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Is it time to keep your brilliance to yourself?

You've built a business, you've delivered great work, you've won accolades, in a nutshell, you're a success. But you've got to keep it to yourself.


Sounds a touch harsh doesn’t it? But the truth is people aren’t really that interested in your achievements. Well, not people you’re doing business with anyway. Your family, friends, connections, they probably are, and you should definitely share with them your wins and your success.

But your customers less so. The shiny awards and the year-on-year growth of your business really don’t resonate with them. The music to their ears is an entirely different tune.

It’s an emotional ballad all about them, it’s a catchy chorus about how their sales will take off, or it’s a banging track about how you’re going to help them change the world.

As Dale Carnegie puts it in How to Win Friends and Influence People, you need to ‘bait the hook to suit the fish’.

Your customer doesn’t care about you, only how your product or service is valuable to them. And from customer to customer the needs you can fulfil will vary so you might need to tailor your approach to suit their needs.

As Carnegie puts it:

“Why talk about what we want? That is childish. Absurd. Of course you are interested in what you want. You are eternally interested. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you, we are interested in what we want. So the only way to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

Shift your focus

You’ll probably be familiar with talking about solutions not services, but when you take a step further than that and start talking about value, it becomes clearer to your customers the impact you can have on them.

And of course it goes beyond monetary value. How are you saving them time? Making them more investable? Freeing them up to concentrate on other things? Helping them connect with the right people?

Whatever it is your customers want, you need to be able to communicate your ability to meet their needs in an authentic way. Vague promises, half-baked ideas and jargon won’t cut it. Think about how you can show tangible evidence that you can support them in their vision, their goals, and their future. It could be testimonials, data, or social proof – however you can demonstrate that you know what they want, and you can help them get it. 

Putting your customer first: some practical tips

  • Don’t make your website all about your team, your approach and your awards – make it about the value you bring to customers
  • Similarly, when you send a creds doc or pitch deck, push all the pages about you to the end and hero the client or project from the off.
  • Listen to your audience. You might think you know who your potential customers are and what they need, but these needs change. Try and find ways to tap into this, it could be on your social channels, networking, or just by regularly asking them

Beyond your customers

The wisdom of Carnegie can be applied beyond your customers. Think about your team, are you considering what they want and what they need?

As Carnegie says:

“If, for example, you don’t want your children to smoke, don’t preach at them, and don’t talk about what you want; but show them that cigarettes might keep them from making the basketball team or winning the hundred-yard dash.”

If there’s a change to structure or you’re introducing a new way of working, don’t make it all about what that means for the business, consider how this ties into the needs of your team.

Just as you show interest in your customers, be a curious and interested leader too. Listen to them, engage your team in strategic discussions and make them feel part of the decision-making process.

Think about the purpose you’re serving

When you’re talking to a client, a team member, even family and friends, over the next week consider what needs they are looking to you to fulfil. Carnegie talks about the world being full of people who are self-serving, and that’s not to say they are blindly selfish and terrible people, it’s human nature, it’s a survival instinct. But when you become the rare unselfish individual, you get an advantage. You make people feel listened to, you feel appreciated, you feel understood – and who doesn’t want that?