storyvesting growth framework

StoryVesting: A Modern Day Growth Framework

I have an affinity for people who love to succeed. It’s nearly impossible for me not to smile when I see someone beaming with pride over what they’ve accomplished, but who is simultaneously are hungry to learn more. I love to cheer people on who have crossed the finish line and immediately think when’s the next race?

This affinity for success is a natural part of our DNA. As humans, we have an appetite for personal growth. We love learning and love tackling a challenge head on, and because of that, it seems like each and every one of us is on a search for how to achieve our own version of success.

I’ll never forget the night that prompted my own search for personal success. I can still vividly recall the cool, crisp evening where I stood on the doorstep with my girlfriend at the time, looking more at my feet than at her, wondering if I’d have the guts to lean in for a goodnight kiss. Just as I summoned up enough courage to make my move, the headlights of a beautiful, black BMW blinded my vision. It was at that moment that I felt a kaleidoscope of emotions — embarrassment, fear, and awe. More specifically, admiration for his level of success.

The BMW my girlfriend’s father drove was a clear sign of his financial success and I knew I wanted to have that same level of success when I grew up. That one moment struck a chord deep inside my ambitious heart, instantly sparking a desire to achieve my own personal success. It was that spark that prompted the beginnings of the StoryVesting growth framework.

Sound Familiar? You’ve Seen This Growth Framework Before

If you’re thinking to yourself that this topic feels familiar, that’s because it probably is. I’ve written about the growth framework I built, StoryVesting, on this site and others before but I never went into a lot of detail. The reason why is, frankly, because I wanted to create a site specifically for the newbie in the space of growing a business. Too much detail could muddy the waters and turn some people away.

So, in my first round of writing about StoryVesting on In The Know, I kept it simple. I presented you with the backstory about how I came up with the single most important question you have to ask yourself before you try to sell anything by approaching this topic with a deceptively simple question — why do you want to do what you do?

The need to ask that one question is still profoundly relevant. In fact, I don’t think it’ll ever become irrelevant. Your why is the reason you show up every day and the reason you’re working so hard to bring your ideas out into the world. Nothing—no machine, person, or blend of the two—can ever replace your passion. More on why that’s so critical later, but first, let me explain what prompted this post.

Why Bring This Back Up Now?

A lot has happened technologically since I wrote that first post, which augments what I’ve shown you within the growth framework before. What I presented in the past still holds true, but now, it’s important that we go past the point of just getting your feet wet with the ideas behind the framework. That’s because the world is quickly moving away from traditional business models and toward digital-first strategies to embrace what the business world is calling digital transformation. According to IDG, a whopping 89% of companies have adopted, or plan to adopt digital-first strategies.

digital transformationThese strategies are changing the very fabric of how companies reach customers and if I didn’t present you with the full framework, I’d be doing you a disservice. As innovations, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning get increasingly deployed to learn more and predict consumer behaviors, you must have your eyes wide open to how to react to these new innovations. Big data and analytics are getting richer, deeper, and more structured, giving companies better insights into their buyer’s experiences and it’s important you understand how to grab hold of what’s available to you and how to leverage it to grow. Mobile technologies have advanced giving consumers more access in the palm of their hand and you need to know how to reach them in that spot where they live.

Notice something there? It’s not companies that are leading the charge. It’s the new consumer behaviors that now force organizations to undergo business transformation or to dramatically increase their chances of falling down the path of obsolescence on the S Curve of Business.

The modern consumer has infused digital into their lives as we’ve never seen before. Google has found that consumers have become more research-obsessed in recent years. In the past two years alone, mobile searches for “best” product or service has grown by 80%. People are demanding more personalization, demanding that businesses understand their needs without having to explicitly spell out their requests.

The way we’re shopping is transforming too. For example, mobile searches for “things to do/activities” and “near me” has grown six times over the last two years, according to Google’s customer insights data.

And yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Consumers still want sublime experiences from companies. They’re still navigating the buyer’s journey along the same predictable pathway. Behavioral economics studies from yesteryear remain relevant today as we try to gain deeper understanding of the psychology behind how people make purchase decisions.

Professionals on all levels are scratching their heads wondering how to tap into new technological impacts, processes and job roles without losing sight of the foundation for what makes us, as buyers, tick. It’s the reason why so many companies are hustling to figure out whether they have Product-Market fit, and then continuously leverage tools like the free Product-Market fit survey I developed to continuously keep a pulse on what their market needs and wants. The nuances of weaving these together cannot be done through guesswork or high-level strategies alone. It requires a robust framework to drive decision making. It’s that exact growth framework that I created several years ago and still proves solid enough to withstand the fast-paced changes we’re seeing.

Before you understand the framework itself, it’s important you know how it formed because the backstory itself is rich with powerful insights.

How This Growth Framework Came to Life

If there’s one thing I knew in my start to building this growth framework, it’s that success didn’t come from guesswork alone. Although there’s no roadmap for how to achieve great things set in stone, there are patterns that you can uncover simply by talking to successful people — and that’s exactly what I did to research and build out my own personal framework for success. I talked to anyone who I deemed to be successful.

The first of these conversations happened when I was sitting next to Eric Schmidt, the former Executive Chairman of Google and Alphabet Inc. while on a four-hour flight from Salt Lake City to Washington D.C. He let me pick his brain during that trip and while he poured out his knowledge, I listened intently, hoping to glean as much insight as I could. The recurring common thread in everything he told me was the importance of passion, persistence, and the people who surround you.

After that conversation, I continued talking to anyone who was successful and would give me a chance to pick their brain. I talked to Jon Huntsman from Huntsman Corporation. I talked to Gene England of England Trucking. Each time I did, I was sure to ask the same questions during our conversations.

storyvesting research questions

Each person I talked to, I asked three core questions:

  • What makes a person successful?
  • What personal traits led to your success?
    • Who best exemplifies this skill set?
  • What are the key drivers of business success?

In asking these questions to 1,969 people, I gathered more than enough data to draw some pretty powerful conclusions. Through a healthy amount of analytical rigor from the responses strewn all over my home office floor, I pulled out some powerful insights.

StoryVesting methodologyThe first of the insights came from looking at the demographic data alone. In my line of questioning, I started off asking about the qualities that made them, or any person successful. I very quickly learned that the answers I got were too high level to uncover much meaning. So, I got deeper and asked more specifically about the personal traits that led to their success, and then followed that up by asking to speak to the person they valued the most with those traits.

StoryVesting demographicsTo my surprise, the person they often referred me too wasn’t their direct superior or even someone in the C-Suite. More often, it was a person who worked alongside them, underneath them on the corporate ladder, or outside the organization. That one insight led to my first revelation. Successful people built their team full of people who had skills they admired, or maybe even lacked themselves. This one epiphany was one of many that made me realize I wasn’t just building a framework for personal success — I had the data and insights here to build a larger growth framework for business transformation.

Digging into the data, I started finding several other key insights. First I looked at what drove a company to success, and then I looked specifically at the traits of the people who were at the helm of bringing that company upward.

StoryVesting analysisBy far, the biggest driver of an organization’s success was the business idea, or as I like to call it, the why. Why were they in business? This driver was followed closely by a more logical driver — the business model — or how the company would achieve their idea and vision. Several of the answers centered on the common theme of people. 40% of respondents believed vested employees made the company a success and 28% said the talent level of people on board was critical.

The people behind a company’s success fascinated people, so I looked at their traits. On a personal level, I wanted to know what to look for in the people I surrounded myself with so I could achieve this same level of success. On a business level, I wanted to know who to hire to help drive my company’s growth. The biggest themes surprised me. It wasn’t an Ivy League degree that mattered as much as the passion for the work, being a team player, and having a strong work ethic. These were the traits smart recruiters looked for when building their team, and the traits I knew I had to embrace as I drove my own personal success.

Looking closer at these answers, I realized something else too. Education and smarts weren’t even in the middle of this list. They were at the bottom, and the responses I got contradicted each other. Some respondents looked for smart people, while others looked for specialized knowledge. It seemed that people wanted to employees that were specialized but also, all-knowing. This notion sets up an unachievable standard that can destroy a company’s culture. I knew it was important to keep in mind as I started to build this framework.

Naming the Framework

Before I got started putting the framework together, I knew I needed to give it a name. The name would set the tone for what the framework deemed most important, so I looked specifically at my research and pulled out what the successful people I’d talked to deemed most important — the business’s story and a vested team to bring that story to life.

The Story

Every Sunday, my family and I watch Once Upon a Time together. It’s rich with fictional stories that transport us to a fantasy world with fairytale characters. These are exceptional stories but they’re not the kind of story I’m referring to when it comes to the Story part of the StoryVesting framework.

Here, I’m referring to the business’s idea and vision. It’s this story that gets people fired up to go to work. It’s this story that connects a customer to a company. This is the story that needs to be told throughout every stitch and thread of your company’s tapestry so that there’s no question why you’re offering the world what you offer. No matter what industry you’re in or demographic you’re trying to reach, your story is fundamental.

The Vested Workforce

But a story can’t come to life on its own. It requires the right team and people on board to bring it to life. As I found in my research, the “right” team isn’t a team full of highly specialized, educated people. It’s a team of people who are vested in what the company is doing through their work.

Now, you might’ve heard of the term vested in the stock market sense. I’m talking about something deeper here.

Vested in StoryVesting refers to a person’s vested interest in the company or cause. It’s this vestment that’s the catalyst for a person to see the business through to success. Yes, they also see benefits in return, but it goes deeper than that. This type of vesting involves having the right mindset and the desire to make meaningful connections and collaborations to fuel the business’s growth.

Bringing these two terms together was important because both signaled something far deeper than anything I’d seen before. With the name in place, it was time to put together the actual framework.

Putting This Research Together Into a Growth Framework

One of my favorite sayings and strategies is to fail first. Through failure, you’re learning, trying, and iterating. That was certainly the case through the process of massaging this framework into what it is today.

StoryVesting growth framework iterationsTo understand where it is now, you have to know a little bit more about where it’s been, so let’s start at the very beginning.

My first iteration of StoryVesting looked internally. I looked specifically at the people needed to build a successful team that would drive the organization’s success, analyzing what they needed — education, support, action, and growth.

linear growth frameworkI also created a roadmap to define how this continual growth would happen. Teams would need to align their organization with the employee’s passions, develop their skill set, refine that development, automate whatever they could, enhance the process, implement new processes, accumulate results, and then lead teams upward before starting again.

This approach might seem logical on the surface. It sure did to me anyway. The problem wasn’t what it looked like on paper but rather, what it looked like in action. People don’t operate in an orderly fashion 100% of the time. Case in point: Look at how people showcase their concern for environmental issues. The National Geographic Society and GlobeScan found that, in spite of an increase from 56% to 61% over two years in people who are ‘very concerned’ about the environment, consumers haven’t done anything to change their behavior to reduce their carbon footprint. Employees and organizations, despite having every good intention to grow in this manner, probably wouldn’t approach it in such a linear fashion.

Another issue I found was that this iteration failed to account for a very important person in an organization’s success — the customer. So, I went back to the drawing board and came up with this next idea.

growth framework componentsYou’ve seen this iteration before right here on In The Know. It’s the simplified version of StoryVesting that looks closely at the business’s why, or the foundation for their success as deemed by the successful people I interviewed, and the customer’s story.

As I’ve hinted at, more has gone into building out this growth framework than my research alone. I’ll dive deeper into that in the subsequent posts, or you can read about it now in great detail in my post about business transformation over on RocketSource. In the meantime, let’s finish off by looking specifically at where StoryVesting has landed today.

There was just one big problem with this approach. It still treated the business as a separate entity from the customer. For true growth to happen, the two circles need to overlap. It’s when these two circles, or stories, align that the money starts to pour in. So, I redesigned the framework once again for this next iteration.

growth framework alignmentI’ve gone in detail about why I chose to align these two circles in my post about how StoryVesting serves to be a growth marketing framework, so take a look there if you’re interested in all of the details. For the sake of this post, it’s important you know this — aligning the two circles is the key to bringing your company closer together with what the market wants and demands. It’s your key to infusing product/market fit, internal buy-in, and an amazing buyer journey into one solid growth framework.

By now I had accounted for both the business and the customer, I’d considered the importance of alignment between the two, and still, there was one thing missing from this framework: depth.

The Depth of the StoryVesting Growth Framework

Originally, when I presented StoryVesting here on In The Know, I did so in a way that wasn’t as deep as how I was actually using it for strategic decision-making among my clients. The two-dimensional approach you saw above was intentional. This site was built for newbies in the marketing world and designed to help incomers skill up quickly. Too many details would have mired down the comprehension of this framework, causing more confusion than guidance.

The full StoryVesting framework looks like what you see here.

growth frameworkEach side of the framework is a little bit different. The Brand Experience side, or the blue side, answers what a business needs to succeed. It starts with the business story at the center and core of everything. Then, the business model is shaped around the WHY, giving a logical process for how the why will be brought into the world. The 3 Ps — people, processes, and platforms — address the three core tenets that will put that business model into action. It’s only then that the products and services are built and considered, followed closely by the channels that they’re delivered and promoted on. Each of these leads to the overall experience the end customer has with the business.

The path-to-purchase side of the framework answers the predictable pathway that consumers travel. It’s a combination of past experiences that spark an emotional trigger to start a search for something. These emotions blend into logical thinking about the present and future that ultimately leads to the purchase. When the purchase is complete, the buyer reconciles their past, present, and future with feelings of excitement, hope, and confidence.

The Ripple Effects of the StoryVesting Growth Framework

I’m a big believer in functioning energy across the universe. That’s not supposed to mean a whole heck of a lot to anyone who hasn’t gone through and delved into how we actually stay connected while rotating the planets via magnetism and gravity, as well as the likes of the Fibonacci Sequence, the Golden Ration, and Fie. Take a look at this 3-minute video to get an idea of how intricate our universe really is in how it grows.

Each of these ideas is compelling when you look at how it relates to those layers of energy transfer. It’s this type of energy transfer that led me to really dig into what’s possible when it comes to the energy transfer between various entities. That rippling effect of items that are connected from a center is called concentricity.

As you look at the StoryVesting concentric circles, you can see why I bring this up in this post. Each concentric circle on the Employee Experience (EX) side and Customer Experience (CX) side starts with a core and ebbs outward. That core is what stabilizes the ebbs and flows of any business, from new product initiatives to new platform usage, and even how teams work together to make decisions. It’s what keeps your experiences balanced and in harmony with one another. Let me pull the curtain back on this a little further to help you understand just how advanced this framework can get.

Gaining Experiential Alignment Within a Growth Framework

When we start to look at getting alignment, we actually want to begin with vertical alignment within our organization on the EX side of the framework and externally with the CX side of the framework.

employee experience growth framework

Everything within your employee and brand experience stems from the why. This is the center that balances your business decisions and growth through the concept of concentricity. Once you and your team believe in your why to your bones, only then can you start to develop out the business model that will adhere to your why. From that business model, or how you’ll make money, you can set your operational foundation through your people, platforms and processes that you put in place. It’s only then that you can decide upon the products or services you’ll offer, the various channels with which you’ll promote your business, and how the experience will unfold.

The same level of depth and concentricity happens on the CX side of the framework too.

customer experience growth framework

The CX framework starts with a different kind of why — emotion. There’s a lot we don’t know about neuroscience, but one thing that has been observed is this — when your limbic system, or the part of the brain that manages your emotions, doesn’t function properly, there’s a ripple effect on other areas of the brain. More specifically, the part of your brain that makes decisions. It’s been seen in stroke victims that small decisions, such as what to eat for dinner, are enormously difficult because they’re unable to identify their emotional response to the options presented to them.

When looking at the CX concentric circle and keeping the concept of concentricity in mind, it’s important to remember that every purchase decision stems from how a person will feel about that purchase when they’re done. If every part of the experience that comes after that doesn’t align with or honor the emotional response that your customer seeks, you’ll have a very difficult time building out something that will scale and grow.

Ultimately, once you understand the depths of these two experiences, you can then start to bring the various layers together horizontally. You’ve likely seen this graphic before if you’ve hung around my content for any amount of time, but here it is again to visually show you what I mean when I talk about the importance of horizontal alignment.

experience alignment in a growth framework

As you can see in this picture, the goal, as you move these two circles together horizontally, is to get out of No Man’s Land where the experiences feel disconnected, and get into Brand Euphoria, where there’s a deep, immersive experience with your company. If you’re leveraging data loops in your organization, you can start to bridge the gaps that are standing in your way of reaching this level of Brand Euphoria by identifying what’s out of sync.

Filling in the Gaps in Your Growth Framework

Picture two people facing each other and having a conversation. If one person is 20 feet higher than the other, communication will be a challenge, to say the least. The same is true with how organizations speak with their customers. If they’re on a different plane, it’ll be hard to communicate their value effectively, costing them growth.

Every time I consult with a company, I start by looking at each of their experiences — EX and CX —through this StoryVested lens. The first thing I do is draw two circles and see where things are off. In doing so, I’m able to identify major roadblocks between the EX and CX alignment.

data looping in a growth framework

Once I start to gather this type of data — both qualitative and quantitative — I’m able to parse out whether or not the organization is on the same plane as the customers. Just this single basis of having horizontal alignment is crucial when it comes to making quality experiences come to fruition.

Once I have that alignment, I go a step deeper and look specifically at where there’s a disconnect in each experience. This is done using something I call the Buckyball approach.

buckyball approach to your growth framework

This is where things start to get even deeper, and that concept of concentricity comes more into play. Here, I’m looking at how each layer of these concentric circles intersects. In doing so, I can quickly identify key areas that are stagnating the business. For example, if circle 4 on the EX side is disconnected from circle 1 on the CX side, I know it’s a massive indicator that the products or services being offered aren’t in alignment with the emotional needs of the buyer. This realization can quickly pinpoint why, no matter how much extra an organization spends, sales aren’t increasing.

This layered Buckyball approach starts to have more of a 3-dimensional impact, getting even further inside the heads of both the key players at an organization and the customers. Take a look at this image to see what I mean.

growth framework to understand your customer

To get a full view of what’s happening inside the buyer’s and employee’s minds, I will look at what’s happening between their ears at each stage of the StoryVesting framework. This way, I can visualize what that experience looks like at each of these critical levels, while simultaneously understanding their foundational motivations and triggers to spur success. It’s a powerful approach that allows me to better understand the cognitive association or the way a person thinks consciously and subconsciously about an organization, at a deeper level. In getting this level of depth, you can build a journey that’s aligned and balanced in concentricity.

Putting This Growth Framework Into Motion

I’ve called StoryVesting a lot of things — business transformation framework, a problem-solving framework, a growth framework, and more. There are almost countless ways you can put these concentric circles to work for your business. One of my favorite ways is by leveraging StoryVesting as North Star Metric framework to keep organizational ships steering in the right direction.

north star metric storyvesting framework

What you see here is just one way that I use StoryVesting to help organizations of all sizes find their North Star Metric. If you’re not familiar with what a North Star Metric is, I dig deep into the details over on the RocketSource blog. For the sake of this post, what I want you to see here is how I leverage a variety of methodologies to find a constellation of metrics to guide companies upward on the S Curve of Growth.

Every single exercise surrounding the concentric circles above — from Maslow’s Triangle to the Radar Graphs and all the way around to Customer Journey Mapping — is steered by and fueled by StoryVesting. In conducting these exercises collectively as a team, you can better understand how well aligned your organization is with the market and how on track you are moving towards a constellation of metrics that will help your organization stay relevant. Let me tell you, these exercises take a lot of hard work and effort. They’re not something you can do in an afternoon, and then call it good.

Equipped with the data from those exercises, I’m then able to take those findings and conduct a gap analysis to determine where an organization is thriving and where there’s room for opportunity. The buckyballs style graphic you see below shows how I connect the dots between the customer experience and the brand experience. Where they’re connected, there’s alignment. Where they’re not, there’s a massive disconnect that needs to be resolved.

Ready to Go Beyond Surface Level?

On the surface, in its two-dimensional format, this framework looks straightforward. That two-dimensional approach is really just meant to get you started. I’ve kept it high-level here on the In The Know blog, so you can do just that — get started without getting mired down by advanced details around data looping and analytics. In taking this approach, you, the growth marketing newbie, can start to skill up quickly.

Today’s business world is complex. Carving out your spot in this fast-paced environment is not as easy as it used to be. If you’re a CIO, CMO, or high-level executive, head over to RocketSource where me and my team will be happy to keep peeling back the layers and get deep with this content. But if you’re here, ready to skill up quickly in growth marketing, you’re in the right spot.

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