The Basics of Storytelling for Product Managers — And Why It Matters

As a product manager, if anyone asks you what makes your product unique and better than the competition, you’ll be able to give them a full list of reasons that rationally support your argument including features, price, performance, variations, among others.

Moreover, you’re probably using those same reasons to communicate with potential customers. Yet, what most product managers miss is the emotional connection that drives customers’ decisions.

As most marketers and branding experts know, people buy stories, not products. Do the millions of people who visit Starbucks everyday truly believe it’s the best tasting coffee available?

Or do they like the way that iconic cup looks in their hand?

As a product manager, you don’t just have to tell that story to your customers, but also to the teams involved in development, management, and stakeholders.

To tell better product stories and inspire customer into action, many use Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle approach.

Start with the why

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As much as we like to think that we’re rational beings, we make decisions based on emotions and feelings.

Start your stories with what’s your company’s purpose, cause or belief.

  • Do you want to change the world through education?
  • Do you believe in making health accessible to everyone?
  • Do you want to enable people to get the most out of every hour of the day? This is an excellent way to start since it gets your customers pumped and excited to be a part of what you’re doing.

As Sinek puts it: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Your ‘why’ is what sets you apart from other businesses with similar products, helping customers stay choose you in the first place and then stay loyal to you. Every good product has a North Star, the trick is translating it in a way that makes sense to your customers.

Give them the how

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Once you’ve made people care about your story, it’s time to talk about how you’re pursuing that goal. Give the customer your unique value proposition. Have you designed a new technology? Are you taking advantage of market trends in an innovative way? Are you disrupting a market with your business model? It is important that you convince the audience that you have what it takes to achieve your purpose.

One way to do this is to make sure you communicate what’s happening behind the scenes to your customers and even potential shareholders. Google does this very well through projects like Think With Google, where they share information on their inner-workings.

Finish with the what

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Counterintuitively, your actual product is the last thing you should talk about. The reason being that customers can’t tell the difference between your product and the competitor’s because they don’t have as much information as you and are not interested in it either.

However, now that you’ve caught them in your story you can finish strong and blow their minds with your product’s features and specs. They won’t understand how they’ve lived without it.

Storytelling is an important and often overlooked part of a Product Manager’s job.

It is a valuable skill to inspire customers, motivate employees and get support from the higher management. If you’re transitioning into product management, this framework can even help you craft your story for your upcoming interviews.

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