Stories Stick, Stats Suck

By Subraya Mallya - January 2011 | Topics - Marketing

Technology Marketing has historically been a chest thumping contest between vendors claiming one-upmanship on the back of a variety of statistics. If it is not the TPC benchmarks demonstrating the might of a database performance under stress, it has been volume of orders processed, that has been centerpiece of marketing campaigns. You cannot escape walking through a airport without seeing a billboard that claimed Top 10 Companies in a certain industry chose Company X’s industry leading software or quoting position in some analyst firm’s ranking quadrant.

Now put yourself in the seat of a CIO (or business sponsor) and you will soon realize that those statistics mean very little. Your company might never come close to challenging those peak statistics, if ever. Not to mention the relevancy (of lack thereof) of that particular benchmark. But then again, nobody told that to the technology companies.

Are you telling us Statistics are useless?

No I am not saying statistics are useless. They are useful, but secondary when compared to true value proposition. Statistics, by themselves, cannot be the only value proposition. If it is, rest assured, your business is on shaky grounds. With technology evolving at a rapid pace, statistical benchmarks will be surpassed. Remember as they say in sports – “Records are meant to be broken”.

So you have a better strategy, smart man?

Sure I do. While I cannot stake a claim to that idea, I certainly promote it as if it were mine.

A better strategy that has worked and continues to make resonance would be to market your product by telling stories. No, not those woven out of thin air claiming me-too achievements, that nobody can validate. But those that tell the customers’ challenges and how your technology/products sought to solve and did just that.

The premier marketing guru Seth Godin once said Marketing is the act of telling stories about the things we make—stories that sell and stories that spread.

If you think about it, it is nothing radical. Let alone marketing, life in general, is about telling stories. We all have grown up listening to stories right from childhood. Stories create intrigue, analogies and are easy to relate to. And the best thing is, they also conclude in a takeaway, moral of the story as we were taught, growing up.

It should be no different in technology marketing.

  • You have to set the stage with a scenario (business case)
  • Identify all the key protagonists (stakeholders)
  • their part (roles in the company) and
  • the goal they seek to achieve (business purpose).

The story narration should cover the various aspects of how the technology comes into play to help the stakeholders achieve their business purpose.

Here are three strategies that might be helpful to craft better stories

Identify the target audience

Identify the target audience clearly. When I say target audience it is not just the industry or companies that match your target customer profile. Make it more specific to the actual roles people play in their companies. Identifying those roles and highlighting the value proposition will resonate much better. Heck, go ahead and identify the roles across different industry vertical if your product lends itself.

Day in the Life of a User

Always model your stories on the day-in-the-life of your target audience. Companies treat this lightly, pick a routine day and capture the events and actions of that day as it relates to the application/technology. I recommend that you first identify the key days of the year (e.g. month-end close, quarter-end close, financial reporting, year-end-close, IT audit day, emergency downtime) and identify the activities that are performed on such days. On a normal day things are routine. If at any time companies depend on technologies it is on one of those crazy days. Your value proposition will sound that much more pleasing when you highlight what you deliver on such crazy days.

Let customer tell the story

Unless you are Steve Jobs, I recommend you are better off getting a customer to tell your story. Any story you can come up will still suffer from the “vendor speak” stigma. If you can get a customer to quantify/highlight the value they derived in their business, nothing like it. It will be authentic, un-biased and believable for a prospect considering your product. Even better make your product go to the background when a customer tells their story. No mention is even better. Guess what will happen when other companies hear the success story? To attain the same success, they will reach out to your customers and find out about your technology and find you. That serves the purpose – doesn’t it?

I can go on with many more strategies but I am sure you get the gist. Stories makes believers of people. Go ahead and start weaving those stories – but keep it real.

If you think you do not possess the storytelling gene, fear not – it can be cultivated over time. Here are some resources on how to start

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