How to Articulate Your Business On An Emotional and Functional Level
emotional intelligence for small business owners

Emotional Intelligence for Small Business Owners

Have you seen the new Stella Artois ad with Lenny Kravitz?  Choosing the life Artois looks tempting; watching Lenny bang on the drums is not a chore, and it’s sweltering here in London. 

Yet I’m not tempted, and I do like beer. 

Because years ago, when I first arrived in London, it was the ruffian’s drink of choice. And there’s nothing like having a chair levelled at your head by a resident psychopath you’ve been told not to serve any more alcohol to put you off their beverage. 

‘Wifebeater’ was the telling nickname for the beer during the 1990s. But around 2008, the company decided to tackle this violent association that people had with their product.

They reacted by dropping the alcohol level from 5.2 to 4% and having their lobbyists and marketing campaigns hammer home the news that this was a new dawn for Stella Artois; they did not want to be associated with domestic violence.   

Of course, the connection between alcohol and abuse don’t magically disappear because Stella Artois has rebranded. Still, the way they tackled the functional and the emotional orientation of their product at the same time is worth noting for small businesses.

Why Brand Stories Are Important

We, humans, love labels and brands. Why? Because it helps us define ourselves easily and identify with one another.  It creates a picture of the person we believe we are, all nicely packaged.  

I imagine brands like Stella Artois had an enormous promotional budget for their new, improved drink. When the product designers were done with the new beverage, they probably handed it over to the marketing team with an instruction to find the emotional value.

Emotion sells because emotion drives decision making. 

Emotions and Decision Making

When neuroscientist Antonio Damasio conducted a study into people with damage in the emotional part of the brain, he discovered that they could not make decisions, highlighting the power of emotion in driving our behaviour.

Even when we do our best to stay logical and unemotional in a situation, our subconscious is ready to jump in, quash our good sense and send us careering down a decision lane based hopelessly and utterly on emotion.

We know this, and yet many businesses I deal with seem unfamiliar, unwilling or unable to express the emotional value of what their company offers.  

Sometimes there are just too many techies in the room or dentists or designers or experts who assume that they are competing on their product or service function. 

In the classic alt-business book Blue Ocean Strategy, the authors explore a different way of operating for businesses and corporations. Instead of relying on competition and price wars, they advocate building a product or service based on a different set of criteria.

In a red ocean, companies are squished into a tiny tank, crashing into one another and constantly competing for smaller market patches. In the blue ocean, there is room for growth and innovation. 

One of the pathways to the blue ocean is re-orienteering the business from focusing on a functional value: what the product or service is, to an emotional value; how the product makes the customer feel.  

They make a case for vice versa, but this blog is about those businesses stuck in a functional state of mind.   

There is an emotional and functional side to every business; it’s just a matter of looking from a different viewpoint. I’ve written a more in-depth analysis of the Blue Ocean Strategy, using the London Startup Oddbox as a case study here.

So, if you’re a small business and you’ve read one too many ‘red ocean strategy’ articles, you may believe that you need to operate according to an industry norm within your congested red ocean. 

But it doesn’t hurt to look; I’m not selling you a theory, just offering it up as a way to appeal to your customers on a different level. 

We quickly take on a set of norms about our own business based on what others are doing, or we differentiate on a functional level with better, high performing products or services with a good measure of numbers to back them up.

But to focus entirely on the function is to forget why our customers buy in the first place.  

How To Calculate Your Emotional Value 

Do you remember the scene in The Dead Poets Society when Robin Williams has his students stand on their desk to view the world from a different perspective? 

It’s the same idea here, and it’s fun. You can put your calculator down, stop looking at vanity measures that you know are not indicative of your value and see your business through an emotional lens. 

Imagine your services from a customer perspective.  

Do they invoke fear, hope, comfort, longing, desire, connectivity etc.? 

What’s the emotion that they generate.

Can you imagine each of your services from a customer perspective?

Once you have your imagination in gear, look back at qualitative indicators you’ve had from clients, from social media, from throwaway comments you received in a one-on-one meeting?

Why not run a workshop with your team?

The Emotional-Functional Spectrum Examples  

A plumber repairs pipes, but for a customer, they deliver a safe environment, sometimes warm.

A virtual assistant manages a diary but gives their client freedom and opportunity to grow. 

A teacher or coach imparts knowledge on their students, but they deliver hope and aspirations to achieving something greater.

A copywriter hands over website content and gives business confidence in having their unique story.

An actor performs some lines and gives you an unforgettable experience on the stage.   

UK politicians, well, I’m an award-winning creative writer, but there are limitations.  

What To Do With Your Emotional Value 

Now you know it, you can grow it. Wear it on your sleeve. Create content about your newfound discovery.  

Create a new tagline; write a series of blogs; re-articulate your services with this knowledge. 

Be proud, be wise and be confident. 

This is an excellent exercise for reminding yourself of your value, and if you really can’t come up with something, maybe it is time for a new business.

Be good to yourselves, freelancers and small business – you are the future, and it’s yours for the rethinking. If you’re interested in reading more about freelancing check out this blog on soft skills.

I’m a copywriter and storyteller helping my clients get creative with their content. If you want a professional pair of hands to help create your story, drop me a line here.


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