CommCorner guest 003: Aubrie Aviña
Aubrie Avina is an A-player. With extensive and diverse experience in strategic communication and web development, Aubrie brings her marketing clients a level of nigh-unmatched professionalism and competency. If she says it's going to happen, it's absolutely going to happen and it's going to get done the right way the first time. Luckily for home buyers and sellers in the South Bay, Aubrie has recently joined the ranks of Bay Area real estate agents and she's pretty stoked about it (where else is real estate more fast-paced, action-packed, and competitive?). And who else should you call besides someone as energetic, positive, and skilled as Aubrie? You've got that right. No one.
When Aubrie's not marketing her clients or negotiating home sales, she's probably hiking, kayaking, or just enjoying the great outdoor activities California has to offer. Originally from right smack dab outside of Yosemite, you could say she's been an outdoor expert from basically the beginning (of Aubrie, at least). A true Weekend Warrior, Aubrie's got the low-down on what's going down all over the Bay Area and beyond. This week, Aubrie's talking with us about how to share your value proposition through storytelling.
How to Use Storytelling to Demonstrate Your Value Proposition
Childhood memories are tricky for adults to navigate. As we age, we gain experience, and our experiences lend themselves to context. As an adult, we have occasional flashes of clarity amidst remembrance, those ‘aha’ moments where the haze of recollection thins and actuality snaps into focus. For example, as children we were filled with awe each time “Santa” came to visit our house; perhaps we sat on his knee and whispered gift requests each Christmas. He was real. He was THE Santa. Later, as an adult, we look back and laugh at our juvenile naiveté. Santa was so obviously Uncle Mark [insert your familial name here]. At the time, it didn’t really matter; we wanted to be on Santa’s “nice list” so we were (mostly) on our best behavior around the holidays - the trope worked. In other words, story telling is a time-honored means of communicating value.
Do you remember, for instance, reading (or being read) your favorite childhood stories? They were entertaining, filled with fascinating characters and fantastical creatures, and almost always contained a cleverly veiled lesson to be learned. Take the tortoise and the hare, a classic example. We all remember the story -- do you remember the moral as well? Slow and steady wins the race; never underestimate the weakest challenger; don’t give up when faced with insurmountable competition; compete against the challenge – not against the challenger. Taken at face-value, it’s an amusing tale of a race between two characters; however, the moral directives are there, deeply rooted within the tale.
Here’s the point: storytelling is one of humankind’s oldest and most powerful traditions. So why aren’t more companies using it to demonstrate their value proposition?
“Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.” – Roger C. Schanell
3 Steps to Illustrate Your Value Proposition Through Storytelling
A brand that has built their reputation and success on the art of storytelling is Dyson. You may recall the original Dyson vacuum commercial. It was roughly 30 seconds long and was simply James Dyson relating his personal experience with the vacuum cleaner. In the commercial, he says, “While I was vacuuming at home one weekend, with what I thought was a pretty good machine, I was really amazed by the lousy suction. So I took the machine apart and discovered the problem. A small amount of dust and the bags and filters were hopelessly clogged. So I thought I’d try and design something better. And a few thousand prototypes later I had it. No bags. No plugged-up filters. And the first vacuum that doesn’t lose suction.” We can all relate to the problem, and in relating, we desire the solution.
Simple, relatable, believable, and unassumingly persuasive. James Dyson didn’t come into the vacuum cleaner market claiming his model was better than those of his competitors - he didn’t need to. Instead, he articulated a problem his customers could relate to and provided a solution. The strategy worked. Dyson is now a $3 billion-dollar vacuum empire. Here are the three steps he followed that you too can use:
Step 1 – Identify your “hare”
What’s the core element of any good story? A problem to be solved, a challenge to overcome. The astoundingly slow tortoise beat the biologically-faster rabbit… the minuscule human prince slayed a larger-than-life dragon to free the princess … or, in today’s Disney culture, the daughter of a Polynesian Chief traverses the open sea to pursue a demigod to retrieve and return the mystical relic essential to her island’s survival.
If you haven’t figured it out already – YOU are the Tortoise/Prince/Polynesian Princess, so WHO or WHAT is your hare/dragon/mystical relic? Whether you’re a company, individual contributor, or entrepreneur - what circumstance or challenge have you overcome? For Dyson, the problem was poor suction and clogged-up filters. Begin your storytelling journey by identifying your problem and writing it down.
Step 2 – How did you overcome/solve your industry’s problem?
It’s not enough to share self-congratulatory statements such as we’re the best, we offer superior XYZ, or our service/product is top of the line. Spell out how you’re different from your competitors. Dyson did this by demonstrating the flaw in a product consumers may (or in most cases may not) have realized existed. If you’ve seen the advertisements, or remember when the first Dyson commercial was launched, think about your own ‘aha’ moment upon seeing it. If you were like me, you may have thought hmm… now that you mention it… dusty air filters and clogged up machinery really IS a problem. Describe why and how you’ve solved the problem, and consumers will see you as an ally rather than a salesman.
Step 3 – Make it memorable
No matter how great you are, very few people will remember your impressive stats. You might truly have a superior product or offer the best customer service, but at the end of the day, your customers will remember your story, not your statistics. Dyson’s revolutionary technology may have reduced dust emissions by 89%, picked up 20 times more debris, and eliminated toxins X, Y, and Z (all made-up stats, by the way), but the more compelling and memorable statement was simply hearing Dyson himself say “the first vacuum that doesn’t lose suction”. It was the unique quality that set Dyson apart from the others. And remember - you are not the hero, your customer is. So tell a story people can relate to, the one they see themselves in, and want to share with others. For all intents and purposes, Dyson really did revolutionize the way a vacuum cleaner works – but a humble approach was far more influential than the“look at how great I am” advertisements of the day. In this regard, James Dyson’s slow approach is much like that of the tortoise.