Fiction is either a hindsight version of your present reality or a borrowed version of your past dreams
If you feel a chill when fictitious Robert Langdon unearths a real historical getaway, evades a fictitious armed enemy, and finally emerges out of the cavernous space into the sunlit boulevards of Spanish streets, you know the power fiction wields on human psyche. Throughout this length of article, I will try to explain how product storytelling is no different. It is a carefully concocted story wound around the product features to create the best first impression in the reader’s mind – the best ones being those that blend fiction with a twist of reality. Let’s find out how –
From Dan Brown’s perspective, Robert Langdon is the ultimate product that the readers need to buy. In order to do so, Dan needs to be a textbook version of a door-to-door salesman and ensure that his story hooks the reader from the beginning to the end without putting them off in the middle.
And how does he do that?
By jumping into the shoes of his readers, borrowing a few pieces of trivia from their travel knowledgebase, smoothening the edges of those pieces with raw fiction, and piecing them together to form a clear picture in the reader’s mind. The beauty of this process is that as the reader walks Robert’s walk, as his emotions mimic Robert’s emotions, the story forks into two paths – A & B, where A are author’s words, and B is reader’s imagination. And this is where you come to know that the storyteller has hit a home run – when the reader is so engrossed by A’s story that he wanders into a realm of his own i.e. B.
Product storytelling needs the same force. Talking about the product features is not enough nowadays. In order for the reader to strike that chord so that the product story tempts him to either click the CTA button or buy the product/services, he/she needs to walk your walk and wander into B.
Now let’s discover what elements Dan uses to make the reader walk the walk and wander into B –
- Robert & other characters are a construct of fiction
- The historical monuments and other references are a construct of reality
But what bridges fiction and reality perfectly?
When he empathizes with the readers.
Empathy is the catalyst which unequivocally grips the reader and holds him till the very end.
Just like Dan Brown, the art of product storytelling is pretty straightforward and requires three essential elements –
- A Product
- A Story
- A Storyteller
Let’s try and delve deeper into how can you optimize all three to have the best first impact on the reader –
Note: If it’s your product, you already have a story. You just need a storyteller who can put them in words in the most emphatic way possible.
Product – Features, Pricing & Ideal Customer
According to IBEF, IT-BPM industry revenues (excluding hardware) in India is estimated at around US$ 130 billion in FY 2015-16 and is estimated to be at US$ 154 billion in FY 2016-17. Worldwide, the numbers get more staggering. And with artificial intelligence and home automation coming into the picture, 2018 is set to witness a rise in product companies trying to ease processes in lifestyle and manufacturing sector.
Thus, if you are a first-time product entrepreneur foraying into the field of product marketing and henceforth storytelling, you should have a clear answer to these three questions –
- What pain points is your product trying to solve?
- What differentiates your product from its competitors?
- Who is the ideal customer/end-user of the product?
As generic they may seem, a clear definition for all three is necessary. For example, if you’re in the productivity app business, you can’t just take ‘productivity’ as the sole differentiating factor for your product. If you’re positioning your product horizontally i.e. can be used by people and businesses alike across different industry verticals, the chances of getting maximum downloads reduce as you will be spreading yourself too thin. Alternately, targeting a smaller audience from one industry, beta testing their app usability levels, and then capitalizing on the feedback will probably help create more qualified leads and business opportunities.
Still lost? Try out the following tricks to get a clearer picture in your head –
- Perform a quick competitor analysis on alternative.to and the alternate products that fit your product category
- Start a Quora thread asking about the problem and discover which tools are people already using for the same purpose
- Go to product review sites like softwareadvice, softwaresuggest, capterra, g2crowd, financesonline, etc. to gather reviews of existing software in this category from verified users
Once you have collated pointers from above sources, I would recommend you to sit with your team, hash out the details and come up clear definitions for the following three questions –
- How will your product help solve prospect’s current problem?
- How much will it cost?
- How much time will it take to setup?
Once you’re done, furnish the details to your product storyteller so that the post hits the customer nail on its head. Here is a product post checklist infographic you can share with the storyteller so that all the necessary points are included –
In order for the storyteller to keep the post alive and interactive, it should subtly express the above points without losing the dramatic edge to it. And that is where you take help of graphics and other social media platforms to ensure maximum interaction.
The Story – Words, Infographic & Video
Now that the product story is clear, the focus comes from visual interaction. Visual stimulus is more likely to keep the reader engaged and has the potential to explain the gist of the post in a few seconds. First-time entrepreneurs have two options to go ahead with this –
- Outsource the graphics work through freelancers or hire the services of a digital marketing agency
- Hire an in-house graphic designer
But often, more than half of them get stuck in the dilemma that plays quality with quantity but balances evenly on the money. For the first post, I would recommend hiring a digital marketing agency with whom you can brainstorm the messaging of the graphics with the product as the baseline. You’ll be able to control costs and at the same time ensure that quality and quantity are met adequately.
From infographics to videos, graphics can include a lot of things. And more often than not, they have an entirely different process of execution.
Deep dive into the process of creating a product video from scratch with a minimum budget?
How to create infographics that speak volumes?
I would highly recommend Canva. It has a variety of templates (both free and premium) which you can use to create not only infographics but letterheads, social media posts, and cover letters etc. in no time.
You see the infographics in this post? Yes, they are canvan!
How to Market your First Product Post for Maximum Output?
Once your product story and graphics are ready to take off, the next question is how do you market it to get maximum eyes? Well, I have created a list of a few inbound and outbound methods you can experiment with and analyze results accordingly –
Inbound methods –
- Publish the post on the product blog. Use Yoast SEO to ensure optimum SEO coverage.
- Include the link to the new blog on previous blogs to lead readers from previous blogs to new ones.
- Curate the blog on Growth Hackers. Start a discussion thread there & share in LinkedIn groups, Slack groups. Try to initiate a conversation.
- Curate the blog on Inbound. Ask a question there and share on LinkedIn & slack groups. Try to initiate a conversation.
- Curate the blog on business2community or ezine for better ranking.
- Curate it on Quora and probably answer a few questions linking the blog there.
- Import the blog on medium, iamwire, etc.
- Share it on zest (chrome plugin) (subject to quality acceptance). Similarly, approach high-quality platforms like Huffington/the wire/Forbes/ etc. to get more eyes.
- Include it in the email signature footer of customer account managers for greater reach.
- Ask team members to share it from their social media handles
- Run a drip email marketing campaign which includes a snippet & an infographic for the same.
Bonus: If you have a mascot/icon you can identify your product with, try using it more with every marketing collateral you send.
For example –
Too long? Want to pass on the tips to your team? Here is an infographic with all the above points –
Outbound methods –
- Run a paid FB campaign on the series if you have a B2C product
- Trial Quora Advertisement Run for a B2B one
- Run a PR on major media outlets
How to Hire the Best Storyteller for Your Product?
With AI chatbots revolutionizing customer support and virtual reality helping war veterans overcome PTSD, there is no dearth of stories today. Some ooze out of tech startups and some erupt from multinational conglomerates. From Tesla sending a car into space to a 13-year-old genius kid from India, there will always be a story. And if rightly told, it can do wonders.
Storytelling comes naturally to few while others learn it organically. Natural Storytellers infuse their storytelling skills with the right product props to woo the audience. Whereas organic storytellers understand your company culture, ethics, product features, and other essentials before the dive deep into a draft.
Natural storytellers are good. Organic storytellers are great. But a combination of both is deadly. Let me give you an example –
A friend of mine working with a law firm recently asked me a question – ‘Why are entrepreneurs on LinkedIn are professing more about the quality of employees they are hiring than the product/services that they are offering?’
My response was quite simple to this –
‘LinkedIn is turning into a storytelling platform quite rapidly. Just like marketers are talking about their marketing strategies, influencers about their triumphs in life, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that entrepreneurs are displaying their hiring acumen by lauding their first hires and advocating about company culture quite openly. By doing this, not only do they connect with the audience more but invite applications from diverse backgrounds which eventually helps them in building a high-performing & quality workforce.’
The top-secret recruiters on LinkedIn take advantage of is that the moment their hiring strategy become common knowledge in the connection base, it breeds a new level of confidence among candidates and substantially raises company’s stakes in the hiring business.
So if you are looking to hire a quality storyteller, you will need to put in a solid effort in making the application process for the job challenging. Here are a few questions you can ask –
One Feat: To check the ownership level
One Article: To check the writing style and grammar accuracy
One Ambition: To check motivation level
One Memory: To check creativity level
One Anger: To know the weakness
One Happy: To know the strengths
I hope that with this article, you were able to figure out how to go ahead and kick-start your content marketing funnel in the right direction. If you liked this piece, show me some clapping love I say. Or share it in your professional circles 🙂
If you have any comments to make or discussion to have, leave them in the comments section below.
And of course, if you require my services, please feel free to contact me –