September 1, 2021
Solutions

How the software industry uses digital storytelling to move to hybrid events

The focus needs to shift away from the details of what the software does
An article written by

Jessica Endert

,
Head of Strategy and Concept @ Purple

The importance of software and digital innovation

Our modern world pretty much runs on software. Whether we are aware of it or not, our reliance on gazillions of lines of code is now total. Without software running everything behind the scenes, our store shelves would be empty, the gas stations would be dry and we would be staring at blank screens as we walk down the street.

Many of our big goals in business and in our economy (net zero, digital transformation, industry 4.0) all rely on a widespread and continuous adoption of new software solutions that continue to rebalance our ever-taller technological house of cards.

Despite the completely indispensable and ubiquitous role of digital innovation and software in our increasingly complex world, it can still be a struggle for software companies to convince potential clients and make a sale.

It seems unfathomable that something so indispensable could also be a ‘tough sell’, but it is. The secret to success in this sector is to adopt a digital storytelling strategy that actually shows each customer what they need to see to make a decision. This way, your digital innovation becomes something they can understand in terms that matter to them.

The difficulty of selling lines of code

Selling lines of code is a little like trying to sell fundamental laws of physics – it can be a little abstract. On top of this, there is a deeply-entrenched attitude in business about the role of IT – it is often seen as a maintenance cost, instead of a vital new business strategy. A lack of organizational maturity can also make it hard for clear digital strategies to form cohesively within corporations, resulting in a lack of project leadership, or conflicting priorities across departments.

In order to convince potential customers of the value of the product, the focus needs to shift away from the details of what the software does (functionally speaking), to whom it helps.

This makes it tough for software companies to convince clients that their new product is worth the extra investment, and especially when the outcome is not easy to measure or see. Just like the fundamental laws of physics, software products keep the world turning, despite being essentially invisible, unappreciated, and incomprehensible to (most of) the end-users who benefit from it.

Presentation in the Hyro StreamIX

In order to convince potential customers of the value of the product, the focus needs to shift away from the details of what the software does (functionally speaking), to whom it helps. Moreover, each customer needs to be able to see how this ‘invisible product’ will help them overcome their problems.

Selling the solution

Imagine an auto manufacturer who sells their cars by displaying all of the constituent parts of the disassembled car on a flat surface. Convinced? I don’t think so.

The people who actually buy cars are not car experts or mechanics; they want a ride that fulfills their needs.

Auto manufacturers learned long ago that they are not selling the specifications of their products – they’re selling the ride.

The people who actually buy cars are not car experts or mechanics; they want a ride that fulfills their needs. Family car, sedan, sports, luxury - all these different segments promote the product by attuning themselves to the needs and identity of the customer themselves.

For the software company, the same approach is also highly successful. This starts with a focus on the customer and forming a solid and detailed customer persona that highlights their problems and priorities. The next stage is to carefully consider how your product actually solves the problems for each customer type, and then find a way to show that in a visual way.

How visualizing the solution can seal the deal

Software is an intrinsically intangible product; essentially, it’s just lines of code, tucked away on a server in a datacenter - somewhere where the customer never actually sees it. Making the intangible into something tangible and relatable is not impossible, but it does require a consciously-considered approach to be successful.

Digital stories are a proven way to demonstrate something that is intangible, and they can be leveraged to show the real value of a software product to each specific audience. Numerous technologies and solutions can be harnessed, including immersive experiences and hybrid events (using an online experience combined with a physical event). This enables the customer to see how their problems are solved by your software, while eliminating any vestiges of doubt that arise from a lack of imagination.

Leveraging hybrid events and digital stories to show the solution in action in any situation

The Hyro storytelling software can bridge the gap between the immaterial product and the tangible benefits by helping to actually show the problems being solved. Better still, it is innately able to create fully-customized stories with a content management system that allows easy retooling of existing content across multiple strategies and technologies, including hybrid events and fully immersive experience rooms.

A hybrid experience combines the excitement of the physical event, with the versatility of an online experience. The goal is to create an experience where the physical audience has a more intimate setting (which encourages involvement), while the online audience gets to feel the excitement and interact with the physical event.

Hyro StreamIX

It can require a bit of a juggling-act to get these two experiences to knit together, but the benefits are huge. Carefully selected audiences can be invited to the live event, while a variety of audiences can join online or watch later on-demand. Using a powerful content management system like Hyro’s will make it much easier to curate and manage hybrid events, as well as reuse content in new ways for different audiences.

In terms of content management, Hybrid events are one of the toughest to handle, but the fact that Hyro can make this so easy demonstrates exactly how capable it is.

If it can handle the complexity of a hybrid event, it will be easy for you to create and manage different stories for any scenario: visitors to the office, a tradeshow,  an experience center, an online webinar with thousands of participants, or anything else.

How to focus on the customer

Many companies claim to be customer-centric or customer-obsessed when they actually fall well short of this. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it is not an easy task; we’re all so focused on optimizing our own businesses that we tend to focus on our strengths and ‘blowing our own trumpet’ as a way of convincing potential clients. However, simply offering the ‘fastest sensor refresh rate on today’s market’ doesn’t actually tell our customers much about how their own problems are actually going to be solved, or what that would look like.

So the trick is to offer different and customized experiences, while still telling the same basic truth.

It’s also vital to recognize that there are different levels of ‘customer’ within a company, that each has a role in the decision-making process, and that each level also has their own concerns and priorities. This means that C-suite, Departmental/mid-management and the actual daily users of the software (Application Level) will need to be convinced separately, with customized stories that show the value to each distinct audience.

While offering different stories to each kind of customer at each touchpoint during their customer journey, you still need to maintain a degree of consistency across all touch points. So the trick is to offer different and customized experiences, while still telling the same basic truth. For this reason, a ‘single source of truth’ is very important for digital storytelling. Keeping a centralized depository of all your digital content will help to keep your story straight, while still helping you to give the right information, at the right time, to the right customer. This is one area where a top-notch content management system can really help, because it is easier to categorize content and utilize it for each stage.

There are at least four distinct audiences within each company that you want to target:

Industry/Sector – You should attain a high-level awareness of the requirements and concerns of the industry you target. This can include regulatory aspects or operational constraints that are a daily problem and drain on resources industry-wide.

C-Suite – This group is focused on ‘bigger goals’, and these are often the big buzzwords of the day. The priorities of C-level management are strategic in nature, and that means steering their company towards Digital Transformation, Operational optimization,  New business models,  Carbon neutrality and meeting the specific goals of their digital strategy.

Departmental/Mid-management – The focus at this level is meeting tactical objectives which are measured with specific KPIs. It needs to be clear what they “get” from using your product or service.

Application Level – The actual users of this technology will be more interested in the ‘product specifics’, as well as a clear demonstration of how the software works in terms of implementation. A focus on ideas like network infrastructure, security protocols, and UX all have value here - especially if they can be shown in a problem-solving context.

Getting personal

Don’t make the mistake of just listing product features; while these are important at a certain point in the decision-making process the focus should always remain on showing how you address and solve each of their problems.

Each level-specific story can then be used in a way that shows that you understand their perspective and that you can solve their specific problems.

The key to success is to ensure that you create detailed customer personas or profiles at each level, and for each industry or sector. In many cases you will find that they share priorities across industries, in which case this can be used to your advantage by reusing content that shows how your software solves this problem in other industries too.

Each level-specific story can then be used in a way that shows that you understand their perspective and that you can solve their specific problems. And remember, you’re not showing them the product but how a real human being benefits from it.

Visualizing the right solution for each customer - the way they want to see it

There are many powerful ways to immerse each audience in their own experience – again considering which methods suit the customers. Blended or hybrid events can leverage the online experience alongside the physical one to show customized digital stories to the various online audiences. These can be intelligently segmented so each specific online audience will have a unique and tailored experience that matches them. This gives hybrid events the benefit of reaching a much wider audience base, while still providing messages that resonate for each specific group. If you can add-in the ability for online audiences to interact with the physical audience, it will also bump up the engagement to the next level - for all participants.

For visitors to the office, you can decide which visitors arrive at any one time and show personalized, compelling, and relevant digital stories on wall-to-wall displays or using fully immersive rooms.

360 Immersive Experience Room

You can even bring it up a level by making the experience more interactive by fostering a collaboration with prospective customers. This helps to increase the level of engagement with the product and will give the customer a deeper experience that will make both the event and your product more memorable.

The Hyro software is even nimble enough to enable a user to customize experiences ‘on the hoof’, which creates the possibility for spontaneous customer interactions and collaborations.

Immersive experiences are one of the most powerful options available, and they have been shown to increase deal size, and reduce the sales cycle -  but big, impressive experiences don’t do it all on their own.

Behind each customized experience is a lot of research on each customer type, a detailed customer profile, and a focus on how you are delivering value by solving their problems. By focusing on value-based solution selling, in combination with a strategy to visually show this solution in action, you will always achieve the best possible sales for your products.

Jessica Endert

Head of Strategy and Concept @ Purple

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