by Rich Edwards Jun 15, 2022

What do you major in?

The carousel scene from Mad Men

Being effective as a leader in a customer-facing organization requires many skills. Being able to negotiate process and politics to get things done. Reducing friction for you and your team to efficiently use time and budget to meet goals. Understanding the market, customers, competitors, partners, and suppliers ensuring you’re working on things that really matter.

But what is your focus? Where do you set out to be so much better that it’s undeniable? To quote Steve Martin:

Be so good they can’t ignore you

For those directly interacting with customers, there’s often a tension between storytelling/creativity and technology. Are you good at the story, or are you running ahead of the pack on technology? Whether that’s the feature/functions that show up in your offerings/customer experience or the tech stack you’re using behind the scenes to create unforgettable Wow! moments for customers.

It’s not an either/or question, but more where you major. You can’t ignore one and only do the other. Even if you’re outsourcing with a top-notch/good fit agency on either, you still need to know enough to drive the right strategy.

I’m going to argue that you should major in storytelling.

It’s easy for me to say as a technology provider. Of course, I want “you” to come to me, or someone like me, for that. But technology, by its nature, is ephemeral—a moving target and unlikely where you will stand out and differentiate yourself.

But the way you connect to your customers, the story that resonates and draws you together, that is long-lasting. It packs a punch in advertising with creative accounting for 60% of an ad’s effectiveness. Your brand, your ability to stand out from look-a-like, is going to be on how well you connect with the story that customers are already telling themself.

Yes, use technology. Yes, make bets where you think your customers are going. But major on the story, on creativity, on the substance of how you engage and connect with your customers.

*If you’ve never seen it, watch the “carousel” scene, pictured above, from the first season of Mad Men. It’s a stark and dramatic take on this idea.

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