{#BookSmart} Made to Stick

{#BookSmart} is the 929 monthly marketing book club. This month’s feature is a must for any business owner struggling to talk about your business so people will care:

Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath - book summary for small business owners

Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath


You're going to want to keep this one on your shelf and refer back to over and over. {Out of chances to renew it with my local library, I ponied up the cash to buy my own copy. That does not happen all the time.}

no time for the deep dive? Here's the tl;dr:
Three steps to making your message stick

There's way more to the book. But. If you take nothing else from the book, these three steps are the core to talking about your business with messages that stick:


1} "Identify the central message you need to communicate."

This is where you find your core. Not as simple as it sounds. 

You know too much about your business. And you want everyone to know everything you know, too. 

But what makes your message stick isn't all the things. What makes your message stick is the one true thing. That one thing that's at the deep center of your message. 

Try recording yourself saying all the things you can think of. Maybe use a dictation app. Or write all the words in your head. However your brain works. Then start cutting back.


2} "Figure out what is counterintuitive about the message."

When your audience is surprised by your message, they remember what they learned.

Where's the unexpected implication about your message? What goes against your audience's assumptions? What goes against your own assumptions?

If there isn't one, dig deeper. Your business is solving a problem people can't solve on their own. That's why they need you. And that means that you know something that they don't know.

How can you challenge their assumptions or offer up a result they never expected?


3} "Communicate your message in a way that breaks your audience’s guessing machines..." 

Consider this the advanced stage of #2 above. You break your audience's guess messages "along the critical, counterintuitive dimension."

Then, once they're guessing machines have failed, help them refine their machines."

want the deep dive?
major takeaways for business owners ahead...


On making plans: make them and be ready to break them

Best laid plans, amiright? The Heath brothers and the esteemed Colonel Thomas Kolditz have something to say about that. 

book quote - Made to Stick - marketing book quote

The planning process is necessary. The plan...not set in stone.

Translation for the small business owner: you need a plan. In order to have something to pivot off of.

For instance -- the process of creating a marketing plan forces you to think through the right issues -- who you're marketing to, why you're doing marketing in the first place, what you're going to say, and how you're going to get it out there.

For a business owner working with employees or freelancers, a marketing plan keeps you and everyone else helping you to all move in the same direction, without your constant intervention.

If you're a solo entrepreneur, a well thought-out marketing plan keeps you moving yourself in the right direction. It ensures you're doing the most important things for the most important people, without getting distracted by all the stuff that won’t get you where you’re trying to go.

Take the military’s Commander’s Intent test with you into your next day doing battle with business.

“If we do nothing else during tomorrow’s mission, we must ________”

“The single, most important thing that we must do tomorrow is __________”


On finding the core of your message: it's hard

book quote - made to stick

In the search for the core of your business, “the hard part is weeding out ideas that may be really important but just aren’t the most important.”

Try thinking of it from this point of view. The core of your message is what helps your audience make the best choice for them. And avoid making a poor choice. Because it reminds them of what's most important to them.

This is often the hardest part of the branding process for my clients. In aiming to create your brand, separating all the stuff you know -- all the stuff about what you do and why you do it and why people need it -- from the core. Well, it's hard. You're too close to all of it. That's why you might need some guidance.


On getting people’s attention. And keeping it.

marketing book quotes - made to stick

Surprise people. Then get them interested. Simple, right? {If it was so simple, this book wouldn't be so popular.} 

So. The element of surprise. What is it? How can you incorporate it into messages about your business?

Surprise in a message that stick is not predictable to your audience at first, but feels that way in the end. {The Heath bros. call this “post-dictable.”} It's that “oh, I knew it all along" feeling.

It's a surprise that's built on mystery. Not a big once that overwhelms your audience. It's just enough that: “We know where we’re headed---we want to solve the mystery---but we’re not sure how we’ll get there.”

And that's where the interest comes into play. There's a bit of risk involved in this mystery. Just a bit, because we're not sure how it'll turn out.

marketing book quotes - made to stick

Shift your focus from “what info do I need to convey” to “what questions do I want my audience to ask.

You'll start to see the journey that the right surprise can bring your audience along. You'll uncover the mystery you can reveal to them, and the interest you'll inspire. 

In then end, you'll give your audience a moment of realization that goes beyond common sense. And that's something that sticks. 


On making people believe...and care.

marketing book quotes - made to stick

How do you make your idea credible? 

Here are five of the tools the Heath bros' have identified: 

  • Authorities: experts, celebrities, and other aspirational figures

  • Vivid details: even urban legends somehow become credible when injected with the level of detail of, say, the old, ‘guy woke up in a bathtub without his kidney’
  • Statistics: while “rarely meaningful in and of themselves,” they can “be used to illustrate relationships” -- for instance, this event made that data point triple
  • The testable credential: ask your audience to test a claim for themselves, allowing them to try out your ideas before they choose to buy into them
  • The Sinatra test: You know how the song goes, “New York...if you can make it here…,” well the idea here is that if you have one huge example of your business working, then your audience will believe without a doubt it will work anywhere, including for them

Ok, now you're credible. People believe your message. But believing us isn’t enough. People need to care. And that takes emotion. When people feel something, they're inspired to act.

And you want people to act -- to subscribe to your list, to say yes to buying your stuff or signing on as your client. 

Yes, you can appeal to a person's self-interest. But, the most compelling way to inspire people to feel something about your business is to find your why and help them find it, too. To do this, try the “Three Whys.” 

When you're too close to your business, you know too much about it. And when you know too much about it, it's hard to say clearly -- to people who don't know the first thing about your business -- why what you're doing matters. The Heath bros offer a powerful example of the Three Whys in action. It starts with these two questions:

Why does your organization exist?

Can other organizations do what you do -- and if so, what is it you do that is unique?

I ask my own clients versions of these questions. And, much like in the book, their first pass at answering doesn’t get to the core. They’re too familiar with themselves to see the core anymore.

That’s where the “three whys” comes into play.

In response to each attempt to answer the above questions, you're asked why. Three times.

You’re moved from talking about what you do to why you do what you do. You're moved from a bunch of details about what you do to an emotional idea that people care about that inspires people to act.


There you go! You’re ready to make your ideas stick.

OK. Yes, there's a lot more to it. If you want to get deep into it, pick up the book or access the wealth of resources on the authors’ website. And let me know how sticky your ideas have become!

Feeling stuck trying to get to the core of your business?

Let's talk. i can help.