How you tell your story matters

I'm not telling you anything new

How you tell your story matters a lot. It's the difference between being remembered, and not. It's the difference between someone paying you money, and not. And most importantly, it's the difference between a customer sharing your story with their friends, and not.

You have to take a corner. And you have to tell your story in a way that differentiates you. You know all of this.

But today I want to challenge HOW you tell the story. You know, from the guy who tells stories a lot (and even has a storytelling course).

Here's how most people sell their products

Most product companies tell their story in four parts:

  1. Headline that tells you what class they're in, while telling you they're best in class
  2. Paragraph that tries to flush out more of their solution description
  3. List of super cool, and often technical, features that prove they're awesome
  4. Some form of testimonials or social proof showing others who think they're awesome

Why is this how the story is told? Because we forget that we're deep in the domain of our own product. We're specialists. So we forget what it's like to be newbies. And since we forget it, we can't write for them. You can't tell your story because you've forgotten what it's like to approach your product for the first time.

If I went to your homepage to read it, would it treat me as an insider, or someone new to your product?

You've heard people say, “Sell benefits, not features”

I know you've heard it. I've heard it. And yet, I bet when we head to your site, we'll see a lit of features.

Because not writing about features is hard.

But even if you write about the benefits as you tell your story, my guess is that your benefits are for insiders. Meaning that I have to be “in the know” for your benefits to make sense.

It's a problem of perspective. And the truth is that it's really hard to step out of our own shoes and put ourselves in the shoes of others.

Let's look at a great example of a technology company putting themselves back into the shoes of their customers before they start to tell their story.

LastPass and how they tell their story

Let me share with you the trick I use when working with product companies on their copy. It's really simple and you can do it yourself. You can try it when looking at this image.

Ask yourself if they're telling you how.

Our tendency – yours and mine – is to talk about how. Because we're insiders. We're close. We can't help but think that our readers want to know how. So our solution descriptions and our feature lists all explain how.

Now read the LastPass homepage. Do they tell you how? Nope.

You want to know how to tell your story the right way? Especially if we're talking about technology products…. Stop telling people how you make the magic work. Or at least, put it on another page.

Check out how BlogVault tells their story

You know what I'm going to tell you, right? Backups are, like password management tools, uniquely and specifically very technical. But instead of explaining how their technology works, they focus on three benefit statements:

  • They're trustworthy – they provide backups for more than 400,000 sites
  • They have a 100% track record of restores – and recover sites faster than others by 70%
  • They migrate sites quicker by 80% – supporting more than 5,000 hosts

Questions to ask yourself as you shape how you tell your story

I know getting out of your own shoes is hard. I know putting on the perspective of your customers is work. So here are a few questions that may help you get to where you need to be, in order to tell your story in a compelling way.

  • If someone doesn't use us, what could happen to them?
  • When we ask people why they picked us, what do they say?
  • Of customers that have been with us for years, why do they keep coming back?
  • How are we different than most of the solutions we compete with?

Those are just a start. I hope they help push you to tell your story from the outside in, instead of from the inside out.

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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