Whether it’s a white paper, product sheet, case study or video testimonial, product marketers need to tell good stories. People enjoy stories. They don’t enjoy white papers.
I once interviewed a client for a case study and told them, “I want to tell a story and present you as the hero. So help me understand how you achieved something heroic.” They liked that analogy and set out to help me assemble the story.
Do you see what I just did? I used a story to make a point about storytelling. Did you like my story? Let’s consider ten reasons why storytelling is the new product marketing.
1) We grew up with them.
We’ve consumed stories our entire lives. It started with the bedtime story, continued into poems and fables and then into novels, books, film and TV. Stories get passed down from one generation to the next. If only your product collateral could do the same.
2) There’s a beginning, a middle and an end.
Yes, I know. All content has a beginning, a middle and an end. The difference with a story is that we come to expect a rather clear sequence. Once upon a time…
3) We all love a good plot line.
It keeps you glued to the television. It keeps you up all night with the reading light on. A good plot line keeps the reader engaged, because they need to know what happens next, as well as the final outcome. Your product marketing won’t be as suspenseful, but create a good plot and you’ll hold your reader.
4) We associate with protagonists and heroes.
Photo source: Wikipedia. Who doesn’t love Rocky?
And of course, in the story, the hero uses your product. Who says product placement doesn’t work?
5) Places your candy into an attractive wrapper.
B2B content can be quite dry. Speeds, feeds, dimensions, features, specifications and the like. Conveying this information via storytelling places that boring and sugar-less candy into a neat looking (and recognizable) wrapper.
6) It works in presentations as well.
Product marketers are called on to give presentations to customers, prospects, partners, media and analysts. Captivate your audience by telling good stories. I try to fit a story in during the beginning, middle and end – this makes the entire presentation a story in itself.
7) Stories create an emotional connection.
A good white paper engages with your mind. A good story engages with your heart. Which would you rather have? Find stories in customer use cases of your product. Can any use cases be presented in a way that makes an emotional connection with the reader?
8) It has the chance to entertain.
Photo source: flickr.
A white paper or product sheet rarely entertains. Tell a good story, however, and you may be able to entertain your reader. Once you do that, you had them at “entertain.”
9) It increases retention and recall.
Think about everything we’ve covered: plot line, emotional connection, suspense and entertainment. Achieve all that and I can nearly guarantee that your readers will have better recall of your content. As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” As product marketers, it’s our mission to create memorable feelings (not just content).
10) It’s fun!
Hopefully, you produce stories that are fun for the reader. Better yet, you produce that are fun to make! I have a lot more fun producing product content when it’s formed around a story.
I love the thought of using story telling in product marketing, but in some cases feels next to impossible. In something like a case study or pitch deck I might have more ‘liberties’ in the copy writing than I would in a datasheet, which is inherently more dry and to the point. Thoughts?
Pete: thanks for the comment. You’re right – the degree you can apply storytelling depends on the content format. It also depends on your market and target audience – I’m sure there are some industries in which your target audience wants the dry stuff (just the facts).
That being said, consumers/prospects are inundated with content today – and that means that the marketers who differentiate themselves win.
So let’s take the data sheet. A few ideas to consider, even in a B2B environment:
Develop a character to symbolize your product and tell stories about that character.
Develop a villain. The data sheet then describes how your product combats the villain.
Skip the PDF and create a short video in which you provide the product specs and features in a song. Bonus points if the product marketer is playing the guitar.