Once upon a time, on commercial premises far away, there was a business. It had lots of products, services and even products that were a service. The business needed to market those to other businesses. But it had a problem. In a crowded marketplace, it was hard for the business to differentiate itself. There were many similar businesses, all with their own products and services, targeting the same businesses and people within them. But one day, the business found a way to connect with sales leads much more engagingly and effectively and stand out from the competition. This is the story of storytelling in B2B marketing.
Not just tall tales
It’s easy to associate the term ‘story’ with fiction: a narrative far-removed from reality. But true stories are everywhere, from biographies and history to news stories. Think about the stories that resonated the most with you or evoked the biggest reaction. Was that because they brought the situation they described to life? Could you relate to it?
That’s good storytelling. Telling a story – whether it’s pure fiction or an argument for a product or service – in the most effective way possible. There’s been a lot of hype around ‘storytelling’ in marketing over the last few years, but rather than being a trend or a methodology or a buzzword, it’s more a principle to be considered in your B2B content strategy. And it’s definitely not a principle that should only be applied to the consumer sphere. In fact, good storytelling in B2B marketing might be even more important – and I’ll explain why.
Bringing business stories to life
B2B companies – especially tech ones – have a problem with abstraction. In their haste to address all the high-level needs or concerns a buyer may have, such as overall cost or efficiency savings, marketers and businesses neglect to ground business benefits in the minds of the audience. There’s a tendency to make bold, intangible claims like ‘Our solution will raise efficiency and productivity in your company’. How? And what does that specifically mean, in the working lives of Joe and Jane Employee?
If your leads can’t grasp how your product or service can help their business, in an end-to-end sense that starts with the end user and ends with the bottom line, then they’ll be less likely to choose it. That’s a very important story and it needs to be told well, particularly in order to effectively communicate your unique selling point (USP).
The truth well told
There’s long been a sense that business audiences are dispassionate, coldly calculating creatures, due to the responsibility of holding the company purse strings. And there is some truth to that. Heavy is the hand that wields the budget. Decisions aren’t made as lightly as choosing which crisps you feel like eating today. But to suggest B2B audiences don’t respond to evocative, well-crafted stories is a fairy-tale.
People are people, whether they’re wearing their business hats or not. And, whether it’s business or consumer marketing, they can see through attempts to hoodwink them. But they are also drawn to honest, relatable stories that show a clear understanding of their needs and concerns. This is what advertising legend Harrison McCann called ‘the truth well told’ when he founded his agency in 1911. So, you see, storytelling in B2B marketing is nothing new. It’s just that sometimes we need a reminder of the ‘well’ part.
Well-crafted, human stories
How do you tell your brand or product’s story most effectively? Humanising it and helping the audience to relate are a good start. Quotes, case studies and testimonials – especially video ones – can play an important part in your B2B content strategy. Introduce your existing customers, well-known influencers or your own employees and let them tell their stories. They say the proof is in the pudding. Extending that metaphor, there are few things more compelling than happy customers explaining how you made that pudding and how much they enjoyed eating it.
Storytelling is also important when it comes to hypotheticals – probably more so. If you’re giving an example of how your solution would work for a hypothetical company, don’t be afraid to embellish the account with a few more details. Give the business a name and history. Create some personas. Good storytelling in B2B marketing goes beyond business problems – try to understand the frames of mind. What are their concerns? What will make their lives harder or easier? The more you can empathise with them, the more the audience will, too.
Getting started with storytelling in B2B marketing
Discovering the stories that you want to tell is a task in itself. Gaining the deepest insights for the most compelling storytelling often requires speaking to customers or your own employees at length. Don’t skimp on this – you may find it beneficial to enlist a marketing agency which conducts this research, creates personas and tells these stories all the time. Their storytelling expertise, combined with your in-house knowledge of your business and your customers, will result in marketing that will really speak to your leads.