Cal Fussman says far too often companies mistake themselves as the heroes of their story. Read that sentence again, because it’s a profound one. How can a company not be the hero of their own story? Because the best companies treat their clients are the heroes, and themselves as the humble guide. And, they make sure the clients know it too. Nobody hires us so we feel better about ourselves, they hire us to elevate themselves. It’s a tiny perspective shift with massive implications.
Consider what a hero is: A hero is vulnerable. A hero has something on the line. A hero has to take a risk and go on a journey. In our businesses, it’s the client who does all of these things. They’re the ones who realize they need help. They’re the ones who realize the stakes justify an expense. They’re the ones who realize they don’t want to face an uncertain future alone. Their strength emerges from a sensitive place, and they can benefit from a guide, i.e. our help.
Our strength (and value) comes from a confident place of experience. We support heroes on their quests. We can speak to and verify just how significant the stakes are, how important their journey really is, and offer them guidance towards fulfilling their mission. But, we’re not the hero. We can’t live the story or the success for them. Our story (and marketing pitch) needs to reflect this truth. Clients want to capture and own the reward of their future, not ours. Our value quite literally depends on it.
Yoda didn’t pitch Luke with a PowerPoint on his capabilities and the Fairy Godmother didn’t leave Cinderella with business cards to “pass on to any friends or family who might need similar help” (sorry stepsisters, she’s not taking referrals right now). As we think about how we tell our own story, it pays to remember who the hero really is.
ps. just like those Russian nesting dolls – we have to be prepared to be the guide for our clients/heroes, and then help them be the guides for their clients/heroes. Value emerges and takes on different roles at each layer.