A business is about making a promise and then making good on that promise. The more meaningful and relatable the promise, the more meaningful the business.
If we can abide by this simple, but challenging principle, we fulfill our duty in the most impeccable of ways. A promise for betterment is the safety switch transactional businesses lack. Without such a switch you are exposed to market swings, trends, innovation and disruption of the market and many more unpredictable forces. The goal is not to be vulnerable at all.
A promise requires deep understanding of where your clients stand today. This is a difficult exercise because it is unclear what people need. People only know what they want. These wants tend to be quite predictable: the new, flashy car a neighbor has, the expensive clothes a favorite celebrity wears, the lavish vacation everyone else seems to be able to afford…
If you want your promise to your client to be meaningful, you need to dig deep and be clear on what that person truly needs. And this requires something that does not come easily, but makes all the difference: Listening with intent.
First listen, then promise.
This principle is embedded in the company culture of almost every successful company that has been around for a while. Those who deliver promises that satisfy shallow customer desires are actually making things worse because the promise is not rooted in betterment. There is no betterment in yet another detergent with more bleach power. There is no betterment in a “3 for the price of 1” baloney sandwich. When you hear an ad say “our customers asked and we delivered,” you can bet money that the product built out of that is without any real value. It’s just there to pull money out of your wallet and satisfy shareholder expectations.
Your promises need to be bigger. They need to be a strong counterweight to the situation your customers are currently in. If you serve a community that is disabled by their poor financial choices, then financial freedom is a truly valid promise. Promising to show them how to make more money does not solve their problem. But, promising to teach them how to make better and smarter decisions that bring freedom is a step towards betterment. A person may want to lose 40lbs FAST, but what they may really need is to feel well about themselves FIRST. But you need to listen in order to find out how to deliver your promise. If you see hunger, the promise of food comes to mind. It’s natural. But the true need is not to be fed, but to stay fed. The promise is to show them how.
Slow down and listen with intent. What problem are you really solving and what promise are you truly delivering.