Communication Toggle

Storytelling: The Resonance Step

Something interesting happened the other day. I was talking with a CEO of a site that matches businesses with advanced searches – days after we first installed some tracking software and he gave a quick phone call to a user that had come to the site and done a test search. Are you doing a real search at this moment? Yes said the customer. Would you like to do a full version, we will even waive the cost? No, you’re alright says the customer. How do you deal with this?

I think the first thing to say is that it’s not easy. We listen to customers on day one. We ask them questions about themselves. We ask them what they are trying to achieve. We ask what kind of problems they have and what kind of things they have previously done to solve them and we ask what happened last time they had this problem. Eventually, we get to an intelligent hypothesis and get some validation, screenshots, prototypes, sales – you name it. Yet, some months later most customers don’t bite. What’s going on, and more importantly what do we do about it?

When we listen to stories, it has been proven that our way of understanding these stories is by making comparison to similar events that happened to us. If someone is telling us how afraid they were when they saw that deadly spider, we might recall that time we were inches away from a deadly snake. If some tells us a story of a hilarious mix-up of people, we think back about how we have had similar hilarious situations. We pull those emotions up. It’s how stories work.

When visits your website or tries your product, they are for a few seconds listening to your story. The problem is of course that their ability to understand your story and furthermore, your story-telling is that it depends on this resonance within the visitors previous experience – and her seeing this resonance.  This is step 1. You have to tell your story in such a way that she is nodding her head, going “yes, I know that problem all too well”.

And then step 2 is that you need to convince that your way of solving it is such that any of her fears are soothed. What if its not secure? Might my boss be disappointed I took this course of action? How much does this cost? Who are these guys?

Most products fail at the first story-telling hurdle. If you’re able to generate this resonance, then you buy time to explain why there are no reasons to be afraid. It doesn’t guarantee success but it does give you time to show your empathy. If you can do step 1, you can do step 2 in my experience. But don’t fall at the first hurdle.

About the author

Patrick Patrick O’Malley is an Internet and web professional passionate about building products that people love.

Now a product based consultant, he is ex-Head of Product, Yahoo! Answers, ex-Head of Operations MoveMe and an Imperial MBA.

Based in Paris (a bit) and London (a bit).

You can follow him on and Twitter or check his bio

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