Find your voice – David Hieatt

Your voice can be many things. It is much more than how you speak in your ads.

A quick story to make the point:

I sat down for a coffee with Richard, one of the founders of innocent, and he told me his taxi story. He was taking a ride back to work I think. Anyway, as all taxi drivers do, he wanted to make conversation. His went along normal lines. What do you do, mate? Richard replied, I help run a smoothie company. Oh yeah, which one? Innocent. Nice company. But it’s not the same any more. Richard was a bit taken aback. How do you mean? Well, you changed the label. It’s glossy now and the other one was matt. So it doesn’t feel as real any more, you know as authentic. Richard thanked him once he was dropped off. And he went inside work and the first thing he did was change the label back from glossy to matt.

The taxi driver had just taught him the importance of the bigness of small. How those little things that we don’t think are that important have a huge impact. If you want to build something big, do all the small things right.

Excerpt from my new book: Do Purpose. Why brands with a purpose do better and matter more.

10 Tips to Finding your Voice

1, Be Clear

Define the purpose of your company. Do this alone. Do not consult anyone but yourself. One sentence should do it. Write it on a paper napkin and pin it to the wall. Once decided upon, you cannot change it. Make sure that you are excited by it. Make sure you are willing to spend the rest of your life working towards it. Make sure it is your real purpose and not just what other people want to hear. Make sure it lives in your head and, as importantly, in your heart.

2, Be Focused

Define your product and it’s purpose. And stick to it. Stop making product that is not consistent with your definition of where you sit in this world. Even if it makes money, stop making it. Do not dilute the company focus. There is more money to be made from being focused than from trying to be everything to everybody. Narrow the focus. Google achieved more by offering less than its competitor. Rather than closing down opportunities, going narrower opens them up. Those who spend their days trying to be all things to all people rarely have time to change the world.

3, Be yourself

Don’t try to be like others. Don’t follow or mimic. Don’t pretend. You can tell when someone doesn’t mean something just by how they say it.  A voice doesn’t come from a meeting or a committee. Or from the latest trend or for that matter the latest piece of research. It comes from one man. It comes from the books he has read. The conversations he has had, the experiences he has endured, and the family he has been raised by. There is no manual to read. The voice is fragile in the wrong hands. Be careful whom you give the task to. The strength of Nike was that Dan Wieden got inside the head of Phil Knight. He understood that he was a super competitive sports nut who wanted to crush the competition. And he kept relaying that to his customers. Year after year. Come rain. Come shine.

4, Be emotional

You have to make your customers feel something. Understand what is in their hearts. Logic is a blunt tool in this regard, my friend. It makes perfect sense, it ticks all the boxes, but it changes very little. And guess what, intelligence is no better; it is overrated in its ability to either change things or behaviour. You need a different set of tools. Those tools will comprise of music, pictures, words that when shaken up by your author and put back in the right order will leave your customers inspired, stirred, awoken. Oh, by the way, this is not easy to do. Give them meaning by all means, but don’t give them ads. Bare your soul. Tell your struggle. Tell your pain. Tell your lows. A corporation finds it hard to show its soul as it rarely has one. Be vulnerable. Be honest. But most of all, be you.

5, Be instinctive.

Research nothing. Listen to what you feel. If you are in doubt, ask your wife. If you are still in doubt, ask your kids. Go no further than the circle that you trust. Ever.

6, Be Useful.

Make products for a purpose. Be useful. Make products that chase a function and not a fashion. Invent for a need. Focus on your customers needs. Small needs can become big business. If you suddenly become fashionable, it is because you have chased being useful. Don’t build your business around being fashionable; it will go away as quickly as it came. Customers can decode real from fake in a blink of an eye. If you try to be of a moment, you will die in the moment, once it has had its time. Instead, carry on making products that have a use. Be authentic. If you can say that, you are on solid ground. Don’t get sidetracked by chasing fashion.

7, Be the change.

To support your purpose, you need more than just words. You have to change your industry; you have to show another way. And you have to communicate that change in the most inspiring way that a human can imagine. Look at how well Apple communicates change. Every revolution needs an enemy. Challenge design, challenge pollution, challenge landfill, challenge peoples ‘buy and throw culture’. Now that you can make anything, what does your company want to make? And, even more than that, what does it want to change?

8, Be consistent

A worthwhile business has to be built over time. A company’s product, its purpose and how it speaks to the world needs to be consistent if it wants to be all things that it hopes to be. Do not blow with the wind. Do not chase a bandwagon. Stay true. Patience is required in a world that doesn’t always understand the value of it. It is easy to make small little changes in a busy day and think they do not matter. But there is a big-ness to small decisions. The financial world fully understands the concept of compound interest and how a small change can make a big difference. Similarly, a small tweak here, a small compromise there, can accumulate over time to change the very soul of a business. The rule of consistent product and service is easy to get. But the same rule needs to be applied to a company’s voice. Nike has talked with the same voice for a couple of decades now. A signature seems to run through it. And because it is so consistent, each communication seems to build on top of the last one. They have gained compound interest of voice thanks to their consistency of voice.

9, Be relevant

Understand your customer. And make product that is relevant to their lives. Remember, the worse thing you can do for the environment is to make something that no one wants to buy. Speak to them in a way that connects with them and makes them feel something. The trick to this is give something of yourself. If you feel something, the chances are so will they. This is not rocket science. It’s just gut instinct. Its knowing what they are into because you are into it too.

10, Be Positive

If you want change to happen, you will have to inspire people. A fire needs wood to burn. It also needs a flame to start it. You need to be the flame. A business needs to do the numbers but it also needs a purpose to supply it the passion. If we listened to just our intellect, no one would fall in love. If we did not listen to our soul, no poetry would ever be written. To stir someone, you have find emotional ways to touch them. But first you have open up and let go of the worry about talking in more emotional terms. Only then will you start to connect with people. You have to stir yourself to stir others. Then you have to find the flame that inspires them. And be positive. Be the hope. Hope is more powerful. The cynic changes little or nothing. The optimist can and will. Spread wonder. Spread optimism. It’s good stuff.

via david hieatt.