Perspectives

Get your story straight

What do top technology companies have in common? Think about  SalesForce,  IBM,  VMware,  Workday,  Apple,  Riverbed,  Cisco.  What separates market leaders and category creators from the rest of the pack?

They tell powerful stories.

Stories matter. We see it over and over again. Companies that capitalize on an inflection point and grab a leadership position always have a thought-provoking point of view that resonates with buyers. Customers buy into the story before they buy the solution. 

And a story is more than a slogan or a catchy tagline. It’s offering a different perspective, not just pushing a product. It’s a crisp, clear way of communicating how a company or a product will solve a big, hairy problem for customers. It comes from putting the customer’s needs and requirements first, not the technology or the company’s agenda.

Look at Cisco. The company wasn’t founded to sell routers and switches. It started when a husband and wife wanted to email each other from different offices at Stanford and they couldn’t. So they created the multi-protocol router and solved the problem. And they knew others wanted the same problem solved. They didn’t launch a product—they solved a problem and created a powerful story and different point-of-view. And they instilled a customer-first, problem-solving culture at Cisco. You know the rest of that story.

Need other examples? Look at game-changing CEOs Marc BenioffLarry EllisonSteve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos. They disrupted markets and catapulted their companies into legendary status with conversations that re-framed the problem for buyers. They articulated their company’s value in simple, concise positioning stories and a narrative that offers a new perspective to buyers.

So if a great story is the key to success, why doesn’t every technology company have one? The reason is simple.

All too often, the responsibility for positioning is taken on by tech CEOs or product managers who are in love with their technology.  And technology moves to the forefront of the story. WRONG. Buyers don’t care what’s cool about your technology or your IP. They care what it does for them.

The most effective storylines carve out a distinct corner of the room—and box competitors in as having a solution for “yesterday’s problem” or “the right idea, but the wrong approach.”

What makes a good storyline? The most effective positioning stories MUST answer three questions for the target buyer:

#1: Why your company or product, NOW?
Tell them in clear, human terms what problem your product solves and why it’s important to solve it TODAY. Is this an old problem that has gotten worse? A new problem caused by fast-changing market dynamics? Will your buyer lose his job if he doesn’t solve this problem? Strong positioning stories empathize with the buyer’s situation and create a sense of urgency about solving a critical problem.

#2: Why is your solution different?
Once the buyer agrees with your point of view, the next question on their mind is “who else can solve this problem?” or “can my existing technology vendor take care of this for me?” Great stories lay down the logic for a new approach to solving the problem. This requires talking about your secret sauce, IP, or game-changing differentiators  in terms of business requirements. You can avoid the tedious “feature-checklist” war by articulating the need for a different approach. Different, not better, always wins.

#3: How will this improve my life six months from now?
Paint your buyer a picture of how much better their life will be with an investment in your solution. Your life is “hell” right now (big problem); here is the unique approach (our secret sauce) for solving this problem; here is what your life will soon look like.

All market leaders and category disruptors have a compelling and distinct point of view. If you want to join them, start by getting your story straight.

 

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