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product-led growth

Why a product narrative is necessary for your SaaS brand

Published February 24th, 2022

Stories. They’re often told, but rarely very well.

Elise Bentley

Sr. Director of Marketing at Tiny

Throughout our lives, we're bombarded with narratives and stories – in books, movies, podcasts, from friends or family – and their aim is to help us escape reality. Then there’s the stories from brands and companies – be they not-so-subtle advertisements, or more subtle means – trying to inspire you to buy their product.

Regardless of the method, a story is ever present.

But, what is it about those stories that cling to us? And how can that play a part in a SaaS business? Especially when it comes to SaaS user onboarding.

Stories are sticky

A well told story can transform your thinking, take you on a journey, engage and inspire. They can teach, guide, shape your views and help you accept new ideas. A well-crafted story can also create consensus and agreement amongst listeners. So, if stories can do all that, what can crafting a product narrative do for you?

The art of the story is in the science of telling it well.

What is a product narrative?

When you’ve never considered or used product narrative storytelling, there are a lot of different concepts that appear (and you may assume) are the same thing. People also often confuse a product story with the company or brand story – they’re all slightly different. It can be so confusing! Then there’s:

These are all core elements of a Product Manager’s role and are needed to create the product narrative itself. But, they don’t form the narrative. They’re complementary aspects that serve to enhance the product’s story.

A product narrative is distinctly different, yet complimentary to the overall brand story of your company. So, what exactly is a product narrative?

First let's define a narrative: it’s an ongoing story arc of connected events that support particular ideas, viewpoints and concepts. Narratives contain a central idea, around which all other aspects of the story – it's characters, plot, setting and events – support.

At Tiny, we define a product narrative as a way that Product Managers craft, own and create stories that create understanding and acceptance across stakeholders and users. Internally, the product narrative inspires teams to connect with the why of the product they’re developing.

Why develop a product narrative?

For some people, telling stories may not seem relevant or practical… especially given everything else they’re juggling every day. Afterall, isn’t it the Product Manager's key job to understand the product and deliver what the users need? So where does storytelling come into it?

The core of what most Product Managers do is tie the customer needs and organizational objectives together. They come up with roadmaps for products that they believe – based on experience and research – will turn into success stories within the general market.

Narratives pull, not push

As we all know, humans are story-oriented. And while we think our decisions are predominantly based on logic, oftentimes it's the story behind the product that's helping you make those decisions. Start-ups as a whole are embracing storytelling when they’re pitching the company to investors, so why would your product be different?

Another extension of why Product Managers should think about creating a product narrative is that it helps create consistency across the organization. It allows your Engineers, Designers, Marketers, and Executive team to easily understand what you’re trying to achieve. It can help create that rallying cry you often need (especially in tough times) and may help you decrease any internal confusion and friction relating to projects underway.

Who’s responsible for crafting the product narrative?

It does feel like the world is getting more complex and that the clear lines between your role, my role, his role, the dogs’ role, and others’ roles are disappearing. Product Managers, particularly within the SaaS space, are being asked to do more and more.

So, who’s responsible for crafting the product narrative?

First and foremost it needs to come from the Product Manager responsible for the product. It’s their vision that they’re trying to communicate across the organization, and maybe even externally into the market. That said, Marketing and its subset of specialist Product Marketers also have a place in the creation and communication of that narrative.

By embracing the combined power of both Marketing and Product, you have the ability to create a strong, cohesive story that resonates not just across the product, but across the entire brand itself.

Sometimes, there’s not strong communication between the Product and Marketing teams, or where you think Marketing is a redundant player in this topic. But, in a recent conversation with our Head of Product, Roman, it struck me that both Marketing and Product wanted the exact same thing. We both knew the pains of our customers, we both knew their desires, and it was our job to work together to come up with the solution.

Both Marketers and Product people are trying to solve the same problem – we just look at it from different angles. If we bring both those angles together, you get a more holistic view.

Marketing and Product are always trying to address the same issues and deliver the same results. By working together and supporting each other, you’re able to get better results and reduce any duplication of effort. That’s why your product narrative, whilst owned by the Product Manager is supported by Marketing.

How to create a well-crafted product narrative

The exact ‘how-to’ of creating a product narrative is beyond the scope of this article. However, we did want to share some examples of different ways to develop your own product narrative and stories:

There are loads of other articles out there that also touch on this topic. However, it’s really important to make sure you’re personalizing the story to your organization and not trying to closely follow what a competitor or other company is doing. It should be unique to you and your product needs.

Stories are the glue

Product narratives can be the glue that helps to tie your product together. How? They help you navigate stakeholder feedback, and align your organization around common goals. The process of developing, refining and maintaining your product narrative may not be an easy exercise, but it’s definitely worth the effort…especially when it produces higher results.FpFpr

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