by Shane Barker
Storytelling and B2B marketing may not seem like they go together. After all, storytelling is the art of writing fiction, right? Not always. Every brand has a story to tell, be it of the brand’s origins, their growth, or their employees.
Stories can humanize brands and make it easier for others to connect with them on an emotional level. While many B2C brands already use storytelling, it’s common for B2B brands to neglect or ignore this key marketing ingredient. This is because some B2B marketers forget that they are selling their products and services to other people and not just other businesses.
Stories have the capability to bring out the deepest emotions in humans. So when your prospects read your story or see your ad campaign, they will have an emotional response.
Let’s take a closer look at how you can leverage storytelling to improve your B2B marketing strategy.
1. Find a Reason
The toughest part of storytelling is starting out with a reason. You need to find a purpose and motivation behind telling a particular story.
It’s only once you figure out the “Why” that you’ll be in a position to tell a story. Without a cause to tell a story, it may not have the sort of impact you want it to have.
The reason to create and convey the message will help you convert it into words and incorporate it into your marketing campaigns. Your goal should be to give people a reason why they should take the time to read your story and care about it. That will help it have a more significant impact on the minds of your target audience.
2. Show, Don’t Tell
This concept is central to the art of storytelling through content marketing. Good storytelling requires that you help your readers visualize and feel things. For this reason, you need to paint vivid pictures in their mind. This can’t be achieved by just telling your readers your story directly.
You need to make the effort to bring your story to life and involve them in it so that they can experience it themselves. This can be done by collecting client stories and testimonials. They can help you bring your products or services to life. With examples from your past customers, you can show your audience how your products and services can make their lives and businesses better.
To help you understand the difference between show and tell, here’s an example:
Tell: Our product can help you grow your business.
Show: Our product helped our clients grow their revenue by 12X in one year.
Google AdWords Stories is a brilliant example of this. In this video series, you can watch small businesses talk about the impact that Google AdWords has on their business. These videos depict how small-scale companies were able to scale up their businesses using Google’s advertising service.
For example, in one of their videos, Google talked about how a small deli was able to grow their business to $14 million just through Google’s advertising services.
Image via YouTube
The video includes the co-founder of the brand speaking along with behind-the-scenes shots of their employees. You can also see some customer testimonials of the brand. While the video itself makes the deli the hero, it subtly tells the story of how Google ads helped them become the hero.
3. Search for Stories in Your Company
As mentioned before, every company has a story to tell. And surely, your employees will have their own stories as well. If you want to incorporate storytelling into your B2B marketing strategy, it’s crucial to dig deep and find them.
This is especially true when it comes to employee stories as it can help humanize your brand. At the same time, you also get a chance to showcase your company culture through them.
Microsoft understood the importance of storytelling long back and hired a chief storyteller in 2010. They started a blog called Microsoft Story Labs, a platform that showcases the stories of their employees.
These blog posts also include interviews with their employees who give their perspectives on certain topics along with bits from their journeys at Microsoft.
They’ve taken it up a notch by coming up with Microsoft Life, where their employees share memories from their lives. This helps humanize the brand image of the company. They’ve also creates a Microsoft Life Instagram account, where they post these stories with photos of their employees.
Image via Instagram
4. Use Visuals
Visuals are crucial for storytelling. This is especially true when you have a business that is very technically-focused. It can be challenging for such businesses to attract the interest and attention of their audiences.
Visuals can help make even the dullest of things come alive. By sharing infographics, screenshots, videos, or images, you can make your stories more engaging for your audience.
Visuals also help your audience understand the context better. And the best part is that the story doesn’t necessarily need to sell or promote your products/services. It just needs to convey a message to your audience.
To figure out which visual content resonates the best with your target audience, you can use Cortex. It helps you get insights on how you can leverage this content and stay ahead of your competition.
“The Longest Night” ad by Philips is a brilliant example of this. The ad shows you the story of a fisherman who’s suffering from insomnia. It takes you through his day, and you can listen to him talk about his tiring time out on the seas. He then goes on to talk about how his insomnia has led to apnea.
Image via Vimeo
The ad doesn’t showcase any products from Philips, and it’s not even targeted at the fisherman. It’s really about the numerous healthcare providers who help treat people like the fisherman in the ad. And the ad talks about the solutions that Philips is developing only at the very end of the video.
Throughout the ad, you can see strong visuals of the stunning Icelandic landscape and the high seas. The surreal views, combined with the narration of the story make the entire ad very captivating.
Alternatively, you can collaborate with influencers to create engaging visual content. For instance, Mercedes-Benz partnered with Kelly Lund and came up with a video that shows a stunning snowy landscape and tells the story of Loki The Wolfdog and Kelly.
Image via YouTube
Influencers add a human element to your brand, and your audience can connect better with them too. However, for this, you need quality influencers.
To find and filter influencers based on their category of influence, you can use Influence.co. They have a huge database of genuine influencers whom you can contact and partner with through the platform as well.
5. Offer Engagement Opportunities
You must keep your audience engaged throughout your story. For this, you need to have a thorough understanding of your audience and must understand their goals and objectives as well.
Your storytelling shouldn’t, in any case, come across as a sales pitch. It should flow well and should be an engaging piece of content. The idea is to engage your audience and give them a reason to connect with your brand on a deeper level.
A great example of this sort of story is a set of videos that were created by Toshiba and Intel called “The Beauty Inside.”
Image via YouTube
These videos gave their audience a chance to play roles in the stories. They were aimed at making technology more relatable to people. Such was the power of storytelling in these videos that they received more than 70 million views and even won an Emmy.
6. Keep it Simple
When you’re creating a story, it’s crucial to understand that it should reach the largest audience possible. For this, you need to ensure that the content that you’re creating isn’t too complex.
Your goal should be to create content that is simple and conveys your message effectively. Additionally, the attention spans of people are getting shorter according to a recent study.
For this reason, you should keep your blog posts and videos short. It’s also important that you don’t use unnecessary jargon and use simple words instead. You must also pay attention to the length of your sentences. Short sentences, which are roughly 10-20 words long, are ideal.
It’s also a great idea to combine your narrative with that of pop-culture and other popular stories. This ensures that the ad is easy to understand and can help generate significant engagement.
Advanced Business Solutions did this extremely well through their campaign – FairITales.
Image via Advanced
During this campaign, they used traditional stories such as “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “A Christmas Carol” to tell their story. A majority of people know these stories, and that made it easy for them to relate to the images. Catchy illustrations made the campaign even more captivating.
Storytelling is not just important in B2C marketing but is essential in B2B marketing as well.
To do it effectively, you need to understand your audience and create content that will appeal to their emotions. Dig deep into your company’s history and share the story of your beginnings.
You can also humanize your brand by conveying the stories of your employees and their journeys. Make sure you use attractive visuals and keep your audience engaged throughout. And remember – show, don’t tell.
Are there other things marketers should keep in mind while incorporating storytelling into their B2B marketing strategy? Let me know in the comments.