The Power of Technical Storytelling in Manufacturing
Learn how your manufacturing company can leverage technical storytelling with the help of Elliott Rayner, a storytelling expert.
Published: 20 Nov 2023
10 minutes read
Effective communication is at the heart of marketing, especially when you're dealing with technical products and jargon, as is often the case in manufacturing.
Some specialist industries within manufacturing often use highly technical language, which dominates everyday conversation with those who work within these fields. The challenge is translating this complex information into something relatable to your target market.
That’s where technical storytelling comes into play.
What is Technical Storytelling?
Technical storytelling possesses a unique power - the ability to simplify even the most complex of concepts. In the world of marketing technical products, this can be a game-changer for manufacturers.
Rather than drowning your audience in jargon and technical specifications, technical storytelling offers a fresh perspective. It encourages you to look beyond the features and processes and dive into the heart of the problem the product aims to solve.
Simplifying Technical Products With Compelling Technical Storytelling
Oftentimes, technical products come with a reputation for complexity. They boast an array of features, processes, and specifications that can overwhelm the average consumer.
However, this is where technical storytelling comes to your rescue. Instead of viewing complexity as a barrier, you can use it to your advantage. It gives you the ability to make the complicated simple, as demonstrated by Elliott Rayner, CMO at ARION, who discussed the topic in more detail in the Make & Market podcast.
“I think one of the powers that storytelling has is being able to make the very complicated as simple as possible. If you're a manufacturer and you’ve created a very complicated or complex product, sometimes we deem that as a negative thing, because it's harder to communicate.
“However, it just means you have to find a different way to get that message across, move away completely from the features and the processes and try to tell a more human story about what is the problem that you're trying to solve.”
Technical products may be filled with intricate details, but you need to use this information to your advantage. After all, this information makes up the building block for the main Unique Selling Points (USPs).
The main challenge is to repackage this information in a way that resonates with your audience.
How to Communicate Product Benefits Using Technical Storytelling
As a manufacturer marketing a technical product, you need to strip back the complexities and highlight how your product will benefit your user.
Elliott used Apple as an example of a company that utilised technical storytelling to perfection.
“When Apple released the iPod, it was revolutionary for MP3s. A lot of people didn't know how it worked or what it was, yet, little of the marketing budget had anything to do with the innovation. They focused on communicating its capabilities.
“This approach is part of what made it so successful. Instead of saying the product had 500 megabytes of memory, they used technical storytelling to simplify this and told their audience ‘This is 1000 songs in your pocket.’
“They didn’t focus on the feature or the technicalities of it. Instead, they showed the solution and capability it generated. This is much more appealing to the everyman in the street. You need to help the buyer understand what the benefits are.”
You must build a story that transcends the product and craft a narrative that revolves around your brand's purpose and what sets you apart.
Focusing exclusively on the technical features of your product can have an adverse effect and drive your prospective buyers to an alternative. Instead, follow Apple’s lead, and hone in on how your product will benefit the end user.
How Can Technical Storytelling Improve Credibility and Trust?
When you’re marketing a technical product, credibility is paramount. Your buyer needs to trust that your product can deliver what it promises, and demonstrating your authority is key to building this trust. Elliott explained how a captivating narrative helps to improve trust amongst your buyers.
“Storytelling can be broken down into three categories: logic, emotion, and credibility. Every great story should have a balance of those three different elements.
“The third area, credibility, is associated with trust. It’s where storytelling can be even more valuable to those technical fields where you need to build that credibility. Being able to demonstrate your authority over a certain area, throughout that story, is key to being able to build that trust.
“You need to make sure you've got the right content, and that you’re delivering it properly to tell a credible story. In doing that, the science shows that you can build a much more trusting relationship when you're coming from a point of credibility and authority.
“That's where you need to spend some time thinking about who your brand is and what makes it important. Considering how you can demonstrate your authority is a really important part of the process. You shouldn't be able to tell the same story as your competitors, there should be something unique about you, and the story that only you can tell.
“The more your marketing department sits down and narrows down what it is that makes you special, the stronger your relationship with your audience, and you’ll benefit from that trust and credibility.”
By weaving your expertise and authority into your narrative, you can create a compelling story that resonates. The more you focus on the human aspects of your brand and the real problems the product solves, the more credible you become.
Building a Consistent Brand Narrative
To grow your audience via storytelling techniques, you need to ensure that your brand narrative is consistent across all touchpoints.
Every interaction you have with your brand should reflect the same story. It's not just about creating a one-time marketing campaign; it's about building a narrative that stands the test of time, a sentiment echoed by Elliott.
“Companies often underappreciate the importance of consistency when they’re using technical storytelling. You need to replicate what you're doing on your website, your messaging, campaigns and sales enablement.
“You want to be able to draw a consistent red line between all of those things. Ultimately, when you've got a customer, before they're signing or becoming a partner, or taking that conversion step, they've probably encountered your brand a dozen times.
“If the messaging or if the story is different, at each point, it can be off-putting even on a subconscious level. The more you can make sure that the story that you're telling is consistent across every touchpoint is essential”
How to Adapt Technical Storytelling for Different Personas
As a manufacturer, the chances are that your audience is diverse. Some technical experts crave in-depth information, and there are those new to the industry who need simpler, more approachable messaging.
When you’re using technical storytelling, you need to strike the right balance. This can be challenging, but that’s where the concept of personas comes into play. By understanding the distinct needs of different audience segments, you can create customised stories that cater to their specific requirements.
Elliott explained how technical marketers often make the common mistake of trying to oversimplify their message. While simplicity is often valuable, some audiences, particularly those with technical expertise, may require in-depth information to build trust in your brand and product.
“Marketers often want to make their messaging as simple as possible. Oftentimes, they want to use technical storytelling to explain their product as something you could tell your grandmother over a cup of tea in 20 seconds.
“However, it may come across as condescending if you’re explaining your product in a way that’s too simple. For complicated products, your customers expect to read technical information. But make sure you have the right balance as this will improve your credibility and authority.
“The more you can understand and break apart your customers into different personas, you can then use your stories to craft personalised stories for each of those personas. For example, one of them might be new to the industry, so the story would be less technical.
Elliot gave the example of two individuals he liaises with and explained how he adjusted his communication, accordingly.
“In my meetings, there might be someone who's PhD professor of biomechanics. In this case, it isn’t appropriate to focus on a marketing story, rather, high technical information, and we have a deck for that.
“However, in those early meetings, you might be sitting with a potential Business Partner or a Business Development Manager, who might not even be aware of the highly technical elements themselves. That’s where we have a more customised deck, which communicates our value, our brand, and more of the capabilities and less than the features.
“The more that you understand your audience, the better. This will help you strike the right balance; the focus on logic, emotion, and credibility completely depends on your persona, your brand and the industry that you work in.”
By defining and understanding your different audience segments, you can craft stories that resonate with each of them. For technical experts, it's about providing detailed information, showcasing your product's unique technical features, and building trust through your authority in the field. For those new to the industry, the focus may shift to highlighting the broader benefits and solutions your product offers.
How Storytelling Injects Emotion and Conflict
Storytelling can be used to inject emotion and create excitement. As a manufacturer, this is invaluable in helping you make your technical products more relatable to your buyer.
Emotion is one of the key elements of storytelling, and it's what can make your marketing memorable, while conflict is at the heart of every great story.
It engages your audience, piques their attention, and keeps them hooked. This can be as simple as presenting a problem that your product can solve.
By illustrating the journey from problem to solution, you create a narrative that resonates.
However, to add a twist to your tale, adding a little pinch of conflict heightens your storytelling experience as highlighted by Elliott.
“Conflict is at the heart of every great story. It’s really what separates a story from a narrative. When we think of a narrative, it can be something as simple as outlining the steps of a car being built. This is a narrative, and there's no conflict. If something was to go wrong in that assembly line. That's what would make it a story.
“As a manufacturer, to generate more excitement, you need to try to find a way to inject some conflict into your campaign story. That’s a lot easier than it sounds because you’re trying to understand the conflict of your target audience and you’re manufacturing a product to solve a problem.”
Your product should be positioned as the hero that solves the conflict your customer is facing.
Conflict helps showcase the transformative power of your product. It's not just about presenting a set of features; it's about demonstrating how your product can transform the fortunes of the buyer, solve their points, and improve their experiences.
The Role of Case Studies and Testimonials in Technical Storytelling
Case studies and customer testimonials are excellent social proofs. They provide real-world evidence of the value you bring and the positive impact you’ve had on your customers. When embedded into your technical storytelling framework, they enhance your product's appeal and engagement.
One way to achieve this is by asking customers questions that naturally lead to a storytelling format. Questions like, "What problem were you trying to solve?" and "How did the product change your situation?" encourage customers to share their journey.
When you read or hear these success stories, you're not just presented with dry facts and figures. Instead, you become part of a story where your product saves the day and solves your customer problem. This emotional connection can be a powerful tool in persuading potential customers.
Transform Your Manufacturing Fortunes With Technical Storytelling
When used correctly, effective technical storytelling can be a game-changer for your manufacturing business.
It allows you to simplify complexity, build a consistent brand narrative, connect with diverse personas, inject emotion, and showcase the transformative power of your product. Moreover, storytelling enables you to build trust and credibility, essential factors in persuading your audience.
While technical products may come with a reputation for complexity, storytelling offers the means to make them relatable.