Communicating with your customers; collapsing the distance

Helping others is the single most important values for many of us. We want to make a difference and for our lives and jobs to have purpose. As a leader, communicating a strong sense of purpose and collapsing the distance between your team and the people they serve is vital to building motivation, understanding and commitment.

It’s what you do that makes a difference

Companies big or small, back-office or sales team, we all have customers.  When you make the connection between people’s everyday jobs and the value they bring, you tap into a deep-seated desire to help others and make a difference.

At Severn Trent, we created a video with the simple title: “It’s what we do”.  It focused on the everyday jobs of people in the business from customer care representatives to water engineers out and about in the community.  In an understated, very human way, it recognized the unique connection between people and society and the legacy they leave over time.  When we played it at the company conference, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house!

Starting with the purpose which drives your organization can uncover powerful emotions.  People are much more motivated to hear about the value they bring, rather than a hollow slogan or corporate jargon.

Collapsing the distance

From creating a ‘virtual seat’ for the customer at the executive table to customer surveys and forums, there are many ways of giving your customers a voice and keeping their views and needs at the front and centre of your thinking.

Here are some tried and tested methods which should be part of every organization’s customer engagement strategy:

  • Customer Forums – create a regular forum with a diverse mix of customers and share your plans and roadmap.  Members will quickly help you spot gaps and see emerging opportunities and risks.
  • Customer Surveys – are you getting feedback on a regular basis from your customers? From online customer surveys, social media monitoring and traditional research, there are many ways of getting insights. The best insight of course is more often than not from your front-line employees, so find a way of getting continuous feedback from them on how your service and products are landing.
  • User Groups – whether your end user is a software developer or a consumer, you need to understand how your product or service is being consumed in real life.
  • Customer video and recordings – are you able to record the voice of your customer providing feedback on your product or service? What do they like or dislike about what you do? Recordings like this are guaranteed to make the CEO and director sit up and take notice if played in one of their executive meetings!

Success stories and testimonials – positive customer stories, testimonials and endorsement are the proof points of your service and product and of a job well done. They reassure buyers and get your teams out of bed in the morning. They recognize that every success has many parents. Are you capturing their stories?

A feeling of appreciation

Whilst we all want to make a difference, the second most important feeling we all want is to be appreciated.  Bringing the outside in and helping your team realize the difference they are making is one way of saying ‘thank you’ to the people who make a real difference everyday, in every part of your organization.

If you would like more information on telling your customer stories and collapsing the distance, then please contact us and our experts will be happy to have a chat.

Are you a purpose led business?

While it’s great to have a short memorable vision and mission statement for your business, sometimes you need to paint a richer picture to help guide your people and point your brand in the right direction – that’s the role of a ‘Purpose Manifesto’.

Become a purpose led business, by creating a Purpose Manifesto

A Purpose Manifesto is essentially a short document – about half a page or a slide – which shares your organization’s values, mission and purpose to the world.

It’s called a ‘Manifesto’ because it is a declaration of intent to pursue a course that you believe in and stand for.

It also acts as a guide to your brand and many of the Manifesto’s our creative copywriters have developed over the years have been designed to communicate and inspire people around a new brand or rebranding exercise.

The best ones move us and help us connect and relate to the brand. 

Why do I need one?

You may be thinking – I have my vision, values, mission framework, why do I need a manifesto to be a purpose led business? 

We sometimes find however that during a vision workshop (when executives strive to gain consensus or distil words) some of the wonder and meaning can be lost in translation. 

The Purpose Manifesto allows free creative expression and allows the music to flow between the lines, allowing all of those great inputs to find a home.

When combined with a strong vision and values story, your company will become a purpose led business.

What’s the difference between ‘Mission’ and ‘Manifesto?’

Your Mission statement is a short statement of what you do and for whom and the benefits you bring. Your Manifesto is a statement of intent to act in accordance with your purpose as an organization. It acts like a North Star or guide.

What makes an inspiring Purpose Manifesto?

Have a look at the manifesto of our client, Mastercard, as a great example to follow.  

  • Uses concise and simple clear language
  • Statements start with what ‘We [believe in]
  • Every sentence counts and is imbued with meaning
  • It has a consistent rhythm and tone of voice
  • It expresses how the company will make life better for [stakeholders/the world]
  • It has emotional pull
  • It tells a story until it finally ends on the brand promise – Priceless possibilities for everyone.

People and customers identify with companies which have strong values and a clear purpose.

If you would like more information on how to write a Purpose Manifesto or support in developing your brand, please get in touch and our experts will be happy to have a chat.

How to tell a powerful leadership story

In the classic comedy movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Steve Martin delivers the sarcastic line to John Candy: “When you’re telling those little stories, here’s a good idea – have a point!” It’s also good advice for telling impactful leadership stories.

Leadership stories

Leadership stories are carefully crafted anecdotes designed to change opinions and behaviours. They can be powerful and memorable and carry an emotional pull which even the best crafted presentation can’t match.

Over the years, many of the executives I have worked with have been masters of the craft, using their experiences (often with the aid of a simple prop and metaphor) to explain a point of view, vision or behaviour.

The simple power of storytelling

I learned the power of storytelling many times while serving as Communications Director for a UK water company. As part of our ‘Speakers Panel’ initiative executives were required to deliver presentations at local community groups.  I went equipped with an impressive presentation showing our network and impressive stats about our investment program and operations, but was upstaged by one of our waste-water treatment workers – and a tomato.

Following on from me, he showed the tomato and explained how they grew in abundance at our works – the seeds having past through the digestive system of our customers and through the sewer pipes. 

The local audience loved it and probably learned more about our operations through that one simple anecdote than all of my slides. 

The operator’s story was human and relatable – but had a clear objective in mind – persuading the public of the company’s essential role in wastewater recycling and what customers pay for in their bills.

The lesson was well learned – people love stories – and props!

How to tell a good story

Whilst I have sat through hours and hours of presentations in my career, the main things I remember are the stories. They usually have common traits, so here are a few pointers from my experience:

  • Have a point.  The best stories have an end in mind – you have to think about what your audience will take away from the story and what your objective is.
  • Know your audience – it’s no use taking the Board presentation to a consumer audience.  What will make your story entertaining and thought provoking?  People buy from people – what are their values and how can you make your story relatable?
  • Balance your story – use facts, show evidence, and make a single clear point, rather than trying to communicate too many ideas.
  • Use a metaphor and a prop as a hook – good communicators use a metaphor or prop (or both) to engage their audience.
  • Follow basic storytelling structure with a hero, a villain, a conflict, a guide, and a turning point.

Bring it to life – the more you appeal to the senses, the more likely you will be to capture the attention of your audience

How to find your story

The best stories are already in your organization or in the depths of your experience and memory. Fascinating stories lie in wait to be uncovered in every organization from examples of innovation to incident recovery, to people just simply living your values (or not). Stories can be about the past, but also about the future and transformation.  In many organizations, there are stories that are often repeated and past on from one generation of people to the next.  

With a great story, your message will literally take flight.

Rob Salmon

If you would like help with finding your leadership story and telling effectively, then please contact us and our experts will be happy to have a chat.

Why you need a company vision

It may be your lack of strategy and company vision that is causing you to lose your way and your best people to leave your team.

What is a company vision?

A vision is a story about the future.  It’s aspirational and inspiring and describes how successful you will be when you have executed your strategy.

A powerful vision gives a leader the ability to define a path for the next five years, with clear short and longer term goals. Everyone in the team should be able to see how what they do contributes to achieving the company vision.

Why a lack of vision will make you lose your way

Leaders who lack a strategic vision or who are unable to communicate it effectively will struggle to climb to the higher tiers of management in an organization or realize their full potential.

Without a strong vision, your organization will begin to lose its way and your best people will leave for positions in teams or companies with a more compelling and exciting future.

How to find and define your company vision.

You won’t find your vision by locking yourself in a room and emerging with the ‘answer’. To be successful you must involve your team and be prepared to let the outside in.

  • Tune into your customers – look for opportunities to talk to them and understand how they think and what products or services they would like to see in future.
  • Know your organization – what makes you distinctive, how do you make money, what are your key competencies?
  • Understand your competitors – what makes them successful? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Understand the threats and opportunities which lie in the road ahead and how you will navigate them.
  • Look back into the past and understand the key events and triggers which changed the course of your organization for better or for worse
  • Involve your managers – seek a diversity of opinion and be prepared to encourage different points of view.
  • Incorporate your values – your purpose and values will shape your vision and define the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’

The most inspirational leaders are ones with an exciting and compelling vision of the future. They are the ones we want to work for and the ones we invest in. Leaders who understand this basic principle and who work to define their strategic story will quickly find the path ahead.

Rob Salmon

If you would like more information on finding your business vision, then do not hesitate to contact us and our experts will be happy to have a chat.