Welsh countryside, January 2020
Paul Richardson

Nobody Wants What You Want

Yet you may have what they need

  • Nov 13, 2022

If you have employees, you should already understand that they don’t want the same things you do.

Your vendors? They want something entirely different from you. The same goes for your landlord, your subcontractors, and your accountant.

But, most importantly, your customers don’t want what you want.

If you are like most business owners, you want to wake up and do interesting things that make a difference, be paid well for it, and have that profound sense of autonomy and excitement that comes from running a business.

But your customers want something entirely different. They want you to solve a particular problem they have. And they want the experience of problem solving to be a positive one. Oh, and it needs to cost just the right amount of money, and take just the right amount of their time and effort.

So, naturally, what that means is that, in order to build the business you want, you have to make what your customer wants Job One. You need to figure out :

  1. what problem you are solving for them (preferably better than anyone else, at the best price, and with the best experience);
  2. how to deliver it while keeping all those other actors in your play (vendors, accountant, employees, landlord) happy.

Isn’t business fun?

So where does marketing fit in? Well, marketing is the tool we use to communicate to customers and prospects that we understand their problem and that we are the answer they are looking for. And the best tool for that is stories, because stories are how humans communicate, how they remember, how they learn.

Marketing begins with putting your customer at the center of a story where they are on a journey from pain to transformation, in which you are their loyal and experienced guide.

Marketing is not about selling. It is about creating change through communication. Change that helps both you and your client.

How about an example...

Panoramic view of Montpelier
Montpelier – panoramic view

As many towns, Montpelier, Vermont has a bookstore (two, actually) and a hardware store. Both are retail operations and both rely on foot traffic to survive. But while they serve the same community of individuals, they are solving different problems for them.

A bookstore (“one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking” – Jerry Seinfeld) exists to solve the problems of entertainment and enlightenment. Often, people go in not knowing what exactly they will walk out with, but they usually want to fill a hole. Maybe they want a story to take them (or their daughter) away somewhere. Or maybe they want to learn how to do something new, or to raise their knowledge about some thing or person.

A hardware store, meanwhile, exists to solve problems of security and insecurity. People go in looking for tools or widgets to fix something wrong in their nest (often also a hole), or for ways to make their nest more beautiful, more comfortable, safer.

The marketing each of these businesses does should relate to the problems they solve for their customers.

The bookstore needs to focus on how it is an inviting, welcoming, friendly place where one can explore and find everything from transporting novels to uplifting biographies, from how-tos to where-to-next. It needs to have events that bring the community in to interact and connect, and a staff that has a passion for helping people find that book the has been waiting there on the shelves for them. It offers a guided path to entertainment and/or enlightenment.

The hardware store, on the other hand, needs to focus on how it has the perfect array of problem-solving tools and widgets, at a fair price, to help customers get in and out as fast as possible. And that it has knowledgeable staff who can help people fix very concrete problems of plumbing, electricity, yard care and what not. It offers a guided path to greater peace of mind.

To recap: Focus your business’ marketing on what your customers want, and you will be on the path to getting what you want.

– Paul Richardson

Below, I link to a video we recently delivered for a client in Nashville. We needed to tell the business' very unique story, yet still make it about what the customer wants – in this case fine furniture, a happier nest, and a table they can tell their friends about. Enjoy.

Tennessee Woodworks from StoryWorkz Creative on Vimeo.