James goes back in time to explain the thinking behind, and prototyping of Storytech...

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James Hurman | 27 February 2019

 

One Saturday morning in 2017 I had that moment when it hits you.

Three years earlier, I’d started a company called Previously Unavailable. At Previously, we help other companies, mostly bigger ones, create exciting new products and brands.

Over the years we’d also had a stream of start-ups and smaller businesses ask us for our help with their brand strategy. These were companies that we were inspired by, and who we really wanted to help.

The trouble is that for these younger companies, a consultancy or agency model like ours is just much, much too expensive. Brand strategy has always been something that’s time-intensive, and which ends up costing in the tens of thousands of dollars.

And I just couldn’t conscionably recommend that younger, smaller businesses spend that kind of money with us.

But I hated turning them away.

I was increasingly excited by how many amazing, visionary companies were being started all around us. And increasingly depressed at how few of them we could realistically help.

It’s not an uncommon problem. Pretty much every professional services industry has the challenge of how to help smaller companies in a way that’s affordable and sustainable for both parties.

So, like a lot of others out there, I’d spent years turning that challenge over in my mind.

Then, on a Saturday of all days, I had one of those famed aha moments. And I ended up spending the weekend at work, trying to answer a question.

There’s a workshop process that we use when we consult to brands, helping them understand what’s most important about their brand.

Getting to real clarity on their customer, the problem they solve for that customer, how they solve it better than others, how they go started in the first place, ‘why’ they do what they do beyond making money, what their objectives and ambitions are, and how achieving those would make their customers’ world a better place.

Then we’d go away and turn that into a brand positioning strategy.

The question I was asking that weekend was whether I actually needed to be in the room for that workshop process to happen.

You see, when I’m running those workshops I’m not trying to ‘make up a story’ for a client. All I’m doing is asking the kinds of questions that get the client to discover the story that’s already there.

It’s a process of helping a client team, using good questions and advice and case study examples, to understand together what’s important to communicate about themselves.

The question I was asking myself that weekend was ‘could that process be delivered by a video-version of me and a digital platform that delivered the process in a super structured and beautifully designed way?’

Could I take my process, and turn it into a digital product that start-ups and small business could use to develop their brand story and strategy, on their own, for a fraction of the cost?

I thought the answer could be yes, and so I got to work designing the prototype of how that would look. I called it ‘Storytech’ because I wanted to make a technology solution for developing a story.

Minimum viable marketing: James explains the Storytech prototype’s reason for being


Because the Lean Canvas had become such a ubiquitous and helpful tool in the start-up world, I used it as a place to start – then built two more canvases alongside it that would round out the essential elements of a brand story, and help users develop a plan to tell their story.

In the middle of the day, they’d take the content they’d created for the first two canvases, and using a ‘madlib’ (fill-in-the-blanks template) they’d pull together a draft of their stories that, in five short paragraphs, explained who they were, what they did and why they did it in a concise, compelling way.

A few weeks later I shut myself away in a room in the BizDojo co-working space in Takapuna, Auckland and filmed myself facilitating the process. Then built a Squarespace site that stepped people through the process.

Which meant we had a minimum viable product.

The Storytech Prototype

The Storytech Prototype

I then told the good people at Idealog Magazine about it, and they ran a story - which eventually led to us testing the Storytech prototype out on 35 companies we’d never met before.

Sure, it was a clunky prototype (I’d cut my finger that morning and was wearing a band-aid, which just about everyone commented on as an area for improvement!) but the companies who did it, loved it.

They said things like:

“Storytech definitely helped us clarify and establish a clear direction to move forward with. Our why and mission statement has been so valuable because we now use it to form the way we market our product.”

And:

“Each member of our team is now able to explain our brand story with confidence.”

A team uses the Storytech prototype

A team uses the Storytech prototype

So we spent the next year turning that platform into a better, prettier, more functional, and band-aid-less product which was released on January 29, 2019.

The world’s first ‘brand strategy in a box’ digital product.

And already, as I write this, many of those smaller, younger companies I wanted to help are already going through Storytech and developing their story with our help, for the fraction of the cost.

 

James Hurman is the founder and CEO of Storytech

Storytech is a ‘brand strategy in a box’ digital product for start-ups and small businesses, allowing them to develop a world-class brand story, in a day, for $500. To learn more about Storytech visit www.storyte.ch

 
 
James Hurman