The other day, as I sat at the kitchen counter, I happened to look up and saw that what had been a rather small yellow stain on the ceiling the week before was growing.
This filled me with dread, of course, because it meant we probably had a water leak in the upstairs bathroom. Which is just above the kitchen. After investigating, sure enough, the floor around the edge of the upstairs toilet was wet.
My first thought was that the wax seal under the 20-year-old toilet had gone dry, was cracking, and needed to be replaced. Which sucked, because it wasn’t the kind of thing I felt qualified to fix. Which meant calling a plumber. Which meant an extra expense we didn’t need right now. Hence the dread.
Still, it was the best course of action if we didn’t want the kitchen ceiling to fall in on us one morning during breakfast. So my partner and I resolved to call the plumber the next day.
When the next day came, I decided to investigate the situation more closely myself before making the call. I took an old towel, dried off the floor, and the toilet and the thin water pipe that feeds the toilet. Then I waited to see where the water was coming from. I sat there for almost half a minute doing this. On the floor. My head under the toilet. Not my most graceful moment, I’ll admit. But I wanted to know before I made the call.
Half a minute later, I saw it. A single drop of water. Not coming up from under the toilet, though, but down from the tank.
I waited a bit longer, and half a minute later, I saw another drop, seeping out from under the plastic bolt that seals the hole where the feeder pipe meets the bottom of the tank. As I watched, it gathered itself, gained size, and once it had grown heavy enough … fell to the floor.
I reached up, found the plastic bolt had some give to it, and tightened it.
Half a minute later, there was no new drip. Likewise half a minute after that. And an hour after that. And three hours after that. In fact, the underside of the toilet was now completely dry and stayed that way all day. All because of a simple half-turn of a plastic bolt.
So we didn’t end up calling the plumber after all.
After this, I did the math in my head. Two drips per minute. That’s 120 in an hour. Almost 3,000 drips in a day. According to Google, there are 15,000 drips in a gallon. So over the period of a week, more than a gallon of water was dripping onto the ceiling downstairs.
Left unfixed, those drips would eventually have had a dramatic impact.
“Drip by drip” is an expression that one of my heroes, Seth Godin, uses to discuss everything from brand marketing to culture change.
Here’s how he put it in a blog post from several years ago:
Incremental daily progress (negative or positive) is what actually causes transformation. A figurative drip, drip, drip. Showing up, every single day, gaining in strength, organizing for the long haul, building connection, laying track—this subtle but difficult work is how culture changes.”
Your business story is a kind of drip, drip, drip. It’s not meant to feel like a waterfall or an expensive Super Bowl ad.
Like any great story, it’s meant to drip, word by word, into the mind of your customer, accumulating weight and meaning. And trust.
Until eventually, the kitchen ceiling falls down on your customer’s head.
Not literally, of course. Because that would be bad.
But figuratively, if you’ve told your story well, there will be that moment when the reader sees themselves working with you, buying from you, having a relationship with you. That “ceiling on the head” moment when they click the button and connect.
That’s how a great business story works. One drip at a time.