How Many Bananas Do You Have?
by Michel Neray
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Six Thinking Hats. The
Five Love Languages. The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People
Back. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.
The list goes on.
Have you ever wondered why so many successful books, articles
and speeches have titles or subtitles that use the `bananas'
approach they incorporate a number and a thing?
Of course, not all successful titles have numbers in them, and
even if you have no intention of using one in the title of your
book, article or speech or even writing one there are big
reasons why you should want to come up with your own bananas.
(I'll explain why I call them `bananas' later in this article.)
Developing your own set of bananas allows you to create a
powerful framework around your own intellectual property a
framework you can brand, create products around, and finally
establish a body of knowledge that allows you to leverage your
expertise beyond your hourly rate.
This framework helps you tie together the key elements of your
article or story, and can serve as a solid foundation for your
outline, table of contents or sales rationale.
On the receiving end of the communication, the neat, little
numbered structure gives your readers and listeners something
specific to wrap their heads around. Bottom line: it helps them
understand what you do, how you do it and why they should pay
Perhaps that's why this style of title has been around since,
say, The Ten Commandments!
The Ten Commandments
Using this framework whether you use it explicitly in your
published materials or not makes it easier for you to walk
people through your rationale, selling points, story or
Essential Message. It demonstrates that you have fully thought
through all the application of your area of expertise. And, it
makes it easier for potential customers and clients to relate
their own issues and challenges to what you offer.
In fact, once you look around, you'll notice that almost every
situation that calls for a persuasive argument of any kind,
calls for the banana treatment.
That's why so many authors organize their material into
chapters and subchapters using this framework. And, you'll find
this approach equally powerful for articles, sales letters,
keynote speeches, presentations and proposals.
Even instruction manuals often use this approach. To prove it
to yourself, go to your kitchen cabinet and pull out the box
that your bread maker came in. Dust it off and dig out the
instruction manual that came with it. There are three types of
bananas that you can create, and chances are, your bread machine
instruction booklet uses all three.
Let's start with the most obvious one.
Every recipe calls for certain ingredients. Bread recipes are
notorious for being fussy about requiring the exact type of
ingredients to bake a loaf of bread successfully. Leave out the
yeast, or use the wrong kind of yeast, and the product you
scrape out of the machine will be a let-down, literally.
Now think about the advice you give your clients to help them
achieve a successful result in your field of expertise. Are
there certain ingredients components of your solution that
are absolutely mandatory in order to get a successful outcome?
Are there ingredients that, if left out, will almost guarantee
Think about a specific client or a company that you might have
read about in the media. Then brainstorm the errors, omissions,
gaps and pitfalls they fell into when working in your area of
expertise. Those are the clues that can help you build a unique
set of ingredients.
Back to your bread maker.
Some bread machines want you to put the dry ingredients first;
others ask you to put them in last. The important thing is that
if you mess up the sequence, you mess up the bread.
In fact, chances are your bread machine instruction booklet
outlines a very specific series of steps to ensure the best
possible result. These steps usually encompass more than just
the order of ingredients. Step one often begins with wiping the
unit dry, while the last step is `allow the bread to cool before
slicing and serving'.
Sequence is important.
When clients (or your competition) try to do what you do, they
may mess up by skipping a step or proceeding in the wrong order
the proverbial `cart before the horse' mistake.
If, in your professional opinion and judgment, this happens a
lot, the correct sequence that you recommend may be an important
differentiator for you.
In my bread machine instruction booklet, the authors made it
quite clear that there were certain principles I had to adhere
to, or else I'd never achieve Bread-making stardom.
I could use all the right ingredients, in the right sequence,
but if these principles were not honored, then ditto for my
These principles include: ensuring I use the highest quality
and freshest ingredients; ensuring I allow time for cooling,
keeping my machine clean, and so on.
Not to be confused with ingredients which are specific the
principles that are important in your area of expertise may be
strategies, rules, lessons, ways of being, keys, paths,
fundamentals, essentials, basics, ethics, questions, values
any of a number of other terms that may arise in your head after
you start breaking down your ideas or approach into bite-sized
But because neither you nor I know what they are at this point,
why not just call them bananas for now?
Try a bunch!
The more you experiment with your bananas in conversations with
friends, customers, clients and prospects, the quicker you'll
know what works and what doesn't what engages people and what
doesn't; what fits and what doesn't.
This doesn't just apply to books and articles. You'll find this
approach equally powerful for sales letters, presentations,
speeches, and proposals.
You don't always have to explicitly state your bananas in every
conversation, but once you get used to using them, you'll begin
to see how almost everything in the world can be simplified and
communicated more powerfully this way.
And that's when you'll be grinning to yourself, thinking,
'these bananas are great!'
About The Author: Michel Neray has over 25 years of experience
as an award-winning copywriter, an Internet pioneer, and a
senior sales and marketing executive. He is the founder of The
Essential Message, helping
companies discover their true differentiation.