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How lived experience can improve your marketing communications

I’m not sure if the modern curriculum allows for it, but one popular lesson when I was at school was being given a whole period to write an essay on whatever subject you wanted.

Those in the class with little imagination would ask what they should write about, to which the inevitable answer would be “write about what you know.”

It’s a simple mantra that’s the staple of writing courses to this day.

Even though I’ve never lacked for imagination, I was always happy to follow the instruction, which is why my school books were full of essays about sport and music – and also why the subject-matter of my contributions to these Yardstick blogs follows a similar path.

Practical is often better than theoretical

It’s often easier to write about something from a practical rather than a theoretical point of view.

I’ve now reached an age where writing about what I know about comes from lived experience, and that spills over into client content.

To give you a clue what that age is, the first World Cup I remember watching was in Mexico, and it was the one featuring the save by Banks rather than the “hand of God.”

So, I now have first-hand experience of phasing retirement, wondering when there’ll be enough in my pension fund to retire, and the financial advice you should give your kids when they leave home. I can therefore utilise this in newsletter articles, blogs, and other content.

Lived experience brings events to life

What makes the Remembrance events each November so moving and thought provoking is the first-hand testimony from those who have actually lived through military conflict.

Their reflections never fail to bring home the horror of war for generations who can only imagine or read about it.

They are also a powerful rejoinder to the armchair-generals who tend to glory in military conflict yet would run a mile if they ever had to actually experience it.

On a similar theme, one reason why the documentary series World at War is widely considered to be the best ever made was that it was produced at a time when many of the key participants were still alive and had strong recollection of events as they happened. Their first-hand testimony to camera was often more powerful that the archive film of those events.

Experience means knowing what works and what doesn’t

Given this, it’s always worth ensuring that you draw on your own experiences in your interactions with clients, and how you’re promoting your business more generally.

It’s likely you do this naturally. For example, if you’re presenting to audiences you know how stressful it was the first time you did it, so you now draw on that experience in the future.

The same applies for us from an agency perspective. Without wishing to blow our own trumpet too loudly, experience has taught us what works and what’s less effective when it comes to web design, content, and how to ensure your client newsletters are read as widely as possible,

That’s where we can add real value to your marketing proposition.

Don’t overlook the experience in your own office

As well as drawing on your own experiences, it’s also worth you making sure you’re getting the most from the experience of other members of your team.

Everyone has some kind of personal experience, and that kind of knowledge can drive both your marketing output, and even how you deal with clients.

Whatever the financial issue, it’s likely that someone will have gone through it and can provide invaluable insight.

Remember they don’t have to write the content or speak directly to your clients. They just need to be encouraged to share their thoughts and provide their insight.

Don’t just listen to the loudest voices

Also remember at team meetings and brainstorming sessions, it’s not necessarily the loudest voices or the most senior staff who will have the best ideas. So, as well as the standard “no such thing as a bad idea” rule, why not try making sure everyone knows that their opinions are all equally valid.

During they heyday in Detroit during the 60s, Tamla Motown produced a stream of hits that can still be guaranteed to get people on their feet, 60 years on.

It seemed that they just had an instinct for what would sell, and be danced to, and what wouldn’t. but they had a secret.

They used to play all the new tracks they were recording on a loop over the building PA system. A few days later Berry Gordy and the other producers would walk around the corridors following the cleaners and janitors – generally the eldest staff – and listen to what they were whistling. If they heard them whistling tunes they’d played over the PA, they knew they’d be hits.

In case you haven’t already worked it out, this was known as the “Old Grey Whistle Test” …

Bring out lived experience with case studies

As well drawing on your own and your colleagues experience, don’t forget your existing clients. Case studies are a great way to get ideas across. They bring lived experience to life and can often be highly effective.

After all, if you’ve got a household DIY issue, a good place to start getting it sorted is by watching a YouTube video of someone sorting the same problem.

One of the most powerful case studies I’ve seen concerned income protection. It featured a young couple who had been involved in a car crash. Their first-hand testimony of the financial problems they’d faced in the months after their accident was both powerful and moving. As I worked for the income protection provider that produced it, I can also vouch for how effective it was from a business point of view.

I’m not suggesting you should look for something quite that dramatic, but short video clips, or written testimony, of clients you’ve helped can strike a chord with anyone in the same position.

Get in touch

At the Yardstick Agency, we have a wealth of experience to share about how best to market your business and service. Just contact us at or call 0115 8965 300 to find out how.

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