How to craft a Powerful and Motivating Story for your Product Vision
Deciding where you want to go is hard, but creating a compelling picture of that future could be even harder
Let’s assume you have in your mind the future you want to create. You can either be someone pursuing a strong idea, or you have been following this article series and did some workshop activities to generate a shared vision of the future positioning you want to achieve.
In either case, you now need to go the extra mile and put those thoughts into an inspiring story that brings everyone on board. And it can be very hard. Having failed at it many times, I learned the hard way that there are some critical factors, for example:
There needs to be a convincing journey so that people can resonate with the importance of “adding this value”.
People should be able to empathize with the character.
People are motivated and inspired by different factors. Don’t expect everyone to be motivated by the things you are.
Following the practical spirit of these posts, let’s see what activities can help us carve this story into a real artifact.
Table of contents
Crafting a Powerful Story for your Product Vision (this article)
Day 3 - Crafting the story
(I’m following the workshop timeline and activity numbers I started in the last article. Take this “days” division with a grain of salt: the timebox depends on the complexity of the product, organization, and pre-existing material).
5. The Protagonist and “use case”
Most likely, your product covers many “personas” and different use cases. But your vision needs to be short and crisp, which means there is no time to explain all of it.
How not to do it
So, how do you choose which to showcase on your storyboard? Let’s see two potential wrong ways to do it:
If you select the most representative use case, chances are the story would not be very inspiring or motivational. While it’s great for strategy, for vision, we want to select a distinguishable character, that stands out and is easy to remember and empathize with.
On the other extreme, if you select a very singular situation, people can feel the problem is not big enough to make a difference, and the story can even feel a bit forced.
How to find the right one
So the sweet spot is someone who is not in a very small minority and has an exacerbated pain that your product can solve, and ideally, that is someone your colleagues can easily empathize with.
You can leverage a couple of existing elements to think about it:
Think about the early adopter of the positioning you come up with the previous day. Those tend to become your super users and have a stronger need to solve the problem you are dealing with.
User stories shared in the past: many companies have as part of their folklore real stories of users succeeding or solving hard problems, usually gathered through customer service teams, and later shared in all hands as exemplary situations that are repeated over time. Those can be great input because people can easily relate to and be motivated by those stories.
Highest pain points: another source can be your existing research, which can be reflected either in interview summaries, or customer journey maps, highlighting the biggest pains. If you combine the hardest pains, with the segment of users that might suffer it more heavily, you have a good motivational problem to use in your story.
Your 11-star story: finally, you already worked with some storytelling in the 11-star exercise, and chances are you already have a potential user in mind. It can be a good starting point for the complete story you will now create.
A few years ago, we were working on the product vision for a business unit of a travel company, trying to provide unique and stress-free experiences. While we had a wide variety of users, we ended up selecting newly married couples planning their honeymoon.
It was easy for people to empathize with them, and the “stress-free” part was uniquely important for them on this type of trip.
To complete this step of our workshop, we can do a short exercise, sharing these principles and using ideation techniques to debate and vote on options. If the group is large, it can be split into small groups and then discuss team results together.
6. Mapping the experience
Having selected a protagonist and their use case or pain is probably the most difficult task. But we still have to build the right story, which we can do with several tools. Let’s explore two:
1. The Story Arc
The Setup: the context and environment
The Inciting Incident: the obstacle or problem that puts our hero in a bad situation
The Rising action: leading to the climax, the conflict and pains grow.
The Climax: the most exciting moment, the last showdown, the most threatening situation… here is where our hero will use our product and succeed.
The Resolution: finally, you depict how the hero was transformed for the better, depicting the new context and environment achieved after succeeding.
Most of us would be able to create an enticing story following this pattern, with our hero and use case selected in the previous step.
2. Mapping the experience
In product and UX, we frequently rely on different types of maps to describe the customer experience. The NN Group has a good resource describing 4 useful types, including Customer Journey and Experience Maps which can be the starting point for our storyboard, describing what the user undergoes when facing the situation our product can help with.
While they can be more activity-driven and less focused on the narrative, they are a great starting point, highlighting user pains, in a structured way, allowing us to build on top of those insights.
The final stage of our storyboard is doing the diagrams.
You don’t need to be an artist! There is a myriad of tools available to make the diagrams, ranging from Miro or Canva (general purpose, but full of images, stickers, and wireframing elements to use), to more storyboard-specific tools like MakeStoryboard.com. So, bad hand drawing is not a valid excuse!
Let’s review a few tips to go over this work.
Write then draw: the diagram should be your final step. Before drawing, get clear on what part of the story each box of the stripe will tell. This is usually a written description of each box, that is easier to adjust and adapt while you polish the story than the final drawing.
Aim for 8 to 12 scenes: while I doubt this can be standardized, few diagrams can fail to build a good story narrative, and more scenes can make it tedious and reduce the power of short and crisp communication.
Showcase “few” ideas: as we said, you select only one protagonist and use case. Following the same rule, don’t try to cram many ideas or possible features! Showcase a few of them in a way that people can “extend on top of”, filling the blanks with their imagination. As a quick example, if you think of very cool filters to let people find exactly what they need, showcase one that is strong and easy to grasp, and put some similarly shaped elements nearby that people can intuitively interpret as “more filters”, and fill in with their own ideas and expectations, and get even more motivated and invited to innovate.
This part of the exercise can be quite long. In fact, we would not be truly over when finishing the workshop. Someone will get the homework of polishing and doing some iterations of the storyboard to make it look nicer and the message crisper.
Define a timebox to work on creating the script and rough drawings, and if the group is large, divide it into 2 or 3 smaller rounds. Afterward, let the group “merge” the different stories by adjusting the text, and making sure there is agreement on what each scene will contain (in terms of text and what the visual representation should contain). That is the version that someone would take to improve the final drawings.
Conclusion and next step
That’s it! After some polishing an iteration, you will have a Product Vision that you can be proud of, represented in a crisp, emotional, and powerful storyboard.
Our last step (and article on the series!) will be around tips for communication, but most importantly, how this connects and drives your Product Strategy.
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