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Get Your Story Straight... Because It's the Key to Your Success

by Robert M. Wright  |  
August 1, 2012
  |  11,036 views

What do top technology companies have in common? Think about Apple, Cisco, Salesforce.com, IBM, VMware, Riverbed, Workday. What separates market leaders and category creators from the rest of the pack?

They tell powerful stories.

Stories matter. We see it over and over again: Companies that capitalize on an inflection point and grab a leadership position always have a thought-provoking point of view that resonates with buyers. Customers buy into the story before they buy the solution.

And a story is more than a slogan or a catchy tagline. It's offering a different perspective, not just pushing a product. It's a crisp, clear way of communicating how a company or a product will solve a big, hairy problem for customers. It comes from putting the customer's needs and requirements first, not the technology or the company's agenda.

Look at Cisco. The company wasn't founded to sell routers and switches. It started when a husband and wife wanted to email each other from different offices at Stanford and they couldn't. So they created the multiprotocol router and solved the problem. They didn't launch a product—they solved a problem and created a powerful story and different point of view. And they instilled a customer-first, problem-solving culture at Cisco. You know the rest of that story.


Need other examples? Look at game-changing CEOs Marc Benioff, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos. They disrupted markets and catapulted their companies into legendary status with conversations that reframed buyers' problems and offered neat solutions. They articulated their company's value in simple, concise positioning stories and narratives that offered a new perspective to buyers.

So if a great story is the key to success, why doesn't every technology company have one? The reason is simple.

All too often, the responsibility for positioning is taken on by tech CEOs or product managers who are in love with their technology. And technology moves to the forefront of the story. Wrong. Buyers don't care what's cool about your technology or your intellectual property (IP). They care what it does for them.


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Robert M. Wright is founder and managing director of Firebrick, a strategy consulting firm that has helped Microsoft, Workday, Citrix Online, Riverbed, Autonomy, AppSense, Symantec, and dozens of other companies drive revenue growth with positioning and changes in strategy.

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  • by @barrettrossie Wed Aug 1, 2012 via web

    Robert, that's an excellent way of looking at storytelling in specific and strategic messages in general. You've kept the customer's needs front and center and aligned the story to it. Outstanding.

    So you've worked with Microsoft? What would you suggest for them? (Or would answering that get you in hot water?)

    Thanks for a great post.

  • by bob wright Thu Aug 2, 2012 via web

    thanks for your reply. Microsoft needs to become relevant again. THe PC is being replaced by the cloud as the platform of the future. I can't comment on the specific work we did for them. THanks for understanding.

  • by @barrettrossie Thu Aug 2, 2012 via web

    Understand completely. I feel bad for Microsoft (imagine that!) because they've generated a lot of value for the world. Yet there are still some things they don't seem to get. Best wishes Bob!

  • by @ginadanford Fri Aug 3, 2012 via web

    Great article Robert! Storytelling is a quick way to build connections and relationships with a client base. The application extends beyond tech because of the customer centric approach you outlined. Brilliant!

  • by Holt Sat Aug 4, 2012 via web

    When you tell succesfully company stories, the costumer wantīs to be a part of the success.
    Donīt hesitate to include the costumer into company success.
    Apple is a success and everybody wantīs to be a part of this by showing other Colleague that they uses Apple products

  • by @alutovsky Fri Sep 7, 2012 via web

    Loved the article Robert. Great nuggets of truths.

  • by Sherrema Tue Oct 2, 2012 via web

    Robert: This is an excellent article. As a marketer we in general seek to fill a need. As we focus more on solving a problem the engagement process has more impact.

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