Here’s a case of a product that has grown through word of mouth marketing: Brompton bikes.

Our family have become big users of Brompton bikes over the last ten years. We have 3, and a range of child seat options so that the 4 of us can head into old town Barcelona on a weekend.

The home fleet of bikes

I first came across Brompton when I was given one as a gift by a group of Entrepreneurs (thank you Forum Berlin!). At first, I thought “I’ve already got 2 bikes… who needs a folding bike?” Within a year… I had left my other bikes behind and I pretty much ride the Brompton both mid week and weekend.

Our Brompton bikes work well. They are good to ride (6 gears, good steering). They are easy to fold… and they fold up small and easy to handle (although heavy to carry any more than 50m… but not a problem as you just turn it back into a bike).

We had 2 Brompton bikes stolen last week. Annoying… to use a polite word. They were in the back of the car, in an underground parking.

I was looking at all the folding bike options over the last week (I ended up buying 2 new Bromptons to replace the stolen ones… after checking out all the other options).

Since google tracks everything… I now see lots of Brompton videos popping up in my YouTube feed. I loved this talk by the CEO of Brompton Bikes, Will Butler-Adams. He’s clearly not so interesting in being a nice person, but deeply interested in producing an excellent bicycle.

His marketing comparison: Gillette – 95% of what you are paying for is tennis players lifestyles and flashy billboards. That worked for years… because spending lots of money on making a great product was a waste in a world where TV advertising was the way new products and ideas got out to the wider market.

Brompton is growing now because of Powerful Word of Mouth marketing.

Brompton’s founder, Andrew Ritchie only focussed on making an excellent bike. He only worked with suppliers and distributors who cared about product quality. For years, this made it hard to grow their sales. Word of mouth was a slow growth tool in the 1980s, 1990s… but then came social media. Bit by bit, people who used a Brompton would recommend them… and sales grew bike by bike.

Today, Social media, blogs and vlogs allow for honest people to share honest reviews of good products.

This has me reflecting on how Vistage can be like Brompton… make sure our member experience is always excellent… and allow our members to be our best marketing (as they will be the best in knowing whether other CEOs share our 7 beliefs).

Where to buy a Brompton in Barcelona? Folding Bikes House. Great team (ask for Adrià!), great selection, great area to hang out while they service your bike.

What is your painful problem to solve?

Sales is not about describing your product, your process or your friends. It is about explaining to the buyer a problem that they have, and giving them a glimpse of a world where that problem has gone away.

What would it feel like to live in a world where that problem has gone away? What would it feel like to have your boss think you are a top performer? What would it feel like to have your kids proud of you? What would it feel like to see your body looking fit? What would it feel like to take your t-shirt off at the beach with pride?

What is your painful problem to solve?

By the way, you don’t get to talk to someone about their problem until you have a relationship of trust with that person. You can’t just dive in and say “we’ll make your pain go away!”. You have to begin a relationship of trust.

The best first step? Generosity. What can you give this person that they need? Often, it is your undivided, non-judgemental listening to what they have to say. Make them feel like they truly exist for you.

Rory Sutherland tells some wonderful stories about the power of framing.  If you want to be persuasive, you must get good at framing the argument.  Good framing shifts the argument to a playing field where you can achieve your ends and the other can feel that they have gotten a good deal.

Prices are not expensive or inexpensive in abstract, only in relative terms.  If I say that “this watch costs €100” – I have allowed you to frame your perspective on expensive or cheap.  If I say “other watches in this very category sell for over €1,000; this watch costs €100” – I have started to provide my own framing for the situation.

Compared to what?

Rory talks about small shifts in framing have a powerful impact.  He gives the example from car sales that it is far better to give a rebate of €3000 on top of trade in valuation versus giving €3000 off the full purchase price.  The framing of a trade-in price of €7000 plus €3000 is much more impactful than offering €3000 reduction on the full price of €22,000.  It is the same €3000 in cash, but it is not the same €3000 from a psychological point of view.

This framing also works for selling expensive cars at plane and boat shows – context shifts way we see the price.  A €300,000 car seems expensive when seen in a showroom of €50,000 cars…  but it feels more reasonable when placed next to €1.2M boats or €6M private jets.

Here’s Rory’s talk at Zeitgeist:

Good ideas sometimes die.  Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk
Good ideas sometimes die. Photo: Thomas Hawk

A person can have the great idea, but if that person cannot convince a number of people: the idea dies.

Good ideas do die.  Good ideas must have good advocates.  Good advocacy and good idea makes an idea live.

Ideas need advocates like humans need oxygen.

The Leader as Communicator

The Leader’s #1 job as a communicator: to discover why people believe the things they do.

Wife says “I don’t like this type of movie.” Husband says “Yes you do.”  Wife learns: he is an idiot.

Wife says “I don’t like this type of movie.” Husband says “I understand you don’t like this type of movie.  What type of movies do you like?  What do they have in common?  What do you feel when you see those movies?  What do you feel when you watch this movie?”.  Wife shares.  Husband learns.

Proving to somebody that they are wrong is not going to lead them to say “thank you for helping me identify the error of my ways”.  Proving to someone that they were lazy is not going to lead them to take decisive action.  Proving to someone that they were stupid is not going to lead them to score well on the exam or do a great job on the report.

“Why does this person think he is right?”

The most important question: Why does this person think he is right?

Everyone who states a position, takes an action – believes that it serves a positive purpose, whether conscious or unconsciously.  Everyone has good reasons. Your job is to uncover their reasons.  You may not see them as good reasons, but they are reason enough for that other person.  You can only help them change if you start from where they start.

Your Question to keep Ideas Alive

Positions are the what. Interests are the why.  If someone resists: Why do they hold this position?  What benefit are they getting emotionally, strategically, personally, financially that makes them want to hold this position?

Find a way to show that the new idea can give them the same or more benefit.

Don’t try to prove them wrong.

 

nick_2
Nick D’Aloisio

The story in the tech news of the last few days is the purchase of Summly by Yahoo for the sum of $30M, making the 17-year old founder Nick D’Aloisio an instant millionaire.

It sounds fairly simple.

The story they want you to believe:

Teen whizz writes cool app.  App downloaded by millions.  Yahoo gets interested.  Teen whizz meets after school to agree $30M deal.  Teen now rich.

The reality might be a little more useful.

The reality: Mentors and Advisors made this deal.

Horizon Ventures, the Hong-Kong based Venture Capital fund that is part of Li Ka-shing‘s empire spotted Nick D’Aloisio a few years ago.

He was a great coder, and presents himself well; he had a decent app.

Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s company Horizon put together a group of mentor/advisors for Nick – including Jonathan Ive, chief designer at Apple; other well-known tech and media names including actors Ashton Kutcher, Stephen Fry, Spotify’s Shakil Khan, Zynga’s Mark Pincus and Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter.

Together they shaped an unknown London geek into a cool dude and a $30M deal with Yahoo.

It was not the awesomeness of the app, it was the credibility of the mentors and advisors that made this deal.

Resources

In the late 1870s, A Dublin-based shoe company sent 2 salespeople from their head office to a new territory in rural Africa.  The two salespeople, Willy and Jimmy, travelled out on boat, trains and foot to reach the rural African areas that was to be their new sales area.

2 months later, 2 telegrams arrived in the Dublin headquarters.

The first telegram from Willy read “Terrible news. They don’t wear shoes.”

The second telegram from Jimmy read “Fantastic opportunity. Never seen a greater need for shoes. Much work to do.”

Are you seeing the world as Willy or as Jimmy?

Good business has been done the same way for centuries. The medium does not change the rules for success.

Question 1: Who exactly do you help?

Who do you help?  What problem do you solve for them?

How can you make that pain tangible for the listener?  Effective sales is about helping a customer understand that their suffering can go away.  They have a choice.  Continue to suffer, or begin to change.

Question 2: Where can you take me?

People don’t buy coaching, they buy results. “I am a coach” = about me; “I enable you to make a living through speaking” = results, about you.  Olympic coaches have not won gold; they have helped others achieved gold.

The more I am specific, the more I show how others like you have gone on this similar journey and achieved these desirable results, the better.

Customer testimonials are powerful.  When a salesperson explains their “vision” it is because they can’t show you a customer who has already gone through the journey.

Question 3: Why can I trust you?

What makes you worthy of trust? It takes a tremendous amount of trust to click “buy” on the website of someone you have never met and believe that the goods will be delivered.

These are the 3 important questions.

“Cheaper” is never a deep human life goal.

I don’t often hear people say “I wish my life was cheaper”.

We never buy because something is cheaper. We buy because of the story we can tell ourself and others when we buy cheaper… I am a smart person because I get good deals.

But, Apple is not cheaper. It is about making you feel bigger.

Selling your services or products on the “cheaper” tag is not building a brand.

Ryanair is cheap, but cheap is not its core value.

Apple is 5% of the revenues of smartphones, but 85% of the profits. They create an experience that people desire, and the people are happy to pay.

My service might be cheaper… but there is something about my service that is far more valuable; there is an experience you can give others that is far more valuable.

If they end up paying less, that is a side benefit.

Few powerful brands are built on the value “cheaper”.