Narrative Trumps Experience

Narrative Trumps Experience

Let’s play a game.  

I want you to picture the perfect plate of pasta in as much detail as you can.  Close your eyes for five seconds, and see it, smell it, imagine cutting it, and finally tasting it.

I’ve played this game with hundreds of people as I’ve consulted with them, and here’s what’s fascinating to me about it…

What do you think the odds are that I can describe the plate of pasta you’re thinking about right now?

I can tell you from experience that the odds are about 2%.  

Some people are thinking about the pasta that their grandmothers made, others thinking about the finest plate they’ve had at a high-end Manhattan restaurant, and still others remembering what they made their spouse three nights ago.

Part of the reason for this is how vague and open to interpretation the instructions are – I asked you to think about the perfect pasta, but I didn’t give you any other parameters.

Now, let’s try it again with two very different ways for me to get you thinking.

1) Imagine linguini & clam sauce.  

2)  Imagine a perfectly textured, freshly made and hand-rolled linguini.  It’s served abed ocean-fresh clams in a white wine sauce, perfectly balanced with locally sourced garlic, freshly cracked black pepper, and hand squeezed lemon juice applied at serving.

Which of the two sounds more appetizing?

For most people, it’s the second one.

As much as I love imagining food, there is much more to this than building an appetite for the 30,000 people who read this every Tuesday morning – the lesson can transform the way you do business.

Simply put, every company does two things simultaneously.  They provide a product or service, and they provide a narrative about that product/service.

The perception of the former is DIRECTLY tied to the quality of the latter.

Sadly, many companies take the wrong message from this, and they sacrifice the quality of their offerings because they have such a fantastic story.  

This is the recipe for “one and done” customers, who will never come back, who will never refer, and who will (at best) forget you as soon as possible!

As a Canadian watching the spectacle of US politics play out, it reminds me just how powerful (or downright scary…) this concept can be.

Other companies fall victim to the better mousetrap myth and believe that they don’t need a great story because the quality of their offering is so great.

Both approaches are short-sighted and ridiculous.

When you pair the right story with the right offering, that’s where the magic happens.

So your question for this week is simple:  

What is the story you tell yourself and your clients about the product or service you provide?  

How can you change the description of what you’re offering to create a better experience for your clients, vendors, and employees?