Once there was a land far far away called B2B marketing, where facts reigned and ‘the product was the hero’. But, hang on – what was the story again?
Stories have a certain power over us which facts and logic could never have. Good storytelling can engage, intrigue, and delight any audience. And ultimately, it can build emotional connections powerful enough to persuade and inspire this audience into action. We all know this.
So why do different rules seem to apply in the B2B marketing landscape? It seems that storytelling is considered too soft and fluffy for the ‘cold’ corporate world. More often than not we see B2B campaigns that tend to lead on rational sales arguments, heavy on facts and figures, with the product taking centre stage as the main ‘hero’.
But how can we love a hero if we haven’t heard his story?
The time for B2B brands to be shouty has been and gone. The focus is now on the customer and their needs – after all, B2B campaigns are still speaking to people. And people want to be entertained, intrigued, delighted or just have a laugh. Yes, there are more complexities in B2B marketing compared to B2C. But B2B brands may be missing a trick by not recognising storytelling as the powerful sales tool that it can be.
Whether it’s a story with a clear beginning, middle and end, an endearing brand character or a compelling and surprising ‘plot’, creative storytelling is about building emotional connections with your customers, and providing helpful information that makes their life easier. As you weave your brand’s story into a narrative that unfolds across many different touch points, you will move, inspire and excite them along the journey.
So how can B2B brands use storytelling to their advantage? Cisco is a great example. People and their stories are at the heart of this brand. Instead of facts, Cisco communicate their message through powerful stories. And they do this in many different ways – from this short documentary which shows how entire communities have been empowered by their technology, to the network, an inspiring platform, packed with engaging education and tech news, minus the technical jargon.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to storytelling in B2B marketing, but here are a few things that I think can make a big difference:
Cut through the clutter
Heaps and heaps of content can be overwhelming. When we use stories to bring it to life, the content will resonate with people. Whether it’s a case study, a visually stunning way to present information, or a simple but insightful customer quote, wrap a story around your message. It will make it so much easier to cut through the clutter.
Get all emotional
Of course this doesn’t mean sappy stories or never-ending sagas. It can be as simple as a putting a smile on people’s faces. Or showing you have a sense of humour when people least expected it. Tapping into that kind of emotional connection is what builds authentic personalities for brands.
While ‘content marketing’ was one of the biggest buzzwords in our industry not too long ago, ‘content shock’ is now, inevitably, its successor. There is simply too much content out there. That’s why stories that are helpful, relevant and inspirational will cut through all the noise. Content is weak without context. And stories are the best way to add context. What is of real value to the customer is useful information delivered through engaging stories at the right time.
One story vs many stories
Great storytellers can tell a story at any time, anywhere, using anything that’s available. There are so many spaces that brands have to occupy today, and that means many ways to tell a story. Or indeed many stories. From animation and video, to pictures or just a mere 140 characters, your overarching brand story can unfurl across all the different channels in surprising and very creative ways.
When B2B brands start connecting with customers through powerful stories, I think everyone can live (more) happily ever after.