The Story Economy Blog

The Magic of HOW

rainbow loom braceletsI spent the weekend Rainbow Loom-ing with my kid, Max.

It’s stupid outside, so really, what else is there to do? He has been asking for a kit since last year, when his kindergarten classmates first started showing up with bracelets. I foresaw tiny rubber bands everywhere, and kept saying no. And then it occurred to me: he’s asking for something to keep his hands busy that doesn’t involve being destructive. In fact, it’s creative. And it blows all of our ideas about what girls should do and what boys should do out of the water (since boys love these bracelets as much as girls). Why would I not buy this $15 thing?

(And once I read the story of how it was invented by an engineer who wanted to help his two daughters with their bracelet weaving, it sealed the deal. Although the story should be on their site in about About page!)

Since he’s only 5, I knew that I’d be the one figuring out how to use it. Saturday evening, I poured myself a glass of wine and headed to YouTube, where I discovered the secrets of the single loop and the fishtail and much more (there is something awesome about learning how to do something from a 10-year-old girl with bright bubble gum nail polish).

We had a good rhythm going: Max would set the loom, and I would weave it (he’s still learning how to use the hook, but he’s getting there).

By Sunday, I found myself really getting into the weaving—for the same reason I like embroidery: it’s highly meditative. The repetitive motion is calming: pull from under, loop around and over. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

There is a process to follow. And if you follow it, you get to the endpoint you’ve been promised. But still, there is a piece of magic involved, because you can’t really see what it will be as you’re doing it. Every time I would pull it off the loom, there was still an element of surprise. Wow, a bracelet!

For some reason, my mind kept going to that moment of surprise that happens when you have a baby. For nine months you know you’re having one as you get fatter and fatter. But when that baby comes out, it’s like, oh holy crap, it’s a baby!

Babies, bracelets, finished pieces of something: why does it surprise us so much when the process works? Why does it still feel like magic?

But the even better question is this: How can we use that?

The Strategy of HOW

So, I talk all of the time about how the story you tell about your business or your campaign or your research or your cause needs to start with WHY (with a nod to Simon Sinek, of course). And you can’t forget to tell them WHAT you do (there’s pretty much never a chance of that, since WHAT is usually the default position). It’s the HOW stuff that is more complicated. It’s marketing gold, but it’s also a danger zone. A little bit of HOW teases the magic. But too much flattens out your message and bores people.

It’s about finding the HOW sweet spot.

This is something that always takes careful thought. For example, I have a client now who is in the acquisition business. The way he does acquisition is different than the way other people in his industry do it. So it certainly helps to set him apart, and we want to make sure to market around it.

But at the same time, if we try to tell people everything behind how he does it, they will most likely (a) lose interest in reading, and/or (b) not see the magic anymore.

This holds true across industries, and across B-to-C and B-to-B (because it’s all P-to-P: person to person). I did a copy consult for a yoga teacher a few weeks ago, and we wrestled with the same process questions. Again, her process is really what sets her apart. Her story about WHY is great, and she’s working to incorporate it more in her marketing. But her HOW is golden, too.

But the tricky part is that too much about her HOW would be intimidating. And the whole magic of her HOW is that it’s meant to un-intimidate people. Too many yoga-ish sound words and descriptiveness about her techniques, and the high level of the HOW vanishes under the weight.

The finer details of the HOW are meant for conversations. For consultations. For a question-and-answer session. For the stuff that seals the deal.

That said, I think it’s a great marketing exercise to write down your HOW in great detail. Everything you can think to say, get it out. Free write it. And then, find the top messages: the kernel of what you need to say about your process. Maybe you have a page on your site called “Our Process” and you boil it down there. Perhaps you can pull all of those process questions into an engaging Q&A that people can read or download as a PDF. Or it could be a blog post, or one of the emails in your email campaign.

Now, if you’re writing instructions, absolutely tell people all the steps. They’re in for the steps. But it’s a whole different game to sell them on joining you or buying from you. If you put too many steps in front of them, the climb just feels too daunting, and the magic feels out of reach. Think of it this way: no one would ever try to market parenthood by explaining the details of labor (I’m positive that message would not have captivated me). We market parenthood with smiles, bikes, baseball games, and birthday candles. (And maybe Rainbow Looms.)

Find your magic.


  • Tandy Pryor

    Posted by Tandy Pryor on 02/12/14 5:13pm

    Bravo Judi! So much truth in all of this!

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