In our house there is a regular interaction between Michael and I. Most often it goes like this:
Me: Is there hope?
Michael: There’s always hope!
For over 26 years this has been happening. Occasionally he initiates it, but more often than not, faced with whatever the 'challenge du jour' is, it starts with me!
Hope matters to me.
As a marketing agency we have worked with a ton of clients over the years to help them learn how to talk about themselves in a way that translates well to their current and prospective clients. There has been more than one occasion where it is clear to us that one of the key values they bring to their customers is hope. Whether it is a financial planner offering a clear pathway to retirement, or a property manager offering relief from the pressing challenges of managing a rental property, the reality is that at least in part, they are trafficking in hope. Hope that tomorrow can look different from today. Hope that you can reach your goals and achieve your dreams.
When we present that hope is a powerful element in marketing, we get pushback every time. They say things like:
“Of course hope matters, but let’s remember, hope is just an emotion, it isn’t quantifiable.” Or,
“Clients don’t want hope, they want something more solid.”
Put another way, there’s the phrase that has been popularized by a book of the same title, “hope is not a strategy.” They push back that offering hope makes it sound like you are not confident in your product, you just “hope it will help.”
I have had a bit of a bee in my bonnet on this subject for a long time. I just want to, with great intensity, say something like “you don’t understand…hope really matters and hope is a currency we need to offer.” But alas, we haven't won that battle with a client!
I am currently reading a Brene Brown book called Dare to Lead and in it she points to some research that delights my soul. It gives me hope for my next chance with a client!
There’s a guy (there’s always a guy) named C.R. Snyder who was a pioneer in the field of positive psychology. He was a Wright Distinguished Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Kansas. Dr. Snyder, it turned out, focused a great deal of his research on the topic of hope. He even wrote a manual called The Handbook of Hope which is a bit pricey but I am considering purchasing!
In his pioneering work he was firm in saying that hope is not just a warm fuzzy emotional word, just the feeling of possibility. According to Dr. Snyder, hope isn’t actually an emotion; it’s a way of thinking or a cognitive process. Yep, I used bold, italics and underline options for that sentence! Pause and let that sink in for a moment!
Dr. Snyder would acknowledge that emotions play a role, but hope is actually a thought process tied to three things; goals, pathways, and agency. In basic terms, we experience hope when:
- We have the ability to set realistic goals (I know where I want to go)
- We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative routs (I know how to get there, I’m persistent, and I can tolerate disappointment and try again).
- We believe in ourselves (I know I can do this!).
So, as Brene Brown puts it, hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities. Dr. Snyder even developed a test for adults to score their level of hope. Why? Because our ability to have hope directly correlates with our ability to press forward, to face adversity, to be optimistic, and to see a future that is different than our current reality.
The opposite, of course, is despair. The belief that tomorrow and the next day and the next will be the same. Nothing will change. That is a hard way to live.
As an owner of a company whose job it is to help other companies succeed, hope matters to me. I want to offer hope to my clients. I want them to offer hope to their clients. If what we are offering doesn’t give our clients hope that their problem will be solved, why are we in business?
I know that may be an oversimplification, but I did it on purpose. If we’re being honest, there are days when hope is all we have and we need to realize it isn't just a wishy washy emotion. It is a powerful way of thinking and living. We have the opportunity to speak hope into our customers, into our employees, and into our families and friends. If we lose hope, we won’t have the capacity to take the next step.
I am not saying that any of us should just sit back and “hope for the best.” In the trilogy of factors contributing to hope, remember that the second one is about being creative, problem solving, going at things a new way when whatever we tried didn’t work. Knowing where we’re going and believing we can get there doesn’t eliminate the need for hard work or the willingness to persevere through the hard times.
There is a proverb that simply says “without hope the people perish.” If we are going to lead well, we have to be purveyors of hope. If we are going to market our businesses well, hope has to be part of the equation.
There is a book publishing guru named Ray Bard of Bard Publishing. Bard has published a significant number of best-selling books on business, many of which are about marketing and sales. We have had the privilege of meeting him a couple of times and one of the jewels he passed along is that as human beings who are looking to buy stuff or solve stuff, we all need four things.
- Big Picture – what are you trying to sell me and why
- Nuts & Bolts – do you have a strategy to do what you say you can do
- Entertainment – I’d prefer not to be bored to tears in the process.
- Hope – We need to believe that what you are doing for me means a better tomorrow!
Yes, the last one is Hope.
I’m not sure where you are today in your world, in your work, in your family, or even in your view of our country based on the last couple of weeks and the tragedy of mass shootings that are becoming all too regular in our news. The temptation to despair can be intense on days. I struggled with even posting a blog on hope after El Paso and Dayton over the weekend.
And yet, hope is part of how we take the next steps. For those of us who know Jesus, we have the gift of hope placed in Him as the One who is somehow still good and powerful even in the face of human tragedy and evil. I do not believe that hope is only for eternity. I believe it is for today, and for every day to come. But that's a different post.
Is there hope?
There's always hope.
What do you think? What role does hope play in your life? In your business?