by Zoe Grant
The best products fail all the time: just ask RJ Reynolds or Friendster. These companies had capital, committed teams, and even some happy customers — but still failed in spite of their products. Why is a great product not enough?
Company leaders intuitively understand the need for their product. But because they spend so much time, energy and effort on building it, they can lose sight of the problem they built the product to solve in the first place. In these leaders’ minds, the products’ features and benefits speak for themselves, and should be enough to persuade a prospect to convert. However, focusing exclusively on a product’s features and benefits does not convert prospects — because it assumes that people make logical buying decisions.
The reality? Customers don’t make decisions purely rooted in logic.
Because customers’ decisions are influenced by a variety of factors, including their biases and habits, messaging that relies on using logic will not resonate with them. McKinsey concluded that “the emotional dimensions of the brand really matter,” which is why companies with strong brands outperform companies with weak branding by 20 percent.
Since it is impossible to truly make a rational decision as a customer, people don’t automatically choose the “best” product in a certain category. They buy the one that “feels” right, at times even ignoring negative factors to connect with a company that shares their values, resonates with their personality, and speaks to their aspirations.The only way to communicate these more abstract concepts so they feel as tangible as product features? The brand’s strategic narrative.
Story is what makes a brand essential, and motivates people to buy its products.
John Burke, Oracle’s former group VP for global Sales Support, shared a great example of this:
“Before I was conscious about my storytelling, I would talk about facts and figures: this much faster, that much productivity improvement, etc. and after a typical speech I’d get one or two people who wanted to speak with me. Now that I’m telling real stories that exhibit real emotion and real humility, I have 20 or 30 people come up afterwards. Some of them say to me things like: ‘that’s the first time Oracle ever admitted that they weren’t perfect, that was cool can we talk more about how Oracle can help my company with…’”
Oracle’s incredible success selling complex products (all with great, detailed features and benefits) through story exemplifies how pivoting from relying solely on facts, figures and logic, to instead, appealing to people’s emotions, evokes the desired behavior from prospects and consumers.
In order to appeal to people through story, a company must:
- Identify and speak to the prospect’s pain points
- Demonstrate that it understands where the prospect is coming from
- Establish its own credibility as being capable of resolving the prospect’s pain points
- Highlight its what differentiates it from the competition
- Illustrate a world in which the customer’s pain points are solved
Burke was able to engage significantly more people by telling a story that touched on these points. He summed this phenomenon up saying:
“A good story engages you from the minute it begins, and that’s something that is really valuable when you’re talking with customers.”
So, what to do with all those amazing features and benefits that make your product unique? Don’t discard them. Instead, think of those as the reason to believe your brand’s story. To drive customer behavior, remember customers don’t make decisions purely rooted in logic. Companies must address customer pain points and make the case for why and how they are uniquely suited to solve these pain points; and when they’ve won that emotional sale — let a great product close the deal.