Ben was sitting in his conference room looking at a display of his firm’s
work. As he told me, “I was thinking how beautiful our work is. And
how I loved having the packages photographed like the heroes they
“These packages had made millions, often billions of dollars for our
clients. And yet, here we were again in a competitive pitch for a new
piece of business in a category that we had shown success in time and
again. What’s this about? Why don’t they get it?”
I thought they don’t get it because you haven’t told your story in a
way that makes the most important point. You’ve shown your “heros,”
but why they are heroic has not made the impression that you thought
because you haven’t shown precisely how your expertise has helped
your clients’ reach their goals.
Clients make the assumption that the reason that people pick their
product off the shelf is because the product is so good. Or, because of
its position on the shelf, price point, massive ad expenditures, brand
awareness, word of mouth, or even the clinics that said it would sell.
Sure, they acknowledge the package plays an important role, but they
think it’s just one of many important factors in a product’s success.
And they use this reasoning to pressure you on price. How painful.
Three reasons for success
Ben and I sat down to talk about how he could do a better job of
telling his story. We found that he had three, very different types of
The first were new packages for existing products that had resulted in
significant sales increases. Growth, without any change to the actual
product and without an increase in the ad budget. The only change
was the package itself and perhaps the ads announcing new ease of
The second was repurposing existing products for an entirely new
group who had not used the product before. For instance, a do-it-
yourself product used by men was redesigned for women. The insights
and the new design all came from Ben’s firm and resulted in notable
Third. The creation of an entirely new category using an existing
product in a new configuration, a category that had not existed before.
Again, the insights all came from Ben’s team and their highly refined
Many of these successes had been released and reported in the media
by the companies themselves because they contributed significantly to
their financial success and their increase in stock price.
Each of Ben’s new stories begins with a concrete achievement: “The
redesigned ABC package resulted in a XX% market share increase and
an additional $XXX million in sales, as reported by the company… ”
Or, “An estimated XX million women purchased our newly configured
do-it-yourself Z Line in US hardware stores in 2011. This is a whole
new market for the company, one we believe has even greater
In each case we followed the results statement with a very personal
story that describes how Ben’s team and the client team searched for
and uncovered the opportunity. And we included many asides and
anecdotal observations about the journey of discovery that led to the
result, a process that could only be guided by the highly refined skills
and insights resulting from Ben’s years of observing, designing and
launching consumer products.
“When we began the engagement we had no idea that we could make
such an impact with simply a change in graphics and configuration. We
started to suspect we’d hit gold when we began to review the results
of the discovery process and compare them to…”
We also were sure to include mentions of career growth and
opportunities for members of the client team.
“The sales growth resulted in our client team leader moving into a
director level position in innovation, which she’d long wanted.”
The new success stories recounted in step-by-step detail how the
teams worked together to achieve personal, professional and corporate
goals. Better yet, they strongly reinforce Ben and his team’s expertise
by showing how his thinking process and beautifully crafted work
deliver quantifiable results to his clients, and his firm.
In conversation the other day after a particularly important
presentation, which he won, Ben said, “the nodding, knowing smiles,
questions and comments I get during presentations now are miles
beyond where we were six months ago. They get it now.”
The value of Ben’s expertise is vastly clearer. Presentations are more
fun and he’s winning more consistently. That’s what I call empowering