Storytelling for software marketing


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Using storytelling to promote your software products. Notes for a workshop for Better Software 2011.

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  • The model is this: a percolating ziggurat of user groups.A step (gradone) is a user group of similar technology adoption habits. People at lower steps have slower technical adoption habits.The wet zones are those that your communication reached.Notice that water can spring only from the top and goes downwards.Another point of the model is that time exerts a minimal gravity, causing percolation (this is already different from Crossing the Chasm).You presence online, creating articulated contents, its propagation, requires also simply time. A lot of time. Like, 2 years. Also because evolution of the way software is produced and supplied also means that today from the start we have a more refined approach to UI w.r.t. what was done in the 90’s.
  • In which group are you?You likely are all in the top step for what concerns IT adoption. But…Quantidivoihannounamacchina?Quantodivoihannounamacchinaelettrica?Quantodivoihannointenzionedicomprareunamacchinaelettrica come prossimamacchina?Quantidivoihannointenzionedirinunciareallamacchina per un car pooling? Quantidivoihannorinunciato del tuttoallamacchina?
  • “Technology enthusiasts”, visionaries? Or press? Today, it is a combination of both. The press that concerns you are early adopters.Press does curation for others. Examines, evaluates.
  • “Talk about it at a local event like this” -> cihannoprovato.
  • That the necessary step. Without it, you’re s****d.Will they talk about your product? Here is a moment (only one) of reality check.I can tell from experience (Patapage).If you reached step 1, you’ve already had one reality checks, e.g. getting a working prototype.Subsequent reality checks will be whether you can go down the ziggurat, but if you don’t pass this step, again, you’re s****d.The press gives you a real-world second test. Two products that failed this step, Bugsvoice and Patapage, we were very much in love with the idea and the technology, but the was no corresponding need out there.As the press is not at all in love with your private idea and technology, and will try to map it to a user’s need.In the case of Licorize, they could easily find the mapping, for several reasons.
  • Web worker lifeGTDCuration
  • This way you can win in the most unlikely situations
  • Detailed examples follow.
  • One thing I believe is that in this new context time helps (CtC does not believe this), because the web does percolate. But it is true that being at the first step and being at the second step are different situations that require different ways to communicate.
  • Storytelling for software marketing

    1. 1. Story tell your (software) product<br />By PietroPolsinelli<br />Twitter: @ppolsinelli<br />Blog:<br />E-mail:<br />
    2. 2. Who am I<br />I have been working in software development for too long. I’ve been working on software startups and software marketing since 2008.<br />I don’t have any great marketing success in my portfolio, but I have at least one total failure – which means I have some experience. You can see practically everything relevant I’ve done on my blogs and (3) Twitter streams – main is @ppolsinelli. <br />Here I am just trying to create an opportunity for starting a kind of work and research. Not supplying “solutions”.<br />2<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    3. 3. Learn, learn, learn<br />In the process of learning that characterizes a lively startup, there are sensitivities to be acquired, which may be immature if coming from custom development, e.g.<br />Design<br />UI<br />Public testing<br />Public image<br />“Public Relations”“PR is the most underused resource in the world.” Barbara Corcoran<br />Customer relationship and support<br />3<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    4. 4. Use creativity to replace budgets<br />To maintain “percolation” (see later) and diffusion is a continuous battle. That is why being a startup as a side project does not work. <br />You need full time dedication: new ideas, experiment and flexibility are the only thing that can beat budgets.<br />4<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />
    5. 5. What will we do today<br />The question we will work on is this:<br />How to communicate your product idea?<br />This is a basic and most important question for a startup, and it’s never too soon to think about it.<br />Most marketing texts, meetings and experts are focused on communication problems of large companies and institutions, i.e. those that pay them as consultants. But (luckily) there are startups: who thinks about startup communication? And startups desperately need communication.<br />5<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    6. 6. What will we do today<br />Storytelling can be applied externally to present your software, but also internally as a software plot, for focus and motivation - in case of a large company, but also in a startup. <br />Here we focus on the external kind of storytelling application.<br />So “who are you”? “Startuppers” is a wide sense. You may be a project manager in an enterprise whom has to start a new large project.<br />6<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    7. 7. Storytelling is so popular…<br />But its not actually storytelling in itself that is popular, its “storytelling for…”. That is, writing and telling stories for ends which are not literary.<br />This comes from the fact that there are more definite and precise techniques for storytelling – at least, this is a diffuse belief.<br />Narrative techniques can be acquired with a lot of exercise, developing a specific sensitivity<br />7<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    8. 8. Can tell with infographics<br />8<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    9. 9. What will we do today<br />We will deal with the question “How to communicate your product idea?”by answering <br />(briefly) how to communicate<br />and <br />(at length) what to communicate.<br />9<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    10. 10. What will we do today<br />One of the aims of the workshop is to help startuppers describe their product using a terminology closer to an emotional model of the user.<br />10<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />
    11. 11. After today<br />A booklet of links for this workshop: <br /><br />Marketing Ziggurat: <br /><br />A rich resource: <br />!/storytellin<br />If you are a software developer – why not take a creative writing course? If my thesis is correct, this will be more useful than any traditional marketing course.<br />11<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    12. 12. After today: marketing<br />12<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore<br />Tribes by Seth Godin<br />
    13. 13. First exercise<br />Write on paper what you will say if I’d ask you to present yourself to this group.<br />Write on another paper your product / service idea – how you would present it in a few sentences.<br />13<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    14. 14. Startups’ evolving communication needs: the marketing ziggurat<br />
    15. 15. Percolating Ziggurat<br />15<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    16. 16. The model<br />People at a step are a set of potential customers who have a common set of needs or wants or potential to have new similar needs that reference each other when making a try / buy decision.<br />(Adapted from “Crossing the Chasm”)<br />16<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    17. 17. Entering the ziggurat<br />What is the top of the ziggurat composed of? <br />How do you enter the top of the ziggurat?<br />17<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    18. 18. Entering the ziggurat<br />Start a blog<br />A tweet channel<br />A page on Facebook<br />Tell your friends<br />Talk about it at a local event like this<br />18<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    19. 19. Entering the ziggurat<br />What I described in the previous slide…<br />DOES NOT WORK*<br />* Unless a miracle...<br />What you need is…<br />19<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    20. 20. Entering the ziggurat<br />“That's the press, baby, the press. And there is nothing you can do about it.”<br /><br />You need to<br />TALK WITH THE PRESS<br />20<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    21. 21. Entering the ziggurat<br />Seems obvious – for many its not so.<br />The press- its scary.<br />Win the fear and write.<br />21<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    22. 22. Entering the ziggurat<br />Fearful because it is (a second) reality check.<br />Examples from my experience:<br />Bugsvoice –> Fail<br />Patapage –> Fail<br />Licorize –> Passed<br />22<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    23. 23. And what IS the press?<br />A blog with 5000 loyal followers in a field connected to what you dealing with can be more effective than a little blurb on Wired.<br />23<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    24. 24. Build a marketing story for the pressWriting to the press is OK, but write about what?<br />
    25. 25. Marketing stories<br />“Potential customers cannot buy what they cannot name”<br />Journalists cannot write about something that has no novelty: you’ve got to serve them the concepts, the story, the novelty. A new feature is not a novelty.<br />25<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    26. 26. Marketing stories<br />“Most people resist selling but enjoy buying”.<br />If you manage to define the buy situation, victory is in your hands.<br />We’ll get back to this later.<br />26<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    27. 27. Listing features vs. telling stories<br />
    28. 28. The USP approach<br />I here give a first negative definition of my approach, by contrasting with some existing marketing habits.<br />The Unique Selling Proposition (a.k.a. Unique Selling Point, or USP) is a marketing concept that was first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern among successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s. It states that such campaigns made unique propositions to the customer and that this convinced them to switch brands.<br />Wikipedia,<br />28<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    29. 29. The USP approach<br />USP is like classical economics: assumes perfect information and rational choices. Users are neither informed nor rational. <br />This fragmented approach does not help users in getting their insight. Lacking a unified anthropological model of and for the user, this will not work. <br />Marketing recipes draw a simplistic picture of the marketing project. <br />A USP tends to obscure your real motivations, your agenda. A purely functional description will leave out what is most interesting. <br />This also shows that deep limitations of AdWords based approaches: you story is missed, you can’t do a contextual presentation.<br />29<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    30. 30. Rational choice models<br />A few years ago, we had a brief discussion about the power of ads. A friend of mine was skeptic about that, he stubbornly held that ads had no effect on him. This is an example of illuministic optimism which is factually false.<br />How wrong this belief is is shown by data from many possible fields (next slide). <br />What matters for us is that this kind of wrong modeling of human behavior leads to wrong marketing models: models based on the rational choice idea.<br />30<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    31. 31. Learn more<br />The political mind, A Cognitive Scientist's Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics , George Lakoff<br />Idea Framing, Metaphors, and Your Brain - George Lakoff<br /><br />31<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    32. 32. Establish the context<br />You should not talk in terms of differences with the competition (this too is a mistake which several marketing “experts” make). This is the traditional mistake of political weak candidates. Your point is to tell a completely different story. <br />Obama stopped saying “Bush is doing this and that” He started saying: “This is MY story. This is a NEW story.”<br />Story mark: by telling a good story, its you establishing the context. this way you can win in the most unlikely situationsBy fighting on features, you are adapting to a context where its the others setting the context -> you are going to lose.<br />32<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    33. 33. The storytelling approach<br />You are bringing a ship across a hill in the jungle: your effort *deserves to be told*.<br />You product is a free creation, shaped from the learnings you can get from early shipping.<br />The basic point of this marketing technique is simply to tell the truth, and bring it across in its subtlety and complexity. It’s useful if what you are saying is not trivial, if there are ideas to be expressed. Articulating your proposal in a story instead of a USP is much more conductive to express it integrally. <br />The MBA typical idea of “competitive advantage” results empty for this perspective. The union of story and execution is no single competitive advantage.<br />33<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    34. 34. Coherence<br />Having a story gives you a sense of coherence, will also make you stronger against the 2% of skeptics. <br />Alienating the 2%<br /><br />34<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    35. 35. Learning from “classical” storytelling<br />The first point is NOT saying clearly (for you) what you provide, and neither to talk about users’ advantages. <br />The first point is getting attention and start telling YOUR STORY.<br />35<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    36. 36. Using stories<br />
    37. 37. Unifying power of storytelling<br />Your aim is to create an opportunity for a “magic” meeting of needs, tastes, choices. You are facilitating it, but you are not the cause.<br />Unifying power of the storytelling approach: if you defined your story, this gives unity to the expression of your idea in different media (see Licorize in the examples). Once you have a story, it becomes easier and more interesting to write articulated connections. And to write other, connected stories touching other fields.<br />37<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    38. 38. Unifying power of storytelling<br />You may articulate your idea through many media and means:<br />blog post<br />home page of your site<br />Podcast<br />Video<br />Mockumentary<br />Cards<br />e-book<br />ipadapp<br />iphoneapp<br />generic mobile app<br />Tweets<br />facebook etc.<br />38<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    39. 39. Unifying power of storytelling<br />USP get old fast: stories don’t.<br />Storytelling supports seriality: it is a wonderful way to put criticism and failures to our use.<br />Like Balsamiq failed release -> visibility and positive remarks. <br />Berlusconi prostitutes -> that’s how I am -> hero’s flaw, adds to heroicity.<br />39<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    40. 40. Storytelling schemes<br />
    41. 41. Consumer’s fatal flaw<br />Reading and knowing your audience fatal flaw is the first step in building any marketing strategy.<br />41<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    42. 42. Existential myths<br />The myth of “salvation”<br />Myth of “cure”<br />Myth of “evasion”<br />42<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    43. 43. Themes for the existential myths<br />Cure/protection rhetoric<br />Power/possession rhetoric<br />Exploration/curiosity rhetoric<br />Auto confirmation/self-celebration rhetoric<br />Negotiation/projectuality rhetoric<br />43<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    44. 44. Base schema for product narration<br />44<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    45. 45. Gossip stories are a GREAT way to see the basic schemes in action (read Barthes’ Mythologies)<br />45<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    46. 46. Examples<br />
    47. 47. TOMS Shoes<br />All the details together tell a unique and coherent story. You won’t forget this site.<br /><br />47<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    48. 48. Balsamiq -<br />The reason for success for a long time escaped me - yes, he told an interesting story of the startup trip but that is not the key.<br />What/where is the narrative? Which is the fatal flaw?<br />48<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    49. 49. Balsamiq<br />Fatal flaw: prototyping is hard, and a great source of conflict. More detailed it is, more likely it is to generate conflict.<br />-> Smooth corners: a tool that is easy to use as play, and does not go much beyond play (though it is very useful). <br />49<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    50. 50. Balsamiq<br />Messages:<br />“We are not working, we are playing”<br />“The prototype is not definitive”<br />50<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    51. 51. Balsamiq<br />Messages:<br />“How can you not love this Winnie-the-Pooh like mockup?”<br />The tone of communication is “back to draw like when you were a child”. Gets tons of tweet “loving this”. It is a communication strategy built-in the product.<br />51<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    52. 52. Licorize: our stories<br />I've read I don't know how many times this reaction to Licorize on Twitter: "this is exactly the product I was looking for!”<br />This anthropological fit is actually also a construction, a construction of Licorize' storytelling. The perfect fit is felt because the story works, the identification works. Of course just a good story without a high quality product and design would not make it. <br />52<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    53. 53. Licorize: our stories<br />We did alienate the 2%: the very first reactions were very bad. Negative review, lacking USP, unclear … . How I reacted? I did nothing. I changed nothing.<br />But soon, very soon, the voice that really matters – people, many people, appreciated it. The comfort of numbers, and the comfort of competent reviewers.<br />The first 2% is not the real press. <br />The press: they don’t react using their Lizard Brain. They look carefully – trust them.<br />We didn’t do permission marketing. We had a story and the press (which today does not mean paper press) took it and talked about it.<br />53<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    54. 54. Licorize: our stories<br />54<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    55. 55. Theme<br />Major:<br />Auto-confirmation<br />Myth its more “salvation” than “evasion”. But introducing playfulness gives hope to work, seen as oppressive – this is the fatal flaw. <br />Minor:<br />Design -> seduction<br />Exploration<br />55<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    56. 56. Did work: Licorize<br />Result: 50 positive reviews (by meaningful sites) in 90 days, thousands of tweets. And they both keep coming.<br />Reviewers fell in love with the story – which we had written for them.<br />Also a bit of luck helped – Delicious crisis.<br />56<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    57. 57. Multiple entry points<br />Multiple stories and media:<br />Curation, GTD, e-books, info overflow<br />Video 1 minute<br />Instructional detailed videos<br />User guide 100 pages<br />Examples usage in the application<br />57<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    58. 58. What is the morale of the (story) product?<br />Licorize: no bookmark is an island.<br />37'signals Basecamp: people have now an online life and need very simple management.<br />Most products have no clear morale.<br />58<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    59. 59. Licorize: other’ stories<br /><br />59<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    60. 60. Stout: his story<br />60<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br /><br />
    61. 61. Stout: other’s stories<br /><br />61<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    62. 62. Learning to write tell<br />
    63. 63. Can’t help you, sorry – help yourself<br />This is not the topic of this workshop, but it is a skill that is assumed.<br />It can be learned. Literary skills can be acquired:<br />Jeff Atwood, How to Write Without Writing<br />Over the last 6 years, I've come to believe deeply in the idea that that becoming a great programmer has very little to do with programming. Yes, it takes a modicum of technical skill and dogged persistence, absolutely. But even more than that, it takes serious communication skills: <br /><br />63<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    64. 64. Limits of this approach<br />Requires a considerable and prolonged effort. <br />Once started, very hard to change techniques.<br />64<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    65. 65. Exercises<br />
    66. 66. Base schema for product narration<br />66<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    67. 67. Exercise: The product is a story<br />Which story does you product tell? Is it heroic, moving, a thriller, noir? A redemption story or a apprenticeship one? A lucky intuition or a hard earned success?<br />Try to guess the kind of story that you’d like to tell through your product and select its essential roles.<br />Which kind of story would you like to tell?<br />What or whom does it involve?<br />Which problem or need it must solve / fulfill?<br />What or who is the opponent?<br />Which trials it must pass?<br />Who is helping and who is hampering?<br />How do we know the target has been reached?<br />Which other characters appear?<br />Compose all this elements in a story: [write write write]<br />67<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    68. 68. Exercise: Opponents and needs<br />Who are your opponents and competitors?<br />Which is the need you are fulfilling?<br />Which is the deficiency you are fulfilling?<br />The desire you satisfy?<br />The problems you meet?<br />For each of the above create a character, then try to take their point of view and tell the story: [write write write] <br />68<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    69. 69. 69<br />Re work on your initial textsRemember to think about the fatal flaw and the biographical moment of the audience.<br />
    70. 70. Classical elevator pitch – by Amy Jo Kim<br />70<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    71. 71. Story told elevator pitch and more<br />Re-write your elevator pitch as a brief story.<br />Write e-mail for a reviewer.<br />71<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    72. 72. Discuss results<br />
    73. 73. Sparse practical hints <br />
    74. 74. How startups can learn to pitch the press<br /><br />Some mistakes Brad lists:<br />the 1000 word e-mail<br />lack of a story<br />pitching on Mondays<br />74<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    75. 75. Permission marketing and more<br />You can use your story based product & marketing core to do both permission marketing and also more traditional, press/blog based marketing.<br />75<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    76. 76. Story for the second step<br />“Resistance from inertia can come from commitment to status quo, fear of risk, lack of a compelling reason to buy.”<br />Again the story idea can help you out of this. Maybe a new story.<br />With a story you can also define the contest of your competition. By telling a good story, its you establishing the context. <br />76<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />
    77. 77. Story for the second step<br />You have to distinguish: <br />actions that increase (or create) conversion<br />actions that keep you visible - though the two things are not completely separate<br />77<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />
    78. 78. Down the ziggurat<br />Howto appeal tonon-technologists?<br />The story, amplified and enrichedby the press, will help a lot, because a wide spectrumof people can understandit. A featurebasedapproachherewillnot help, instead, and thisislikelyoneof the causesoffailureto cross.<br />The powerof “word ofmouth” hasbeengreatlyextendedby “word ofTwitter”.<br />78<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />
    79. 79. More…<br />Stratify your message: gossip is not the only frontier of knowledge<br />Stories are powerful, can be manipulative or educational<br />You have to understand the target’s biographic moment and area: taking care.<br />It is most important to do the analysis in terms of expense propensity of the target<br />Create a presskit page on your site pointing explicitly to the different stories.<br />79<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />
    80. 80. Image attributions<br />Photo "Day 135" by pasukaru76<br />Red and Wolf from Hoodwinked<br />Images from Balsamiq site.<br />Screenshots from <br /><br /><br /><br />80<br />Wednesday, June 22, 2011<br />Story tell your (Software) product<br />