I’m not exactly what you’d describe as an avid fan of dance. It’s not something that generally hits my radar. I don’t hang on Craig and Shirley’s every word and I really couldn’t care who wins the ‘Strictly Glitterball’. However, having said that and setting it aside, I have a confession to make.
I adore Strictly Ballroom.
It’s movie catnip for me. I could watch all 94 brilliant Baz Luhrmann minutes again and again. It’s camp, it’s funny, the cast is sublime, it’s not too long (very important!) and the soundtrack is awesome.
But that’s not why I love it. It’s not why it resonates with me. The reason it sits up there in the pantheon of my all-time favourite films is much more straightforward.
It’s the story. Simple as that.
It goes like this: Talented young ballroom dancer, a contender no less, has grown bored of the same old rules, the suffocating conformity required by the powers hitherto controlling his destiny.
He wants to push new boundaries, to disrupt, to deliver the ‘new steps’ he alone believes will tear down the stifling walls of regulation and blinkered thinking, creating new and brilliant horizons for all. Confronted by both the all-pervading status quo and the fears and reluctance of family, friends and peers he pushes ahead, risking everything, hurtling towards his inevitable ‘dancehall doom’… “My Steps, My Way!” he cries.
He wins in the end.
Of course he does; and with his victory comes our collective delight. He talks openly and with passion, he gains followers, he sticks to guns and, by the end, we’re all cha-cha-cha’ing along at the closing credits. Everybody’s happy, Love Is In the Air, and not a dry eye in the house.
I’m a sucker for an outlaw story. Hero becomes disillusioned and, believing his way is better, is cast out by those in control and aside by those he loves, finally proving himself right. You get it. Passion conquers all.
Anyone who’s ever started their own business has been that hero, convinced that they can add something different. That they can take their customer to a better place. That their way is best. Refreshing. Better. It’s the energy and the message that delivers the ‘wins’.
A clear destination. A higher purpose. That, for me, is where great marketing always starts. Not with product and service, but with a declaration. “This is where I’m going” and “this is why”.
A stall well and truly set out, a line drawn in the sand, a point of difference firmly established.
This is what gets people interested. It’s what gets their attention and, if the story grabs them, gets them onside. It gives people something to latch onto and engage with. Something to ‘root’ for.
And with a destination and an audience established, all that’s required to get people to join you is a simple invitation. Three little words: “Come with me”.
This strategy, this invitation to ‘get involved’ in a great quest or a grand plan saturate the stories we love and can, I believe, greatly help to create, maintain and accelerate forward movement and business growth.
Everybody wants to be a hero in a story
Allowing them to join you on your path helps facilitate that and secures their attention. They feel and become an essential part of your story. They buy a ticket, get on the bus and, assuming the on board entertainment is good, it becomes difficult to get off until journeys end.
But we forget, losing ourselves in our professionalism.
With marketing and customer communications, it’s all too easy to become consumed with what we do, how well we do it and the value we bring. We assume that the customer’s interested in and, in truth, sometimes they are. It’s all part of the service after all. But we can lose people that way. It can become noise. It’s what they expect you to say, it’s what they hear from everyone else and potentially of makes us less interesting, our hard won ‘fans’ becoming spectators rather than participants.
It’s essential that we remind our audience of where we’re going and how we’re doing. Not all the time of course, that would be mad, but periodically and episodically, gently reinforcing the good decision they made to become part of your business, a business that’s taking them to a better place, building value upon value.
You can build the story, creating sub-plots, spinoffs and additional narrative, introduce new characters, humour, tragedy and romance, never forgetting that entertainment and involvement sits at the heart of great customer engagement.
Remind people why they got on board in the first place. Remind them why they stay. Your business is your magnum opus. It has the potential to change lives and make the world a better place. Never forget that.
Invite people along. Take them with you.
Dancing all the way.