How Startups Can Tell the Story of Product Development on Social Media
Guest post by Joe Peters
Startups have it hard: Not only do they have to operate in an environment rife with uncertainty, but they also have to compete with merciless incumbents that refuse to yield market share without a fight.
The Power of Stories
Stories are powerful marketing tools. They enable entrepreneurs to simplify their business message, allowing them to engage a much wider audience than if they resorted to pure logic and facts.
A good story also engages the audience on an emotional level, the level at which people decide to make a purchase or not.
Besides, it’s easier to remember a good story than cold, hard facts and numbers. When listening to a pitch, no one will ever remember every single detail on every single slide, but they will remember the moments that got them to feel something, be it anxiety or excitement.
Aside from being a valuable tool with which a startup can communicate with the outside world, a good story can have a major impact on how well the company operates from the inside.
When a product manager presents a compelling story to their executives about a new product they are working on, the executives will have an easier time envisioning what the future of this product will look like and adopting a strategic plan accordingly.
When the developers working on a certain project understand the story behind it, they have a much better idea of how to approach different problems as well as which details are consequential and which ones aren’t.
The Structure of Stories
Before thinking about how a story can help their product development process, startups need to understand the basic structure of a story along with how that structure can be adapted to their purposes.
- Stories are about conflict!
- They are about a protagonist who wants something but is unable to attain it due to the existence of an opposing force.
Throughout the course of the story, the protagonist eventually finds a way to overcome the obstacle, also known as the villain, and attains what they want.
Stories are composed of three main parts, which are referred to as three acts in the film industry.
- The first part, the set-up, is where the protagonist is introduced along with their want/ goal as well as the opposing force/ villain.
- The second part is where the conflict between the protagonist and the opposing force escalates until it reaches its highest point.
- Finally, the third part is where the conflict is resolved and the protagonist is rewarded with everything they could possibly ask for.
Applying the Story Structure to Business
Any startup that wants to use story successfully must make their customer the protagonist of their story, and the story must highlight three main things:
- The product itself: The story has to demonstrate what products the startup offers along with what these products do and who they are meant to serve.
- The purpose behind the product: The story must show what problem these products tackle and why that problem is worth tackling in particular.
- The passion that exists behind the product: The story must give the world a glimpse into the culture of the company, which includes its vision and mission.
Using Story During the Different Phases of Product Development
Any product that gets developed from scratch must pass through certain phases, among which are research and strategy, design and UX, actual development, and selling the product.
Here is how a story can help in each of these phases.
Research and Strategy
Before jumping into development, a startup must perform thorough market research to assess the competitive landscape along with how best to situate itself.
A big part of this research will consist of data and analytics, yet this usually won’t be enough.
It’s not enough to understand what the problem is, but it is also as important to appreciate why this problem exists in the first place.
To understand why, entrepreneurs can resort to stories, where they turn their customers into well-defined personas, characters that take part in a larger drama.
These stories can then be instrumental in formulating and testing hypotheses about how the customers’ pain points can be best addressed as well as what the customer journey will look like.
Design and UX
A good story makes people empathize with its protagonist, and a startup that has a good story with the customer at its center will be able to come up with ideas and designs that all focus on delighting the people it serves.
Put differently, by imagining the way the customer interacts with the product as a story with several plot points, startups can take both the method and context of usage into consideration when coming up with a design.
As mentioned earlier, a good story can bring people within a team together, whether it’s the executives or the developers, and this becomes all the more important during the development phase when there is plenty of money on the line and time is of the essence.
A great story can go even further: It can unite the efforts of different teams that perform different functions.
When all the teams share the same great story, they all become clear on both the larger picture at stake and the finer details that are needed to achieve this audacious goal as it relates to their jobs.
Selling the Product
Before development is complete, a startup has to have a go-to-market strategy in mind.
It is at this phase that a startup comes up with the narrative it plans to communicate to its potential customers.
The purpose of this story will be to attract customers and get them interested in the product, something that can be done through social media these days.
Yet, attracting customers alone is not enough.
Startups need to engage with the potential customers, convert them into actual sales, and delight them to make sure that that they come back for more, all of which takes us back to the concept of the customer journey and the story representing it.
In life, people make most of their decisions based on how they feel, letting their emotions get the best of them.
Entrepreneurs who understand this need to communicate with their customers on an emotional level and what better tool is there for such a purpose than a story?
Author Bio: Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters