By setting out to find the right story, we lose the real story - the truth about who we are.

Bernadette Jiwa - Story Driven 

Welcome back to Week 10 of the miniMBA. We've entered the final section of the program - Experience and this week is all about messaging. 

 If you are just joining us, you can catch up on the previous lessons here

Have you been finding these lessons valuable? The Early Bird Registration for the Business Growth Program is now open and it closes this Friday, November 18th. You can find out more here

Looking forward to continued learning in 2023! 


Once you’re clear on who you desire to connect with, we want to think about what it is you’re saying. Your role is to speak clearly and with enthusiasm. If you’re not enthusiastic about what you’re putting out into the world, it’s unlikely you’re message will resonate with your customers. If you’re creating stories that you think the market wants to hear or that game an algorithm, you’re building an unsustainable strategy. Marketing & Sales are all about education, not manipulation. 

The problem we often bump up against as creative entrepreneurs are we use “technician speak.” Because we’re passionate about creating our product or service, we can unconsciously fetishize what it is we do. We focus on materials and our process. And though those things are a piece of the puzzle (of course, we need to know what something is made of), they’re not the things that move us to purchase. That is done in our subconscious, and it’s facilitated by the emotional experience we have when we’re learning about your product or service. 

To move us into this experience and away from details, we want better to understand the benefits of our products or services.  Our benefits describe how we benefit from your product or service. They express the life that’s lived with your products or service and the feeling we might have when we engage with your product or service. To do that, we have to move away from the technical speak and into a deeper understanding of what happens on the receiving end of our sales. It might be hard for us to imagine, and we must ask for more intimate customer feedback.


The first place to start when you're crafting your message is by understanding who is the focus of the story you're telling. Is it you, or is it your customer? And what role do you plan anyways? Sure we need to know who you are and why we'd consider you an *expert* at what you do, but your purpose is to be our guide, not the center of attention. That's hard these days when social media, Presidential campaigns, and online living make us believe that marketing is all about self-promotion, but there's a different way. One that's less about manipulation and more about generosity. We can look to Joseph Cambell's myth to help us better understand how that works. We want to remove ourselves from the center of the story and re-center our customers or client. Once we see ourselves as a guide and not a god, then we want to know what it is we're communicating about, and that comes in the form of benefits: what is the emotional impact I'll have with your product or service? Consumption is determined by the subconscious level, where emotions rule.

I like to use "philosophical entertainer" Alan Watts as an example of how to speak in benefits. Here he is talking about a fish: 

When you catch a fish, it’s not just a thing called a fish that you have. You are being fed by the ocean and everything that goes into that ocean. You are being sustained by this colossal life just as the ocean reached out and fed you.

We want to remember that in this era, it is culture that is the new currency. If we have taken the time to define and live by our culture, we already have our guiding principles for creating our content. As Bernadette said, we are focused on the true story of what it is we are creating and sharing with the world and how our customers can collaborate with our company. 


With any type of content we create, our aim is always to build trust. That's why if we're only pushing product, we're going to have very weak ties to our community. There are 4 types of content that help us do this. If we take these 4 buckets and rotate through them via whichever medium resonates with us (more on that next week), we're more likely to build the connections for growth that we seek. These 4 buckets are: 

  1. Company Transparency
  2. Your Expertise as the founder
  3. The life that's lived with your product or service through your current customers
  4. The transformation that I might expect as a new customer 
Transparency can be anything from your process, to behind the scenes, to showcasing vendors and materials and how the product gets made and what goes into it. The same goes if you're a service-based business. Your expertise helps us understand why *you're the person* to be doing this thing. But notice that expertise is just a quarter of the story, not the whole story. Together, transparency and expertise make up only 1/2 of the required content to build trust. For the full experience, we must always be moving between all 4 buckets, and it's usually the last two that fall short. Sharing the life that's lived with your product or service helps new customers imagine what their life with your product or service might be like, but also connects them to a community bigger than themselves that they seek to relate to. And the final type, transformation, is key in this economy. When we're creating products that nobody truly *needs*, we have to think deeper about what the experience around that product or service will do for someone when they finally engage with it. That has everything to do with your own unique culture, which creates its own unique experience. 

If we can see ourselves as the guide, speak in benefits, and incorporate these 4 types of content we're moving towards a place of messaging with depth, resonance, and sustainability. 


1. Audit your messaging:
Are you positioning yourself as the hero?
Are you mostly writing in technician speak?
Does your content currently fall into all 4 buckets, or are you stuck in 1 or 2? 

2. Does speaking in benefits come naturally to you? Have you connected your purpose and values to the impact your customer will feel when they engage with your product or service? 

3. How much do you know about the life that's lived with your product or service once the customer engages with it? How well do you know that experience? And how often do you share it to build trust? 

4. How comfortable are you talking about transformation regarding your product or service? Is it something that comes naturally to you, or do you avoid it? 

5. How do you share your expertise? In an economic landscape with a hundred other people creating the same thing you do, how confident do you feel in yourself? 


Being Heard in a Broadcast World

Winning the Story Wars

The Marketing and Sales Section of the AHH page

Good luck! We'll see you here next Wednesday for Week 11: Marketing and Sales Systems & Analytics. If you have a colleague who should join us, they can sign up here


If you've been following along with the bite-sized lessons from this miniMBA, now you can join us for the full program launching in January. This is the 9th year of the program and you can find out more details here and read the full Program Manual here. Early Bird is open until November 18th (this Friday!). 


How is it the end of the year already?! This November, we'll read Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Marie Brown. This free event will be hosted on Tuesday, November 29th at 7PMEST via Zoom. Please email me to register. 

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