How To Tell Compelling Stories In B2B Marketing
By Samuel Thimothy, VP at OneIMS.com, an inbound marketing agency, and co-founder of Clickx.io, the digital marketing intelligence platform.
Trying to make sense of the world around us is a part of human nature. That’s why we love stories. It’s easy to find lots of storytelling examples in B2C marketing campaigns, but what about B2B? Does it have the same appeal when it’s not about a smartphone but, say, heavy machinery equipment for engineering enterprises?
The short answer is yes, the power of telling a compelling story is equally good in B2B. This applies to even the most technical business you can imagine. If you manage to tell a good story about your product/service, you’ll be able to communicate its value without listing all the features explicitly—and clients will love it.
Emotional Versus Rational
The way businesses communicate with their B2B customers has changed. The old approach presumed that the B2B decision-making process was more rational than emotional. So all the conversations were supposed to be about super technical, performance-oriented, no-nonsense “features and specs” stuff.
The new approach says there’s always room for the rational but people just don’t connect with it. In today’s business environment, the product or service itself is not the focus anymore. The focus is on the customer. That’s why B2B conversations need to be personalized, result-oriented and centered around the benefits and gains rather than technical details.
Effective B2B content marketing strategies go beyond logic and technical processes. People need to relate to you emotionally. Studies show that the B2B customers, on average, are significantly more emotionally attached to their vendors and service providers than consumers—and they are eight times more likely to pay a premium for the product they love.
You need to speak the same language as your customer even if this customer is a company. After all, what is a company? It’s a board of stakeholders and each of them is an actual person with their expectations, needs and pain points.
The kind of emotional connection you’re looking for in B2B is obviously different from what you’d expect in B2C. It’s not about status, social identity, comfort or joy, but rather about efficiency, convenience, trust and other deep-seated sentiments that can influence decision-making.
How To Develop A Good Story
Stories have universal appeal. You can refer to the idea of a hero’s journey or seven basic plots; use whatever you can get your hands on. But the typical plot or any good story is pretty much the same.
There is a hero living in his world. His life is good until he encounters a massive problem that needs to be solved. After some hesitation, he goes on a journey to find the solution. The road is bumpy and unpredictable, the hero goes through ups and downs while trying to implement the solution. In the end, he learns a valuable lesson and integrates the lesson back into his world. Problem solved and life gets even better.
What would it look like in a hypothetical business scenario? Let’s call our example Company X, a manufacturing facility that sells equipment for heavy machinery.
Company X has been running their business the same way for many years. They have a bunch of loyal customers, but then Covid-19 hits. Before they are able to figure things out, half of their customers leave.
There’s no way to go to a trade show because nobody’s going to attend it. And there’s no point in purchasing outdoor ads because nobody’s going to see them. The business is falling apart. All hope is gone.
But then they encounter Company Y, a digital marketing team. With Company Y’s help, Company X develops a whole new way of advertising and generating business. It takes some time and some friction, but eventually they manage to not just meet but exceed their sales goals. If Company X did it, other companies can do it, too.
See what I did there? You don’t even know what services they used but you’re probably curious to learn the details. That’s how it works.
How To Incorporate A Story Into Your Brand
The goal of storytelling in B2B is to build long-term equity. You don’t have to make it character-centric, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be about them specifically. Just develop a character that they can identify with.
A great example is this Google My Business commercial. They don’t mention a single feature but you instantly feel how your life will improve if you just go and put your business on the map. And it literally takes 60 seconds to convince you.
All in all, stories are powerful. Next time you’re designing your marketing strategy, don’t forget to think like a storyteller. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn how powerful brand storytelling can be in connecting with B2B customers on an emotional level.