3 Rules for growth.
If you want your organisation or business to grow and to flourish there are three simple rules that you must know.
You must know your why, your purpose, your mission, your values. Yes you must know your brand. It’s not your logo, it’s your modus operandi — it’s about how you go about business. Your brand is a promise that you make to your customers, so what do you give a damn about and why should anyone else give a damn too?
Can someone else explain what you do? Can someone else rave about what you do? Will they put your stickers on the back of their car? Will they tell your stories? Will they send you tapestries?* Can you define your thing beautifully and simply? Can everyone else? You must be very, very, crystal clear about what you do, how you do it and why you do it. It must be real. You must mean it and you must love it. It must be the reason you get out of bed in the morning and everyone in the organisation must know it, believe it and love it too.
There’s a good story about President Nixon visiting NASA in the late sixties. Passing a man in overalls he asked “what do you do here sir?”
“I’m putting a man on the moon Mr President” the janitor replied.
It wasn't a joke. He knew his role keeping everything clean was a vital and integral part of the mission to put Armstrong on another planet. It’s why he got out of bed every morning.
2.Know your enemy.
I've never read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, but I hear it’s got mad skills. Wikipedia says that Tzu says that in war it’s a good
idea to know who you're dealing with (I paraphrase) and I agree. You must really, really know your audience. They're not your enemy of course — quite the opposite — they are your customers, potential customers, influencers, fans, reviewers, partners, distributors, resellers and your friends. Sun Tzu’s rule still applies.
Where do they live? Are they Mr, Miss, Mrs, Ms, Dr, Rev or Lord? What’s their email address and phone number? Can you get a message to them? How many different ways? Do they use Twitter or Facebook? Where do they want to hear from you? In their inbox or on their timeline or in the post? (Yes, that is still a thing.)
When did you last call them; email them; tweet them? Have you kept a record? When did they last buy from you and how many people bought your stuff because of them? You can see from the accounts when they bought from you but why did they buy from you? Are you sure?
How do they like to be greeted? Don’t open your email to me with Yo. Hi isn't really my way either. I like Hello.
You must know that and all these things because I’ll notice when you get it right. Doubly so if you get it wrong.
Are you carrying this information around in your head or is it on an excel spreadsheet? This doesn’t need to be a server-load of big data, but that’s what ‘big data’ really means. Knowing everything. Call it a CRM or call it a database or call it Marvin, but write it all down, in one place, where everyone in the team can use it.
Your audience must really know you and everything that you are capable of.
Bic make biros. Did you know that they also make cigarette lighters and surfboards? Do biro users smoke? Do they surf? There’s a good chance many of them write and smoke and surf. Do they know they can get all three from Baron Bic’s emporium of write-on, smoking-hot, wave-riding awesomeness?
You make things — do your customers know that you repair and insure them too? Do they know that you give discounts for smoking, surfing writers? Do they know that you recommend great music every month on your Spotify channel?
People must hear about you, long before they hear from you.
This is not about marketing — this is communication. Marketing is horrid. People don't like to be marketed to anymore; they can see it coming a mile off; they can smell it like a dog that’s rolled in fox poo and they will try and avoid it.
But people do liked to be listened to. Everyone is flattered by attention. They like someone who'll show them useful things and who'll inspire them. Someone who'll take the time to get to know them; to understand what they like (and don't like). They like to feel like you give a damn and people love people who give a damn. Passion and integrity is infectious and very sexy, so tell all your stories, every way you can, all the time.
Good stories breed trust and integrity. Trust drives sales. Integrity keeps customers.
So you must know these things, but you must also live these things. These three ‘knows’ are the only foundations upon which you can build so they must be rock solid and underpin everything you do. Without any one of them, you cannot build anything awesome.
*Footnote about tapestries.
Dan Germain says that Innocent never set out to build a company that people would send embroidered works of art to, but that’s what they got. “Be interesting and your customers will feel they have permission to love your brand,” he said. That’s what I mean by Be Known.