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JANUARY 21, 2015



 
 

Every New Year follows a period of reflection - what has worked in the past, what hasn't. Since Vista specializes in helping companies grow, I want to share a key thought about what will really work in 2015 and beyond. 
 
In the past several years, growth efforts - primarily through the marketing function - have experienced the most radical transformation than any business function, with the exception of technology. An explosion of channels, devices, social, and customer data has revolutionized growth and marketing. For example, with the profound increase of reporting technology most companies have created new positions for “Analytics”. Several years ago, that did not exist on organization charts. Captured data is growing exponentially, creating more anxiety about filtering out what data is useful and relevant. Because we have more recording methods than we have filtering methods, we are drowning in data and starving for wisdom.
 
So what will work in 2015? Improving the fundamentals before drowning in data. I have spoken a great deal about two of the fundamentals of growth: “story” and “system”. 
 
Many companies unfortunately get these confused. Many growth investments are spent on the "system" - channels, devices, and communication tactics from apps to websites. Yet, most companies haven't taken the proper time to craft their “story” - one that resonates with their listeners and illuminates the specialness of their offering and how it can make someone’s life better. I mean a real story that's been written, vetted, and tested; not something developed in a one-time afternoon whiteboard session. With a strong, well-told story leaders are best equipped to populate their system with a story that inspires their audiences. Investment in the system with a half-baked story is fundamentally flawed. Story and system. In that order. That sequence is critical.
 
A story well told is about three components: setting the stage, introducing conflict, and offering resolution. It's easy to get in the trap of serving all three of these components to our listeners and buyers in a way that's easy for them to consume. While ease of consumption is important, the best growth stories harness the power of the narrative. Some other guidelines to follow for your story are:
 

  •  Don't make the story about you, the storyteller
  •  Make the story about the listener's vexing problem and ways to fix it
  •  Offer up resolutions in a way that you encourage them to engage with you for action or assistance

 
Create an opportunity that hasn't been realized unless the listener engages. Don't resolve the story, ask the listener to help complete it. 
 
Please forgive another Apple analogy, but they are very good at growing their brand, starting with their story. A recent iPad campaign was “What will your verse be?”, featuring a powerful assemblage of empowering images with the inspirational prose of Whitman. It inspires and engages, yet it ends with a question, essentially a challenge: “What special things will you do with our product?” Apple didn't resolve the story; they gave the listener many interesting ideas of ways to write and complete their own story, their verse. As evidenced by the number of views of this ad, millions of people were inspired to engage with the story.
 
When you are armed with an engaging story, leaders have confidence in populating their system with something of value. Investment in the system pays bigger dividends when the story is told well.
 
So, if you agree that story is of premium importance, what are the greatest obstacles and challenges you have this year in crafting your story of engagement?