What’s the Art of Telling a Great Story?

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO Zuora

Category: Marketing and Sales

Having watched it for years, I'd also say there's one other really important component to storytelling which is being highly iterative. So it's not just a bunch of people sitting in a room figuring it out and then it's all done. It's more like you write something, you play with it, you try it again, you modify it and then you see how people react. I think a big component of storytelling is the iterative nature of it. I remember a moment when I was an 8-year old Cub Scout camping and sitting with people around a campfire, telling ghost stories. I couldn't come up with a story. I wasn't born a storyteller. But in my early 20s, I did Sales for a couple of years and I found myself just presenting two-to-three times a week. It takes a lot of practice. If I could live another life, I would be a reporter. And let me tell you why. People ask how we came up with the Subscription Economy concept. It was month three at the company and a reporter friend of mine asked me what we were trying to do. We were still in stealth mode. The reporter knew that Salesforce disrupted Siebel and at the time Zipcar was kind of disrupting GM and Netflix was disrupting Blockbuster. It was early 2008 and after I talked to him for 20 minutes. He said, "Okay I got it."

The next day he wrote a blog post and it was headlined "Powering the Netflix Economy." I admire that type of journalistic instinct to delve into a story, distill it down and turn complexity into something we can all read and understand in a rapid amount of time. We loved the Netflix tagline but we thought, we're going to get sued right? So we eventually came up with the Subscription Economy and ran with it. But in the end, you've just got to practice. At Zuora, we have this weird practice with our Marketing team where we love to break down movies and extract the story lines. Then we see what we’re trying to communicate with our efforts – for example, are we trying to tell the Avengers story or the I am Legend story or The Social Network story because we're trying to break down our messages to a common story that we all can all understand.