. I realise that a lot of business information is on a need to know basis – and we don’t share our core secrets willingly – but what I’m referring to is the classic case of trying to build a persona for yourself, or your business, but omitting to paint a true picture of just why it is that you are different or superior.
Business is tough. And when businesses fail – it affects us all – regardless of whether their demise pose any threat or opportunity to you. And how much worse is it when fellow businesses try to be something they’re not? Customers get burnt – and the result – it creates a bad light for the rest of us who are working so hard to achieve, and deliver a service filled with integrity, insight and damn hard work.
You may recall a recent photography commission I was entrusted with, of an incredible Dorset farm. So you will also appreciate the joy at receiving the following email from my client.
I need my own marketing consultant to put into words how amazing the photo book is!
It is as if you jumped into our brains and captured 17 years of visual memories.
I love the way you have given equal importance to both the workings of the farm and to the beauty of the farm.
I really appreciate how you acted on my throw away remarks on what was important to us and captured them visually – the water butt, chalk path, the milk parlour…
When the canvas is as beautiful as that farm, capturing it is a mere press of a button. What a joy to be part of this incredible project. Thank you, Karen, for entrusting this into my care. I wish you and David all the very best.