B2B Storytelling Survival Guide: Telling Compelling Stories That Stick!
Behind every business are real people, and B2B brands must connect with the human on the other side to stay relevant. B2B websites that lack an emotional narrative and present mere numbers, data, products, and features fail to connect with their customers. Research shows that numbers are forgettable, and most people do not easily remember data or statistics in the long term.
According to Harrison Monarth, an executive coach and New York Times bestselling author, “Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act. But a story can go where quantitative analysis is denied admission: our hearts.”
Storytelling has been a crucial part of B2C marketing for a long time, but now it’s an indispensable element to creating engaging B2B content. An increasing number of B2B brands are moving away from hard-selling, product pitching, or self-promotion approaches to focus on grabbing and retaining customers’ attention through an engaging story. Storytelling becomes all the more important in the B2B context as it helps brands in conveying value more effectively by presenting complex technical products and services in a simpler and more engaging way.
From creating a captivating story to go-to-market (GTM) to creating emotional connect through key lead magnets such as whitepapers, blogs, or microsites, B2B companies across industries now turn to authentic stories to make their products and services stand out by striking the right tone that resonates with customers.
Why Storytelling is a Win-Win Strategy for B2B Marketers
Storytelling is the art of narrating good stories that captivate audiences. B2B marketers need to create stories around customer personas using conflicts that reflect their user journeys and empathetically chronicles how specific products and services solve their problems and help them achieve their goals.
To craft stories that build an emotional connection between the brand and the target audience, B2B marketers need to look beyond showcasing the product features or service capabilities. To create a connection, marketers must understand the product or service’s end-users, industry dynamics and trends, and how their solution can help solve the end-user problems. Storytelling is a crucial element of B2B marketing strategy that enables businesses to build engaging content for every stage of the marketing funnel that appeals to buyers’ emotions.
Let’s understand why storytelling is becoming a pivotal part of B2B marketing strategy.
Humanize Brands for Effective B2B Differentiation
Storytelling helps B2B companies identify their brand’s “Why” aspect—why it exists or what it stands for. Stories give brands a face and voice and bring out what the people behind the brand aspire to achieve for customers, employees, and society. For instance, Google has been sharing customer success stories of local businesses that use Google Ads to grow their business. Using real-life stories, they’ve been able to describe a complicated offering without using technical jargon that very few customers in the SME domain would understand.
Create Memorable Moments that Stick and Drive Actions
Weaving unforgettable stories can have a long-term impact. Moving beyond data and statistics and telling engaging stories is a perfect recipe that makes a brand memorable. According to Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, people are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when presented in context to a story. Stories help connect with the audience emotionally and give them a sense of purpose worth remembering. A study by Google, Motista, and CEB suggests that 50% of B2B buyers are more likely to make a buying decision if they connect emotionally with a brand.
Foster Trust to Expand Loyal Brand Advocates
Brands that tell consistent and effective stories over time to engage with their customers tend to build brand loyalists that buy their products and services and also promote the brand. In the long-term, delightful experiences with the brand convert into trust resulting in a continuously growing community. For example, Salesforce IdeaExchange, an initiative from Salesforce, allows customers to engage with the brand and share ideas with the Salesforce product managers and user groups (formally known as Trailblazer Community) worldwide. With IdeaExchange, Salesforce ensures its customers that their voices are heard, and they can seamlessly collaborate, suggest, and vote on ideas that matter to them.
How to tell Memorable Stories: Frameworks & Techniques
B2B marketers must ensure that their brand narratives align with buyer’s pain points. Adopting the right storytelling framework and implementing relevant techniques help them tell stories with the fitting narrative that suits target personas who influence B2B buying decisions at different levels.
Three-Act Structure: Fundamental Storytelling Framework
The most common framework for storytelling, the Three-Act Structure, helps structure stories through three stages: Setup, Struggle (Conflict), and Finale (Resolution).
- Act 1 – Setup:
It’s the most crucial stage, which requires setting an expectation with the audience. It gives an overview of the story to the audience, sets up the enticing incident that hooks the audience to the story. It outlines the context and limitations and allows the audience to place themselves in the story.
- Act 2 – Struggle:
Second act of the story introduces conflict and escalates the narrative where characters journey through challenges to reach a climax and seek a breakthrough resolution.
- Act 3 – Finale:
Finally, at this point, the characters in the story make proactive decisions to resolve the main conflicts.
Key Storytelling Techniques
Most B2B marketers face the dilemma of employing the right storytelling techniques that precisely translate their brand values, vision, and solution benefits for end-users.
There are several techniques to create engaging stories that leave a lasting impression of the brand. Let’s dive into some of the essential storytelling techniques that can help brands script memorable stories.
- The Mantra of Less is More:
In today’s world of instant gratification and minimum attention span, nobody has the patience to consume long-form content. The audience is interested in a focused and crisp piece of content that addresses their pain points. B2B marketers must curate stories using clear and concise language, avoiding needless jargon and details. Well-structured, relatable stories that convey the core message and ensure the audience sticks around is the need of the hour.
- Illustrate, Don’t Just State:
An age-old proverb, “Tell me, and I’ll forget; show me, and I may remember,” is apt for narrating brand stories. Instead of stating that a product or service helps the audience, B2B marketers must bring products to life with supporting tangible examples, applications, and customer success stories to illustrate how a specific brand offering can make a difference and why the audience should care.
- Emotions, Empathy, and Engagement:
Great stories can influence people by invoking emotions and triggering reactions, such as empathy, sympathy, compassion, connection, and other emotional responses. Stories that resonate with the audience result in a better understanding of the key concepts, enable greater content recall, and compel them to take action. B2B marketers must listen to their customers and prospects, note the language they use, evaluate challenges they seek to resolve, and create messaging accordingly to suit the audience’s narrative.
How Leading B2B Companies Create the Right Narrative
Many leading B2B brands excel at storytelling and are way ahead at managing the elements of setup, conflict, and resolution. Let’s look at some examples where B2B companies incorporate storytelling to humanize their brand, engage and stand out.
COVID-19 Stories of Resilience campaign highlights the experiences of resilient SAP customers worldwide who leverage SAP technology in the face of unprecedented crisis to keep the business going. From healthcare and education to government and retail, SAP customers relied on SAP products and services to swiftly respond, recover and reimagine the future of work amid the new normal.
Employees are the best brand ambassadors of a company’s culture. Employee-curated stories humanize the brand. Microsoft’s Story Labs adds authenticity and a more human element to the brand by showcasing unique and talented individuals behind the technology giant. Such initiatives strengthen the relationship between the brand, employees, and end-consumers.
- GE Healthcare:
Compelling storytelling is the main reason for General Electric’s substantial social media success. Since most of the company’s work is technical and complex, it’s hard to communicate much of it to customers. To overcome this challenge, GE created a video series, Employee Takeover, where GE employees take over the company’s social media handles to take the world to work. In the videos, GE employees from different business units take the viewers through a typical day at work to give an inside view of how GE works on things that matter. For instance, as a part of the GE Healthcare Brings the World to Work campaign, Aurelie Boudier, Global Creative Director of GE Healthcare, took over GE’s social media handles during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to show the design process behind the Senographe Pristina, a mammography device created by women for women.
Conclusion: Takeaways for B2B Marketers
B2B storytelling is more important than ever, and marketers need to start creating stories that make brands more humane, stand out among competitors, and above all, establish a connection with customers. Marketers must pay more attention to their customers and listen to them carefully to understand their challenges better and create more authentic stories addressing the concerns. Furthermore, it’s significant to note that a good story may fail to connect emotionally with customers if not presented well. Using visuals, setting the right context, and testimonials from happy marketers help narrate better stories effectively.
If you want to know more about creating convincing stories that are engaging and interacting, feel free to talk to our marketing wizards today to brew some great story ideas.