Marketing Lessons from the Second Grade

Rosie was easily the most enthusiastic student in our grade 2 class.

Before our teacher could even finish asking the class a question, Rosie’s hand flew up.

If she wasn’t selected to answer the question right away she got a little frantic and would wildly waive her hand back-and-forth.

If that didn’t work she would try harder.    

Jumping out of her desk and with one hand firmly on the hem of her dress, her pony tail bobbing she would jump up and down all while waving madly in the direction of our teacher.

One day she even stood on the chair of her desk hoping to be impossible to ignore.

Sometimes Rosie didn’t even have the answer she just wanted to be part of the conversation.

Our teacher would dutifully try and involve others but it was hard to ignore Rosie. But after a while, we did. It just seemed normal to have Rosie jumping up and down with every question. In the end Rosie’s approach didn’t work very well.

But she sure taught me a few good marketing lessons.

The first one; if you keep trying so hard to interrupt people they begin to ignore you.

We mute you, we unsubscribe. If you keep popping up on our screen when we are trying to read more about you on your website we “X” out of you, we move on. We truly do not like to be pestered or annoyed, especially if you don’t have something valuable to tell me.

The second lesson is everyone wants to be heard and some just want to part of the conversation.  Are you allowing for that in your marketing for people to just connect?

The essential third lesson: if you are going to jump up and down waving your arms in the air, hold on tight to the hem of your dress so no one can call out “I saw your underpants”.  

These 3 marketing lessons were brought to you by Rosie!

Kind Acts, the value of Constraints and the Art of Propelling Questions

I have a beautiful, big, journal that I bought at the most amazing store called Paper Umbrella.  It’s a local store filled with so many treasures!!! I am inspired every time I go into the shop, not just because they have such an irresistible array of paper goods, sassy cards, and drool-worthy pens, but because the owners Theresa and Brad provide an experience that always lifts my day. They understand community in the purest sense.

All through the pandemic they have held imaginative and kind activities. One of my favourites was “letter love” where they encouraged us to write a letter to a senior in a care home. Brad and Theresa would deliver them to various homes and the notes would find their way to those who needed to know they were being thought of.

When we couldn’t go in their store we could order and have curbside pick-up. Our paper bags always adorned with a personalized note splashed with beautiful calligraphy.

Then there was the “daily dose” a five-minute video every day on something you could craft yourself and you could count on it like clockwork. They showed up to cheer us on and cheer up others. I won’t ever forget that.

Back to my journal….

I keep all my notes for blogging in this journal.  It’s a fab “evening azure ocean blue colour” (Can you tell that I always wished I had a job where I could name colours and paint!)  There is something about being able to sketch out a blog on paper first that appeals to me, and then I translate that using a keyboard.

But today my tried-and-true system is unavailable. I’ve broken my right wrist, so the keyboard and the journal will be getting dusty for the next little while.  This is my very first voice-dictated blog.

I feel a bit like I’m flapping in the wind, in freefall gripping the armchair with my one good hand, reaching out for something that is familiar.

Then again it is 2020! Working within a constraint has become familiar! A broken wrist? No problem just another constraint!

Constraints have been shown to lead to better practises, to the transformation of businesses, and the invention of vaccines! (Which last year we never even knew we needed.)

I admire so deeply the many businesses who have had to change their business model on a dime, and be nimble enough to respond to even the most remote opportunity to rewrite what is possible. These businesses chose to believe in a narrative that taking small steps forward would pay off.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Aimee Schulhauser, owner of two restaurants (Tangerine, Slice), a cooking school (Schoolhause Culinary Arts) and a catering business (Evolution Catering). Infact she opened a new restaurant right at the start of the pandemic! As you can imagine she has been hard hit.

“The fact that we are so nimble really paid off for us”, says Amy. “We were able to respond very quickly to the needs of not only our customer but our community. When we could no longer seat people in our restaurant we thought about how we might be able to help. At that time many grocery items were hard to come by. We opened up a mini-grocery with items like flour and yeast and some fresh fruit. We expanded our takeout with what our customers wanted, which was not our trademark salads. They were looking for mac & cheese and meatloaf! We became very determined to just keep showing up however we were needed.”

We are not in control of the constraints put upon us by this pandemic, but we can control the ambition and inventiveness it can generate in ourselves and in our business. Despite this, not every business story or personal story will end well.  That reality hurts our collective hearts.

So how do we move forward?

I think the first step is accepting the constraint, changing our mindset to remove some of our traditional ways of solving problems, and asking new questions. 

The type of questions you ask yourself can change your direction. Try asking yourself propelling questions. A propelling question is defined by linking together a bold ambition and a considerable constraint. It is a hopeful question challenging us to find the right idea. The practice of asking propelling questions can be used at all levels of business.

Some examples include:

How can I maintain relationships with our customers when our business is closed?

How can we expand our business when we don’t have an advertising budget?

How can I elevate the customer experience and reduce my expenses?

How can we prevent layoffs when our sales have slid?

Asking propelling questions will introduce tension and discomfort and make us examine what we thought we knew. I believe it will also propel us to new solutions.

Like voice dictating a blog. 🙂

 

*this blog is not endorsed or sponsored it is simply an opportunity to cheer on purpose driven brands

why is it dangerous to play it safe right now?

Don’t wait for normal to return, it is not coming back.

Take chances now.

Playing it safe right now is too dangerous a strategy.

If you are trying to play it safe you are missing a significant opportunity to stand out. And you need to stand out!

I gave this advice at an event this spring at the dawn of Covid. And about a month later one of the participants messaged me to say that she took my advice. She said, “I quit my job and started the journey that I always wanted to take, but hadn’t really had the courage to do it.” Now was the time.

Now is the time to invest in yourself, relying on yourself as your most valuable asset.

Understanding who you are, being able to articulate your purpose, and how you can use your genius work to help others; this is your portable equity and it is worth gold!

It is easy to lose ourselves right now, and yet the opportunity to find ourselves is the one we need to say yes to.

If you are ready to invest in your portable equity and declare your purpose we can help!

Things Have Shifted

Could you feel the shift?

I felt it this weekend.

I am not sure if it was that the buds on the trees seemed to burst in front of my eyes, that the grass was tinged with green, or our puppy Stella’s insane spring fever, but I felt it!

It echoed what I have been experiencing at The Story Co., too.

Since the pandemic clients have been gradually shifting from crisis mode to vision mode. Now, we are asking, “where to from here?” The questions are more hopeful and also more helpful. There is an openness to new ways of thinking.

This time last year our whole family was wrapped up in the Raptors’ triumphant run for the playoffs. (I’m seriously missing the Raptors but I promise no pivot analogies!)

Remember that game winning shot by Kawhi? There was a collective gasp at our house and all across the nation. With each exciting game I became really impatient, craving to know how the story would end.

I feel the same way now!

With the Raptors story I only saw it ending one way.

There was so much to cheer for; the nation, the underdog, the star, the hustle, the fans.

And at that pivotal moment was the shift.

We went from a nation shaking our heads at the luck of having a chance to win it all, to a nation believing we were champions.

Maybe it feels like all you have been doing is shifting and changing gears lately.

But all this shifting is making us into believers.

Retailers began this pandemic by shaking their heads wondering how they could possibly get an online store up and running so quickly, to seeing it now as a permanent income stream.

The gyms and yoga studios that now know that online classes will be here forever. Universities and educational institutions, not designed for being nimble, shifted gears completely getting online classes up and exams written. Masks were produced in basements; factories were re-tooled.

In the process raving fans have been created. The kind that never forget how when the chips were down you were there and willing to help with what you do best. That is what we live for. That is the soul of a purpose brand.

The “what” and “how” we do business has changed radically.

The raw innovation is profound.

The shift is real.

Keep going.

Life interrupted

We have a puppy named Stella.

She works with me, and after having her for three months I am smitten, all in, and sometimes losing my mind!

I have a bag of tricks to keep us both happy but sometimes she gets annoyed and wants my full attention. And she has now literally found a way to “pop up” between me and my desk.  She is like Houdini, and then she stares me down, all the while madly wagging her tail.

I started to laugh thinking she is the furry version of a pop up ad in a world that has been very interrupted! 

I wonder how many brand messages we turn off or frantically X out of in a day, maybe 500?

We have so many ways to tell our stories, but interrupting isn’t the best way to do it. I mean really, who likes the interrupter who never lets you finish a thought? Do you picture your brand as the annoying person at the cocktail party (remember, we used to have those!) who, while you are in the midst of a fabulous conversation with someone else, butts in to control or change the dialogue? It is simply rude and annoying and the fastest way to get you off the invite list. The same holds true online.

The pop up is a poor way to start a relationship (unless you are as adorable as Stella), yet it is the core of so many campaigns. Realize that this is the old and out-dated model. The model of unrelenting frequency and reach, because we can, is still interruption-based marketing and not what drives a purpose brand.

Yes, by all means reach out to your beautiful community, reach out with empathy and reach from the very core of your values and purpose. Give them a meaningful experience.

Make the shift from a transactional relationship to a transformational experience and let me know what happens. Not sure what this might look like? Check out a video on Yeti’s storytelling website called “Shut Up and Paddle” on the Texas Water Safari. I bet you will watch the full 7 minutes and share it on. No one is screaming the Yeti brand except for a few well-done product placements. They sell very expensive coolers but what hooks us in is the inspiration and the desire to be part of the story, to join the community, the desire for us to feel transformed.

Ditch the pop up for real engagement (at the proper distance of course) that goes beyond transaction and then take your dog for a walk 🙂

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