When US president Rutherford B. Hayes laid eyes on Alexander Graham Bell’s invention in 1876, he said:
“That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?”
The invention of the telephone marked a steep change in the way humans communicated around the world. Similar changes happened with the invention of the printing press and telegraph too.
This new technology brought high praise and high levels of fear and skepticism as well.
People feared their privacy, about getting electrocuted, about not being able to understand the other side.
Many refused to use it altogether.
Most didn’t know how to use it properly. It was awkward talking to someone that you couldn’t see. That you couldn’t interact with.
But you could talk to anyone immediately. That was powerful.
It brought about a shift in how we communicated and expressed things.
Every communication invention since then, radio, tv, the internet, has been about furthering mass interaction. One to many:
How can one person reach as many people as possible?
But the world is starting to realize that building relationships anywhere with any tools, works the same way as it does in person.
One to one.
It takes time, effort, and most importantly showing up as a human. Not as a far in the distance celebrity, or as a cold calculating business.
More and more people are looking for human connection.
Covid taught us how important that was, and how little of it we had once our doors were closed even with all the technology that kept us together.
Building relationships online works the same way as it does in person, it just requires us to change how we interact as people with this technology.
The first change is arguably the most difficult one.
Do this, and everything else downstream will be easier.
Finding Your Invisible Thread
What connects your business to your marketing? What connects you to your business?
The answer is that invisible thread that remains true no matter how many years pass. No matter what new technologies come to the table.
What ties you to your business is the same thing that connects you with your customers, your friends.
The same reason why you really hit it off with some people and with others it feels like pulling teeth having a conversation and it’s hard to point as to why.
That invisible thread is your values.
The things you choose to care about, and believe are true about the world and about you.
You start by expressing the essence of who you are online. The overall theme of your values through your marketing.
Because nothing builds relationships better than people talking to other people.
So who are you? What do you care about? What do you believe in?
We need to put this throughout your marketing, so that it feels human. It feels real, authentic.
Sports England was looking to attract more women into sports, and instead of going the typical join our programs route, they created an experience with an authentic theme: empower women who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it.
With messages like “a kick right in the stereotypes” and “take me as I am or watch me as I go”, this marketing campaign became hugely successful.
Enough that they created a specific website to showcase the campaign and expand it over the years.
Buffer is a social media management tool that has as one of it’s top values, transparency.
The founder of Buffer believes in it so much he posts salaries, revenue, and everything you can think of that would usually be kept secret.
They dedicate a lot of effort to maintain their transparency, they write and keep detailed blog posts about everything they do. Dive deep enough into their massive database, and you will find transparency permeates their entire business.
What they believe in is not in question.
They value it and actively practice it for the world to see.
The ones that care about the values they care about, will stick around and become clients.
“The best marketing strategy ever: CARE”
― Gary Vaynerchuk
Care about something, and then make ME care about it too. Don’t hide it away, don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
Because humans have this innate radar that can spot BS from a mile away.
We feel it in our gut if something is off.
Be authentic, and make me feel the way you feel about the things you care about.
How do you make people feel the way you do about something?
By telling stories.
Delighting Your Audience Through Stories
I was walking around in downtown Orillia one day, and happened to go into a store I’ve never been to before.
As soon as I entered, the owner came and said “Hi” followed by “How are you today?”.
We spent the first couple minutes chatting. As I browsed around, I kept asking questions of some of the items that caught my attention.
I found a brand I recognized from a local business. We bonded over the fact that we knew the same person.
After spending about ten minutes there, I left as a happy customer.
I didn’t think I would end up buying anything, but I felt compelled to. I was comfortable in the place, the owner was nice, what they sold was stuff I cared about, the store had a great atmosphere.
That’s what it takes to create a customer.
It takes being helpful and connecting with them. You have a conversation first, you establish trust, AND THEN you sell.
But having a conversation through the internet with everyone that “walks in” to your digital store is not feasible. After all, the internet wasn’t made for one on one communication.
So instead, we use a tool that has existed since the dawn of man. A tool that has allowed humans to pass information throughout history, and has the capacity to generate emotions.
“If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure.”
― Jay Baer
As a prospect caught in these over-engineered brochures every day on the internet: how does it make you feel?
Disdain, anger, or nothing at all perhaps.
The internet is full of businesses sharing cold lifeless information about about their products and services while at the same time asking to stand out from the rest.
If we tell stories instead that move people, we actually stand a chance to stand out.
Patagonia released a story that shocked the world, and it made people connect with their values and their brand.
No mention of their products or price ranges. Just a story worth their audience’s attention.
Square, a credit card processing company, came up with a marketing campaign called “For Every Kind of Dream”.
They created a series of 12 storytelling videos showcasing real customers from different backgrounds.
It’s probably easier if I let them say what it is:
“All the films in the series feature Square sellers of all types of backgrounds that are bonded by their common dream of entrepreneurship and the risks each of them have taken to become a small business owner,” said Square.
This campaign won them the 2018 Tribeca X Award.
No sales, just stories.
Their values are clearly visible throughout their marketing. Their stories generate trust and provide that feeling, that connection, without having to sell anything.
It makes the audience that cares about what they care about feel compelled to act on it.
This is the base of the entire marketing experience.
Next comes the structure.
The building blocks, the strategy, of how to more consistently show up as you online.