Teri-Slavik-Tsuyuki was chief marketing officer for Newland Communities and is the principal of Tst Ink, a marketing strategy and experience design firm.
Every homeowner you deal with, whether he or she asks you directly or not, wants to know what you stand for. Why should they choose to work with your company rather than a competitor? After all, in many ways, the products and services you deliver are similar. Those are “commodities” that can be copied, creating a “sea of sameness” and leaving customers wondering why they should choose you.
The solution: Carve out a unique position for your business by thinking about your customers’ needs, pain points, and desires—not the kind that can be answered with a list of benefits on your website, but the kind that may not be obvious at first look. Embrace your curiosity and ask: Why is this a problem for my customers? And then ask why again. The first answer is the easy one, but the real issue is buried behind that second “why.” When you answer your customers’ true challenges, you’ll find the white space that many are missing.
Here’s a real-world example that makes it clear. Intrawest, the destination resort developer that has developed Whistler Blackcomb, Mammoth Mountain, and many other ski resorts, created a position for itself in the ski industry as the company that really understands its guests and provides extraordinary customer experiences. And Intrawest did so by asking why and then why again.
When you ski, your nose runs. And what do you do? Wipe it on your glove or sleeve. Intrawest saw this as an opportunity to stand out. It asked, “Why are runny noses a problem?” (it’s cold out) and then asked why again (because our guests forget to put tissues in their jacket pocket). With this insight in mind, Intrawest designed covered wooden boxes that hold a box of tissues and installed them on poles at the base of all ski lifts, calling them “Sniffle Stations.” With that fun and memorable name, the company’s story as more than just another developer with X number of lifts and X miles of trails began to take shape.
People remember stories more than they do a list of benefits. If motivated by the “outside-in”—by understanding and solving a customer pain point—your story will galvanize your brand in a very powerful way, with more meaning and relevance than if you simply provide a list of your product features and benefits. The reason: People pay attention to, relate to, remember, and share stories.
Your products and services can be copied; how you make your customers feel cannot. So ask why and why again until you discover an experience you can create that solves a problem or meets your customers’ specific needs. Then go off script and create your “signature story,” your “Sniffle Station.” When you consistently deliver on the promise in your story over time, watch your business stand out in the sea of sameness and connect with customers in ways that are both meaningful and relevant to them.