Over the last eight chapters of this Guidebook, we’ve covered a lot of ground. You’ve identified seven different building blocks that go into the design of a Strategic Narrative. Now, we will look at how to pull it all together.
To recap, we started with a shared purpose that defines your business in a way that makes it universally relevant and engaging. Note that this shared purpose is not philanthropic. It is not separate from your business. It is the context in which you conduct your business. It is why you do what you do.
You can think about the narrative as expressing three dimensions of this purpose.
Differentiation - Why your approach is different than others (Path to Purpose)
Authenticity - Why you are genuinely qualified to fulfill this purpose (DNA)
Relationship - How you relate to others and how they relate to you (Contribution, Roles)
The two other elements are about
Engagement - How you pull people into your orbit (Mindshift)
Progress - How you stay aligned to your purpose and measure success (Metrics)
So how do these all come together? I use a test called “Bring it On.”
You are looking for the element of your narrative that is the essence of what you are about. The thing that you know you are better at than anyone else. The dimension on which you want to compete.
The test is that if a competitor said they are going to compete with you on this thing, you would say “Bring it On!”
Imagine if Microsoft said, “We are going to compete by being user-friendly and having elegant design.” Apple would say “Bring it On.”
Imagine if Dunkin Donuts said, “We are going to create more inviting environments as a Third Place.” Starbucks would say “Bring it On.”
We aren’t looking for a value proposition here, although it might be related to that. We are looking for the focal point of your narrative. To illustrate the point, I will give an example from my own work.
Here is the basic narrative of my business.
My shared purpose is digital transformation and breakthrough results.
My path to purpose is unlearning and the power of new thinking to drive exponential change.
My purpose metric is the rate, reach and return on epiphany — how quickly people get to an “aha” moment, how many people are reached, and how much value they get from it.
My contribution to the potluck is the design of new mental models and the structures that bring them within reach.
My brand role is one of a catalyst (rather than a consultant). In chemistry a catalyst accelerates a reaction without being used up in the process.
The mindshift is getting people to focus on their thinking and not just their doing. As I like to say, “To change what you do, first change how you think.”
So what’s my “Bring it On”?
Let’s say that I’m being considered by a potential client for a consulting or speaking engagement and there are couple other candidates. If you told me they are looking for someone who can share best practices or talk about market trends, I’d say I’m as good as anyone else. But if you told me they are looking for someone to shift the thinking of their audience and give people a new mindset for success in a digital age, I’d say you won’t find anyone better. In other words, “Bring it On!
The tricky part of finding your “Bring it On” is that it is not as obvious as you might think. We often take our greatest gifts for granted. It is so obvious to us, we assume others can see it too. Or it comes so easily to us, that we assume it can’t be a source of real differentiation or advantage.
Exercise: Bring it On
Take a look through your worksheet and see which of the narrative elements you feel really defines and distinguishes your business.
Lyft’s “Bring it On” would likely center around role relationship. Lyft has a brand role of “driver as friend” while Uber is more “driver as entrepreneur.”
Meanwhile, Starbucks’ “Bring it On” would likely center on its Path to Purpose. Its coffee is good, but Starbucks’ ability to create a Third Place is truly their “Bring it On.”
See if you can boil it down to a phrase or saying that captures the essence of the narrative.
In the last chapter of this Guidebook, I will share some tips on how to write up the narrative in a way that can be effectively put into practice.
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