Storytelling in B2B marketing

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 speaks to your leads.

Want to improve the storytelling in your marketing?

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Illustration overlapping lettering spelling out seven

7 powerful steps to improve your partner co-marketing strategies

One of the core goals of any marketing strategy is to add more value and create more revenue in the most resourceful possible way. Co-marketing strategies are among the most popular and effective ways to achieve cost-effective and valuable marketing success. 

As the saying goes, ‘two heads are better than one’, and many companies find the value, expertise and resources of two companies can combine to create something greater than the sum of its parts.  

Co-marketing definition

Co-marketing refers to when similar, but non-competing, companies share or collaborate on marketing material.

Research by PwC and IAB shows that there has been significant growth in spending on these collaborative strategies over the past few years. According to the report, consumers spent £554 million in 2017 on affiliate marketing and lead generation activities.  

For other companies, however, co-marketing presents plenty of risk – particularly if the other partner doesn’t pull their weight. And there’s an understandable reluctancy to spend time and money collaborating with external partners with different goals, processes and priorities.  

So how effective is co-marketing – and how can businesses learn to tackle the complications and make the best of it? We’ve got some advice to get you on the right track.  

Is co-marketing actually effective?

If businesses choose their marketing partners carefully and navigate the complications, co-marketing strategies can be very effective. Some of the main benefits include:

  • Greater presence online
  • More backlinks
  • Better SEO impact
  • Ability to reach your partner's audience

Competition is fiercer than ever. Organisations are competing locally, nationally, internationally, online, etc. with each other. Digital transformation and cloud computing have allowed much smaller businesses to punch above their weight, business models are shifting, and so is marketing.

Today, marketing is a combination of thought leadership, lead generation, measurable SEO, analytics and much more. Partnering up with like minded companies is a great way to combine to get better results from your marketing strategy.  

So, how do you go about developing valuable co-marketing strategies that will enable you to reap the benefits of such a relationship? Let’s look at how to improve your co-marketing in seven simple but powerful steps.

 

Perfect your co-marketing strategies and plans in 7 steps

 

  1. Make the most of events to connect with potential partners
  2. Decide if the partnership makes sense
  3. Define roles and expectations
  4. Develop an appropriate co-marketing idea with your partner
  5. Know your audience
  6. Run local targeted events
  7. Guest blogging and sharing production costs

 

1. Make the most of events to connect with potential partners

The first step to creating an effective co-marketing strategy is to get yourself out there and connect with like-minded businesses. The obvious way to do this is to get on social media sites like LinkedIn and connect with people across your industry or sector. While there’s certainly some benefit here, there’s nothing quite like networking in person to work out if you and your potential partners really click.  

Luckily for Microsoft Partners, there’s plenty of conferences and networking events throughout the year to facilitate this kind of networking. The main calendar date for Microsoft partners is the annual Inspire conference, but there are a range of other smaller conferences and meetings running throughout the year. These are a prime opportunity for partners to learn about the upcoming Microsoft roadmap, as well as building connections with similar businesses.

2. Decide if the partnership makes sense

Choosing the right partner for your business is perhaps the most sensitive part of the whole process. If this goes well, the other parts of your plan could slot seamlessly into place. If not, you’ll risk wasting time and money on a project that won’t get off the ground. So before you decide to go ahead with a co-marketing strategy, there’s some important questions you should ask yourself.  

The first and most obvious barrier is whether you get on with people in the other business enough to be able to effectively create content. That doesn’t mean being best friends, but it requires a certain rapport, as well as shared values and ideas that can ease the friction between two companies.   

You should also consider what the other company brings to the table from a more practical viewpoint. Is their reputation strong enough that your business will benefit from the association? Can they bring skills and expertise to the table that you will benefit from – or are they offering resources you already have in-house?  

After that you should consider whether the resultant content would benefit from collaboration with your potential. Do they have a similar enough audience that a combined effort would make sense? Would a collaborative marketing effort actually create more tangible leads for your business than your normal efforts? 

If your answer to all of these is positive, then there’s a good chance your co-marketing venture will be a success.  

3. Define roles and expectations

Once you’ve found a company to partner up with, you need to define clear roles and expectations for what you aim to achieve. 

This involves discussing timeframes, costs and responsibilities. It’s important to clearly define early on who’s responsible for what aspects of the project, to reduce any risk of complication further down the line. The last thing you want to have to do is have an argument halfway through the project about who was supposed to complete a particular task, or contribute certain funds.  

It’s also a good idea at this point to clearly define what the project is intended to achieve for both parties. All collaborations require a little give and take – and both sides should be fully aware of the other’s objectives when they’re working on the project.  

4. Develop an appropriate co-marketing idea with your partner

Once you’ve defined your goals, roles and expectations, it’s time to flesh out the plan in more detail and create a more tangible content strategy. At this point, you should consider the shared objectives and choose the type of marketing that best suits the compromise. This could include any of the following: 

  • eBooks 
  • Blog posts 
  • Co-sponsored whitepapers 
  • Videos 
  • Webinars 
  • Research projects 

Each of these different types of content will achieve a slightly different thing, and it’s important to tailor the content to the combination of skills and objectives between the two partners.

Grab yourself a free copy of our “A fool-proof guide to content marketing” eBook!

 5. Know your audience

Knowing yours and your partner’s audience is a key part of creating content that ticks both your boxes. Two businesses’ audiences are rarely exactly the same, and it’s important that a compromise is found. 

Writing for one audience can be difficult enough without having to negotiate the requirements of another entirely – so it’s important that you think carefully about how the two fit together. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to create and share marketing personas 

A persona creates a fictional character that’s the personification of your average potential lead or client. It runs through their company, situation and job role, considering why they’re interested in your product and what the reasons they may or may not be convinced to purchase. If you share your personas with each other, then you can make sure your marketing material is properly aimed towards both characters.

6. Run local targeted events

With two companies, you have twice the resources. That means twice as much money you can put into pushing your content out there and twice the number of clients and partners that would be interested in it. In short, with co-marketing projects, there’s more scope for you to generate some noise and excitement about the project.  

Depending on the size of the task, it could be a good idea to organize an event or launch to get people together and promote your work. That could involve bringing together speakers from around the country or even internationally and inviting your partners, clients and potential customers. This gives you the opportunity to split the planning, logistics and cost of the event with your partner and stir some real interest amongst people within your respective networks.

7. Guest blogging and sharing production costs

Guest blogging refers to when a blog writer develops content for a blog that is not their own. This can expose your brand to a different audience, increase your traffic to both parties’ blogs, boost your brand’s authority, build relationships in the field, and provide your own blog with fresh content from guest bloggers.  

The other value of this is it allows you to generate backlinks, which provide valuable SEO benefits for both sides. If you and your partner agree to guest blog on each other’s websites, you both get a free backlink and a free post – which sounds like a pretty good deal for both parties.

Co-marketing examples

There are many successful marketing collaborations and co-marketing examples that might inspire you. We will list a couple of marketing cases where brands have successfully collaborated and, in some cases, even made it to the advertising history.

Intel Inside

The Intel Inside campaign put a then relatively unknown brand on the map. Before the campaign started, they have launched a 'Red X' campaign where Intel crossed out their competitors' 286 processing unit, implying it was outdated and advertised their brand advantages instead.

 

"Red X" campaign

After the 'Red X' ad followed the Intel Inside campaign, which was designed to sell the processors to the consumers, instead of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) only.

They've started it with a simple logo with the words 'Intel Inside' within an imperfect circle, which signalled straightforwardness. The collaboration progressed when Intel asked OEMs to place its logo on their tech parts and advertising materials so Intel would automatically be associated with innovation and high quality. And in return, OEMs would receive subsidies.

Intel Inside logo

The results spoke for themselves, as 500 OEMs signed up, and Intel increased its brand awareness, appearing on radio and TV. The campaign was crowned as one of the most successful of the 90s due to its inventive branding approach.

Uber and Spotify

The collaboration between Spotify and Uber seems unlikely. But look deeper, and you will find that both companies gained significant advantages from this marketing campaign.

Spotify wanted to target people while they're commuting and drive more sign-ups for their Premium service. Meanwhile, Uber would benefit by offering a more personalised experience with customers being able to connect to the car's playlist and adjust the volume while travelling. This would differentiate Uber from the competition.

As a result, a partnership with Spotify seemed like the next step, so their collaborative campaign rolled out in 2017 across ten major cities worldwide.

Overall, the campaign was a success, despite Uber's ongoing scandals.

Going in the right direction with co-marketing

In the current, competitive business landscape, taking advantage of partnerships across a range of business functions can help your organisation reach important new heights and milestones. And partner co-marketing is a great way of boosting your resources in a way that delivers excellent value. So, whatever the nature of your business, make sure you take maximum advantage of the potential and opportunities available from other business across your networks. 

As a specialist B2B marketing agency, Fifty Five and Five are experts on marketing for B2B technology companies. We’ve got the knowledge and expertise to help you pull off a successful digital marketing campaign – whether that’s a solo mission or a co-marketing venture. Get in touch with us to find out more.