Good Products Have Features, Great Products Have Stories.

Getting people to notice your product on the web is hard. Getting them to understand what you do is even harder. One of the biggest challenges startups face is cutting through the noise and attracting those early customers. Unfortunately, a lot of early stage companies focus on their features, building new ones and highlighting the existing ones. The companies that win focus on the stories their telling instead of their list of features.

Successful products create a strong narrative about the way their features come together, not the features themselves. Instagram isn’t a camera app with a newsfeed, it’s a way to “share moments with friends”. Simple isn’t a bank with a goals feature, it’s a way to solve all your banking woes. Evernote isn’t a notepad with and text recognition, it’s “your brain in the cloud”.

Often these stories tie into a pain point, “Sending money to friends is hard, Venmo fixes that”. Sometimes they tie into feelings, “Facebook connects you to your friends”. The stories that resonate usually aren’t about what the product does but, instead about the way it improves the lives of its users.

So, last week we launched an all new version of Dispatch. Thing is, it wasn’t really that new. There were almost no new features, we redesigned the existing stuff and made some major improvements, but the core features remained. What we did change, radically, was our story.

The big shift happened on the homepage.

We abandoned our old copy and shifted to something that fit a story we were hearing from our users. They hated their inboxes and the overwhelming volume of emails they were receiving from their team, but they didn’t like the burdens of project management tools. The big changes we made weren’t to the product but, to the stories we told about the product. We went from selling features to selling a story.

Creating a narrative that your product fits into is by no means easy. Test it and see what sticks. Go to cocktail parties and pitch a different story to every person you meet. Talk to your early active users in Intercom and tell a different story to every user. With, bit by bit, we started to see the lightbulb go off in people’s heads. As we refined the pitch, it happened more and more, blank stares turned into “I get that”.

What’s your story?


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