Marketing, Talking to Customers

The Power of Story in Marketing


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The Author as Technology Spokesperson at TI

Years ago, I was a Product Marketing Engineer at Texas Instruments (TI). In that role I wore many hats — writer, event planner, conference speaker, technology spokesperson on radio and television, tradeshow manager, and more.

One of the biggest hats I wore was to present to customers about our artificial intelligence (AI) products — the artificial intelligence expert system software for the PC called Personal Consultant and the LISP machine Explorer. I got quite good at assessing customers’ needs before meeting with them and tailoring my presentation to them. So good, for example, that I was hand picked to present in front of 500 people at a conference in Bogota, Colombia and to the Young President’s Organization there.

One thing I learned rather quickly was the power of story. I loved to tell the story of a guy who worked for the Campbell Soup Company. Campbell had several multi-story vats around the country that were used to heat huge numbers of soup cans to make sure the soup inside was safe. Sometimes these enormous vats would break down and this one guy was the only person in the world who had the expertise to fix them. He was nearing retirement and they needed to capture his expertise and put it into an expert system, which was an AI software program on a PC, so that technicians could take advantage of his expertise to solve problems. Campbell Soup used TI’s Personal Consultant and it functioned like an expert-in-a-computer.

Depending on how I slanted this story or other stories like it, a glint of recognition appeared in the eyes of manufacturers or other customers as I told the story. They could see how (as I hammered home how this story was relevant to them) they, too, could benefit from using Personal Consultant. I told the story of the Campbell Soup guy through a slide presentation and showed actual pictures of the guy, the huge vat, etc. Of course we had Campbell Soup’s written permission to tell this story and that’s essential.

When you are talking to customers about your product(s) and/or services, tell them a story that they can relate to. Then show them the similarities in how the story you told them relates to them. If I can help you develop the narrative of a story through a presentation, case study, success story, or speech, let me know. Once you have a compelling story, you can tweak it slightly for each prospect or customer and use it over and over to market your products and services. People love a good story!

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