I’ve intentionally not included one-hit ideas in this little treasure hunt, but this riff from Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck? is too important to miss.
I owned a digital agency for 20 years, competing with London Ad agencies and clever kids coding in their bedrooms. I can say, without an scintilla of doubt, that it was the intangibles – the stories, the relationships, the service, the trust – that won us clients around the world.
Put it another way … you won’t find any of the stuff that matters in your contract.
Let’s say your service costs more than the commodity-oriented competition (I hope it does!). Where do you find repeat business or even new business? How do you make a sale (to another business or to a consumer) when you cost more?
The answer, of course, is in the intangibles. The things that have no price. Things that customers value more than it costs you to provide them. If you don’t have that, all you can do is beg. And begging is not a scalable strategy.
Focus and personal service are obvious (but priceless) intangibles.
Generosity is remembered for a long time. People remember what you did for them when you didn’t have to do a thing, when you weren’t looking for new business, when it was expensive or costly for you to do it.
Did you know that the movie studio bought Robert Downey Jr. a Bentley when Iron Man hit it big? He didn’t ask; they didn’t want anything (at least right then).
How do you respond when you make an error? This is actually a huge opportunity to deliver an intangible, especially in a business-to-business setting.
The last one is probably the biggest. Hope. Do you offer hope for something really big in the future? Maybe just around the corner, but perhaps in the long run. What does it look and feel like? Are you drawing a vivid picture?
Simple example: IDEO. Check them on each one of these criteria and you’ll see why they have a waiting list. When providers are stressed or scared or pressured, they instinctively resort to price. It feels real and reliable. It’s a trap, I’m afraid. All of the non-commodity decisions are driven by the intangibles, and your job is to build remarkable ones and tell stories about them.
Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck?: And Other Provocations (2013) – Seth Godin
Or choose a path towards stories that mean business.
Explore the art and science of business storytelling. The rabbit hole goes way deeper than you think.
The Business Storytelling Glossary lists the concepts, ideas and definitions that use in my work. Your mileage will vary.
Learn to tell Your Origin Story with my simple, proven process.