Tanya Pierce Talks About Storytelling and Connecting Authentically with Clients

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Tanya Pierce, and I’m the Vice President of Business Development and Marketing for Northern Technologies (NTI). On a daily basis, I spend time figuring out how we can grow revenue across all of our regions. I do a lot of trying to better understand what our project teams are doing and have done, a lot of connecting with clients, and a lot of coaching our engineering team to connect more meaningfully with clients. And I handle the marketing!

What are the initiatives you’re working on right now that you’re most excited about?

Broadly, the things that I’m most excited about are understanding who we are to the market and to our clients. Being newer at NTI, I love meeting with clients that I’ve never met and asking questions that I know our engineering team has never asked. 

By trying to understand who we are to our clients and looking at our projects through a different lens, I can help our team moving forward to provide better service, or additional services, allowing us to market ourselves more uniquely. What I’m finding is that we often come out of client meetings with new stories to tell.

How do you try to leverage stories in your strategy?

I’m a huge fan of storytelling. I don’t think technical people generally understand what that means. If there’s any mission I’m passionate about, it’s helping our technical team members understand the value of a story and storytelling. I think when they initially hear that nomenclature, there’s a little bit of confusion. But then you can help them put it into context by, say, recapping on the client meeting you just had. I’ll be like, “Hey, that was a great story. I had no idea we did that on the project! That’s a good one for our repertoire.”

I try to help them understand what a good story looks like and sounds like, and then also to help them see that they already have lots of good stories in their back pocket—they just might not have looked at them by way of calling them a story.

[Our technical team members] already have lots of good stories in their back pocket—they just might not have looked at them by way of calling them a story.

What’s a way for someone to get their team to start thinking in terms of stories?

You have to relate it to what people experience on an everyday basis. The goal is to help your team see the impact a story has, and drive it home to something that’s near and dear to their heart. The consumer and retail world is ripe with stories, so those are some easy places to find relatable examples.

The other thing I would say is that it takes repeated example. You have to keep coming back to the story concept in different venues with different examples, keep pointing things out, and then seize the moment when somebody does finally pick it up.

What’s your mantra?

I often get asked, “how do we get this client?” or “how do we get to be looked at this way or that way by the market?” or “how can we be viewed as a partner?” They’re all the same question really. My consistent response is: we have to behave our way into a different place. We don’t all need to do it exactly the same way, but we all need to be doing it together. We all need to be rowing in the same direction.

The second piece of this is, there can’t be any resting back on our laurels or any assumptions in the way we approach clients. We have to show up consistently and authentically, in a way that raises the bar.

What does that look like practically?

It looks like finding authentic ways to talk with your clients, and to do that you have to feed the creative part of your brain. For me this means picking up different books or magazines about topics that I know nothing about. For example, race car driving. I know nothing about it! But having the ability to make conversation in different areas is a very good skill set, and it helps you connect with the client.

One of the best resources related to this is Daniel Pink’s book called A Whole New Mind. It’s one of my favorites, and it’s where I learned a lot about storytelling and learning to look at things differently.

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