Stories have been used for centuries to convey important information between generations. Entire cultural rituals were developed around the storytelling process. Scientific studies even support that we’re more engaged and likely to retain information if it’s told in story-form vs. bulleted points. In fact, after a presentation, 63% of attendees remembered the stories told, whereas only 5% remembered statistics (source: Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath 2007)
So, how can storytelling help us in business? More specifically, in building software? The ability to paint a clear and compelling picture to your audience about how your product solves their problem is critical in generating a connection and compelling them to explore more.
For example, think of a start-up pitching their idea. Using Story to create the “make me care” moments gets investors to stand up and listen. It can get them excited about your product idea and make or break their decision to invest in your product. You use Story to show them how your product idea will impact the user in the world at large vs. talking about this or that specific feature.
As Product Managers, we use Story every day to generate team buy-in. By sharing our vision to our development teams using Story we not only help them see the vision more clearly, but we also generate empathy. Empathy is essential in building products that people want; understanding who our customer is and what motivates or frustrates them allows us to make more informed decisions on how to build that feature.
Using Story is not talking about your product’s features. It’s talking about how your product solves the user’s problem. It’s positioning your user as the hero of the story and showing how your product helps them become that hero.
So what creates a great story?
Know your audience. Who are you talking to? Make the it relevant to them by using contextually relevant details. It may mean using recognizable comparisons to relate abstract concepts (ie: explaining software development to a group of golfers – you may need to use a few golf analogies to help wrap their head around it).
Position your user/customer as the hero/star of the story. You want to show how your product solves that user’s problems without actually talking about specific features. Put it in the context of how using your app can help them excel at life.
Generate an emotional connection with your audience. Start with your users’ struggles and problems. Then transition to showing how, by engaging with your product, these struggles and problems are abated.
Utilizing Story can generate empathy, clear up communication, and create a connection with your product. Share your experience in the comments below!
Further reading on Storytelling for Product Managers:
Storytelling is Product Management, by Valla Vakili
How to Become a Better Product Storyteller, by Alex Alexakis
My Product Management Toolkit (15): Storytelling, by Mark Abraham
Storytelling for Product Management and Innovation, by Chad McAllister