3 Steps to a Great SaaS Story

by Nate Fleming

You're probably doing #3 well already. Maybe too well.

Even if your SaaS product is the hottest thing since sunburns, getting people excited about it can be a challenge if you’re not telling the right story. And the right story is about more than just how the product works--it's about how the product solves real problems for customers to help them navigate an ever-changing world.

Most SaaS companies do a remarkable job of creating high-quality content that explains, in staggering detail, the features and functionality of their product. Unfortunately, a rational story about a product’s inner workings doesn’t always inspire people the way we hope it will. This is especially true if the product is “innovative," as innovations usually require the adoption of a new belief or behavior—something that's only possible in the wake of an emotional event. Why? Well, as one of Pixar’s veteran storytellers, Matthew Lune, puts it, when it comes to great stories, “the feeling is the message.”

Here are three keys to getting people excited about (and maybe ready to buy) your SaaS product before they even understand how it works.

Unfortunately, a rational story about a product’s inner workings doesn’t always inspire people the way we hope it will.

1. Establish Context & Conflict

Great stories begin by introducing a main character—a hero—whose world has been knocked off balance in some way. Early on, the audience is not only able to relate to the character, but also understand very clearly what she wants. It is clear to the audience that in order to get what she wants, the hero will have to overcome obstacles—and maybe even defeat an enemy. In other words, she’s going to have to find ways to solve one or more problems…or else.

Setting the stage for a great SaaS story begins by thinking of the customer as the hero of the story, then identifying something happening in the world that upsets the balance not just in her life, but in the lives of many. The broader the context, the better.

2. Introduce a "New Normal"

Great stories inspire hope for a better future--every narrative's conflict has a resolution, and the same is true for the business problems your software solves. Rising and falling tension is a key ingredient when it comes to drawing an audience into a story. It's also what gives certain forms of music an engaging, “narrative” quality. If you’ve ever listened closely to Jazz or Classical music, you may have noticed that parts of a certain composition feel tense or suspenseful and are followed by a passage that feels more relaxed and uplifting. This idea of “tension and release” is a powerful way to stir up human emotion. It promises transformation, which is something audiences are willing to stick around to see.

Once a relevant and compelling point of conflict or tension is established, you can introduce or elude to some type of “resolution” or “release.” Andy Raskin, author and strategic storyteller, calls this “teasing the promised land.” It's about giving the audience the sense that this software has the power to restore balance in the form of a desirable place customers want to be but have difficulty getting to on their own.

We created that sense of power when we worked with Slack to pull off a city-wide takeover. By driving the work with images of people experiencing feelings of pure bliss along with headlines that promised fewer meetings and increased productivity, we positioned Slack as the key to resolution. Check our our case study for that work here.

Every narrative's conflict has a resolution, and the same is true for the business problems your software solves.

3. Show Your Stuff

Lots of SaaS companies start their stories by talking about how the product functions and leave out valuable information about why the audience should care. The temptation to dive headfirst into technical explanations about how the technology is going to change the way people work is strong. Yes! It's exciting to believe in the magic of your product's complex capabilities (it's an impressive product, after all). It’s just not where most great stories begin.

Skipping the "why" of your product before getting into the "what" can do your brand an injustice, putting up a wall to accessibility rather than sparking emotional connections. That's not to say you shouldn't showcase the capabilities that make your product a game-changer (you should). These capabilities just need to be seamlessly integrated into a larger story (about the game itself) as pillars of support.


For your SaaS story to be inspiring, it needs be about more than just what the product does. It needs to first establish WHY it is important to customers that your product exists. Doing so requires you to be super clear on what’s going on in the world that makes your product valuable, what makes your product distinctive in the space, and the pain points it helps the customer overcome.

Ready to begin crafting that story? Asking yourself these 4 questions is a great place to start.

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