2009 Recalibration: Part 4

So, what's your story?

Consider this: Your customers are living in a totally different world than they were a year ago. I don’t care what business you're in, your customers have new things to deal with, new ways to make decisions, and new uncertainties in their lives. Their worlds have been reset.

So, (I ask again) what’s your story?

How has your brand story changed?

Have you assessed, with intense scrutiny, how your story has to evolve to match everything new in your customers’ lives, the new ways they make decisions, the new things they care about, the new ways they behave?

Have you recalibrated your brand story so that it will interest and motivate your customers, with their new perspectives?

What compels and motivates your customers is different now, so let's discuss how your brand story must change.

I’ll start this discussion with a harsh, but true, point: Your customers don’t care about your story. They care about their own stories. Now, more than ever, it is critical to elevate your branding perspective beyond the "Look at me" chest-beating that characterizes so much of marketing, and focus on a way to make it easy for your customers to bring your brand story into their lives.

For this reason, recalibrating your story requires you to address this incredibly important question: "What do I want customers to think about me, now, considering all the changes that have happened in my customers' lives?"

Imagine a customer raving to a friend or colleague about your company, saying how she needs you more than ever in this time of economic turmoil. What would you want to say? What do you want your customer to think about you, right now, that would compel her to do more business with you?

I did this exercise with a client last week. We had the top managers from the company in a room, with the purpose of recalibrating the company's approach to customers in these crazy times. This company sells a business-to-business service, and in recent months has noticed that its buying contacts have become paralyzed with fear, panicked that each purchase decision could lead to a job-losing disaster. We imagined one of these buyers raving to her boss about my client's company, describing the kind of results they were producing for her and why she needs them now, more than ever. We imagined what she could say, with passion and conviction, that would represent undying loyalty to this company at a time when her job has become difficult, challenged, and scary.

By doing this exercise, we quickly identified opportunities to recalibrate the company's brand story, focusing on issues that were much more important than last year's brochure headlines.

What do you want your customers to think about you? This is your most important branding question. My observation is that most companies aren't addressing it. They're "tweaking" last year's ads and sales pitches, ignoring one of the most important facts that faces us all:
Our customers are different, so our stories better be.

[This is Part 4 of a 6-part series. To read the other entries in the series, you can find them at these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. You can also read more by Cool Friend Steve Yastrow at his website, yastrow.com.]