Creating Powerful Stories to Sell Your Product

Author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin, says: “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.”

A well-written sales or product demo is an essential piece of your marketing strategy to generate investment (both emotional and financial) and importantly revenue. However, todays consumer is smart and hyper away of traditional ‘salesy’ gimmicks, tricks and methods. Now more than ever, products require a much more sophisticated and subtle salesmanship approach to demoing and advertising a product. If you’re in the business of marketing or selling products, you’re also in the business of storytelling because as Investor and entrepreneur Ben Horowitz once said, “You can have a great product, but a compelling story puts the company into motion.”

An Introduction to Storytelling

Storytelling has become something of a buzzword across many different spaces from sales to HR, but it’s an undeniable part of how humans have always connected to one another. We can actually trace storytelling back to early civilisation, notably the Ancient Greeks, who passed stories down from generation to generation even before writing and reading became popular. Using techniques from powerful stories can provide that extra boost of engagement and build an emotional connection with users, which can be fundamental to Product specialists who may only have a few minutes to really engage, entice, and connect with their audience.

Storytelling and Product

Stories are really powerful when wielded correctly. It’s psychologically proven that customers make buying decisions based primarily on emotions; logical reasoning comes second. The ultimate invoker of emotion is storytelling, which has been proven to have a huge impact on our decision making. One study shows that B2B buyers are nearly 50% more likely to purchase when they see personal value in a product. This personal value can be connected using carefully curated and well positioned storytelling.

Storytelling can really set your business apart from other businesses. This is particularly important in todays globally connected world, where realistically, your product is not the only one of it’s type in the world. Customers can likely go online and choose from a variety of vendors and retailers for the same product. So, you need to tell a captivating story which will elicit positive emotions, connections, and associations which will encourage customers to come to your business.

Using Storytelling as a Device for Product Demos

A product demo is the perfect time to use storytelling, especially because you are likely to be pitching against other businesses for the business. Before curating your story though, you need to ask yourself some questions:

  • What is the goal of the product demo? Is it a sale, onboarding a new customer, investment etc.
  • Who is your audience? What are their characteristics and what are their biggest pain points that you can help with?
  • How long do you have for the demo? Do you need to be more direct and which parts of the product take priority?

Knowing these pieces of information will help you create your narrative and characters for your story. Using these contextualising bits of information, you can now move on to creating your story, by defining the ‘why’, creating the characters, and moulding the narrative.

Why you?

As mentioned above, you are unlikely to be the only business working in your space or field, so you need to stand out. To do this you need to do more than just answer the “What” and “How”. Answering these questions only satisfies the exhausted advertising tactics of features and benefits — a strategy that has very little effect on an audience’s emotional response and is therefore unlikely to really engage them on a human level.

To do that you need to really capture the hearts and minds of your audience by revealing your real motivations, your purpose, values and beliefs, as well as the driving forces behind your brand including morals, ethics, and social justice. Using storytelling and emotive narratives builds trust, and ultimately products that gain an individual’s trust is more likely to also gain their custom.

Creating Compelling Characters

Since we are building products to be used by real people, it’s important to build characters that are relatable and that have the needs and wants of your audience. Through these characters you should uncover, explore and provide a solution to the needs of your ideal consumer. These characters should invoke a personal connection with your audience, and you should take your audience on a journey within your story, from problem to solution, which frames them as the ‘hero’.

You can turn them into heroes using a structured narrative made up of three steps:

  • Showcase a relatable pain point that the audience currently feels
  • Lead them on a journey to discover what will resolve this conflict
  • Allow them to obtain the solution (your product) that will change their situation into the desired state

Desire is a powerful force in storytelling and without it you will fail to captivate your audience, and your pitch or demonstration is likely to fail. We connect with characters we see on the screen because they share relatable internal desires with us: Love. Self-worth. A sense of belonging. Accomplishment. Freedom. Happiness. These values are what make us human. Without them, we feel incomplete. By obtaining them we feel like our desires and dreams are realised. This connection is so important to enticing customers to invest in your product.

The Narrative

You can split the narrative into three important sections each with an important role to play in building emotional investment in the product.

The Beginning

The beginning section sets the context and introduces the characters. It starts by narrating a normal day in the life of the user and should end when an incident or conflict rises. This incident or conflict should mirror the same pain points as your audience to make it relatable.

The Middle

In the middle section, you should explore the conflict further, explaining what the problem is and how it impacts the characters specifically as well as the overall business. It’s at this stage that you hint that your demo product could solve the issue, therefore implanting the idea in the heads of your audience, before moving on to exploring the product in more detail.

The End

To end your demo, talk about how your product impacts all the characters in the story as well as the overall business. To do this, add data that showcases the quantitative benefits of using your product which will complement the qualitative approach of storytelling, therefore appealing to the hearts (emotions) and minds (logic) of your audience. By this point you should have taken your audience on a fulfilling journey from problem to solution, positioning your audience as the hero and positioning your product as the best solution.

Tips to Telling an Effective Product Story

Here are the top five tips to telling an effective product story which you can use in product demos and even within the product themselves!

  1. Stop focusing on the Features Matrix. Tell your story first. Simply calling out your features doesn’t tell prospects why they should pick your product. You need to build up an emotional connection and investment in your business.
  2. Contextualise your product to the current audience. Tailor your story to your current prospect and really showcase that you understand what is at stake for their business.
  3. Why? A good product story weaves together what your product does with why your product matters, appealing to hearts and minds through a mix of statistics and features, and emotional connections.
  4. Repeat your product story. The power of repetition is fundamental to becoming memorable. Refrain from creating completely new stories for every occasion and focus on good storytelling consistency.
  5. Measure performance. Consistency is key but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t improve your story based on user feedback, conducting A/B tests, and measuring content performance, as well as wider sales metrics.


Tips to Effective Story Telling within your Product

Storytelling doesn’t have to end at your demo, in fact in shouldn’t. You should continue to tell a story throughout your product. Here are some tips you can try for subtly integrating storytelling into your final product. Not all of them will be appropriate for all types of products.

  • Immediately set the tone of your product. People are impatient and want to understand the product straight away
  • Use a hero or mascot that people can become attached to or invested in
  • Use suspense to keep people coming back (think dating sites/ apps)
  • Use time and nostalgia to elicit emotion
  • Signal important information or use social proof

Storytelling is a Fundamental Sales and Marketing Tool

As I mentioned before, today’s consumers are too smart for cliché, traditional sales tactics. Instead, we need to focus on creating emotional bonds and relationships with our target consumer, through carefully curated narratives and storytelling. Storytelling is a great way to change attitudes towards your product and encourage people to choose your product over another, by eliciting emotions and providing solutions which pave the pathway to appeasing desire. If you can manage to frame your product like the one thing that will bring this emotional status change in a consumer’s life, then the sales will naturally follow.

I’m really keen to hear from my network about examples of when and where storytelling have really worked for you, if they have, and if there are situations where storytelling actually isn’t the preferred sales/marketing/demo method. Drop me a message to share your experiences with using storytelling to create, demo, and maintain a powerful product?

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