Ian Roderick, communications manager at
, explains the ins and outs of successful storytelling in B2B
All marketers are storytellers. They’re explaining who they are, what they stand for, and how their company’s products can solve customers’ problems.
Good storytelling is most prominent, and in some ways easier, in B2C marketing. Think of Google’s amazing Super Bowl ad from a few years back. They managed to
tell a years-long love story
that connected with viewers, made us care about the characters, and demonstrated the power of the product. It was top-notch stuff.
Good storytelling should by no means be restricted to B2C marketing, though. The themes and characters will be different, but a good story can be just as compelling for a procurement manager looking for a new technology supplier as it is for a consumer who wants to buy a new watch.
But how should B2B marketers go about telling good stories? The same way good novelists do: by constructing a good storyline, having compelling characters, and describing a satisfying conclusion.
My university literature professors would be angry at me for saying this, but every good story essentially has three components: a conflict, a climax, and a resolution.
In the B2B marketing context, the conflict is a problem that your customer has. By describing his problem in an engaging and compelling way, you’re showing him that you understand him. You’ve started developing a connection from the very beginning.
In order to do this effectively, you’ve got to do your homework. As a marketer, knowing your target group is already part of the job. But as a storyteller, take what you’ve learned from your research and think about how to frame it in a way that potential customers will understand, in a way that fits into the narrative that you’re constructing.
You’re no James Bond, but you’re not a slouch, either. Your firm has a great product with tons of features. It’s innovative, high-tech and reliable. The climax of your story, then, is the description of your product or service. It’s the perfect match between problem and solution. Between what your customers need, and what your company has to offer.
It’s important to speak not only to your customers’ logic, but also to their emotions. A lot of B2B marketers feel uncomfortable doing this, and they’re right to be cautious. The emotions involved in B2B businesses are more muted than in B2C, but this doesn’t mean they are less important. Think of the satisfaction you feel when you’ve found a solution to save your firm time or money. It’s a different feeling than buying a new surfboard, but there is room for a bit of emotion.
The resolution in B2B marketing is when you describe what the customer’s life will be like with your product. You’ve already explained how your solution is a perfect antidote to the original problem. Now it’s time to show how much better off they’ll be with you as their partner.
The resolution in B2B marketing will probably be less dramatic than showing a happy couple walking into the sunset, but can still be satisfying. The customer has saved her firm money, or found a more reliable vendor. It’s a happy ending for everyone.
Good storytelling isn’t about selling someone a false story, or being disingenuous. It’s about knowing yourself, knowing your customers, and being able to talk about synergies in an engaging, compelling way. It’s about being able to say something more compelling than “We offer affordable back-end web support,” and instead saying “we’re tech geeks who love building amazing server infrastructure.”
Don’t leave storytelling to your B2C marketing colleagues. Make it a part of your B2B marketing strategy today!