Hi, Liza! As our director of strategy & commercialisation, you recently guested the SaaS Nordic conference—known to be the largest B2B SaaS Community in the Nordics. Tell us about your speech?
“Yes, I spoke about aligning your company strategy and message with your customer’s experiences. As a result, you and your strategy are infinitely more relevant for your audience. I then gave examples of how to do it and my experiences throughout the years creating over 50 strategic narratives at Visma.
That’s a whole lot! I guess we live and act in a world right now where company growth is impacted by how well we connect with our customers. How do we go about that?
“Customers no longer, if they ever, wish to hear about features and new modules. They want to feel that our offering actually resonates with their daily challenges. That we exist to make their life better in one way or another, and that what we spend months and years developing, actually has a connection with the reality they live in. We want them to imagine what their work life would be like if someone solved their biggest problem.”
“Customers no longer, if they ever, wish to hear about features and new modules. They want to feel that our offering actually resonates with their daily challenges.”
So the important thing here isn’t to push your product or the solution in itself, but explaining how you can provide the audience with the outcome they strive for?
“Yes, that’s what makes you more credible. For those representing a company, it feels quite nice to be able to show and tell the customer, or their neighbours for that matter, that – yes, we understand these challenges, and we’ve found a solution to it. That’s why we’re here!”
Yes, but often, websites and presentations boil down to complicated technical illustrations, features and graphs?
“Exactly. Wouldn’t it be more effective if your customers had an emotional connection with your company and products? Just think how much easier it would be to have the initial conversation, as well as nailing the deal when the communication speaks directly to the customer. Not to mention recruiting the right people. I firmly believe that all companies, products and services could benefit from a strategic narrative, or a story.”
So is storytelling just a new way for marketing to convey a message? I have a feeling you think it is something more?
“Most definitely. When I work with companies in Visma, I always involve the owner of the product and, if it is a company story, the managing director, to create clear ownership. They’re the ones who have to develop and own the strategy, take potential consequences and talk about the strategy internally and externally. To quote one of my other house gods, Ben Horowitz from Andreessen-Horowitz: ‘The mistake people make is thinking the story is just about marketing. No, the story is the strategy. If you make your story better, you make the strategy better’. A strategic narrative comes first – then marketing can use it to build the message – but the narrative really is the raison d’être for the company.“
And how exactly do you approach strategy with storytelling in mind?
”In my opinion, to create a good strategy you should start with the value you create for your customers. If this resonates, you build your profit. We sometimes see companies with great ideas, but if the customer benefit and willingness to pay isn’t clear, the idea doesn’t become commercially successful. This is why data and insight are your best friends in both processes. You have to know your customers on a very detailed level in order to form the strategy and later the strategic narrative. The companies who best understand the customers are the ones who can communicate this most clearly – and win the customers’ trust.”
“You have to know your customers on a very detailed level in order to form the strategy and later the strategic narrative. The companies who best understand the customers are the ones who can communicate this most clearly – and win the customers’ trust.”
We know you to be a storytelling junkie – the best kind! Recently you took a leap from your 10 years in product management, to dig further into product marketing and later strategy. What were your favourite findings?
“I had of course seen and read much by Simon Sinek, and seen various TED Talks on the subject of product marketing. But I was looking for more. How do I create a good framework for storytelling that I can spread to my colleagues? My late-night googling of ‘best sales-deck’ led me to an article by Andy Raskin called The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen. This became a bit of an obsession for me and my team, and I strongly urge every managing director to read it. It is them that ultimately owns the strategy. What I like the most during the process is that we very often have to make changes to the strategy, based on the input we get in the research phase. That means we’re onto something!”
But is there proof that a good story sells stuff better, or is it just a gut feeling?
“Well, apart from the numerous successful companies that we connect with a good story – and often great product or service – there have been many tests. Personally, I like the experiment by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn. These two writers purchased 200 objects for $1.25 a piece on average, had authors create a story connected to it and then sold them again on eBay for nearly $8,000.”
That’s such a cool proof of theory!
“It definitely proves that creating good stories resonates with people. Storytelling is key to sales and hiring velocity, as mentioned by Andy Raskin when speaking at Hypergrowth. But more importantly, good stories ensure the customer that they’ve made the right choice in listening to you and buying your product. At the same time it provides everyone in a company with a story to tell, helping to spread the word, one dinner party at a time. Isn’t that nice?”
“I firmly believe that all companies, products and services could benefit from a strategic narrative, or a story”