Wow, that cartoon. What happens from the first image to the second?
Does the guy get killed? Can you see the ax swing in your mind’s eye? Where does the ax hit?
In this illustration, you did the killing, not the cartoonist. In your mind, you moved the ax. And, everyone I’ve shown this to has told me a different place the ax hit. While I see the ax come down in the victim’s back, some told me he chopped his head off, while others told me the ax came down in the head somewhere.
This same phenomenon happens with all communication. This illustration comes from the classic book, Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud. Scott gives you a history of comics and an explanation of the art, but more importantly, he’s explaining how communication works. Buy a copy, Scott wrote it using cartoons throughout. It’s brilliant.
You may use words when you communicate with your members, but those words have multiple meanings for your reader. Let’s take the word “tree.” When you think “tree,” an image appears in your mind. It may not be the same image I have of a tree. There are thousands of different types of trees, and even within each type of tree, everyone looks different. You and I use words to communicate, but those words represent ideas in our readers’ minds. And those ideas will be different for each reader depending on who is reading.
This illustrates three important lessons:
Your Members May Form a Different Mental Image Than You Intended
Last year, I subscribed to nice subscription service that put my Membership Services, Inc. logo on different types of clothes. Every month is something different. It was a great value, and I received a lot of nice clothes.
However, the clothing they chose was mostly hipster. Big hipster hats, hoodies, red-checkered shirts, and bro tanks. Something a person in some big city like Detroit might wear. When I visualize myself, a 47-year-old bald guy, wearing these hipster clothes, I see a bad mental picture.
And even though the value was there and they delivered everything they said they would, I canceled. Because I couldn’t see myself using their product.
This may be happening to your subscription. One of my clients provides marketing tools to their members. While the tools are powerful to those who use them, some people will have a negative mental picture about how their peers will react when they use these marketing tools. People are loath to do something that will lower his or her perceived status or subject themselves to rejection.
There’s going to be a lot of cancelations — not because the tool is bad, but because it lacks a story that creates a better mental picture.
Change the Mental Picture With Stories
Missionaries go door to door and experience rejection and all sorts of vile behavior. Yet for many, this is one of the happiest times in their lives.
Those missionaries are given a story: The person behind that door is lost, you are offering that person a chance for eternal life, and the person’s reaction is about their own conditioning and sadness, not about what you are offering. And the more people you invite, the better a person you are.
This is a powerful story that enables the missionary to feel his status grow each time someone cusses at him and slams the door in his face. The rejection doesn’t matter because there’s a story that manipulates the mental picture.
For retention, you can’t just ship a great product; you must also deliver a positive mental picture that raises the status of your member. That member must feel special because she’s receiving your product. She must feel like an insider — unique, hip, understood, and important. This is an essential piece of the “value” you deliver.
Answer the question, “So what?”
Every time you deliver or communicate with your member, answer the question, “So what?”
For the subscription box that delivers a retail value of $100.00 for a cost of $20.00, so what? How is this stuff important to your member? How does this stuff make her feel like an insider?
Your customer is forming a mental picture of her relationship with you each time you communicate. There’s a mental movie whirling around in her head. Does your product make her feel great? Or does it make her feel overwhelmed because she hasn’t used what you sent her last month?
Every time you communicate, you must consider and answer that “so what?” question. Make what you are delivering in this moment the single most important thing in your member’s life.
For instance, if those hipster clothes had shown up with a story about how 47-year-old bald guys look sexy in short-sleeve hoodies, then who knows? Maybe I’d still be subscribing to receive more of them.
Your customer is barraged by marketing messages and stuff every day. He’s got several monthly subscriptions and is often looking for a reason to cancel a few of them. Keep yourself off the chopping block by giving your customer a mental movie where she’s an insider — unique, hip, understood, and important.
And, if you see me wearing some hipster-type clothes with my Membership Services, Inc. logo on them, tell me I look sexy.