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There have been several instances throughout my career where the essence of this article titled The Product Needs To Be The Story has come to light. The bottom line is whether or not it is a new innovation, or an existing portfolio of solutions, having the right “story” is absolutely essential!

I recall one instance where we had a dozen or so products in our portfolio; some home grown, some acquired; some relatively new, some past their point of usefulness; some were B-B focused, others were B-B-C. And frankly, there was nothing that tied everything together … nothing that helped the sales person (or the market for that matter) make sense out of the options. There certainly was not a solution selling approach, but rather a “let me take this product that I am responsible for and try to find a place for it”. The task I was given was to craft the message in such a way that it made sense to the customer, to the marketplace, to the consumer … and most of all painted the company in the light of being the market leader it had always been.

Whether you refer to it as ‘positioning’, or ‘messaging’, or a new ‘category, or ‘market segmentation’, or ‘value proposition’ … in my mind it all comes down to the same thing. As product management leaders, we need to ensure that we become Master Storytellers!

  • What is the setting? What does the world in which the story takes place look like (the vertical, or perhaps the horizontal market)?
  • Who is involved in the story-line (the ecosystem if you will)?
  • Who are the leading characters (customers, prospects, consumer)?
  • Who are the villain(s) (competitors)? The hero(s) (market leaders, us)?
  • What is the plot? What are the influencing factors to the story (Porter’s Five Forces perhaps, or the key market drivers/pain points)?

In the example I outlined above, we eventually landed with what I would classify as a remake of an old story. But the way the story was told became drastically simplified. It was a balanced approach that centered on the two major focal points of our customers/prospects – catering to the needs of the consumer (customer satisfaction), but also focusing on driving revenue and cost reduction (profitability). And rather than concentrating on 12+ products, the story became about the channels where the consumer used the products.

The article asks the question “If not already addressed by the entrepreneur in her pitch, what’s the first question the investors on Shark Tank almost always ask?”  You guess it, what is the story! Make sure you are telling a story that people understand; a story that is easy for sales people to relay; a story that customers/prospects intuitively get; a story that executives, analysts, or investors can get behind.