“Aha moment” analogies and practical guidance combine to make this recent Inner Circle Book Club interview with Tamsen Webster one of the most invaluable in the deck. If you’re the owner of a private practice and you’re struggling to get the message across why people need to see you, Tamsen’s book Find Your Red Thread and her accompanying interview with Phil is nugget upon nugget of pure gold.
Look around you. Chances are you’re surrounded by “stuff.” Some stuff you need, some stuff you don’t. For those things you need, such as your laptop or the pen you’re using, spare a thought for what made you choose to buy those particular things. Perhaps your laptop’s sleek design made you feel smart, or your pen’s smooth twist system reminded you of the one your grandfather had. Whatever motivated your purchase decision, the chances are a large chunk of it was emotionally driven.
Enter Find Your Red Thread. Written by expert message strategist and storyteller Tamsen Webster, this practical and profound book helps you identify what makes you different and encourages you to consider how you can communicate that message to your audience’s hearts and minds.
The Biggest Little Question
Tamsen describes the “red thread” as something that “connects your business idea to the hearts and minds of others.” She also says, “All stories start with a big little question and an idea is simply an answer to that question.”
For you, your business idea might be to sell hearing care solutions via your private practice, in which case your big little question might be “How do I sell more hearing care solutions?”
But see, you might consider there’s an even bigger little question you could ask that will have a much deeper, more profound impact on you and your business, which is…
How do I normalize people wanting to get help with their hearing loss?
And this is where the “red thread” concept is unparalleled when it comes to the hearing care industry, as truth is, the industry has a pretty bad rep.
Identity Crisis of the Hearing Care Industry
Let’s not fluff over the facts.
You’re a hearing care professional, and therefore you are largely responsible for asking people to buy something (i.e. a hearing aid) that:
- They fundamentally don’t want to own
- Will help them fix a problem that they don’t want to admit to having
- Will cost about 4x more than they thought it would
- Work about half as well as they wished it could, and
- Even once they own it, they choose not to tell anybody they have it.
Now, couple that with the fact that the president is signing executive orders to accelerate the progress of over-the-counter devices, continuing the narrative that the device is the star and not the service, and it’s pretty clear why this is such a challenge.
Put simply, the concept of getting help with a hearing loss isn’t exactly sexy.
Plus, it’s in no way as “normalized” as say getting your eyes checked by an optometrist or your mind seen to by a therapist.
Why? Because of the stories we tell ourselves about hearing loss being a sign of old age. But that’s just what they are: stories.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way, as the hopeful truth is that the hearing care reputation ISN’T the reality, but it’s just perception, and perception can change with the right messaging.
So where does the red thread come into this?
It’s about creating a message that will resonate with the audience in a way that appeals to their hearts and minds, as these are the two things that we humans bring to bear when we make purchase decisions, in this case, the message being: Treating a hearing loss is normal and the smart thing to do.
But herein lies another challenge – how do we go about spreading this message?
The Whole 99 Yards
Tamsen is a storyteller and has an impeccable way of using analogies to get a message across. In the interview with Phil, she relates the method distributing a wide-spread message to American football.
If you’re a football fan, you’ll know what a Hail Mary pass is. If not, it’s a very long forward pass that has an almost impossible success rate, especially if it’s from 99 yards. As a player, it’s almost never a good idea to attempt it, as you’re likely to have much greater success from going player to player advancing slowly to the end zone.
And that’s exactly the case here. If the biggest message you want to get across is that treating hearing loss isn’t just for old people and that it is normal, then it needs to begin back at base.
Practically speaking, this can be achieved through educating kids on the importance of keeping their hearing healthy, right through to showing a bigger spectrum of people getting help with their hearing loss through advertisements and people’s testimonials.
Not only will this go some way into beginning the normalizing process, but it will also create an emotional response in the audience, as it will make people reconsider the idea that it’s actually ok to be seen seeking help with a hearing-related challenge.
Help Your Audience Feel Smart, Capable, and Good
One of Tamsen’s biggest concepts in Find Your Red Thread is the idea that your message needs to make people feel smart, capable, and good.
It’s fair to say that a lot of the messaging within the hearing care industry is either scare mongering or patronizing, particularly patronizing.
This can be seen on websites, social media, and printed literature to name but a few places where the message usually consists of “We’re here to take care of you and support you through the hearing loss process.”
Now, consider that message from the perspective of someone who sees themselves as independent and self-sufficient and who isn’t fully on board with the idea of needing help with their hearing loss, never mind actually getting it, and BAM, you’ve probably lost them with that approach.
Instead, the better approach would be to make them feel smart, capable, and good.
If you can craft a message that makes your audience feel like they’ve come to this decision to treat their hearing loss themselves, that it’s completely within their control, and that the end result will help them get back to enjoying their life in full again, that’s the sweet spot.
Perhaps take a look at your current website copy and see if there’s room for improvement…chances are, there might be.
The Emotional Buy-in
Sharing a message that speaks to the hearts and minds of audiences isn’t a new thing. In fact, it’s pretty primitive…in the modern age of advertising and consumerism, that is.
Take the story of De Beers diamonds. Whether you know this story or not, you most definitely know the phrase “Diamonds are forever.
De Beers started with their big little question: “How do we sell more diamond rings?” Then they set about creating the message that the diamond ring is the ultimate symbol of commitment, which spoke volumes to the audience of newly engaged couples.
Diamond rings BC (before the campaign) were in no way associated with engagement. But through careful and emotional messaging, diamond rings after the campaign became synonymous with the message of love.
The perfect red thread.
Perhaps the best way to move forward from the red thread concept is to pour yourself a coffee and think about the current messaging in your business. If you find just one word to change and actually change it, you’ve made that first all-important pass from 99 yards.