A good metaphor especially useful as a way to illustrate an otherwise challenging concept.
‘Cybernetics’, for instance, has a built in metaphor - that of ‘Steering a boat’, which in turn creates process and action (i.e. setting a goal and adjusting course to get there) in the mind of one who connects. You'll see another metaphor, using 'Time' and 'Watches' below.
(when you combine these two, you end up with a Time machine).
Here’s a definition to get us moving...
You probably use a raft of metaphors to navigate daily conversations, but just in case you need a tip in creating them…
The easiest way I find is to start with a simile i.e. you say something ‘is like’ something else and then drop ‘the like’.
This way you can move from e.g. building a business is ‘like a flywheel’, to ‘Building a Business is a flywheel’ - it takes time to get it moving but once it does it picks up pace.
Please know, I’m not a purist on this - simile or metaphors, whatever works to paint the picture in a person’s mind.
Take a look at a few examples of how this can work…
‘Top level’ conceptual metaphor
Let’s continue with the ‘Flywheel’.
The advantage of this metaphor is how it auto-generates a series of additional elements:
This way you have a built in story of how ‘Momentum is increased when you apply force, and reduce friction’.
A similar approach is to connect your metaphor to a relatable, everyday situation.
Imagine you’re driving your car and it ‘seems slow’.
You take it into the repair shop and they say they’ll paint it a new colour to fix the problem.
This is creating a new website when you aren’t getting enough business, instead of going to work on the engine.
(Credit to Coman Doyle for giving me this idea).
Storyline ‘stages’ metaphor
This next example is a way of painting a picture that has ‘stages’ to get a message across.
Let’s say you want to explain different types of leads generated from your website - Top of the Funnel (TOTF), Middle of the funnel (MOTF), Bottom of the Funnel (BOTF).
Here is the metaphor I constructed in reverse order of explanation.
Imagine YOU own a Watch Shop…
Each type of lead you get into a business can be seen as follows...
Top of the funnel:
People come into your 'Watch Shop', and say they are interested in the concept of 'Time' - they give you their name, email, phone number and location to get an ebook on the subject of 'Time'.
You then see them leave the store, and so often your team never call them to offer the solution to the experience of time they are having but cannot control...called 'A watch'.
Instead, look to progress the conversation through e.g. email, event invite attendance, calls (if you test it and it works) to a point where they understand that a ‘Watch’ is the device they’d love to own as it helps track ‘time’.
Also, it may well be appropriate to ‘outframe’ using metaphor how some people, even though they are walking past the shop, are simply going to take too much work to educate when they are interested in the subject of 'Space' not 'Time' - and even though Space and Time are related, it is going to take a real leap to move them toward the sale of a ‘Watch’.
Middle of the funnel:
People come into your shop, ask for a brochure, and give you their email address and phone number.
Now, taking it a step further, let’s say you want to illustrate to your sales team that everyone needs to be ‘called’:
“Not calling people who download a brochure, and give us their phone number, is like running a Watch Shop, and someone coming in asking for a brochure about our watches, giving us their name, email address, phone number and location to get said brochure, and then once they leave the shop we never call them as they didn't ask us to.”
Bottom of the funnel:
People come into the shop, and they are interested in talking about the pricing of the specific models of watch we’re selling - they book an appointment to sit down and talk through the options of the various models you have available.
These are like gold, of course, but you still want to make sure your processes support their stage in the user journey - especially if they don't commit to buying right away. For instance, having personalised and 'templated' follow up emails with relevant links/content can really help continue the conversation.
Metaphors will probably emerge throughout your day to day business activities, simply note which ones resonate with whomever you speak - these are probably the ones that have the best connection to the issue at hand.
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