Hey everyone, welcome to this session on product launches. This is Dan. Today’s topic is how to use storytelling in product launches and I’m going to teach you three frameworks you can copy to craft your launch story. I’m the Director of Marketing at Privy. I lead both brand and product marketing at Privy. Formerly at Drift, I lead the product marketing efforts over there. I was named one of the top 50 product marketing influencers of 2019 last year.
The most important thing, because we’re going to have a product launch is I have a lot of experience there. I’ve actually launched over 60 and you can also see this logo in the bottom right corner, theproductlaunchmasterclass.com. That’s my class, my course that I put together on product launches. I actually just launched about a month or two ago and you can check that out.
This session is actually an excerpt from that so I took one of the chapters. The course is 78 minutes long and it’s a lot of different stuff, but this is one of the chapters on positioning. So you’re gonna hear basically my take and how to do your positioning for your launches.
Let’s start with why are we talking about product launches in a business storytelling conference? Well, the answer is I can’t think of a better way to tell your product’s story than with a launch. Obviously, I’m a little biased because I have a lot of experience here and I spent a lot of time on launches, but I’ve done so many of them. The best way of telling your product’s story, whether that’s a brand new product or a feature or a solution or something else is really with a launch.
When we talk about storytelling in launches, we often use the term positioning. What is positioning? That’s really what we’re going to dive into today. Positioning is really just about telling the right story. That’s what it’s all about.
It’s setting the right context. So let’s talk about specifically what you’re going to learn in the next 30 minutes or so.
How to find the right story using my three positioning frameworks that I use every time I’m working on a launch. We’ll look at product launch examples from Basecamp and Apple. We’ll actually going to show you one from Privy as well. All of those are examples that you can take and you can use for your next launch.
And then why you should be organizing more product launches for your business even if you’re not a marketing expert. By the way, my presumption here is that most of you aren’t marketing experts. I know you’re CEO, founders, investors, this is all geared towards people that aren’t marketing experts so don’t worry. You don’t have to be a VP of marketing to get something out of this session today.
So this is an excerpt from my course. Usually, by the time someone gets to this chapter and is looking at learning about positioning, I’ve kind of given them a lot of context around launches and taught my framework, but there are really three main parts. I just want to sort of quickly set the stage here.
There are really three main parts of a product launch. It’s setting a launch goal and finding your launch audience, then writing your positioning that tells a compelling story, and then executing your launch. Those were sort of the three phases. This one is really geared towards writing the positioning that tells a compelling story. That’s who we’re going to be talking about today.
By the way, I’ve referenced a couple of times now these three frameworks that I’m going to teach you today. Let me just quickly tell you these are the three frameworks. It’s the NHS system and I’ll explain exactly what that is. We’re going to talk about pain mapping. That’s a framework that I want to teach you today. Then we’re also going to talk about a story deck, which is something that you’re gonna need to do for your product launches.
By the way, I also keep referencing this course, theproductlaunchmasterclass.com. Let’s talk about positioning.
One of the parts of product marketing I’m so fascinated with and I love learning about it. I actually recently bought April Dunford, obviously. Awesome book. That’s the name of the title, by the way, it’s called ‘Obviously Awesome’. I’m actually holding it right here in my hand. I pulled it out to make sure I was telling the right story here. This is a tweet I shared a couple of weeks ago about why positioning is so important and just screenshot it. I didn’t want to try to retell it in some other format. I just took a picture of the book, this chapter, this section of the book and shared it because it’s just so good. And I wanted to share it with you today, this story because I think it’s really important to understand why positioning is so important and why you want to invest your time into it and make sure you get it right.
So this is the story from April Dunford’s book. So there’s this chapter and she’s talking about how positioning is really about context setting and how that’s so important. And then she starts telling the story of how The Washington Post did this experiment with an internationally acclaimed violinist. His name is Joshua Bell and his music was described in papers or in magazines as like does nothing more than tell human beings why they live. So clearly this guy is pretty good at playing the violin. He’s world-renowned and he regularly sells out concert halls for $300 or more a ticket. This guy is clearly one of the best.
So they ran this experiment where they took him and they had him basically set up as a street performer outside of a subway station in Washington DC and they just wanted to see what would happen. How would people react? There were no signs that said this guy is who he is. He’s just some guy with the violin playing on the sidewalk, as many of us who’ve taken the subway see every single day. And so he sat out there for 45 minutes and they actually staged it and they watched it. They counted over a thousand people walked by in that 45 minutes, only 27 gave him money and only seven paused to listen. He made a total of like $32 while it was street performing.
Remember this is a world-renowned guy whose music has been described as does nothing more than tell human beings why they live and who sell regularly sells out concert halls for $300 a ticket. And the guy makes $32 just doing a street performing. In fact, there was, there was part of this story where the shoe stand guy in the subway who’s somewhere nearby, they interviewed him after and he was saying, he was so annoyed by how loud the music was. He almost called the cops on this guy, a world-renowned violinist because no one knows who he is. That’s the whole thing about context setting and positioning.
The story is basically without the right context, you don’t really know. That’s the same product. It’s the same guy playing the same violin that he plays in concert halls, where he’s performing for thousands of people sold-out audiences. And so when we talk about positioning, the right positioning has the power to change your business outcome. Just look at Joshua and the context setting of him sitting as a street performer versus onstage in a tuxedo probably playing for an audience. It’s a huge difference. So the right positioning has the power to change your business outcome.
I just want you to know that. I want you to believe that. April Dunford, this book is amazing. She tells a lot of different stories of businesses and examples where the right positioning did make a big difference in the outcome. Highly recommended. Again, that book is called ‘Obviously Awesome’ by April Dunford.
Let’s get into my framework. I only have 30 minutes with you so I’m not going to go into crazy detail, but I want to give you some basics and that’s what my course teaches you. Some basics for setting up a product launch and doing the positioning, especially for people that aren’t marketing experts.
So this is the first framework. I just call it the NHS positioning framework. You can see, obviously, it’s named after the components of it, Name, Headline, Story. So it’s nothing really fancy. Maybe I could’ve come up with a fancier name for it, but I just wanted to keep it simple so you remember it. The name, the headline, and the story. These are the most important parts of the positioning for your product launch.
What is the name of the product? What is the headline you want to put on a blog post or press release? And then what is the story? In a few short paragraphs, what is the story which focuses on these main benefits? That’s the NHS framework. I’m going to show you today how to do it. Before we talk about how to get to find the name, the headline, the story, let’s look at a couple of examples.
This is Apple. This is a press release from 2001 when they launched the iPod. That was a very long time ago. And so the positioning might not be as resonant with you today because we live in a different world where we don’t have CD players. The product name: Apple’s iPod. The headline: ultra-portable MP3 music player puts 1000 songs in your pocket. And then the benefits: Apple today introduce iPod, a breakthrough MP3 music player that packs up to a thousand CD-quality songs into an ultra-portable 6.5-ounce design that fits in your pocket. And you can actually see what they did in their press release.
They’re telling their story right there. They’re including the main benefits. They’ve put the most important benefit in the headline, which is that it basically replaces having to have a thousand songs or dozens of CDs. You just put it right in your pocket. So I actually stole this framework from them. This is how they do it. They always do a press release with a big product launch.
If you look at another example, MacBook Air. Apple introduces MacBook Air, the world’s thinnest notebook. This is a little bit different. I’m not going to read this one for the sake of time, but if you’re looking at it, they include the main benefits in their story of what they are launching. And they obviously have a killer headline here – the thinnest notebook. Clearly their positioning around at this point, I believe this was in 2008, people that have laptops, they’re gonna use it. They’re big, they’re clunky, they’re heavy. You’re commuting, you gotta put in a backpack or briefcase or whatever. And so, they’re obviously positioning around. They want to be the thinnest and guess what? They’re the world’s thinnest, so they can own that space. So positioning can be extremely powerful.
Let’s talk about names. How do you decide on what the name of your product should be? I actually have a couple of recommendations here. The most important thing I’d say is don’t worry about naming it something that users will understand or like even. The job of the name isn’t to describe the benefit. It isn’t. It’s to be aspirational. It’s to be memorable above all and hopefully fit your brand. It’s not supposed to be super user-friendly. Focus on things like iPod and Airbook are good examples. Those are memorable names.
Airbook kind of tells you a little bit about the benefit, but the idea is that no customer would have used those words to describe either of those products prior. Find something they are gonna read, and they’re gonna remember, and then they’re gonna come back later and probably investigate it further.
Your headline. So this is a little different, this is actually different advice from the name. For the name, it doesn’t matter as much about the benefit. For the headline, it absolutely does. The way to think about your headline, the way to approach it is like what you want your headline to do is stop someone dead in their tracks. Someone that just kinda like, I was just sitting on my couch, had Twitter open and I was just scrolling through just checking on my newsfeed what’s going on in the world. It’s gotta be a headline that if I’m scrolling through it, I stop and I say I got to open this and I got to read this right now. That’s the mission with your headline.
Remember when you’re writing your headline, you know behind the scenes why you think it’s so important. But no one is actively on Twitter looking for what you’re launching. Very rarely does that happen. So it’s gotta be something that’s like, they stop, they realize they need to read it and they have to click on it. Apple did a great job with the MacBook Air, the world’s thinnest notebook, and with the iPod, an ultra portable MP3 music player that puts a thousand songs in your pocket. Really emphasizing that main benefit. Especially in 2001, if I’m using CD players and I’m carrying around dozens of CDs and I see that headline somewhere, it says put a thousand songs in your pocket with an MP3 player. That’s gonna make me stop and pay attention.
And then how to find your benefits. I’m going to talk about this in the second framework in a second. But the thing here is like you know your business. I think you probably know your core benefits that your product delivers on. Remember those. Hopefully, you validated all those with your customers, but the thing is with your benefits. Well, a couple of things, one is you should have three main benefits. That’s just a simple writing copywriting rule. People are fascinated with things that come in three. So I would have three main benefits when you’re working up what those are. The way to get them is to work with your beta users, probably your product managers if they’re involved or your engineers. People who are talking to customers. If you’re already in the market, it’s really important. I would say product managers can be helpful, but they shouldn’t be the end all be all for defining what those benefits are.
Let’s talk about my second framework actually. It’s pain mapping. What you really want to do is find the pain and tie it to a solution. This is an exercise I would suggest you do. Whether you’re a product marketer, product manager, CEO, investor, whatever, this is the way of doing it as from a pain mapping. It’s the framework I would suggest. And it’s really silly simple. Pains are way easier to identify with customers and benefits. They’re not calling up saying this is the benefit I need. It’s the solution I need. They’re calling you up saying, Hey, these are the problems I have. This is what I need to solve. So I always use systems like Gong, which helps you record your calls. I’ve always used those and what I do is I’ll go in and I’ll look at calls that maybe reference the problem I’m looking for, or I’ll just start listening to calls.
When I find that problem and I hear someone say, I just copy and paste. In Gong, you can actually get a transcript of the call, which is great. I just copy and paste exactly what they said and I would put it on the left side here. Pains in this example, this is just a made-up demo company, but let’s say I’m a product marketer over there ad I’m going through my calls. I hear someone say, I can’t log in while I’m working from my car. And let’s say, the whole goal here at launch is like we’re launching a mobile app. So the solution there is this new mobile app. You can access it from anywhere at any time. Now I’ve mapped my solution to the pain point of the words directly out of my customer’s mouth and I’ve tied it to a solution. Again, you want to try to come up with three of those and that’s going to be weaved into your story.
The other thing I want to say about coming up with your positioning. You would go in right now on Google and key in positioning templates, positioning documents, and you’ll find probably hundreds of thousands of different examples. I’ve used them plenty in my career, but I’ve since stopped using them as of a couple of years ago, because really what I realized with my product launches is that when I’m working on positioning, a template doesn’t really do a good job of telling the story. So I needed something else. What I like to do is a story deck. Because when you think about a positioning doc, it’s kind of like product tiers. You’re going to run these activities for a product based on if it’s a brand new thing for the market, or if you’re copying a competitor and you kind of have this cookie-cutter approach. Positioning docs don’t really help you really dig into what is the problem you’re solving and then come up with that story.
And so the other part of it too with positioning templates is they aren’t visual. They don’t help you come up with the visual element and compose that story. Whereas a deck, a story deck actually will. This is my formula. I shared this not so long ago. Actually, this is a couple of months old, but I shared this on LinkedIn a couple of months ago. I said, Hey, this is my winning formula after having done like 60 plus product launches. I jot down the story after I’ve done that pain mapping and I’ve identified the main benefits and what is the story I want to tell. I just jot it down on paper, maybe I put it in Evernote, or I write it down on my notebook. And then I start turning that story into a deck. I don’t use bullets.
Like the traditional story deck, you see a little bit of that in this deck today but I don’t use a lot of bullet points. I really like to use images and headlines, so words and images to tell that story. And then when they do, as I start recording it like I’m doing right now, I’m recording this on Drift video. I do the exact same thing when I’m working on my story decks for my launches. I record myself and I do it again and again. What happens is every time I do it, I realized I should have done it this way or I could try to change this. I also will take the recordings and I’ll send them to people. Not necessarily my boss or my CEO or something like that, but people that are actually on the front lines working with our customers.
That’s one way that I approach it. Story deck is that third framework. Creating a story that is way better than a positioning document. Here’s an example. I kind of redacted half of it. Basically, this is a real launch I did years ago, and this is really the template I was using for it. This isn’t gonna help me craft that story. When we talk about a story deck, this third framework that I think is really important for putting together your positioning for your launch. Let’s talk about some of the core components of what should be in that story deck.
So what should you cover? You first want to start with a problem. It should tie directly to your headline. This was the headline for a launch we did. Privy email, the fastest way to set up your email automation for your Shopify store.
And then this was the hook. This was the problem we presented with. So basically we an e-commerce, we integrate very closely with Shopify. A lot of Shopify merchants will use Privy. We basically led with MailChimp and Shopify. So the number one tool people were using for email, MailChimp. Well, guess what, these companies actually broke up and their integration longer works. So we led with that in our launch, “Hey, this integration no longer works. So checkout Privy. We’re actually the fastest way to set up your email automation for your Shopify store. We anchored around automation.”
And as I started talking about the second part of the story deck, the second component is how is your product uniquely suited to solve that problem that you just presented? How are you the ones uniquely suited? Again with Privy email, we talked about how we integrate with Shopify. It helps merchants set up their email automation. Here’s an example of it – your abandoned cart sequence. This is something that you’d set up in Privy email. It’ll make you more money, 24 hours a day without you doing a thing. Our whole goal here is to anchor around small e-commerce businesses that don’t have a lot of time. They’ve got to do a million different things, so they can set up their email automation. It works for them 24 hours. It makes them more money. That’s exactly the message we wanted to hit to this audience.
And then the third part of that story deck, how does your audience take advantage of this solution? And this is the CTA. This is straightforward. So Privy email starts at just $13 a month for your first 1,000 contacts and then $5 after that. No setting limits no annual commitment. That’s how we take action. So that’s really the story deck.
Just to recap this positioning approach. Start with pain mapping. Go in there and do the research. Take the words right out of their mouth, and then tie that to the solutions of whatever it is you’re launching. Then you work on your NHS positioning framework. From there, you can craft that into a story deck and then start recording that positioning. Eventually, you’ll have one final recording, which is the positioning, the definitive guide. You take that and you go, and you execute on your launch.
I have a couple of tips here. So first of all, this is a mistake a lot of product marketers make for the first time or anyone managing a launch for the first time. They make this mistake. You don’t want to reinvent your position along the way. Once you have that final positioning and you know your story, go tell the same story again. And again, it’s repetitive, but that’s fine. If I’m launching a video, a blog post and a customer email and my story is that Infinity’s new mobile app work from anywhere. I’m telling that story again and again and again, different format, but I’m telling the same story again. I’m not reinventing it. I’m not trying different things.
Something that happens a lot or a question I get a lot when I talk to people about launches is how do you know when your positioning is actually ready to launch? When is it done? The trick here is that it’s really tough. You’d never really know. There’s never like a checkbox or like some definitive confirmation that it’s done. But what I like to do is after I finish, well, actually what I should say, let me start by. I had this problem of I would spend so much time working on my positioning. It was super painful. And my V1 just took so long to get from zero to something to have like the first version of my positioning. And then I would just stare at it and work on it. And I would write, I’d be staring at a Google Doc for days and days and days, and I’m wasting time really.
What I realized, the best thing for me to do is like put aside my ego and trying to get it to have a V1 that I’m proud of and ready to present. Put that aside, take my V1 in whatever state it is. As long as it’s pretty good and it feels this is something, and then go present it to my product managers, my sales reps, my CSMs, even customers, if you have that opportunity and I would go pitch to them. After you’ve done that many times, maybe half a dozen to a dozen times, your V2 just starts writing itself. Because you’re realizing stuff every time you talk about it. You’re getting feedback from the people you care most about feedback from. And then suddenly it just gets better. It’s a faster way of producing that positioning.
So let me just recap all this stuff we just talked about. Start with pain mapping and then use the NHS framework to write your positioning. Make your product name memorable. Don’t focus on event, on a benefit, make it a memorable name. That’s what you should be focused on for the product name. Positioning – don’t tell a story. So try a deck and a video instead. I’ve used that for years and that is the best process that I’ve found that works. Don’t reinvent your positioning every time. Stay on script, keep saying the same thing again, and again, be repetitive. That’s what works because that’s what you want your customers to see. You want them to see the same message, no matter what channel they’re seeing your launch on. And then go pitch your view. Don’t wait, put your ego aside. Perfect is the enemy of the good.
Let’s just look at a really good example. Basecamp is the example I love. They launched Hey this summer and they just nailed it. They had a huge launch. I thought their positioning was amazing. So I just wanted to talk about that really quickly. There’s really two jobs that their positioning had to do. The first was showed that this is an innovative new product and the second is to get people thinking about how bad Gmail is. So they’re really competing with Gmail. This is by the way their homepage. This is what they launched when we went to market and they made all this noise and got tens of thousands of people to sign up. So when you’re thinking about I gotta do a video, I gotta do all these graphics, I gotta do all this stuff, look how simple this page is. It’s just words. They just focused on the positioning and it clearly worked for them. They had tens of thousands of people on their wait lists, hundreds of thousands of people that actually got into the product. Huge success for them. I wanted to just go through this. And again, we only have a few minutes, but if you were to read through this letter, I’ll just start it.
“It’s 2020. We need to talk about email. Email gets a bad rap, but it shouldn’t. Email is a treasure. It feels great to get an email from someone you care about or a newsletter you enjoy, or an update from a service you like. That’s how email used to feel all the time, but things change.”
So what they’re doing here is don’t hate email itself. Hate what it’s become. Because they’re selling an email product and then they’re basically presenting, “Hey, someone’s ruined for you.” You started getting stuff you didn’t want from people you didn’t know. It’s Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo and Apple. They just let it happen right there. They are the problem. Basically what they’re saying is marketing ruined email. Email marketing kind of ruined it for everybody.
And those that could have prevented it failed you. And then they get into and yet email remains a wonder. They’re basically making it seem like there’s still hope here. You know, it just needs a savior. And guess what, “With Hey, we’ve done just that.”
It’s the redo a rethink simplified potent reintroduction of email. A fresh start, the way it should be. And it works on all of these platforms. Guess what? Hey is that savior. So by the way, this whole thing is on their website. Actually it might be down now, but it was on hey.com – their homepage. They might’ve moved it to another page, but go read this. This is just such a great example of really strong storytelling to position their product as this savior that’s going to come in and solve a lot of problems.
There’s a little bit more here. I was going to talk about the second part, which is get people thinking about how bad Gmail is. The other thing is like the way they did this and they presented it. They had this great story and they told these these problems, but then they had this great tour. And again, think about how simple this is. This is just some words and some screenshots and some little squiggly illustrations in the background, but they didn’t overcomplicate this. “We didn’t reinvent the wheel. Only email.” It really positioned it in a really nice way to talk about features like inbox. This launch is just a masterclass in positioning and telling a really compelling story in your product launch.
If you’re interested in the course, just head over to theproductlaunchmasterclass.com. Again, I recommend the framework. That’s why I published mine. That’s why I made mine available. If you have questions or you want to follow up with something, feel free to reach out to me. You can follow me at @_danieljmurphy on Twitter, or feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Happy to answer any more questions.
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