Monday, September 3, 2012

A Story-Based Growth Strategy

"While economic growth is vitally important it is critical to deliver this in a way that does not elevate pure profit above societal or environmental value."

A story approach supports values-driven marketing – that is, it comes from your most deeply held values and goes to those same values in your audience. To be sure, it narrows the playing field. But it also attracts people, companies, and organizations with whom you can do your best work, who will derive the most value and benefit from it, and who will be your best word-of-mouth sales agents.

Story-making happens not through analyzing metrics or following one-size-fits-all guidelines. It happens through asking qualitative questions about your specific offering that trigger sensory and emotional responses. This emotional engagement is what gives story its unique power to access deeper information, connect you to your generative qualities of passion and imagination, and activate these same qualities in your audience. A good story well told ignites new possibilities in everyone.

Here's a list of questions that will guide you to a values-driven strategy for growing your business. If you take the time to write out this exercise, you will train your brain to recognize the pieces of your vision when they show up, so that you can pull them together into a concrete reality.

In this approach, we start with the happy ending and work backwards.

  1. What’s your vision of your fully thriving business and yourself as fully realized in it? Take the time to write down not just a list of quantitative facts and figures, but a qualitatively based scenario complete with the elements of setting and atmosphere. For instance, what’s the dominant personality trait or emotional tone you want your clients or customers to associate with your business? Where do you do it?
  2. What does your ideal client look, feel, and sound like? What do they do when they're not at work? What is their most pressing need? What are they thinking about constantly, but not necessarily talking about?
  3.  What would a client or customer's perfect experience of your service look, feel, and sound like? Write it down!
  4. What about your business gives you the greatest pleasure? See yourself in that situation. What feeds your passion? In what kind of setting or environment do you best conduct your business? How do you feel at the end of a successful session or transaction? Get it on paper.
  5. How will your potential client or customer become aware of your business? What are the places -- both in cyberspace and in real life -- that you can not just meet but engage meaningfully with them? What do these places look and sound like? What's their emotional tone? Imagine a conversation with a like-minded person who needs what you have to offer?
  6. How will potential clients come to trust you as someone who has the answers they are looking for? What do you have to give them -- from your experience, your learning, and your network? What do they want to hear from you?
  7. What are the obstacles -- the lack of resources, knowledge, attitudinal or other gaps -- that you need to overcome to grow your business? Get as clear a picture of these gaps as possible. Write!
  8. What partnerships, mentors, and support groups do you need to create for yourself? Again, get a clear picture and be as concrete as possible. Who has helped you in the past? How? What was the context? What did you do as a result? What was the outcome?
  9. And finally we arrive at the beginning: your core values -- the ones that give shape to your character and your life. The ones that you can compromise a little on, but not completely, without selling yourself out and never fulfilling your deeper purpose for being here in the first place. Robin Fisher Roffer, marketing expert and author of The Fearless Fish out of Water: How to Succeed When You're the Only One Like You, lists her three core values as love, safety, and living with integrity. A creative arts therapist names hers as unconditional love, authenticity, creative self-expression, and healing service. What are your core values?
  10. Link whatever arises from these questions to your present needs. What does a strategy based on your answers look like? Start taking action, easiest first, one step at a time, until you're back to the first step -- the fully realized vision of your business.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." -- Lao Tzu

This list is inspired by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing. I highly recommend his newsletter as a source of new ideas and inspiration.

To read about one business woman who found an inspired business vision in her back story, take a look at my June blog: "Back to the Future: How to Find a New Vision in Your Back Story."