When you tell a story to someone who wants and needs to hear that story, eyes light up, pulses quicken, trust is built and action is taken.
Satya makes and sells hats. Beautiful, bespoke, handmade hats.
But we're a hundred years past the time someone can say, "I make hats," and be done with it.
Some of the questions the marketer needs to ask, questions that amplify the, "who's it for?" mindset:
Are these hats for people who are already shopping for hats?
Are they a gift item for someone who is looking to please someone who is looking for something new? Proven? Cheaper than it looks? Rare?
Are they a shopping experience, a bespoke process that is exciting and filled with possibility, just for the person who values both the process and the hat?
Or, are these hats for women who appreciate beauty in any form, and who have already bought all the scarves they can handle? Or perhaps for people who want to buy what the people they admire are buying?
The marketer can change her story, but she can't easily change the worldview of the person she seeks to sell to. It's almost impossible to turn someone who doesn't care about hats (in particular) into someone who cares a lot about hats.
This person the product is for: What do they believe? Who do they trust? What do they seek? What are they afraid of?
Satya is well on her way to decoding this puzzle.
Second example: Paul makes and sells amplifiers. To an outsider, these amps are ridiculously overbuilt, oversized and overpriced. To some hobbyists, though, they are magical, brilliantly engineered and priced at 90% less than what similar products cost. (!)
The questions, then, are about the story the potential customer tells himself:
Do I seek something corporate, mass produced, powerful, handmade, unique, rare, new, proven, high-value, high-priced, top-of-the-line, mysterious, invisible... Do I want to be able to tell myself a story about these every time I turn them on? Or tell a story to my friends? Ultimately, that story is about me, about my role in society and my vision of myself.
This goes way beyond specs and prices and the measurable. It's about role models and feelings and emotions first, with the words added later, and the machinery (or the felt) added last.
In Paul's case, he and his team have been direct and consistent in celebrating the nature of the design and the designer. They haven't said to the world, "here it is, it's for everyone," instead, they've said, "this is our story, this is who built it and who it's for, it might be for you if you're the person that resonates with this sort of story."
Most inventors and marketers start with what they have (the stuff) and try to work backward to the 'who is it for' question. It makes a lot more sense to go the other direction. Identify a set of fears, dreams and attitudes and then figure out what sort of story fits that lock in a way that delights the consumer. Then go build that.
Not just hats and amps. This thinking is also where Lululemon, Nike and AeroPress came from. Maybe your next project, too.